Winter is coming. Friday, Dec. 21 marks the 2018 hibernal solstice, also known as the shortest day of the year. The good news? The days will (slowly) get longer from there. The bad news? The coming cold, still-long nights can cost a pretty penny.
Here are four ways the winter solstice can affect your budget — and how to counter the expenses.
1. Expect a power surge
Decking the halls is nice, but all those twinkling lights can cause your electric bill to surge in December and January. Mitigate the cost of a brighter holiday by spacing out lights and using a timer to automatically turn off your decorative lights each night. You can also consider alternatives, like LED bulbs or solar-powered strings, which will cost more up front, but save you money in the long run.
2. Hello, heating bills
The average U.S. household spent about $861 on heating bills in 2018, based on projections from the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association. Fortunately, there are a few easy and safe ways to curb this winter expense.
- Use programmable thermostats to heat your house as needed — namely, when you're home and awake.
- Clean radiators, vents and air filters to prevent your heating system from working harder than it has to — and, worse, crashing in the middle of winter.
- Insulate and plug any leaks in your house now for optimum efficiency.
- Open curtains during the day to leverage the power of the sun.
You can also potentially save on heating bills by negotiating with your provider. Here are some tips for negotiating with all of your utility providers.
3. Beware big credit card balances
We generally remember to budget for gifts and travel, but lots of little holiday expenses — like the Uber trip home from the company Christmas party and that Pinterest cookie recipe you just had to try — add up.
Avoid overspending by sticking to cash or debit. If you prefer to use a credit card, check balances regularly and pay charges off in real-time from a linked debit card account. If you end up with holiday debt (hey, it happens), use these tips to pay it down ASAP.
4. Prepare for extra discretionary spending
Once the holiday season ends, the long, cold nights can leave you hungry for fun, but entertainment gets trickier in the winter. Check municipal websites for free family events — like a skate night or winter concert — you can take advantage of.
You can also "find" some extra money to put toward a date night (or two) by canceling old subscriptions, cutting a different guilty pleasure expense or comparison-shopping for better car insurance rates.