By: Mary Fran Bontempo

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ThermometerBaby, it’s cold outside.

At least, it’s getting there, a few very chilly days mere harbingers of things to come as another winter descends. I dread winter, for all of the obvious reasons–the cold, the dark, the snow, (did I mention the cold?), and, worst of all, the heating bills.

As a big fan of the open window, I opt for natural temperature control whenever possible. In summer, we all have to be close to heat stroke before I give in and turn on the air conditioner, which drives my kids nuts. But our air conditioning bills are relatively painless, which makes me happy.

Yet in winter, opening the windows is somewhat counterproductive. And since I hate, hate, hate being cold, on goes the heat and up go the bills, which makes me cranky.

This year, though, I’m not the only one.

My son, having recently started a job at the Jersey Shore, has taken up residence at our beach cottage–a lovely little haven where cool summer breezes are a welcome respite from the heat. But a breeze in this place when the temperature drops below fifty feels like an arctic blast shot directly from the mouth of Jack Frost. There’s a heater, but little or no insulation. Translation–big heating bills, which my son is paying for. Take a guess who’s cranky now.

“Mom, how low do you think I can keep the heat?” David asked by phone when the temperature first dropped.

“Well, what are you comfortable with? I usually keep the heat at sixty-seven or sixty-eight,” I said.

“Sixty-eight? That sounds high. I’ll have to enter that into my calculator,” David answered.

“Calculator? What calculator?”

“I got this app on my phone that helps me calculate how much it costs for the heat for each degree I raise or lower it. I’ve been putting it down to fifty-five at night,” he said.

“Fifty-five? That’s crazy! You’ll freeze!”

“It’s not that bad. I just put extra blankets on the bed.”

“What have you been keeping it at during the day?” I asked.

“I don’t know, around sixty-two, I guess,” David said. “But that’s only if I’m home. When I go to work, I turn it down even lower, around fifty or fifty-two.”

“Fifty-two? You’re going to have to wear a hat and mittens in the house at that rate,” I said.

“Listen, Mom, heat costs money. There’s no point in heating the house if I’m not there. And if I have to wear a hat inside to keep from paying outrageous heating bills, I’ll do it. I’ve also been cooking every night so I’m not spending on eating out and I take the Ninth Street Bridge in and out of town because it’s free. Every penny counts, Mom,” David finished.

“I know every penny counts! That’s what I was trying to tell you all those years when you left the windows open, the lights on, the TV blaring, the water running for thirty minutes in the shower….” I sputtered.

“Yeah, I take five minute showers, now, too,” David added. “I’m not looking forward to a big water bill. Oh, and Mom, I’ll be home later this week. I need to pick up a few more pairs of sweat pants; the temperature is supposed to drop by the weekend.”

I’m thrilled that my son has finally recognized that life costs money, though it would have been nice if he’d figured it out while he was still on my dime. And speaking of dimes, maybe sixty-eight is a little high for the heat. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go and find some sweat pants.

How do you feel about the coming winter freeze? Click “comments” below and share!