Winter is Coming: Is Your Plan in Place?

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Prepare for Winter

Yes, I know: winter is coming, but not for awhile.  I’ll bet you were expecting some sort of July 4th post, a post about fireworks, an allusion to Game of Thrones, or some other fun summer festivities guideline.  In the Frugal Farmer family, however, we’ve got winter on our minds.

It May Only Be July, But Winter Is Coming

For those of you who follow our blog, you probably already know this story, but for those who don’t, here’s why we’re planning for winter in July.  We live in the Upper Midwest, not too terribly far from the Canadian border.  The dreaded Polar Vortex, which, in our neck of the woods, was like winter on steroids, hit us and hit us hard.  Our heating bills were double and triple what they normally would’ve been,  and our super tight budget was seriously struggling for air by the time January and February came around.

The worst part of it was this: we had a wood-burning stove sitting nicely in our living room: a stove that we never hooked up in the summer time because we didn’t want to spend the money.  Ouch.  Once winter came, we were seriously regretting the fact that we hadn’t thought long-term about that stove installation expense.

That mistake – the mistake of denying that winter is coming – cost us a nice wad of cash, in the thousands of dollars, in excess heating bills due to extra cold weather and jacked up propane and heating costs.  This is money we wouldn’t have had to spend had we been thinking long-term.

The Value of a Long-Term Plan

The same thing happens to many individuals and families, only in different ways.   They don’t look far enough ahead to realize that winter is coming, and don’t plan accordingly for the extra expenses.  Or they don’t look far enough ahead to realize that retirement age is drawing near, and they don’t save adequately – or at all – for retirement.

Or they don’t look far enough ahead to think about how their goals and dreams might change in the future, so they continue to live paycheck to paycheck, limiting their ability to change things in life because of a lack of money and are therefore stuck at a job they hate because they can’t afford to take a pay cut.

Now’s the Time to Think About Winter

In order to avoid a repeat of last winter’s financial disaster, we are putting a few protective measures in place just in case we get hit with another brutal winter.  First, we’re getting that wood stove installed.  Second, we’re filling our propane tanks to the brim this summer while prices are lower.  Third, we’re chopping and stacking lots of wood to heat the house.  Fourth, we’re stocking up on lots of necessity items, such as non-perishable foods, toiletries and pet supplies, in the summer while expenses are low so that we don’t have to buy them in the winter.

Everyone has a ‘winter,’ even those who live in places that are temperate all year round. So, what’s your “winter?”  Is it crazy-high heating bills?  Is it an anorexic retirement account?  Is it a massive amount of debt that you know will need to be dealt with one day?  Whatever it is, I encourage you to plan accordingly, starting today.


Do you engage in long-range planning?  Have you ever encountered a situation where you didn’t plan ahead and ended up paying the price? Looking back, when is a time that you chose not to spend money on something upfront that ultimately would have saved you more money in the long run if you had just spent the cost to be better prepared?



Photo courtesy of: Paul Fosselman


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Laurie is a wife, mother to 4, and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom, and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

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  • We must live somewhat close to each other. I’m also near the Canadian border (Midwest) and boy was it COLD this year. -30, -40 actual temps! We had our baby in what was spring for most people (March) while there were still feet of snow on the ground here. Of course we had to keep the house toasty for her and there I was, knowing I would get paid for ALL of my leave. Stressful. Love the idea of stocking up on supplies, because you are right – winter is coming.

    • Yeah, we must live close. It was terrible, wasn’t it? I don’t ever remember seeing so many 30 and 40 below days, but I’ll tell you, we will be prepared if it happens again. That was one nasty winter.

  • Amy says:

    Your idea of stocking up on supplies now is great! I’m going to give some thought to what I can get more cheaply during the warmer months. We heat with propane, too, and luckily we locked in a good price ($2.55 per gallon) last summer. In previous years, we’ve scoffed at the upfront costs of doing this and then regretted it all winter! (Prices were almost always much more than $3 per gallon.)

  • Thanks, Amy!!! Yes, propane can be a bear on the budget, that’s for sure. Hope you are able to get some good stock up going on other stuff before winter hits.

  • Last winter was our first in our new house and I was pleasantly surprised that our utility bills were so low. I almost thought that something was wrong! Not sure that I’ve made any preparations for winter, but I’m sure I will at a certain point. Right now I’m in summer mode!

  • Kathy says:

    Hi Laurie, don’tcha just love global warming? Ok, I promise not to get political. When we were in the country, our propane supplier allowed us to lock in the rate for the winter, if we got our fist load like in August when their business was slow. That helped out quite a bit. We didn’t have a fireplace so didn’t need to gather, chop or buy wood but I’ve gotten addicted to the TV show Alaska, The Last Frontier, which follows a family of homesteaders who live off the grid in Alaska. Summer is so busy for them, gathering wood, hunting to fill their freezers etc. I’m sure that’s what you are doing as well. We also did gardens and had a peach and apple orchard so I canned and froze as much stuff as possible. It was so nice to pull out a carton of peaches in February to have a fresh peach pie! Now that we are in town and live just five minutes from the grocery store, we don’t need nor have the resources to do so much food preservation, but we do stock up on soup, toilet paper, and other non perishable items for the pantry. And regarding our utility bill, we budget a monthly amount for the whole year. In the spring and fall when we aren’t running the A/C, the bill might be less than half of what it is in the summer. So the excess funds from our budgeted amount goes into a reserve fund. Then in the summer when electric costs skyrocket, we have extra money to pay. Same for natural gas in the winter. We save the amount not spent in the summer and then don’t need to panic when it gets real cold and the furnace runs more. It sounds like you guys are steadily becoming more self-sufficient with a wood stove etc. May I suggest an investment in a wood splitter, if you cut your own wood. It certainly would save you (or your hubby’s back?

    • LOL, funny, Kath. 🙂 Yeah, we absolutely love and glean wisdom from that show too. I still have it stuck in my head how the one cousin was totally prepared with wood by fall and how the other had to hoof it out in the snow and chop logs. That just freaked me right out. We are lucky too, to have inherited a really nice wood splitter from a beloved family member – man, that thing is a treat!!! Splits those logs like a knife in a warm stick of butter. 🙂

  • Reminds me of the Donner Party!! Glad you guys had an alternative heat source at least!

    That’s one thing I love about living in the country – you’re much more in tune with nature. My cousin uses a wood-only stove in his house so he HAS TO plan.

    Although I do procrastinate, I always have a rough idea of what I will do before the moment arrives. I’ve never been stuck in a miserable situation due to lack of planning. I did run out of gas once but honestly, I don’t know what was wrong with me, I knew I couldn’t make it as far as I did. I just drove anyway. I was 16 at the time so at least I learned that lesson early.

    • LOL, at sixteen, you’re forgiven. 🙂 You’re right about the country: it forces you to plan ahead, which becomes a habit in other areas. For that reason alone I’m glad we made the transition from city life to country life. It’s often too easy to depend on others when everything is so convenient.

  • Derek at MoneyAhoy says:

    That’s smart to think ahead. We’re probably all victims of short term planning at some point. Pennywise and pound foolish.

    The biggest mistake I’ve made in this arena was putting off car maintenance. A small squeak now could be fixed before it turns into a major problem that costs hundreds to repair!

  • It’s hard to think about winter while I’m dripping with sweat just trying to get around town 😉 For NYC dwellers, summer is the more expensive time, those A/C costs are killer. The heat in the winter is included in rent.

  • At first when I saw the title I was thinking “NO LAURIE! I will not think about winter when we haven’t even had the 4th of July!!!” But when you mentioned the wood-burning stove situation it all makes sense. I am enjoying my energy bills being 1/3 of what they are in the Winter, and that’s with never opening the windows and running the AC (allergies…). I would say long-term plans are going well for us. My wife is continuing her education by getting a masters, I’m starting a new job next week (and she recently got promoted at hers) and we are investing in our house with a future sale in mind. On the LONG term planning we are putting away money for retirement with plans of putting away more as our income increases and our debt trails off.

  • It’s definitely hard to think about winter right now but I know what you mean. As homeowners we always worry about stuff like this. The one thing we want to get is a snow blower. We have a large property to shovel and after the last winter we had here in NJ our backs took a beating with all that shoveling. I was really missing being a renter while doing that. I definitely think it’s worth buying a snow blower to save our backs and avoid medical bills we may get in the long run if we don’t buy one.

    • Yeah, that house maintenance has a way of making renting seem really nice, doesn’t it. I think you guys should absolutely buy a snow blower this year. Not only will it save you time and energy, but it will allow you to have better health too, in the form of taking care of your back!

  • Catherine says:

    My husband and I are actually already thinking about heating alternative for the winter…in six months time. Electric heat is brutally expensive but we’re limited as to what we can do for alternative sources too….

  • I’m sure I’ve had situations where I didn’t plan enough and ended up paying the price, but not generally with winter. Sure, our bills are usually higher, but it’s not enough to break the bank. Thank God for our wood stove! IT’s so helpful in keeping costs down.

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