Weather Is Driving Up Prices. Here's How to Keep Costs Under Control

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The weather is sure to have an impact on prices. Here are some simple ways to control how much you spend.

A man using a snowblower to clear the sidewalk in front of his house.

Image source: Getty Images

The weather is sure to have an impact on prices. Here are some simple ways to control how much you spend.

The stretch of cold weather that has sent much of the nation into a virtual deep freeze may not last long, but the financial repercussions could. No matter where you live in the U.S., the current weather pattern is likely to impact your bank account in one way or another. In addition to higher utility bills, those impacted by the winter chill can also expect to pay more at the grocery store and gas pump.

As power outages and forecasts for more snow and ice drive the market, people are rushing to stores to pick up necessary (and not-so-necessary) items, leaving little on the shelves for others. Over the next 14 days alone, gasoline is expected to go up 10 to 20 cents per gallon, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Despite a winter storm that has teamed up with the COVID-19 pandemic to make people miserable, this situation will not last forever. In the meantime, here are some ways to keep your costs under control.

Make two lists

Separate what you need from what you want. For example, you may need bottled water because you're under a boil-water advisory and are currently without the gas or electricity to boil said water. You may need basic food rations to get your family by until the weather warms, lights come back on, and you can make a proper meal. You may also need toilet paper because, well, it's toilet paper. Those things should be on one list.

Your second list should include your "wants." This list could consist of anything, like chocolate, wine, snack crackers, and magazines. Purchase your needs first, and if there's money left over, cut the want list down by 50%. So, if you have six things on that list, buy three of them. You'll still get something you want but save money in the process.

The value of making lists before you head out to shop is this: Watching other people panic-shop will naturally make you feel anxious. Once you notice there's not a single can of SpaghettiOs in the entire store, you may suddenly believe you need SpaghettiOs. You do not.

What you need is what's on your first list. Focusing on the essentials does two things:

  1. Saves you the money you would have wasted by panic-shopping
  2. Underscores how financially sensible you are

The easiest way to save money is to avoid spending it out of fear, anxiety, or lack of planning.

Use up perishables

If you still have the utility service needed to operate your oven, check your freezer for meat that needs to be cooked -- particularly if the power grid in your area has been sketchy. Make a big salad and use up those vegetables that will go bad over the next few days. Give the kids an extra glass of milk. In short, keep items in your house that don't need to be cooked and won't go bad before this weather snap passes. Wasted food is wasted money.

Embrace generic brands

If you've never tasted a generic potato chip, you're in for a treat. In fact, many generic brands taste better than their big-name counterparts. Right now, as you attempt to cut costs, pick up the generic version of anything you need. You may be surprised by how much you like them.

Call family and friends

Rather than travel to every store within a 100-mile radius looking for eggs (wasting precious fuel), call around to see if the people you're close to have eggs to spare. Maybe you have a stash of Butterfingers in your pantry that they'd be willing to trade for.

Heed the advice of utility companies

Utility companies around the country have spent the past few days begging customers to reduce their usage. This reduction isn't because they want you to freeze. It's so the power grid doesn't become overwhelmed.

Working cooperatively is a nice thing to do, but it's also financially wise. So slip on three pairs of socks, pile your thickest sweater over a sweatshirt, and snuggle in with a blanket rather than ratchet your heat up to 75 degrees. If a utility company suggests keeping your house at 67 or 68 degrees for a few days, go with it. You'll use less electricity or gas (depending on how your home is heated) and put less strain on your HVAC system. Now would be a terrible time to have to pay for costly repairs.

Fill up the tank

Get your tank filled before gas prices begin to soar. It's a money saver and may prevent you from sitting in a long line when everyone else realizes that prices are climbing.

Unsolicited advice

Doing good makes you feel good, so why not check in on your neighbors (even if you barely know them) to make sure they're doing okay? If you have extra money during this difficult time for millions of Americans, contact your local food bank to learn what they need. If you're healthy enough to do it safely, shovel the walkway up to a neighbor's house. In short, focus on all that you have and can do for others. The silver lining in situations like these is that they serve as a reminder that there are an awful lot of good people in the world.

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