Winter brings cozy fires, happy holidays and fun sports like ice skating and skiing. Sometimes, though, winter brings other, less welcome things. With sunshine being scarce, many people get the winter blues. This depressed state is often made worse by the financial realities of winter, including extra energy costs and money spend on the holidays.
Here are some ways to beat the blues before they start.
Budget for Holiday Spending
It's too late for this year, but it's never too early to think about strategies for next year. Consider what you actually have in hand to spend without using credit. Then, make a list of all your holiday expenses, including gifts, travel and entertaining.
If you have family or friends you usually exchange gifts with, suggest putting a dollar limit on spending. Think of some other ways to celebrate in addition to gift giving.
Do more instead of buying more. Psychology professor Tom Gilovich of Cornell University says you'll be happier - and your happiness will last longer - if you spend your money on experiences instead of things.
Also, consider making your own gifts. A handmade gift can be more meaningful than something store-bought.
Speak with your children about financial realities and budgeting. Instead of making a long list of present they want, have them pinpoint one or two items that are really important to them. Talk to them about your expenses and reassure them that there will be plenty of joy even without being overwhelmed with presents.
Energy costs can be a source of worry, so consider the following ways to trim your energy bill.
First, check your house to make sure you have enough insulation. Look for loose windows or cracks that may be leaking heat. You can fill these cracks yourself or hire a professional to do the job.
Try to keep your thermostat at a lower temperature. Get your family into the habit of wearing sweaters and socks in the house. Buy some extra blankets and lower the temperature a bit more at night.
If it's in your budget, a new programmable thermostat can save you money. You'll be able to adjust room temperature when you aren't home, setting it to kick on before you return from work so the house will be warm when you arrive.
Do It Yourself
When the kids are home from school, you may be keeping them busy by going out for treats. Instead, have fun at home! Make a large pot of Chili or some cocoa to share. It's simpler and more enjoyable than going out, and best of all, it's easier on the wallet.