Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: Surviving Our First Winter
snowed in house

Lessons From a First-Time Home Buyer: Surviving Our First Winter

One major difference between Springfield, Missouri and my previous city of residence (Glendale, California) is that, here, we have these things called “seasons.” Furthermore, unlike a California winter where you might have to put on a sweater when it dips into the 40s, we do see snow, ice, and occasional sub-zero temperatures here in the Midwest. In turn, when we bought our home in whirlwind fashion, I knew we’d immediately need to prepare for the possibility of winter weather — including fending off the freeze while keeping our utilities in check.

Now, although spring won’t officially begin for another month, I’m ready to say that the worst is over for us (famous last words, right?). With that, I’d like to share a few victories we had in surviving our inaugural winter season as first-time homeowners.

3 Ways We Managed to Make It Through Our First Winter as Homeowners

Finding the thermostat sweet spot

Before we closed on this house, we requested to see the average utility bills. What we were given was a breakdown that showed the average monthly price broken down by quarter (so, loosely, by season). This proved to be a bit scary as the average monthly bill for the January through March period last year was $388.77! Granted, that does include electric, gas, water, and sewage — but that’s still far, far higher than the $50 to $80 we were paying at our apartment.

Knowing that we wanted to pay way less than that if possible, we decided we’d have to be vigilant about our utility usage. At the same time, we didn’t want to freeze for the sake of saving money. So, we decided to do some experimenting and find a reasonable setting for our heater (since we figured that would make up the bulk of our usage).

Luckily for us, this strategy (and perhaps something else we’ll discuss in a moment) seemed to have worked. Despite a week-long cold snap last month that kept our heater running consistently for much of the time, our last utility bill came in at just over $200. For context, that’s not only nearly half of what the previous winter’s monthly average was but also came in below the past spring, summer, and fall averages. And, to be clear, we felt comfortable the entire time, so I think we did quite well finding that “sweet spot.”

Window seal

Having grown up in Arizona, I don’t have much experience living in a home during cold weather. Thus, I’ve had to rely on my Ohioian wife to show me the ropes. Or, in this case, show me the seal.

In my previous article, I mentioned how we were exploring the idea of replacing our windows with ones that are (hopefully) quieter and more efficient. Well, in the meantime, she suggested we try some window seal. I honestly had no idea that this existed and almost thought she was joking when she explained how you cover your window in plastic and adhere it using a hair dryer.

We ended up buying a roll for about $15 and sealing up three windows (we still have plenty left for next time as well). Although it’s difficult to say whether this move actually contributed to our utility savings, anecdotally, I do think it’s made a difference in terms of keeping out the cold. In other words, this quick fix was $15 well spent.

Being prepared with winter supplies

Moving from inside the home to the outside, even before true winter weather hit our home, we realized we’d need a few supplies. Heck, even this Phoenician was aware that we should probably pick up a snow shovel and some ice melt! That’s exactly what we did and it’s a good thing we did.

Even though this winter has been pretty mild on the whole, we did have one nasty icing event that effectively turned our driveway into a Home Alone trap. The following week, we also got a decent amount of snow. In both cases, it was comforting knowing that we had the tools we needed — even if we (thankfully) didn’t need to drive or go anywhere. Plus, with temperatures seemingly skewing toward spring now, it looks as though we’ll have plenty of ice melt on hand for next winter as well.


While this article may prove to be an early victory lap, I’ve been quite pleased with how we’ve handled our first winter in the house. Despite a slight learning curve, I think we’ve done pretty well for ourselves so far. Plus, we also now know what to look out for in the future (hint: freezing drizzle is no joke). Armed with this knowledge, I think we’ll fare well during many future seasons in our new home.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Head Writer ~ Fioney
Kyle is the head writer for Fioney. He is a personal finance nerd, constantly looking for new apps and services to test and incorporate into his own financial game plan. In addition to his role at Fioney, he's written for other publications including Born2Invest, Lifehack, and Laughing Place, as well as his own site Money@30. He also creates personal finance and travel-related videos for Fioney's YouTube channel, which has garnered more than 2 million views. Currently, Kyle resides in Springfield, Missouri with his wife of 10 years. Together, they enjoy traveling (including visiting Disney Parks around the world), dining, and playing with their dog Rigby.

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