How to Remove Snow and Save

Photo: ktylerconk

I grew up in New Hampshire's White Mountains, went to college in upstate New York, and am currently living in Philadelphia, which has recently been hit with an increasingly ridiculous series of winter storms. In short: I know snow. And I also know that if you get hit by several storms, removing that snow can get expensive mighty fast. Whatever your situation, here are some suggestions for how to save money on snow removal.

DIY...If the Numbers Add Up

Removing snow yourself; whether by shovel, snow blower, plow, or another method; is often the cheapest way to clear out your driveway or sidewalk. However, in many situations — such as if you have a long driveway but live in an area where extensive snowfall is rare — it's going to be more cost-effective to hire someone to plow instead of buying a snowblower or plow attachment for yourself. If you are thinking of purchasing a plow or snow blower and are trying to figure out how much you'll save over hiring someone, make sure to include the value the time it'll take you to remove the snow in your calculations. (See also: That Age-Old Conundrum: Time vs. Money)

Purchase Double-Duty Tools

Whenever possible, purchase snow-removal tools that have other uses. Growing up, my family shoveled snow with the same metal shovels we used in the garden. Our snow blower was an attachment for our ride-on lawnmower. Even your bag of ice-melt can do double-duty: If you purchase rock salt instead of chemical ice melters, you can use the leftovers to make ice cream come summer (plus rock salt won't leave bright-blue stains on your walkway like some other ice-melts do).

Barter for Snow-Removal Services

Whether you're hiring the shovel-wielding kid next door or the guy with a pickup truck who plows practically every driveway in town, ask if you can barter goods or services in exchange for a clean driveway or sidewalk.

Offer Yourself for Hire

You're certainly saving money if you're making money. Instead of being on the hiring side of the snow-removal equation, offer up your shoveling, snow-blowing, or plowing services (if you have the equipment) to make some extra cash. And if you are driving around town to plow, check out these tips from Linsey on creating homemade windshield de-icer.

Avoid Fines

In Philadelphia, homeowners and renters face fines if they do not remove snow from the walkways in front of their residences within six hours after the snow has stopped. In New York City, residents have just four hours after snowfall to clean their sidewalks before risking fines ranging from $100 to $350. Make sure you know what, if any, snow-removal codes affect your area.

Do you have any tips for frugal snow removal? Share them in the comments.

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Guest's picture

There is also a larger cost implication to not removing snow off your roof....the weight can cause leaks to seep thru the shingles and into your house. Bad in the short-term, and worse for the long term. Eventually the weight will damage the roof and cause expensive replacement.

Meg Favreau's picture

Good point, Stephanie. A couple of winters ago I visited my parents for Christmas, and one of our family activities was shoveling off the roof together. It was more fun than it probably sounds -- plus it was great exercise.

Andrea Karim's picture

One of my parents neighbors has a snow plow attached to her truck and she regularly removes snow for people at much lower costs than they would pay a professional service. My dad is also sort of a hero with a snowplow - he more or less plows the entire block, because he's cool like that. It's a good way to spread goodwill, too.

Meg Favreau's picture

My parents have a neighbor like that as well. Not only is he cheaper, I suspect that having a neighbor do the plowing means my parents' driveway gets cleaned so much earlier in the day than it would with a professional service.

Guest's picture

Good Article! We live in the Catskill Mtns. and purchased an 87 Blazer with a plow for 900 dollars two years ago. Our driveway is 200 feet and we have an additional parking area of about 70 x 100. The plow isn't registered so that saves us $ (no insurance, no plate fee). We have definitely paid for that plow with all the snow we've gotten! We both work long hours and we own subarus (also paid for - no collision insurance) This last storm dumped 7 inches on us by Wednesday. We didn't plow until today (Sunday) and our subies made it up our drive with no problem! We do all of the snow removal ourselves. We pace ourselves when it comes to shovelling and roof raking. We figure it is good exercise in this fresh mountain air and we ain't no spring chickens!

Guest's picture

It's great to DIY if you're strong and healthy, but I just paid someone to dig my car out of the Chicago blizzard remains, and I feel good about it. In the current crummy economy, it's nice to have a source of day labor for people who need it, and at bargain rates. It saved me *so* much time and aggravation compared to doing it myself!