Here in Austin, we are in the midst of the coldest weather of the season. It's 27 degrees right now and the WeatherBug icon on my PC keeps chirping with winter weather advisories. Freezing rain and sleet have been falling for hours. As a result, according to the local TV reports, there have been more than 70 accidents on area roadways.
I'm not complaining. I'm a four seasons kind of gal, believing that each time of the year has its own special attributes. My husband, however, just thinks winter stinks (not an exact quote, but you get the idea). Well, he had six years in no-winter Florida where one of the first TV forecasts we heard after arriving is still a joke in our house. The guy referred to the 60-degree overnight temperature as "downright cold." Heck, I've been known to nudge the thermostat almost that low in the middle of summer.
But I will admit that the first really frigid blast is a shock to the system. And I'm hunkered down at home, where we have warm clothing, blankets (hubby's wrapped in two right now) and a fireplace (yay! haven't seen one of those since we left Maryland, which also has its share of wintry weather). We even made some hot chocolate after dinner, topped with marshmallows, so all is fine here.
A lot of folks aren't so lucky, so here's a tip that could make them -- and you -- feel better. Consider giving to a program that helps people make their utility payments. Both Austin Energy and Texas Gas here allow you to contribute to energy assistance funds. It's as easy as adding a few extra dollars to the check amount when you pay your own utility bill and many companies match at least a part of your donation.
These programs are common across the country and generally are administered in an IRS-acceptable way to allow you to deduct your donation if you want. Check with your utility company for details. But the tax considerations really should be secondary as we head into the heart of winter across much of the United States. And there's no better warmth than that of knowing you're helping someone else through a hard, and chilly, time.