This Guest Post comes compliments of Cents of a Country Girl. I absolutely adore this gal’s blog … so many personal finance blogs are about the struggles with living in expensive cities (Toronto, Vancouver, New York, etc.) This blog provides a unique and refreshing rural perspective of personal finance. Country Girl provided me with a list of possible topics to write on, and considering that snow has finally blanketed Ontario, she wrote this excellent post. Enjoy!
Country Girl is a 27 year old with a deep connection to her rural roots. She works full time as an environmental planner, works on the family farm and blogs on occasion too. When she’s not cutting wood or going for crop tours, she muses about personal finance, being a new homeowner and living out beyond where the blacktop ends on her blog. You can get a hold of Country Girl at firstname.lastname@example.org
I live in a part of Ontario where winter is a force to be reckoned with. From November to March, a combination of wind and lake-effect snow make for squalls, white-out conditions, lots of sleet and slush, and snow drifts big enough to bury a Buick in. A consequence of the local climate is winter road closures; the major highway in this area, and the one that I drive every day, is the most often closed highway in Ontario (due to weather conditions) and considered one of the most dangerous roads in Canada, again due to the winter weather.
Looking back at my public school days, road closures equalled snow days from school. I would get up, turn on my radio and listen for the school and bus report – hoping to hear: ‘All country buses have been cancelled today’. I remember having 14 snow days in the month of January alone, one year. Now of course, I look at snow days a little differently. I have a job and responsibilities. If I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid. Missing 14 days of work because of snow doesn’t appeal to me like missing 14 days of school did. However, there’s a little more to think about than just a missed day at work when considering the cost associated with snow days. Let me present some of the costs (via a list of pros and cons) associated with taking and not taking a snow day. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not going to put numbers to the cost, because most of these costs will vary between individuals.
Here’s the scenario: Your alarm goes off. Lying in bed, after listening to the tail-end of a whatever counts as a pop song these days, you hear the DJ mention that the roads are snow-covered, with drifted sections. The weather report that follows calls for snow squalls, high winds and 10-15 cm of the white stuff. Hauling yourself out of bed, you look out the window. It’s windy and already snowing and there’s a good coating of snow on your car out in the driveway. From your window, in between breaks in the snow and wind, you can see that the road is totally snow covered. While you’re eating your breakfast, you quickly check the road conditions on the internet and find out the road you take to work is closed.
What do you do?
Decide not to go into work.
- Lose a day’s worth of pay.
- Use a sick or vacation day and lose that time. Of course, sick and vacation days are a finite and highly valuable resource.
- Will have to pay for electricity being used at home during peak hours, when you’d normally be at work.
- Work from home. Still get paid and get to lounge around in PJs all day.
- Save on gasoline
Decide to go into work (by driving on closed road or taking an alternative route)
- Pay for gasoline to get to work
- $150 ticket for driving on a closed road. You can get this ticket even if you just cross a closed road. Oh, and don’t forget, many insurance policies become void when you drive on a closed road.
- Cost of a tow if you put your vehicle in the ditch or get stuck in a drift. You might get lucky and someone with a 4 wheel drive truck and chain might come along, or maybe the nearest farmer will pull you out with his tractor. Then again, maybe the farmer will say it’s too dangerous for him to out on the road. If you have CAA (or something similar) you won’t have to pay out of pocket, but you might be waiting a while for a tow truck to come, especially if you’re on that closed road.
- How hard did you hit the ditch/snow bank? Hopefully you didn’t damage your vehicle much – remember that your insurance policy may be void on a closed road.
- Get in an accident. When you’re driving in a white-out or when the road is snow covered and drifting, it can be hard to see other vehicles coming, vehicles in front and behind you, and even if you’re in your own lane. Remember, it’s not very often that accidents are cheap.
- What happens if the accident was serious? Think about the cost associated with being stuck in the hospital, major vehicle repairs or replacement, or getting sued.
- What happens if the accident was really serious? Funerals aren’t cheap either.
- You make it to work. You get to enthrall your coworkers with your tale of white-knuckle driving. Earn a day’s worth of pay.
- Avoid paying for peak electricity at home.
At first glance, it may seem like I’m dramatizing and exaggerating what might happen if you venture out in a snowstorm. I will concede that all the cons may not happen every time you hit the road in bad weather, but they are definitely in the cards. No matter how good your snow tires are, or how experienced a driver you are, you aren’t in control of the weather, the road or the other drivers out there. Unless it’s absolutely life or death, what’s the benefit of not taking a snow day? People seem to get it in their minds that they have to get to work/home/hockey practice or where ever, no matter how bad the weather is. It’s that thinking that gets people into trouble. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you the number of people we’ve pulled out of the ditch in snowstorms who ‘just had to get some smokes’ (If you must know, the number was 6 last year). Last year, a man was killed on a closed road, just a kilometer from my house. He got his truck stuck in a snow drift on his way to work and got out to check his truck when he was hit by another vehicle from behind. Now, I’ll admit, I’ve gotten antsy to get somewhere, but then I remember: I really don’t want to total my car, I really don’t want to get stuck in a ditch, I really don’t want to end up hurt or worse, dead. I will always recommend that you take the snow day, because there’s no reason to die getting to work.
Talk with your employer about snow days, even if they don’t happen very often. Thankfully, my boss understands how crappy the weather be sometimes, so it’s not a big deal if I can’t get to work. It’s worth having a discussion with your boss about snow day options, like working from home using remote access or using sick days. Some companies even have a certain number of snow days that employees can take. If you have to take a day without pay, grab yourself some hot chocolate, turn on some terrible daytime tv, and don’t worry about not getting into the office that day. It’s better to safely at home enjoying a snow day, then risking your life and possibly someone else’s out on the roads.