3 Ways Winter Storms Could Cost You Money — and How to Prepare

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Could a run of bad weather upend your finances?


Key points

  • In some parts of the country, winter can mean weeks of brutal weather.
  • While winter storms can be inconvenient, in some cases, they can also be costly.
  • You could lose money if you can’t get to work in bad weather, and you may also face higher utility bills.

People in certain parts of the US can get through winter without so much as seeing a snowflake. But in other parts of the country, winter storms can be a regular, unwanted occurrence.

Not only can these storms be inconvenient (think having to take time out of your workday to dig out your car), but in many cases, they can also be costly. Here are some of the ways you might lose money due to a winter storm — and how to prevent that from happening.

1. Lost work time

If a winter storm makes your local roads inaccessible, then you may have no choice but to stay home from work for a day or more. But if you don’t have the type of job that can be done from home, then missing work time could mean losing out on pay. And if you already live paycheck to paycheck with no money in your savings account, that’s a problem.

Meanwhile, let’s say you do work from home. If a winter storm knocks out the power, you may not be able to get much, or anything, done. And if you’re self-employed, that could also mean a temporary but meaningful loss of income.

That’s why it’s important to do what you can to build an emergency fund. That could help make missing income easier to deal with.

And if you’re self-employed, build some downtime into your schedule so a day or two of missed work won’t throw your finances for a loop. At the same time, be mindful of the deadlines you commit to during the winter if you live somewhere that’s susceptible to harsh weather. You don’t want to end up alienating clients due to storm-related interruptions.

2. Spoiled food

Winter storms can result in power outages. And that, in turn, could mean having to throw away the contents of your freezer and fridge.

Now, the answer here isn’t to never buy perishable food — that’s not reasonable. But it could pay to invest in a portable generator that allows you to keep your fridge running when the power goes out. That way, you can avoid having to dump its contents.

Of course, you’ll need to be careful when using a portable generator. That means making sure it has a way to vent exhaust and being cautious about extension cords.

3. Higher utility bills

You may feel the need to crank up the heat when there’s a winter storm howling outside. But that could result in higher utility bills. And that’s something you’ll want to budget for.

You can also talk to your utility provider about getting on a payment plan that allows you to spread your payments out more evenly during the year. That way, instead of paying $200 a month in the spring and $800 a month in the winter, you might pay something in the middle every month of the year.

Winter storms can be more than just a hassle — they can cause you to take a financial hit. It’s important to prepare for that and do what you can to minimize your losses.

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