Summer Savings Pay Winter’s Bills

Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone | 42 comments

Don’t you find that winter and summer complement each other perfectly? Winter is such a restful break from the busy summer-time while summer is a pleasant break from winter’s extra costs. Winter brings along so many extra expenses that only with summer savings can we keep our budget straight.

Our extra Winter costs include:

Heating Costs. We have a wood-stove and an oil-furnace to heat our large, drafty farm house. Last year we purchased 16 cords of wood at a cost of $1,500.00 and filled up two oil tanks at a cost of almost $2,000.00. The wood-stove itself was a huge money-saver. Before we had it installed, the oil bill was triple what it is today.

Car Expense: In late Fall, before the snow falls, we change to snow-tires and of course have them changed back in early Spring. This is always good for a few hundred dollars. We also get our car undercoated to protect against road salt, another $150.00 or so.

Snow Removal:  We are fortunate that we have a neighbour who keeps our driveway free from snow. But this can cost up to $500.00 dollars, depending on the amount of snow we get.

Food: Since most food is imported during the winter time, it is naturally more expensive to buy.

Energy: A lot more electricity is required in the winter. More lights on, more hot water use,  more oven use, more indoor time so more TV watching, etc. It all adds up.

Our Summer Savings:

The biggest summer savings come from cutting energy costs and we do this in a number of ways.

  • Before the season starts, we check and clean the air conditioner and replace the filters. This improves air-flow and keeps the unit running smoothly and lasting longer. We also run the a/c only when it’s really needed.
  • The hot water heater is another large energy user if not monitored and we save a fair bit by turning it down a few degrees for the summer. In the summer showers are taken to cool off and refresh and for that we don’t need the hottest water.
  • The savings continue by running the dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded and letting dishes air-dry.
  • A huge money-saver is to make full use of the BBQ. Besides the energy savings offered by not using the stove/oven, there will be additional energy savings since the oven isn’t heating up the house, further reducing the need for the a/c. I use the side burner on our barbecue to make soup or cook up large pots of potatoes or macaroni for salads. More energy saved.
  • Using the micro-wave is another money-saver. It uses very little energy and doesn’t heat up the house.
  • No dryer. I love hanging my laundry out on the clothes-line and, since dryers suck up huge amounts of energy, this is another great cost-saver.

Cutting food costs:
summer savings

We save a lot of money over the summer by growing our own food. We don’t have anywhere near the garden we used to have but do grow salad stuff including tomatoes, a variety of herbs and our favourite organic vegetables – kale, spinach, beets and zucchini. Instead of celery, which is tricky to grow, we grow lovage, an easy, fast growing perennial that tastes sort of like beefy celery, great for soups and stews all winter long.

It doesn’t take much room to have a salad or herb garden. It only requires a large patio planter or window box to grow low-cost organic produce all summer long. These gardens can be made to look very attractive, especially if interplanted with some edible flowers, such as nasturtiums or bergamot (bee balm). Extra produce can be frozen for use during the winter for more savings.

Any produce we don’t grow can be bought at Farmers’ Markets. We get great bargains by buying in-season and shopping just before closing time. That’s when vendors cut prices so they don’t have to cart the unsold produce home. An example of my best bargain to date: a flat (8 pints) of organic blueberries for $5.00.

For more about Farmers’ Markets  Click here

summer savings

Farmers’ Market

By taking advantage of all summer savings opportunities, we are able to significantly lessen the burden of winter’s bills.

Talk to you again next week,


My Etsy Shop – LavenderbyLenie


  1. Love these ideas, Lenie. I’d be ecstatic to give up a/c to save on summer’s costs, but my husband can’t live without it. Goody for me that he is traveling a lot this summer. Did I write that out loud? Ha! We are a third of the way through out deck-replacement project. I’m too late for a container garden this year, but am planning one for next year, when I can scatter pots all over this big deck. We can’t have a garden because there are too many deer in this suburb we live in. Which is also, sadly, why I can’t dry laundry outside–and that is one of my favorite things!

    • Oh my goodness, Rose, I never thought of any of those things – I do have a suggestion that may help keep deer out of your yard . lay chicken wire on the grass, deer don’t like stepping on it. Might be fun to try. Funny thing, we used to have a lot of deer here but now hardly ever see one. I guess they all migrated south to your area. Actually it is because of a more serious problem – coyotes, way to many of them. Enjoy your deck.

  2. Interesting look at costs and savings by season. Out-of-season and imported food is always more expensive. I have never heard of lovage. I no longer have a vegetable garden space, but if I did I certainly would try to grow it.

    • Hi Donna, if you have ever added Maggi to your soup then you know what lovage tastes like. I love the taste and being an attractive perennial it provides free food forever. I no longer like buying celery since I find that the celery you buy nowadays tends to be stringy.

  3. Lenie, I always remark on how expensive it is to live in Los Angeles, but after seeing a list of your winter costs, I feel a little bit better about our situation. I don’t have any of your winter costs since we don’t really have winter.

    I keep wanting to start a little garden on my balcony. Every few months you mention gardening in one of your posts and I get reminded again that I really should do it. Thanks for another one of your great money saving lists!

    • Hi Erica – I would imagine the cost of living in LA is right up there so your expenses would probably be spread out more even over the year. Don’t know whether that’s better or not.

      The advantage of living in LA though is that could grow a lot more stuff than we can. I haven’t even put out my frost-tender plants. We had a killing frost last week yet and can certainly expect one the first part of September so that makes for a short growing season.

  4. Would be great to save on summer costs but it seems everything in my neck of the woods (qatar) is exported anyway.

    • Husnaa, I don’t really know very much about Qatar but am learning about it through your posts which I always find so interesting. As for here in Canada, there is a distinct difference between winter and summer expenses, that goodness. Would hate to have winter expenses all year round.

  5. Here in the UK we do not require air conditioning.

    In summer, I like hanging the clothes outside to dry – just seeing them blowing in the wind!

    Our heating bill drastically reduces – yay!

    We not own a dishwasher – shock horror!

    We tend to eat less carbohydrates and bulk up our salads.

    • Hi Phoenicia, there is a lot you can do no matter where you are if you are interested enough, isn’t there. I imagine that with the dampness in Britain that your heating bill can be quite steep too so having a break from that is like you say – yay!.

  6. I just recently went on the level-pay system for my electric and natural gas bill so it’s nice to not have to anticipate the huge AC bill come July and August. My small garden is planted, but I do love what comes from it. My friend who lives on a ranch grows a giant garden and cans tons of food to help alleviate her grocery bill year round. If I ever increase the size of my garden, I want to learn how to can food.

    • Hi Jeri – canning food is a lot of work but unbelievably satisfying. We once rented a farm where there was an actual, well-designed cold room in the basement which just called to be filled with canned goods. That year I made jam, pickles, relishes, canned fruit of all kinds, you name it and when it was all placed on the shelves it was the most wonderful sight. I kept going down just to admire it LOL.

  7. This is so true. I do the same things. Grilling is the number one way to save on energy costs in our household. Vacation mode on the thermostat helps keep cost low when we are away for a few days or a week. My garden helps somewhat on food costs as well. My rain barrels help save water because I use the water to water the garden. It works nicely. We need a good few days of rain to replenish them. Helpfully, this week we will be able to refill them. As always, your posts are so informative. =) Thank you.

    • Hi Sabrina, sure sounds like you believe in the Thrifty lifestyle – good for you. It is surprising how much you can save by having just a small garden. Next time you go to the garden to pick anything, just do a quick mental breakdown of the cost of the produce if you had to buy it – you may be surprised how much your garden really does save you. Thanks for the nice comments.

  8. Oh yes Lenie! Thanks for this. After commenting, I am printing your Post. I never thought about turning down hot water heater by a few degrees. oh wow!

    • Hi ChinWe – I don’t know about electricity rates in Britain, but they are skyrocketing here so watching that one area can make a huge difference. And I hate paying money for things I can’t physically see.

  9. Great suggestions on how to make savings this summer that will benefit you when winter comes.

    • Catarina, I imagine in Sweden you also have a clear difference between winter and summer expenses. Making things balance out is something I rather enjoy.

  10. Such a thoughtful message Lenie, and reading through your lists has made me realize what simple and uncomplicated lives we live in the Islands! Seriously – no heating, no snow, minimal air conditioning and with few exceptions most days are comfortable walking weather. The food thing is the one area that sucks for us year-round – most food is shipped in which has contributed to HI being the most expensive state in the US and because of the shipping issue we don’t get a lot of the more unusual foods available on the mainland. Bananas, pineapple, papaya – got ya covered in spades!

    • Marquita, when I first read your comment, I thought how nice, but you know, I really do like our seasons. Summer is busy and inexpensive, winter is relaxing and costly, it all balances out. I’ll bet the first time you moved to the Island and picked a banana or papaya you would have been pretty excited. But I can understand about the cost of food – anything imported is costly and like you say, usually you have little choice as to type or quality.

  11. Mmmmm, blueberries! I just planted a couple of bushes yesterday, so I’m looking forward to picking my own in a couple of years. You make a great point about saving in the summer to offset some of winter’s costs. I had no idea snow removal was so expensive! (We get about 2 inches a year here.)

    • Meredith, for us, everything connected with winter is expensive but it’s not all bad. Because of the weather, we also tend to sit back and just mellow out – neither my husband or I will drive on bad roads anymore. Good thing we’re homebodies.

  12. Hello Lenie

    Love your ideas for saving, always.
    But I think the saving is in reverse I guess, when it is cold, AC is turned off so it saves money.
    If I mention here, you will be surprised that in one month of winter my bill was just 50SR, normally in summer, now a days it exceed 200SR a month. Though the electricity is cheap here but all the time the AC is running to keep us cool. What you think if you get up in morning and the temperature is 37C.
    Unfortunately until now, I never tried to grow anything here but when I go on vacation to Kashmir, I always grow a lot of vegetables, it really helps in saving.
    I was surprised that you spend a lot of money for heating up.
    We have bad winter in Kashmir there is lot of snow, but the best thing is we have our own trees, people cut some trees in summer and it dry till winter and use the wood to heat up homes.
    I was just wondering how situations are different from one part of the world to the other.

    Sorry for long comment.

    • Andleeb, don’t be sorry about the long comment – I love hearing how you live in your part of the world. Now that we have the Internet we tend to forget how connected the world really is, so my concerns are completely different to yours. Learning from each other is so very interesting.

  13. Some good ideas Lenie. Personally, I am a lot more inclined to head for the BBQ than the microwave.

    • I agree Ken, first the BBQ but when that isn’t feasible, the microwave. I hate using my electric stove so will do everything else first.

  14. Love your ideas for racking up summer savings to pay for the winter bills Lenie. Boy do I remember those days and yearn for the ability to hang our clothes outside. It brings back some wonderful memories. We elect to live in a gated community and unfortunately, this is against covenants. I am glad we live without the need for those winter snow tires though! Those memories are not as fond!

    • Hi Pat – too bad you can’t hang out the laundry, it is such a pleasant ‘no thinking’ activity and good for the clothes besides. I know here there are subdivisions where they won’t allow clotheslines – rather a pity when everyone complains about over using energy. Oh well. As for the snow-tires, you just have to take the good with the bad, right.

  15. Oy, the winter costs. I haven’t lived in a snowbound area for some years and don’t ever want to again. I do still own a house in Chicago though and this last winter was brutal to the pipes. Had them bursting all over the place. I relate Lenie and good for you and all the others who can stick it out.

    • Hi Time, I actually love our seasons. I would find it extremely difficult to keep up the good weather pace. This way with winter, we are able to sit back and relax. Sorry to hear about those water pipes. What a winter that one was. In a town not to far from here, they are digging up the streets to still repair pipes that were frozen and burst over the winter, even though they were buried more than three feet down. We’ll hope for a milder one this year.

  16. Lenie — I live in Manhattan and the summers can be very hot. Our electric utility has among the highest rates in the country. A couple of years ago I was shopping and saw a fan, not a very large fan, but big enough that it create quite a breeze. I placed in on the bedside table and use it on those days and evenings when it’s hot, but not scorching hot. That has saved me several hundred dollars in electricity bills and I find it’s very comfortable sleeping with an old fashioned fan.

    • Anything we can do to save money, right Jeannette? I would think the air moving around and the low constant hum would help you sleep like a baby. Besides the cost, I find the air-conditioner does something to the air that’s not quite comfortable. Sometimes we have no choice, but for the most part we get along just great without it. Of course, our house is surrounded by large trees, so that helps a lot.

  17. This is such a great primer on preparedness and how effective it can be in cost savings. I can’t speak for everyone, but controlling the costs that can be, is so important. I wish I could have a summer garden…sigh!

    • Jacquie, I wish you could have a summer garden too, I know you would get such enjoyment out of it. Planning ahead can save a tremendous amount of money – it certainly is the only way we can manage.

  18. I don’t know that other electrical companies do this, but here in AZ you can choose your plan. Mine lets me save quite a bit by doing some tasks between 9 pm and 9 am or on weekends. So I always use the dishwasher during that time and I do my laundry on weekends. Love the easy ways to save.

    • Hi Beth, we have that kind of plan here too, called Smart Meter. But there has been so much controversy surrounding that. In our case, we have more than cut our hydro bill in half, but because of the mismanagement of this utility, our bill has more than doubled. Just doesn’t make sense.

  19. Those are some great suggestions.

  20. hi lenie; happy to hear that my dependence on the microwave is actually a good thing. didn’t realize i was saving energy and cutting costs. of course most of the food is pre packaged so maybe all i’m doing is breaking even. and in a city that is dealing with wide spread flooding I guess i should be happy not to have to deal with snow and the related costs. My brother says cars also have to have different fuel or be tuned differently if you live at altitude. I imagine there are expenses there too. thanks for sharing, max

    • Hi Max – I don’t imagine you can get away from expenses, no matter where you live. It is a matter of knowing your expenses and then finding ways to deal with them. In our case, our winter expenses are set, we can’t really change them, but summer is much flexible so we can use that time to offset the winter expenses. Advance planning, that’s all.

  21. If you want to lower your summer electricity bills, I would recommend getting some ceiling fans. Ceiling fans are much cheaper to run than A/C units are, and will go a long way toward keeping you cool during the summer.

    • Hi Andy, you’re right about the ceiling fans. I just finished reading an article that they make you feel 5 degrees cooler. That makes all the difference between ‘can’t stand this heat’ and ‘comfortable’. We do have one in our large kitchen that does double duty – distributes hot air from the woodstove in winter and cools things down nicely in summer.

  22. Great ideas Lenie. The summer is a great time for making savings, although in the UK our weather can be inconsistent.