Freezing

5 Big Winter Expenses That Could Freeze Your Budget

You never know what might happen when the snow starts to fall. Everyone should have a three- to six-month emergency fund for unexpected expenses, like when four feet of snow caves your roof in — God forbid, of course. While you can’t control life’s curveballs, you can prepare and perhaps avoid big winter expenses. Here’s how.

1. Broken Heating System

Cranking up the heat helps maintain a comfortable temperature in the home, but extreme cold can push a heating system to the max, causing it to quit on you at the worst time.

A basic service call to diagnose a problem can cost upward of $100 — mine was $95 earlier this winter when my system wasn’t working — and this doesn’t include the cost to fix any broken components. (Luckily mine didn’t require anything out of the ordinary. I got away with just the $95.) If your system is older and needs replacing, however, you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars for a new one.

There’s no way to predict when a heating system will break, but getting a home warranty can help you deal with this unexpected cost. These plans — which cost about $400 to $500 a year — are like an insurance plan for your home’s major systems. If your appliances — water heater, plumbing, electrical, heating, and AC system — need a repair, give your warranty company a call and they’ll send a technician within their network to fix the problem. You just pay a flat $50 to $75 out-of-pocket service fee. If the technician can’t fix the heating system, your warranty company pays the replacement cost.

There are limitations, so make sure you understand how your plan works. For example, your warranty company may only replace the unit if you can show a record of annual tuneups. As such, it’s important to stay on top of things so you don’t restrict yourself when it comes time to take advantage of the warranty.

2. High Gas Bills

Maintaining a warm, cozy home in the winter often requires turning up the heat. But…

Check Out These Cold Weather Activities

When the mercury drops, you might be tempted to stay inside, but what’s the fun in that? Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures may be hard on your heating bill, but there are plenty of fun things to do outside. Just make sure to dress warmly, beware of walking on slippery ice, and take breaks to warm up inside.

1. FROZEN BUBBLES

Bubbles are typically a warm weather activity, but they can be just as fun in freezing temperatures. If it’s cold enough, you can blow soap bubbles and watch them freeze before they pop! Instructables member pi526 has a recipe for homemade bubble liquid, and tips for getting photographs of those neat creations. Depending on the temperature, you might be able to watch ice crystals form while they freeze. Bubbles that come into contact with a surface will freeze if they don’t pop first. They might pop in the process of freezing, which leaves fascinating shapes to study, or they might freeze completely and then break to resemble a broken glass Christmas ornament. Or you might see your bubbles still frozen the next day.

2. BOILING WATER SNOW

The temperature outside has to be pretty cold to make instant snow out of boiling water. If you live where winter temperatures drop way below freezing, you might want to try this. When Yan recorded this video the thermometer read -13°F (-25°C). Bring water to a boil in a pan or coffee cup, and take it outside and throw it in the air. Be sure to throw it away from you, so you don’t get burned. When the rapidly-evaporating water vapor hits the cold air, it turns to snow. It has to be hot…