Financial Preparedness for fall and winter
I can hardly believe it is time to post this piece, but alas- fall is here and winter follows thereafter. My annual "financial preparedness for fall and winter" post really hasn't changed from year to year. I find that the information I give you in this post is pretty much "the norm" when it comes to financial preparedness for the colder months. This year however, I would love to hear more from you on how you prepare for the colder months.
So how can you prepare better for fall and winter?
Budget, Budget, Budget.....
It's important to know how much money you will have every month, and how much of that money will be leaving your possession. The basics of creating a budget is to take the total of your monthly asset's, and compare them to the total of your monthly liabilities.
Assets= Examples: Income such as a paycheck, or child support payments.
Fixed Liabilities= Examples: Rent, mortgage, car payment, and other monthly payments that usually don't vary in cost.
Variable Liabilities= Examples: Money for groceries, utility bills, gas, and other monthly expenses that vary in cost.
Programs that will help you budget are free programs like Manilla.com, Mint.com, and Microsoft Excel. Quickbooks is also a good budget tool if you have it installed on your computer. If all else fails, a good ole' pen and paper will do the trick!
If you have any monies leftover after subtracting your total liabilities from your total assets, think about depositing them into an interest bearing savings account. A savings account will come in handy, for say....a very large and unexpected veterinary bill or other emergency expense you weren't anticipating.
Saving on Variable Liabilities
A lot of utility companies offer level billing, take for example Nstar and National Grid. I swear by level billing, and sign up for it every year. Level billing brings your monthly bills down lower then the amount you would pay regularly per month. Utility companies will view your account, find your average usages during a specified time frame, and charge you monthly based on prior usage and then divide this number by x amount of months. Do keep in mind however; that when springtime comes-you will need to pay a balance off which is usually the difference between your level billing payments and the actual total of how much utility you actually used. Of course, when spring arrives you can then make a payment plan to split the remaining balance of your actual usage into x amount of payments, which you would pay in addition to your regular monthly bills in the spring and summer months.
Make changes- Be in control of your spending
Take a peek at variable liabilities such as your phone or cell phone bill, contact your carrier to see if the plan you are on is the correct one for you. In reality, if you paying for a cell phone plan that includes 1500 minutes of air time, and you aren't using up all these minutes (and they do not carry over), then switch to a new plan (or even a new cell phone provider) that will offer you lower monthly costs.
Also, take a look at your cable bill and be sure to contact your cable company to inquire about bundle packages, or to see if you are eligible for a new cable package at a discounted price. If you use trash removal services, call around to see which waste company is offering better pricing for weekly or bi-weekly waste pickup and disposal. Two years ago I switched from a Global trash removal company to a local trash removal company, which has saved me $72.00 to date. Switching to a local waste removal company also saves on those pesky "fuel surcharges" which are typical charges of a global company.
For student loans, if you are responsible for paying off a student loan, contact the lender to see if there is a way to lower your monthly payments for a few months, or longer. Many student loan lenders are willing to work with you, so long as you communicate with them and tell them you need help.
If you use oil to heat your home
Think about joining an oil cooperative. Go here to see what an oil cooperative can do for you. The link will bring you to an oil cooperative for Cape Cod & its surrounding areas- you can contact the town you live in to find out if a cooperative programs exist for your area.
Joining a cooperative means that you must purchase membership, and there is a membership fee associated with this. Membership fees are minimal and they pay themselves back via the amount you save at your first fuel up, or first and second fuel up combined depending on membership costs.
Joining an oil cooperative alleviates the need for you to feel as though you must lock into oil prices with your current oil company. The major downfall of "locking in" means that if the price of oil drops from the price that you locked in at-most times you are stuck paying the higher price.
Set your heat on 65!
If you aren't home during the day turn your heat down to at least 65 degrees. You will save money by doing this. If you are home during the day, keep the heat down as low as you possibly can.
To help with a drafty home, you can purchase product at your local home and garden store to help keep your house "energy-efficient" during the cold months. If you have drafts, figure out where they are then research prices on products that could help you fix those drafts. Go here to see an example of products that would help you with drafty windows.
Use them at the grocery store, use them at the pharmacy, use them whenever they are available for the products you need to buy. You can go here to learn the basics of couponing, and here too. Using coupons may not seem like it saves you a lot of money, but you would quickly change your mind if you used them for a year straight and saw how much money you saved.
Thus far, my total savings via coupon usage for 2012 is:
Stop & Shop: $3,852.33 CVS: $988.52
Try not to wait until the very last minute to prepare for fall and winter. Begin price comparisons for the products you need to purchase (such as drafty window winterization kits), and start calling around to find the most money-saving options regarding your variable expenses.
If you have money saving tips and tricks to share, Please feel free to share them over at my main site The Savings Momma.