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Pricewatch: Winter is coming – at a hefty price

How the season’s cold, dark nights can make your wallet a whole lot lighter

We won’t know it ‘til it’s Christmas. Brown Thomas has been selling baubles for two months, and big supermarket chains are shamefully selling selection boxes and mince pies (mince pies that have an expiration date in November, weirdly).

As if that wasn’t a depressing enough thought (not Christmas, just the premature selling of it), winter is coming.

And while those three words may not carry quite the same menace on this page as they do when uttered by a sword-wielding Game of Thrones character, they should still be a cause of concern for anyone with a keen eye on their wallet.

Because if winter is anything it’s expensive. But how much more are the six months of cold darkness likely to set you back? Way more than you think.


Keep the home fires burning: While the amount of money you will pay for gas and electricity depends on many variables – what systems you have, who you are with, how reliant you are on it, how big is your house and how many people live in it to name just four – it is safe to say you will spend way more on electricity and gas in the winter than in the summer. The average monthly electricity bill for the winter months is close to €100 this year, while the average summer electricity bill is around €65. The average monthly gas bill is around €120 in winter and €60 in the summer. If we – generously – split the year in two, then the six months of winter will cost us all an average of €570 more than the six months of summer.

Ho ho horror: We're not going to dwell too much on the C word (there will be time enough for that) but if we are going to talk about the cost of winter then we have to at least mention it. Dozens of studies over many years have indicated that Christmas spending has been pretty consistent and will cost households between €1,100 and €1,400.

Stuff your face: There are all sorts of theories as to why people eat more in the winter, but we like the one which suggests that it is all down to biology – not least because it means it is not our fault. We recently came across a study from a highly respected cardiologist at the University of Massachusetts medical school called Ira Ockene, in which he declared that winter eating comes from our primitive impulses which make us stockpile for the cold months ahead. Effectively we are like squirrels or bears. Only with credit cards. If you eat just 20 per cent more over the winter, the six months between October and March will cost you €520 more than the other six-month spell.

We're all paying for our ... summer holidays: Okay, so you might actually go on holidays in the summer time, but the chances are you will have paid for it in the winter. Few families of four will have much change out of €2,000 once that cost is covered.

Loved up: Once the cost of the roses, cards, champagne, presents and "romantic" candlelit dinners – which see couples shoehorned into restaurants and force-fed "special menus" where the only special thing is the price – are totted up after St Valentine's Day, many couples will have blown €500.

Staying in: We might be looking at summers past through rose-tinted glasses but even so we are pretty sure the weather in the six months from April to September means we can do more stuff outside at no cost. Once the evenings draw in and the rain comes people are more inclined to go to the cinema, to concerts and to plays and all the other indoor things which end up costing us money. We – probably – spend more time in the pub too. Even if we allow for a modest social life we reckon wintery things will come in at an additional €30 a month.

Fit inside: A lot of people join gyms or sign up to ridiculous and costly fitness programmes in the first part of the year. It is hard to blame them/us. In the summer you can go for healthy walks and runs on the beach, and all sorts of other things that cost absolutely no money. You can bring picnics too. In the winter, on the other hand, you stare forlornly at the cold rain as it splashes onto your windows and shudder at the thought of going outside. You might find yourself spending just €100 more on excercisey stuff over the next six months.

We reckon the cost of winter is going to come in at a fairly eye-watering €6,118

Cars and trains and taxis: Walking or cycling from A to B is a lot less pleasant in the winter, particularly for Irish people who seem endlessly caught out by the weather. This means we rely more on our cars and on public transport and cabs. If we put the average cost of a short cab fare at a tenner and you take just one a week in the winter that you might not take in the summer time, it will cost you an additional €260. The average motorist drives 16,000km every year and the price of fuel is around €1.30 a litre. Driving the average family car, which does 12.4km per litre, means the average Irish driver will spend about €1,664 this year on petrol. If we divvy up the spend 60/40 between winter and summer, the extra costs brought on by the cold and dark months ahead come in at €333.

Clothes call: Again we might be guilty of looking at our summers through rose-tinted shades but we're pretty sure our days are spent wearing nothing but shorts and flip flips which can be bought for no more than a tenner if you know where to shop. Even if our memory is playing tricks on us, the reality is that winter does mean more clothes and more shoes, and they have to work harder to keep you warm and dry. If we put the cost of a good winter coat at €150 and the cost of just one pair of sturdy shoes at €75, we can say winter will add another €225 to our spend. And we've not even mentioned the high cost of thermals.

In sickness and in wealth: You are more likely to get sick in the winter, so if we put the average cost of going to see your GP at €50 and you need to make two visits the winter bill comes to €100. We are going to add a further €50 to cover the cost of medicines, cough syrups and all the other things that you might need to see you through.

All told, then, we reckon the cost of winter is going to come in at a fairly eye-watering €6,118. And ever if we are to move the cost of a summer holiday from the cold rainy column to the sun-kissed one, the additional spend brought on by winter is pretty hefty. And it’s going to be dark and miserable too. Sorry.