The Snowball Effect

You’ll probably think me a miserable killjoy, but I hate snow. I know it looks pretty when it’s falling – as a child I used to look out of my bedroom window every morning from September 1st praying it would snow – but as an adult I now think it’s horrible, treacherous stuff which should only be allowed at ski resorts (if you’re somebody who likes that sort of thing) and on postcards. Oh, and I suppose the Arctic Circle etc. would look a bit silly without it.

Besides the obvious dangers it brings in terms of road travel, the Financial Times estimates that the cost to the UK’s businesses from the cold snap could be £1bn in lost productivity. And rather than thinking that a few days of snowman building is a welcome break from the credit crunch, some commentators claim the freak weather could actually prolong the recession. Around 20 per cent of the UK workforce (sensibly, if you ask me) stayed at home on Monday and airports were shut or flights cancelled. And the argument goes that if this weather continues, the UK economy could suffer even further difficulties.

But what will be the cost of the white stuff on a personal level? If, like me, you work from home or you can still get to work then hopefully your livelihood won’t be affected. However, if you’re self-employed or an agency worker and you can’t travel to work or your employer shuts down for a few days, you’ll lose money. If your kids can’t go to school you might have to stay at home to look after them or pay for childcare. And obviously, if you’re a construction worker or builder and the weather affects your trade then you’ll also feel it in your pocket. The high street will no doubt be feeling the pinch too. For shops that rely on passing trade, customer numbers may be down and deliveries could be disrupted. People won’t want to venture out unless they have to and they might not feel like indulging in retail therapy either.

We saved ourselves some money this week by cancelling the car service I’d booked for Monday morning. I didn’t exactly relish a drive over to Chelmsford in this weather so I decided that cancelling was the sensible option. We’re only putting off the inevitable of course, but it will save us some cash in the meantime. We should also save on petrol as driving in these conditions isn’t fun. In fact it’s unlikely we’ll want to go out at all, so we’ll save money generally.

But the other side of the coin is the extra spend on heating. DJ and I both worked from home yesterday and had the heating on most of the day. Many families and pensioners will be wondering whether they can afford to do this in the current economic climate, and could be risking their health if they don’t keep themselves warm.

Gloomy thoughts aside, if you’re looking for something fun and frugal to do in the snow, check out this fun link on making snow ice cream!

How has the cold weather hit your wallet? Do you enjoy snowy weather or is it an aggravation you could do without?

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13 Responses to The Snowball Effect

  1. Christine says:

    Hey don\’t believe all the media hype about the world ending as it snowed down south she said laughing. 80% of the workforce went to work if you believe the figures. Pictures of snow take up a lot of column inches in the printed media and if supplied by readers well think of the cost savings. There is still food in the shops, there have been no major power outages reported, buses ran in a lot of the UK, shops and schools opened. One day\’s snow is not going to send us all to hell in a handcart surely?

  2. Alan says:

    I don\’t buy this idea that a day’s disruption causes huge financial losses for all and sundry. Some will actually make more money due to the extra fuel required to heat and light normally unoccupied homes. Sure, some lose out but others don\’t and for them, the work will still have to be done. This is certainly the case for self employed fitters, mechanics and engineers. It is not the end of the world if we have to take a day off. Personally, I love Snow just as much as a 43 year old as I did when I was a child.

  3. piper says:

    Schools around our way are shut and the buses in London didn\’t run. Things were better on Tuesday though. There will be plenty of companies – on the stock market at least – who\’ll blame a drop in trade on the bad weather. The breakdown recovery providers will do well though and as you say, the energy companies and heating engineers. And, well, ok we went for a walk today, the sun shining on the snow and everyone we met was cheery and said hello. I even threw a few snowballs at DJ – his aim was superior to mine, sadly. Maybe I shouldn\’t be such a miserable grump!

  4. Christine says:

    On a personal level, you would have been running your heating anyway as you work from home and that is unaffected by the bloke working at home with you. Sure he\’s lost a couple of days travel on his commuter ticket but it\’s probably saved him money in coffee and meals at work. Swings and roundabouts. Pensioners will qualify for cold weather payments if the temperature is at zero or below for 7 days in their area which is quite likely to happen. Some firms have arrangements for what happens in the case of not being able to get to work written into contracts. If a business is so fragile that a couple of days where it can\’t operate cause it to close, then this would probably have happened in the near future anyway. Of course some businesses will suffer from a drop in trade but if they offer things that people need then the trade will recover. Like you have cancelled a car service but you will rebook as soon as the weather clears. If the business offers nice to have but non essential items, this is not a good time for them anyway and people may well not be buying their goods or services anyway. But the media has done UK plc no favours by reporting nothing but snow and ensuing problems because it\’s a quiet news day. We really do need less media and less news in this country, fewer phone ins and a bit more spine in the majority of the workforce. Mind – you should have heard our local bus drivers on semi rural routes snorting with derision over the London drivers and London\’s lack of road gritting.

  5. Andy says:

    It is so nice to look at (into) frugalle garden, I was thinkin\’ about You alll haveit fully from Y\’ garden.?

  6. piper says:

    I completely agree with you Christine re businesses – if they can\’t withstand a few days\’ outage then they aren\’t very strong – but you\’d be surprised how many big retailers etc. blame sliding sales on a week or two\’s poor weather at a crucial period! I think we weren\’t terribly well prepared down South. They were gritting on the M25 at the weekend – we drove over to see some friends and saw them doing it – but they say the wind blew it away and often it\’s the side roads they don\’t bother to do that become treacherous. Our road was terrible. I don\’t tend to use the heating as much now when it\’s just me at home. We have it on first thing and in the evening but I use an electric heater for short bursts instead and occasionally put it on at lunchtime if I\’m really cold. I\’ve moved one of our pet lizards into my office and the heat from his tank seems to have made my office much warmer!

  7. Christine says:

    There you are worrying about using extra heating when the bloke works from home and then admitting that you keep lizards which need a lot of heat for their survival. Oh woe is me – I don\’t know whether to lie on the floor laughing or just tease you once again and say that you and frugal are two words that really go together. You know you really can\’t say that you are frugal with heating whilst keeping lizards. I bet I\’m beginning to sound like yer mother here. My son is on the ambulances in London and raised a cynical eyebrow over the state of things. Mind you he was born and spent eleven years on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors before the family moved to the far North East so he doesn\’t think the weather is anything but normal winter and feels that people need to harden up and wise up a bit.

  8. Kerri says:

    Although the snow has been a bit of a pain, for me it has really only meant a bit of careful driving and a chance to get some wear out of my snow boots that I bought in NY for $50 (down from $200) – I couldn\’t beleive the number of people walking through my town in those little ballet style shoes on monday – if they get frostbite, frankly they were asking for it. There were a lot of people in my office who didn\’t make it in on Monday – largely down to the poor (or non-existant) train and bus services. In this country we just don\’t seem to have any infrastructure in place to deal with a bit of snow (our rail service comes to a halt if there are leaves on the line don\’t forget!) Frankly I find it all a bit embarassing, obviously if these kind of conditions aren\’t common each winter people aren\’t going to be prepared with winter tyres, snow chains etc, but we have an office in Canada (where is is currently -25 at this time of year and least year snow was literally feet high) and they no doubt find it hilarious we can\’t cope with a couple of inches.

  9. piper says:

    I can\’t believe anybody would be mad enough to go out in ballet shoes in this weather! That is insane Kerri! Yes, I saw a thing on the news about the tyres with spikes they have in Moscow. A transport advisor reckoned it wasn\’t worth our while having them as it snows like this so rarely. Andy from Finland who leaves comments on the blog sometimes didn\’t believe me when I told him everything grinds to a halt when we have snow. Now I realise why!Ah Christine I sense from all the messages telling me to get rid of them to save money that you just aren\’t keen on reptiles (!) but Jake and Ellwood speak well of you and send their regards! They each have a light bulb which gives them heat (regulated by a thermostat) and a fluorescent light (to give them UVB) on a timer which goes on about 7.30am and off in the evening at about 8pm. Yes it\’s using energy but it\’s hardly like having the heating on all day and from what I remember fluorescent bulbs are fairly energy efficient. It\’s our choice. They eat lettuce and an occasional box of crickets – no more expensive than keeping a cat. Other people might buy a packet of cigarettes every day or a bar of chocolate and say they can\’t live without it – that\’s much more expensive. They give us a lot of pleasure with their funny ways and personally I think that if you take the responsibility on of having a pet you should view it as serious a commitment as having kids – unless your circumstances change so drastically that you have no choice but to give them up.

  10. Andy says:

    HEH, That it really good: I think Y really lie all the time; Namely Y said that Y don\’t have to outside att: Your comment was :You make Your livin from home ! ( I was a bit concerned Your husband\’s getting work -> He\’ll simply take a train: what is weather and trains to do together -> NOTHING: He can nicely walk in the snow and take that train! EASY really.ReGards: AnDy -> Helsinki, We have not a single accident here : trains and trams and cars commute just fine!

  11. Andy says:

    Hi: Again: even small girls use bikes to go to school here in Helsinki – everyday!- Now we have only 20cm snow – temperature is nice -14.8. (getting warmer and worse !! ) We think it\’s good & healthy for You there: Just buy a good nice gloves+coat, shoes &boots! OK In Moscow they can be without spikes – it\’s namely fact: the colder it gets(in Moscow and we can get -35 degrees : BUT -> The colder it gets -> the dryer it gets, and cars, nor pedestrians will not slip at all. We were driving here with my car (normal NOKIA winter-tyres) on the sea-ice, cool sunny weather, visibility over 25km. OK! (Colder – the dryer air, and nicer it gets.)AnDy: Helsinki

  12. Andy says:

    What about buying a normal house with central heating and 4(8)-grade window glasses + roof-insulation. Instead of those boilers and etc. stupid wasting appartus. A Warm house is nice and cool during warm seasons, so no need to use thermopumps nor aircondition.AnDyP.S. You brittish can afford that.

  13. rachel says:

    Very badly only living on disability benifit . I just cant aford to have the heating on at all and being wheelchair bound means its hard to keep physically warm .Pensioners complain about lack of money but they get a yearly winter fuel payout from the coverment and their pension more than i get a week and they can get other discounts on ameenities if they bother to apply for them. US truely disabled persons get very little help from anyone and have an lot more expences than veryone less just to live.

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