I love autumn, all golden and shit. Sweaters, knee high leather boots, pumpkins, Halloween, Thanksgiving. The only thing I don’t like about fall is that it means winter is coming, so I just try not to think about that.
Fall is a good time to do a check up of some vital areas of life. In this article we will examine ways to winterize our homes, our finances, and our selves to save money and maybe get a jump on our New Year’s Resolutions.
Winterize Your Home
You don’t want to be doing some of these things once the icy chill sets in so do them now why we still have relatively pleasant temperatures and some freaking daylight left to see by.
Wrap Your Windows
When the winter chill starts to set in, the heating comes on. As winters are seemingly getting colder and longer, this translates to increased heating costs. One cheap way to save money is to cover your windows with, bubble wrap of all things.
It’s cheap, it gives more insulation that those flimsy sheets of plastic you buy in kits and seal on with a hair dryer. And you can pop all the bubbles when spring comes and you take it down! You don’t need any special materials, just use masking tape to adhere the wrap to the window or window frame. Masking tape won’t damage the paint or wall paper when you remove it.
Drafty windows can waste 10-30% of your heating energy so this trick can have a big impact on heating costs.
Seal Door Gaps
You can buy weather-stripping for your doors to prevent drafts but you can also just roll up an old towel and push it against the gap, the boot leg method.
Take Out Your Window Units
If you live in an apartment, odds are you have window unit air conditioning rather than central air. So much cold air comes in through the little gaps where the AC doesn’t fit snug. I know it’s a pain, but take that AC out for the winter. If you live in a very small place and don’t have anywhere to store it, you can get a cover like this that will prevent the drafts from coming in.
Get a Humidifier
You know that phrase, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity?” It means that it feels hotter in the summer when the humidity is high. The same thing applies in the winter. Running a humidifier not only makes your home feel a bit warmer, it’s good for your health and your wood furniture.
Winter air dries out your nasal passage and makes it easier for germs to invade. It also gives you dry, itchy skin. It will also cut down on static in your clothes, hair, and carpet. Ever flip a light switch in a bone dry room? You can actually see a spark! Wood hates a dry climate just like your skin so moist air prevents wood furniture from drying out.
Get Some Plants
Not only does seeing a bit of green cheer you up when the outside world is grim and grey but if you choose the right plant, it will help to clean the air in your home. Because we don’t open windows and doors in the winter, the air inside can get stale and some things we use to clean and furnish our homes contain compounds that are bad for our health.
Things like cleaning products, paint and some chemicals used to make carpet and upholstered furniture flame retardant. Some plants like peace lilies, bamboo palms and English ivy can help remove these harmful compounds from the air. If you have small children or pets, be sure to make sure the plant you choose is not toxic to them if eaten.
Get a Rug
If you have wood, stone, or tile floors, get some inexpensive area rugs for the most heavily trafficked areas of your home. A fully carpeted bathroom is gross and unsanitary but a bath mat will give you a snug place to rest your toes when you get out of the shower.
Nothing worse than cold tile after a hot shower! A bedside rug is nice for the same reason, putting your warm feet on the cold floor straight out of bed is a terrible way to start the day. Putting a large area rug in your living room makes it feel cozier and helps to insulate the room.
A Warm, Snug Bed
About the only thing I like about winter is sleeping in a very cold room in a very warm bed. My bed is layered up! I use a feather bed in the winter. It’s a down filled pad that goes on top of your mattress and under your fitted sheet. I feel like I’m sleeping in the Princess and the Pea’s bed when I snuggle down. It’s so fluffy!
Flannel sheets prevent that initial shiver you feel when you first get into bed and your body heat hasn’t warmed it up yet. I top this with a down comforter. Ducks can float around in icy ponds because they are covered in these feathers.
Electric blankets have come a long way from those probably dangerous ones I grew up with that were shot through with bulky wires. The next generation blankets have much thinner wire that you almost can’t detect.
Change Your Batteries
Use a set date like the equinox or the end of day light savings time (as an aside, why are we still doing this? It’s such a stupid, useless, annoying little aspect of American life that we have to adjust all of our clocks, especially annoying to change the ones on the stove and microwave.
We’re late or early for appointments because we forgot about the change. We walk around like zombies because it takes time to adjust to losing an hour of sleep. Can’t we start one of those Change.org petitions or something? Or just en masse refuse to do it. Something, anything!) to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. And if you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, please get one.
New York City started to require that they be installed in every apartment about a decade ago, one of the few “nanny state” decisions that I actually agreed with.
Flip and Vacuum Your Mattress
Flipping the mattress helps prevent those sags that cause you and your partner to roll into the middle of the mattress during the night and then blame each other for hogging up the bed. Flipping and rotating will help to even out the wear. Use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum on the mattress.
I’ll spare you the gross details about dust mites but this will help get rid of them and help to prevent the allergic reactions they cause in some people.
Winterize Your Finances
I don’t mean knitting a wallet cozy or anything. Just that when the seasons change, it’s a good reminder to take stock of things, including your finances.
-Consolidate your banking accounts. If you have a checking account here and a savings account there, another account in a virtual bank, trim it all down to one account. No one needs a savings account. Burying your money in a coffee tin in your front yard will yield about the same interest as having it in a savings account. One checking account where you keep enough money to pay about two months worth of bills is all you need. The rest of your money, including your emergency fund should be in an investment account. Some people think this is controversial but it’s not. You can pull money out of an investment account within days. If you need the money that day, put the expense on a credit card and when your money is released from the investment account, you can pay off the card. Having multiple accounts in multiple places is too much to keep track of.
-Check for fees. Mint sends me an alert if I am charged a fee, for an out-of-network ATM (I was in Maine), when Chase charged the annual fee on my Sapphire Preferred card (I travel enough to justify the fee). If you don’t use Mint, go through your banking and credit card statements and look for fees. No one should have to pay a fee to have a checking account. If your bank is charging for that, find a new bank or a different type of account. They have enough of your money.
Jamie Dimon's kids will still be able to attend college if you tell Chase to shove it because of their fees.Tweet This
-Check your subscriptions. Do you have Netflix, Hulu, cable, get lots of magazines, belong to a gym you don’t go to? Assess how much you use these things you are paying every month for and see what you can get rid of. Consider this method too. Paying $8 a month for Netflix is negligible, you don’t even notice it. But if you had to take the $96 hit in one go, would you still pay it?
-Check your credit report. Don’t pay for it though! The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the big three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to give you a free credit report once every twelve months. The best thing to do is to request a report from one company every four months. That way you can monitor it more often for any mistakes. If you’re planning to rent an apartment anytime soon, definitely request one. That way you can bring your own rather than forking over money for the potential land lord to run one.
-Peruse your insurance policies. Spend an hour and compare insurance prices for your home, car, or apartment. There are so many companies competing for your business that you can play them against each other. If you’ve been with State Farm for years, check out the prices at All State. If All State is cheaper, call up your current carrier and tell them to make you a better offer or you’ll walk. Did you recently turn 25 or get married? Those milestones may lower your rates. This is also the time of year your Human Resources department hands out the tome sized manuals detailing your health insurance choices for the following year. If there is one that offers you as HSA, check out the episode we did on those. These can be a great tax shelter.
-Go paperless. Take this opportunity to have any bills that can be sent via e-mail rather than snail mail converted over. It will save you getting and losing mail, save paper, and save you a stamp. Once you’ve gone digital, set up the bills to be auto payed from your checking account so you will never be late and incur a fee again.
-Check up on your budget. Maybe there have been some life changes since you last set things up. Maybe you got a raise or had to take a pay cut (that happened to me once), maybe you learned to cook and are spending less on eating out. Make the necessary adjustments and start budgeting a little extra each month now for the holiday gifts or travel you will soon be buying.
-Tally your rewards. If you collect airline and hotel points, see if any are set to expire. Even if you don’t have any travel planned, you can often keep the accounts active by doing small things, taking an on-line survey or making a purchase through the airlines shopping portal.
-Throw Stuff Out. Especially if you go digital, there is no need to keep a lot of old bills and credit card statements. You can get the old stuff on-line. We did a whole episode about that if you aren’t sure what you can bin and what you should keep.
Before you just succumb to the hell that is winter and refuse to get out of your snuggy, there are some things you can do so hopefully it doesn’t come to that.
-Get the last of the summer produce. You will miss juicy, perfectly ripe peaches and tomatoes once the season is over. Because this is ‘Murica, you can get those things almost year round. But have you ever compared a vine ripened, heirloom variety tomato in August to the mealy, gas ripened ones you can buy in December? They aren’t even in the same ball park. Get the last of the good stuff now and persevere it. Make the tomatoes into sauce, cut the peaches into slices and freeze them. Buy some fresh herbs, fill ice cube trays with the herbs and olive oil and freeze those too. When the snow is piling up in January, make a nice pasta dish with peach shortcake for dessert. Otherwise you won’t be tasting that deliciousness for the next nine months.
-Look into supplementation. Winter days are short which means we don’t see much sunlight and what we do see isn’t strong enough to supply us with Vitamin D. These things can contribute to SAD, seasonal affective disorder. It’s that general feeling of malaise that a lot of people get in the winter. More and more research points to Vitamin D and fatty acids being vital to many facets of health, including helping to alleviate the effects of SAD. Have your doctor test your blood to see if you could benefit from fish oil and Vitamin D supplementation.
-Stock up on outdoor gear. I’m a runner. I run no matter what the weather. Since I thrive on hot, humid weather I never feel better than being able to run in the heat wearing just shorts and an Under Armour shirt. Running in the cold while wearing ten layers sucks. Putting it all on, getting sweaty with no way for the sweat to evaporate, having to peel it all off after and the extra two loads of laundry it at entails. It sucks. But not running sucks more. Exercising out of doors has all kinds of health benefits, both mental and physical, that you just can’t get in the gym. So make sure you have what you need to be comfortable instead of just giving up until April. I’ve even worn Yaktrax to run on the three inches of ice that were like effing perma frost on the Bridle Path last winter for four solid months.
-Swap out your clothes. Sigh, goodbye to sundresses and sandals, shorts and t-shirts. See you next year. Launder or dry clean all your summer stuff, repair any loose buttons or fixable tears, polish your summer shoes and lovingly pack them away until the warm returns. Go through all of your winter stuff and make sure it’s ready for what’s ahead.
-Buy cold supplies. There is nothing worse than getting sick and not having the requisite feel better things on hand. Cold medicine, cans of soup (or better still, soup you made and froze for just such an occasion), tissues with lotion, tea bags, and honey. Buy that stuff now because if you don’t, you will have to go to the drug store to get it in your snotty, wheezing, sweat pants wearing state and you will inevitably run into your ex. Looking like that.
-Switch your skin care products. Not just for the ladies, guys. Winter is cold and dry so you need richer, more occlusive products to make sure you don’t grow scales and get all ashy. Especially important if you partake in out door activities. I’m not a big believer in sun screen as I don’t like to slather the largest organ of my body in weird chemicals but if you’re skiing or snow boarding at altitude, you need some SPF on your face.
-Stay hydrated. It’s easy to drink enough in the summer, it’s hot and you’re thirsty. But drinking enough water (or non-caffeinated drinks like herbal tea) is important in the winter too because the air is so dry. Again, extra important if you’re participating in outdoor sports. You still sweat in the winter, especially since you’re layered up like Randy in A Christmas Story.
-Go to sleep and wake earlier. I’m a morning person. I pop out of bed before 6:00 even on days that I don’t work. It’s a little harder to pull off in winter. It’s so cold out and my bed is so warm and snuggly! But the best daylight is earlier now and it’s good for your mental health to see that bright, early morning sun. And go to bed a little earlier. What else are you doing? Going to barbecues and bon fire parties? No, it’s cold. Everyone is home. Use the natural rhythms to get a bit of a jump on the day. When it gets dark at 4:00, you’ll be grateful for the little extra daylight you enjoyed in the morning.
-Don’t hibernate. This one is tough for me. I hate winter and cold. I was working from home last winter and except for running in the morning, I hardly left the apartment from January to April. This isn’t good for you. It makes you weird and grumpy. I know it sucks slogging around in the cold and wet and muck. And it’s worse in NYC because I can’t go from my warm house to my warm car to my warm destination. I have to go the subway, wait on a cold, drafty platform and then walk a few cross town blocks (the long ones) to get where I’m going. And then do it all in reverse. But meeting a friend for dinner in a cozy, candle lit restaurant for some wine, a good dinner, and some good conversation was worth it and it will stop you from turning into some weird old hermit.
Winter is coming, there is nothing we can do to stop it. I know some of you weirdos love snow and cold and “crisp, cool air.” Good for you. The most I can do is tolerate winter and make myself and my home as comfortable as possible since I won’t be leaving it until some time in April.