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Ten ways to reduce the costs of winter, the most expensive season

Getting through the cold, dark season can be financially as well as physically onerous

Winter is upon us and, without wanting to be overly gloomy, we have at least six months of dark, cold and rainy days ahead, with maybe even the odd flurry of snow if we’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you view the white stuff).

As if that thought wasn’t gloomy enough, we are also at the start of what is, in good times, the most expensive part of the year. And as you will be well aware, we are not in good times – at least when it comes to prices.

We are, in fact, enduring what is undoubtedly the worst of times, with a cost of living crisis that is as bad as it has been in living memory. And make no mistake, that is going to make this winter more expensive than most.

In fact, by the time May rolls around, most Irish households will have spent thousands of euro more than in the six more summery months just past.


While we have looked at the high cost of winter before, we haven’t had the heart to do it since the cost of living crisis really kicked in during the winter of 2021-22. We’ve steeled ourselves now, and you should too, because it’s not pretty.

We do have some steps you might take to soften the impact of the dark days ahead, though.

1. Squeezing out sparks

Obviously, it costs more to heat and light your home in the dark and cold months than it does in the brighter months and while there has been some downward movement when it comes to domestic energy prices in recent weeks, it is still likely to be a hideously expensive winter for everyone.

Even after price cuts of between 10 and 30 per cent that have been rolled out by the suppliers in Ireland since the start of last month, you will still be paying as much as €1,200 more over the next 12 months for your energy than you did in 2021. And the bulk of that spending is set to be squeezed into the next six months.

Keeping your home lit over the winter ahead will cost about €1 a day, which means you will pay €180 more between now and April than between May and October.

You won’t get to dry many clothes on the line either, so you might find yourself using a tumble dryer. If you use it three times a week for just a couple of hours each time, every week until the end of April, that will add another €200 to your winter spending

Then there’s heating. If you want your house not to be overly Baltic, you might need to keep the heat on for six hours each day over the six months of winter – some days it will be more than that, some days it will be less.

That will cost you around €1,850. By contrast, your heating bills in the warmer months should be nothing – although we did hear tell of folk putting on their heating last July, but we’ll forget about that for now.

So, merely heating and lighting your home and drying your clothes will cost more than €2,200 this winter than last summer. But what can be done?

Energy credits of €450, which will automatically be applied to your electricity account in three stages between now and next summer, will help take the sting out of winter’s costs.

Being energy-aware, however, is the long-term key. We’ve said it before and we will say it again: being active in the switching market will save you money. While the days of discounts of up to 40 per cent as an incentive to encourage people to change providers are gone, there are still savings to be made by moving from Company A to Company B – no matter which provider is Company B. And if you can knock 10 per cent off your annual bill, that’s worth maybe €300.

Heating your home typically accounts for around 60 per cent of your energy bill, with hot water accounting for 20 per cent and electricity the remaining 20 per cent.

With heating proving to be the biggest drain on our resources – financial as well as natural – you need to focus on how and what you are heating, and when you are heating it.

Turn your heat off half an hour before leaving a room or your house or before going to bed, and turn it on 30 minutes before you plan to return or get out of bed.

And manage your expectations. We’re not suggesting you live in a cold house – that’s miserable and bad for your health – but a lot of us, and Pricewatch includes itself here, have grown accustomed to warmer houses than might have been the case in times past.

Children of the 1970s and 1980s – and earlier – will recall that houses were not heated to semi-tropical levels year-round, and that huddles round the fire or radiators were not unusual. Wandering around in shorts and a t-shirt in the dead of winter was, however, unusual. People were frequently sent to bed with hot water bottles because bedrooms were absolutely freezing, too.

We are not going to suggest we return to those cold days of times past, but if you could lower your thermostat by just one degree, you’d save yourself money. And you might not notice if you just wear more clothes.

Speaking of clothes, you should also dry at least some of the clothes that you wash indoors on a clothes horse – and maybe only use the tumble dryer to take the heavy wetness out of them.

Have showers, not baths, and be quick about it – every minute you shave off your shower saves money. And pay close attention to your white goods and other electrical items. Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher until they are full, and then run them on the eco settings or lower temperatures. Just by washing your clothes at 30 degrees, instead of the default 40 degrees, will save you money and make your clothes last longer too. While none of these steps on their own will make much difference, when totted up they could save you as much as €300 of your winter energy bills.

2. Food for thought

Going all the way back to the discovery of fire, there were solid reasons for us to eat more in winter than in summer. Consuming extra calories when they were on the table, and building up layers of additional fat as the winters dragged on, made it easier for our ancestors to stay healthy and guard against the risk of food disappearing in the bitterest months.

The need to do that has largely faded away with the development of supermarkets, houses, clothes and central heating, but well-documented studies have shown that we still have subconscious urges to over-eat in the winter.

That primal urge comes at a cost – in terms of the additional weight we pile on, and the financial hit to our wallets. If we eat just 30 per cent more over the course of the next six months than in the six months just past, our winter diet will end up costing us hundreds of euro more than our summer one.

But what can be done? Do we really need to eat all around us today, just in case our hunter-gatherer skills let us down in January? If we shopped in winter as if it were summer, we could easily save about €300 this season.

3. Comfort at a cost

We don’t just eat more in winter, we eat differently. In the summer, we’re all about salads, sandwiches and fruit, while in the winter, we want comfort foods including roasts, casseroles and pies made by shepherds in cottages. But comfort comes at a cost, because it needs to be cooked for a long time in an energy-sapping oven. If you use your oven for two hours a day, four days a week, between now and the end of April, that will add a further €200 to the cost of winter.

We are not suggesting you eat salads in December – we’re not crazy – but if you are making comfort food, make it in batches, so your oven is on for the same length of time while cooking twice as much food.

4. The cost of Christmas

When we talk about the cost of winter, we have to include the season to be jolly – it’s probably a bit early to say the actual word just yet. We are big fans of the season that shall not speak its name on this page – and our relentless coverage of it between now and the end of the year will stand as testament to that fact. But while everyone loves the notion of chestnuts roasting on an open fire as the snow piles high on the mountainside, it does come at a cost.

Based on virtually all the studies we have seen, an Irish Christmas (dammit) will cost most households about €1,500. You could probably get by on half that if you were in Australia where the season is celebrated in the sun.

So, buy better presents by allowing yourself plenty of time to get them – a last-minute shopper is a bad shopper. That means starting now. And maybe don’t go completely mental when it comes to the food shopping this year. The shops will open again on St Stephen’s Day so you don’t need to lose the run of yourself entirely.

5. When the weather is nicer, things tend to be free

It costs nothing to sit in a park or go for a sun-kissed stroll on a beach. But once the hard rains fall, we are more inclined to go to the cinema, to concerts and to plays and all the other indoor things that cost money. By our back-of-an-envelope calculations, the cost of a winter social life is €25 more a week than a summer one, which adds a further €650 to the seasonal costs.

You need to give two fingers to the climate and remember the maxim that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So resolve to do more free stuff outside this winter, no matter what the weather.

6. Gym’ll fix it

January is peak gym-joining season, and it is not hard to see why. People have eaten and drank too much and they are suckered in by that whole “New Year, new me” nonsense. But that’s not all. When the days are warmer and brighter we feel more inclined to go for healthy walks and runs, and all sorts of other things that cost no money.

By contrast, if you join a gym in January, you can expect to pay at least €150 in sign. up and monthly charges. Even worse, a huge percentage of people who sign up to fitness programmes in January fall away by March, but some of them forget to stop paying their membership, so the cost of this foolishness for many is at least €300.

7. Fare enough

Exercise apart, we are far less likely to want to be outside in the dead of winter so will inevitably rely more on cars, buses, trains and cabs. If we put the average cost of a short cab fare at €10 and you take just one a week in the winter that you might not take in the summertime, it will cost an additional €260. The average motorist drives 16,000km every year, and the price of fuel is about €1.80 a litre. Driving the average family car, which does 12.4km per litre, means the average Irish driver will spend about €2,322 this year on petrol. If we divide the spend 60-40 between winter and summer, we will spend €1,392 on fuel over winter and €930 in the summer. That adds another €462 on to our winter bill.

8. Seasonal sickness

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people get sick more frequently in the winter. Hopefully you won’t be too ill in the months ahead, but if the average cost of a GP visit is €60, and you need to make two visits, the winter bill comes to €120. We are going to add a further €80 to cover the cost of medicines, cough syrups and all the other things you might need to see you through.

9. Dream holiday

As the winter drags on, you might find yourself dreaming of holidays. That’s why January is the peak booking month for summer holidays. When flights and accommodation are added up, a family of four might need to stump up at least €3,000 in the weeks just after Christmas.

10. Picking up the threads

And then we have clothes. The clothes we need for the winter months are wildly more expensive than those we wear in the summer: hundreds of euro more, in fact.

Overall, we reckon the cost of many people’s winter spending is going to come in at just under €9,000, although that does include a hefty summer holiday bill. And it’ll be cold, dark and wet, too. What can we say but sorry?