I've had 4 winter tires on previous vehicles and found it makes a big difference in being able to get up the hill to my house and general handling.
Agree with the post that mentioned low-temperature being a good reason for winter tires, even if you don't have much snow.
I used steel wheels with covers for many years. I bought cheap Walmart covers, and they seemed to hold up pretty well. The only time they cracked was when I pried too hard with a screwdriver to get them off. At $15 a set, I just bought a second set and had extras to replace damaged ones. The silver finish did tend to get scuffed by the tire brushes in the auto car wash.
My steel wheels actually started rusting after a number of years so I was having slow leaks. I've decided to buy inexpensive alloy wheels for my snow tires from now on, right from the start. Bought $91 alloy wheels from Discount Tire Direct for my van - not a whole lot more than steel wheels plus covers, and looks better and lasts longer.
I'll probably try to get through the first winter on the OEM all-seasons. With full tread-depth, it should be manageable. I've actually gone through two winters with BFG Traction TA all-seasons since I didn't want to buy new tires and wheels for a car I was planning to get rid of. I'll buy winter tires and wheels for 2012-2013, assuming I have my Focus by then.