... or actually, it's already here with all that accompanies it - power shortages, leaks in the roof (the repairs done at the end of last season are now being tested) and high heating costs.
I like the house we live in, truly I do, but it has some inherent construction flaws which can never be fixed. One such flaw is planning; I have no utility room, for instance, and that's a big drawback for me. Another is insulation. We can try to improve, and have made some improvements, but for as long as we remain here, we will always be very quickly influenced by the weather outside. It will be cold inside the house in winter, and hot in the summer.
So... it's cold. And rainy. And dark. What can one do, besides turn on the air conditioner and the heaters and let them work at full blast, along with lighting lamps all throughout the day? This extra toll on the appliances and lights will be seen in the electricity bill at the end of the month. Electricity usage, along with food, is another important variable of the household budget - the everyday decisions we make (turn on the air conditioner, run another load of laundry) are soon displayed in the bill we get.
A nice solution when it's cold is to just get under the blankets with your kids and a good book, and cuddle and read stories. This is personally my favorite one, but it has its downsides (housework still needs to get done...). So what else do we do to keep from shivering?
* Dress warmly. It may sound trivial, but for many people, wearing layer upon layer of clothes is seen as an inconvenience. So, the choice is yours: are you willing to have your electricity bill skyrocket so that you can walk around in winter wearing nothing but a T-shirt around the house? This doesn't sound like a good trade-off to me, so right now I'm wearing warm pants, a warm skirt over them, a long-sleeved T-shirt, two sweaters, knee-high socks and warm slippers. If it gets even colder, and I assume it will, I will pull on another pair of socks, or perhaps warm stockings.
* Have a cup of tea. A nice hot cup of tea is good to warm both body and soul.
* Have something bubbling on the stove. Winter is a great time for soups and stews that simmer for a long time, making the kitchen cosy and warm - and for baking too (the oven uses up electricity, of course, but if you have some baking to do anyway, you might as well do it on a particularly cold rainy afternoon). Everyone can then gather at the big kitchen table, play games, work, read, do lessons, and enjoy the warmth. And of course when you get a bowl of thick steaming soup with some fresh bread, it gets even better!
* Move around. On a rainy day, you don't just get cold because it's cold; it also has to do with the fact that you are cooped up inside, without the chance to do your usual vigorous yard work. So find something to do around the house that will get you moving and your blood flowing. I like to do ironing on rainy days - besides the activity, the iron itself is hot, and I like to warm my hands on the hot just-ironed fabric. If you have nothing else to do, just turn on the radio and dance around the living room.
* Light candles rather than turn on the lights. Sure, candles cost money too, you'll argue; but it so happens that candle-making is a hobby of mine (though I haven't made any new candles in a while), and I have a big supply of candles I had made which aren't quite nice enough to be given as gifts. So I lose nothing if I light them in the middle of a dark rainy day. Besides, candles provide warmth as well. If you have a stock of old dusty candles you haven't used in a while, you can take it out and give it a try.
* Go to bed early. The longer you stay up, the longer you will need to keep the house warm and lit. If you can, go to bed early, put on warm pajamas and socks, and snuggle under a couple of thick blankets. Try to make the best of the natural daylight this way. Besides, in the winter we tend to sleep more, so the earlier you go to bed, the easier it will be to get up in the morning.
* The water heater. My personal downfall is that I just forget to turn it off. We really need to set up a timer for it, such as we have for the Shabbat hot plate. Also, if one day it rains and I know with a fair degree of certainty that tomorrow we're going to have a sunny day, I may skip showers for one day and take advantage of the solar heater the next day. I mean, it's winter; it's not like we're stinking sweaty like we might be after a hot summer day. If I knew I could just turn the water heater on for an hour or so, I'd do it, but because I know how bad I am at remembering to turn it off, I try to avoid turning it on to begin with.
Wishing everyone a nice cozy winter and lower electricity bills!