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The costs behind winter blues

Commuters wait on a snow-covered platform for an L train in the Wicker Park neighborhood on February 5, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. 

If you were hoping for a quick end to this brutal winter ... bad news.

Snow and cold from Polar Vortex storms have closed roads, schools and stores. One firm estimates that this winter has cost business about $15 billion.

And there are costs for consumers, too.

Paula Wethington writes for the Monroe News in Michigan, and runs the blog Monroe on a Budget, and says one of the biggest cold costs that add up are kids. “One of the biggest things is just dealing with the number of days that the kids have been home from school, Monroe says. “We would normally have anywhere from 3-4 snow days per school year. One of the school districts in my area has taken 17 days out so far this year. They’re going to have to make it up, but for the immediate impact, now the kids are home all day, you’re lucky if you can get your daycare to be open, you’re paying full-day daycare fees or you’ve got parents who have to take the days off work.”

John Brewer at the Pioneer Press in Saint Paul, Minn., also saw how bad weather can hit finances. “There’s the cost of your soul being crushed. That’s part of it.”

Other than your soul freezing over, being able to get around town can be more expensive in the winter. “Getting your battery replaced in your car is a big [cost], having your driveway plowed. And for the city of St. Paul, in an average year we have four snow emergencies, which is when they clear all the streets of snow. They take two days, it’s really extensive, it costs about $500,000 on average per snow emergency for the city. This year we’ve had eight, and we potentially could have more. And to add to that, if you were unfortunate to leave your car on the street when they declare a snow emergency, you get towed, impounded. That’s gonna cost you $275 to get your car back. So far this year, 542 cars have been towed this year during snow emergencies.”

Our listeners also sent us reports from around the country of how bad weather hits them in the wallet:

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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