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25th September 2019

Are you ready for the winter expenses?

Summer is officially over and it's time to prepare for the extra costs of winter. Check out our top tips for dealing with any unexpected winter expenses.

Summer is joyous, with the sounds of birdsong and gloriously warm days, but it doesn't last forever. There's no way of knowing what can happen when the thermometer starts dropping and winter is thrust upon us. With countless possible extra costs and unforeseen emergencies, are you prepared for the financial implications winter can bring?

We're here to help you be prepared for the possible expenses of winter, ensuring that your finances stay as healthy as possible throughout the year. With a series of hints, tips and ways to both save money and cover unexpected expenses, we're here to help.

You might be wondering what kind of things can happen that put a strain on your budget during winter. Here are just some of the extra costs that can come along with winter.

1. Energy bills

With colder weather comes increased use of heating systems. You need to stay warm on those cold, December nights, and for most of us, winter blankets just won't cut it. After enjoying a summer of probably not having the heating on at all, you're about to be in for a shock when the next gas bill comes.

Gas usage for central heating systems rises dramatically during the winter months and can cost £30-£50 more per month than in the summer. Credit-based meters may also hike up the price for the quarter after winter as well, only adjusting after you've inputted actual usage during the spring months.

It's not just the heating bill that you need to worry about. With the decrease in daylight hours and lack of sunshine to dry clothes, you might also find yourself using more electricity.

2. New, warmer clothes

You can't very well go out in the middle of January in your summer dresses or shorts, right? So, it's time to break out the fluffy jumpers and warm, cosy layers that keep you warm when the winter months are upon us. But, even for those of us who store our winter clothes away to use again, there could be unforeseen circumstances that mean we need to buy a whole new winter wardrobe.

Losing or gaining weight during the summer can mean that your jeans, jumpers and cosy onesies don't fit right anymore, meaning a shopping trip is in order. Destruction from moths can also be a big problem. No matter how well you think you stored your clothes, you're likely to find a few moth-induced holes in them when you unpack them for winter. Even if you're not expecting it, you may need to go out and buy some new winter warmers.

3. Broken boilers

After being used sparingly for just hot water for the last few months, your boiler might not be too happy with the sudden constant usage that winter brings - and it could break down. Overtaxing the system can cause faults, leaks and loss of efficiency, which all cost money to repair. In a worst-case scenario, your boiler can seize up and stop working altogether, meaning you'll need to pay for an expensive replacement.

4. Burst pipes

The perils of cold weather can also bring frozen pipes, which crack and burst under pressure. It's not something we really tend to think about, but it's a lot more common than you think and can happen at any time, to anyone. The cold weather can cause the pipes to expand and 'spring a leak', especially if they haven't been used for a while, or if overnight temperatures get low enough.

5. Weather damage

We know it all too well, the sound of gale-force winds and torrential downpours that come with the winter months. The severity can vary depending on where you live, but most places will experience some adverse weather at least once or twice during the winter season. High winds can blow off roof tiles and blow trees and debris into windows while floods can devastate a home. Snow and hail can also cause damage, to the exterior and interior of your home. Roof repairs alone can cost hundreds or thousands of pounds and are often not expected or accounted for in yearly or monthly budgeting.

6. Holidays

We don't mean the palm trees and beaches kind of holiday, more the vampire masks and Santa suit type of holiday. Christmas and Halloween both fall in winter and can be costly holidays - especially if you have kids. It's best to get a handle on how much it will cost as soon as possible, so get everyone's Christmas lists in early and choose your (and your kids) costumes as soon as you can.

7. Sickness

It may not seem like a big deal, but illness can impact your finances for several reasons. Colds and flu are rampant in the winter months, as are stomach viruses, and time off work to recover from these can lower your income and skewer your budget. When your children become ill, you may need to find alternative childcare or stay home with them, which can also mean you earn less money.

So, what can you do about it?

Unforeseen costs and increased expenditures can be tricky to deal with and can lead to unnecessary and unwanted stress. However, there are a few prudent ways to prepare for and deal with these costs in order to minimise the negative impact that winter costs can have on your life and your household. From budgeting well to finding ways to save money, there are a long list of actions you can take to keep the winter financial blues at bay.

1. Emergency fund

One of the more commonly cited solutions is to always have an "emergency fund" to cover unexpected winter costs. Set aside a little each month and you can end up with a reserve of cash that can be used to pay for repairs, boiler maintenance or replacement, illness cover and increased heating costs.

It's not always that simple though, is it? There may not be much disposable income available, and even if you can build up a healthy reserve, there may be more than one thing that needs paying for.

2. Better budgeting

Another idea is to incorporate these additional costs into your monthly budget. Rather than have a set monthly budget for each of the 12 months, your budget should be a little more in winter and, perhaps, a little less in summer. This covers things such as extra heating and electricity bills as well as new clothing.

3. Change energy suppliers

Just before your usage is about to go up, it may be a good time to take a look at how much you actually pay for gas on your current tariff, and if you can get it cheaper from anywhere else. Use comparison sites to check the current prices and deals from certain energy suppliers to find the cheapest deal and save yourself some money on heating bills.

4. Alternate heating sources

A great money-saving way to stay warm in winter is to install a wood-burning stove in your home. It's a fantastic source of secondary heat and comes at a percentage of the price. Enclosed stoves are much more efficient than open fires, and you can put one just about anywhere as long as it's ventilated properly and you can fit a flue.

5. Use cedarwood to store clothes

Cedarwood is a natural moth repellent, so popping some in your vacuum-sealed storage bag, drawers and wardrobe can help to keep those pesky moths away and save you having to buy new winter clothes.

6. Get a smart meter

Smart meters are available from most of the big energy suppliers. Instead of telling you how many kWh you're using, or how much credit you have left on a prepayment meter, they tell you the exact amount you've already spent on gas and electricity. You can track your daily usage, send a reading to the energy company and receive much more accurate bills, as well as a more indicative cost of everything in your household.

7. Get your heating system checked and tuned up

It's a whole lot cheaper to pay £50-£100 per year to have an experienced engineer come out and test your boiler and heating system for flaws or faults than it is to pay for full repairs.

Let's be realistic for a minute, even the best budgeting and money-saving tactics can't change the weather or dictate what your heating system is going to do, right? So it's also a good idea to have a redundancy plan for sudden, unavoidable expenses such as repairs. There are several ways you can do this, but most of them should be used carefully and come with increased risks.

Pay off your credit card debt

Given the increased chance of incurring more expenses, it makes sense to prepare for them now. If you are close to your credit card limit, try your best to pay some of it off. It may be hard, but you will thank yourself when you need it in the colder months. Any little step helps, even if you just commit to paying a little bit extra per month. The more available credit you have, the easier it will be to do with unexptected expenses.

Avoid Payday loans!

It can be tempting, when you are in a pinch to take the easiest money that is on offer. Usually, and unfortunately, that can often be loan from a payday lender. But don’t get tricked! While payday lenders may give you the money the eaisest, it’s also the hardest to pay back. Due to the very high charges and quick payback period, many people find themselves in distress after taking a payday loan and wish they hadn’t. If you really need help, there are a number of more ethical lenders around. You could try https://responsiblefinance.org to find a lender, or if it’s an appliance you need to replace, you could try AO’s new program to level the playing field.

Get Creditspring

Something entirely different to credit cards, bank loans and payday loans, Creditspring is a simple and efficient way to cover unexpected expenses without the fuss and stress of conventional methods. It’s more like a backup plan than anything else. Creditspring was created for those who don’t like interest and just want a simple and transparent way to borrow. For a fixed monthly fee, Creditspring members get access to on demand borrowing, without interest. You also get a personalised Financial Stability Score so you can have a better idea of how you can withstand a financial shock.

You should never take out any form of credit you can't afford, as failure to make repayments can negatively affect your credit score, hampering your ability to get credit in the future.

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