Watch Out for These Hidden Winter Expenses

Can you even believe that it’s already fall?

I know this doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody but the older I get, the faster time passes, and as cliche as it is, I feel as if it was just February. 

I remember so clearly the anticipation of leaving my contract and my birthday and going on a extended trip to Europe. 

I remember launching my other site, Unsettle, back in January and it’s now almost the fourth quarter of the year. 

I’ll stop reminiscing to say that since fall has happened upon us rather unexpectedly, I think we should open up a conversation about winter. 


I can say without a doubt that we tend to spend more money in the winter months. This wasn’t something that I was always aware of but our spending goes way up in the cold months for a few different reasons.

Heat and Electricity

We live in a climate that experiences an honest-to-God winter so we spend substantially more on heat and lights (since it gets darker earlier) that our summer months. I also use my dryer and oven more since my outdoor clothesline and BBQ are not available for usage when it’s, you know, snowing. This is an expense we have always budgeted for year-round, so I don’t really notice this expense but not everyone does.

Eating Out

If I’m being honest we eat out a lot more in the winter. It’s Friday, and cold, and pitch black at 5pm, I want to be home in my pj’s watching hockey as soon as possible, pizza it is! Where, in the summer I have way more energy and look forward to hanging out on the deck while we cook some burgers on the grill and don’t care that we don’t sit down to eat our meal until 8pm. Eating out wins more times than not in winter.


We are generally a healthy family. We rarely get sick but this year our family was nailed with illness like I’ve never experienced. The mother of all cold viruses attacked us for almost three months and it was awful. I’m eternally grateful that we have universal healthcare in Canada so I talk very loosely about healthcare expenses around my American cohorts, but my husband and I spent an easy $100 on additional medication costs this year. Advil, cough medication, antibiotics, sinus medication, dehumidifiers, I don’t think I spent $100 in the five previous years on these types of expenses. I felt like I would get my paycheque and head right to the pharmacist with it. While we’re mostly illness free, for now, it’s been an expensive three months.


In the summer my footwear of choice is a $2 pair of flip flops. Obviously this won’t do in the winter. If you’ve ever experienced winter for any length of time you know you need good boots, the $20 ones from WalMart will not come close to cutting it. Despite living in this climate almost my entire life, it’s been a long time since I owned proper winter boots (the ones you can walk through wet, gross slushy snow after a storm and have dry warm feet and not care what they look like, aka not cute leather boots you spent a mint on). After an awful winter last year, I vowed to save my toes and protect them. I found great pair 40% off and still paid $79.99 for them. Since using them in the snow I’m very happy with my decision but hated dropping the $91.99 on them (yes living with 15% sales tax sucks too).

I really do enjoy living in a four-season climate but am looking forward to the warmer, less expensive months that’s for sure. Do you find you spend more money in the winter?

Financial Benefits of Apartment Living

This is a post by Sarah Greesonbach

My husband and I have rented for years and we plan to rent for a few years more. Besides the fact that we don’t know how long we’re interested in living where we are now, we aren’t in a financial place to buy. It’s hard enough keeping our savings account going strong, let alone saving ten to twenty thousand dollars for a down payment!

While I know this means we “throw away money each month” instead of “investing in a long-term asset,” this is the right solution for us right now and it is saving us money in the short term. Here’s just a few of the financial benefits of apartment living that have us happy to live where we do:

  • I rarely drive. Since I work from home and our apartment is located in a mini-downtown type area, I rarely drive. Most months, I drive to church on Sundays and to a social event on Tuesdays, and that’s about it. If we were to buy a house, our price range would put us much farther from my friends and grocery stores, so I would drive a lot more. That would lead to spending more on gas, getting more frequent oil changes, and causing more wear and tear on our car.
  • When things break, we’re not out $500. This is a tried and true reason to rent. When the heat goes out at 9pm, or the toilet overflows with no obvious cause, my husband and I are calling emergency maintenance for free, not plumbers or HVAC companies on overtime. Ideally if you own a house you have a savings account just for these kinds of things, but it’s been a relief to not have to fund a new microwave or dishwasher in the apartments where those items have broken.
  • We don’t spend seasonal outdoor money. Home owners have all kinds of seasonal costs, from mowing and raking (and you need a lawn mower and a rake and time to do it) to salting and shoveling. In our apartment, we have covered parking for our cars and no outdoor space to maintain. This also means we don’t have to worry about seasonal decorations like Christmas lights or pumpkins (though we do get a few pumpkins for the house each year), or mulch and gravel for making the outdoors pretty in the spring and summer.

Those are just three things that come to mind immediately, but I am sure there are more. And that’s why we’re going to continue renting for a few more years until we find our forever home.

Do you rent? Do you love it? At what point are the costs that come with home ownership worth it? 

Do You Have the Money Transfer Bug?

money-256319_1280This post was written by Sarah Greasonbach

My husband and I are still a few weeks into our first time coordinating a Financial Peace University class. It’s been insanely awesome so far, even if I’m not the biggest fan of talking in front of a large group.

The first few lessons of the course revolve around analyzing your spending habits and writing them down on your paper budget. Fun right? (It’s not). It’s especially not fun if you’re a technology-savvy guy or gal like me.

I love spreadsheets. I love quick-add columns. I love moving things around and trying new approaches without having to erase anything. And I especially love being able to transfer money in and out of my account whenever I need to, even if it’s not great for my financial health.

I realized this might be a bad habit when I said it aloud in the group discussion and I got a few weird looks. Apparently most people analyze their budget, transfer their money, and then…. Leave it there. There’s no checking in two or three times a day, moving a few dollars here and there or transferring money in to cover a surprise expense. It’s all taken care of in advance and they don’t check in more than once or twice a month.

…. That’s not me! I don’t know if it’s because I am on an infrequent pay period and we have money coming in all month (and never a set amount, at that), or if I’m just account-happy and we have too many “holding places” for money as it waits to be sent to a bill, but I got to wondering if I was all that weird.

The thought of not checking in on my accounts or being able to make transfers when I need to scares me! It makes me wonder if all my numbers add up perfectly, or if I’ve forgotten about an automatic bill that will cause an overdraft. I also wonder about how my husband’s transactions will hit the account (give or take a dollar for a gas tank fill-up, for example) and whether or not he’s paying attention to the balance.

Now, this is probably where Dave Ramsey’s cash envelopes system will work so well for us. There’s no overdrafting when it’s cash in an envelope. And so we recommit to using those envelopes for gas, food, medical co-pays, and spending money.

Do you check in on or manipulate your online finance accounts often? How often is often? And do you think it affects how much you spend?