Ask the Readers: How Do You Keep Warm on a Budget?

By Ashley Jacobs on 10 December 2013 73 comments

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Brr, it's cold outside! (Or maybe not, depending on where you live.) One way to keep warm is to blast the heater all through season...but that might not be the most economical approach.

How do you keep warm on a budget? Do you do any home winterization prep? What do you think is the cheapest and/or fastest way to warm up?

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73 discussions

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Guest's picture
Mary Happymommy

We keep the thermostat down but I wear sweaters around the house.

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Ashley W

I get all of my blankets and winter clothes at Goodwill or Plato's Closet. You can find great stuff for just a little money (I recently purchased a wool pea coat for $25). Also, putting plastic over your windows if you life in a drafty home can help reduce heating costs. And finally, find a cuddle buddy! Body warmth is the best!

Guest's picture

The cheapest and fastest way is to add layers. I have lived in Syracuse and Minnneapolis and learned that an extra layer that isn't too bulky makes a major difference.

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Dairy Maid

We've learned that it's more efficient to wear layers and keep our bodies warm, than to try to keep an entire house warm! Three layers of cotton, silk, and/or wool can work warm magic.

The first top layer should be fairly snug, to keep your core warm. Tuck that top layer into your first pants layer to keep in body heat. After that, just keep adding thin layers until you are warm.

A turtleneck is great to keep your neck from feeling the breeze. Consider wearing a knitted hat or warm head band, and don't forget fingerless mitts (for both genders!).

We find that natural fabrics keep you warmer than polyester, etc., at least inside the house.

Heating oil is about $4/gallon here. We keep our house at 60F during the day and 57F at night, so the furnace doesn't have to come on too often.

Weird thing is that you get used to it and when you go to "normal" homes and they've got their furnace cranking at 70F, I have to start peeling off the layers pretty fast!

Hope this helps!

Guest's picture

Besides the big changes of ensuring we have enough insulation everywhere, we are going to try putting plastic over our windows for an extra air gap from our old aluminum windows. Hopefully that will help keep some of the cold out.

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Peg Mooers

heat set on low (65) and lots of sweaters and blankets. Old crotchet afghans are the best!

Guest's picture

I keep myself warm by drinking lots of hot tea and coffee

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Sweaters and socks

Guest's picture

Sweaters. Lots of sweaters. (Also slippers, soup, and gloves.) :)

Guest's picture

For me, fleece lap robes and socks are essential. My DH requires a hat.

When we bought this 1400 ft sq 1950s house in '86, the electric company had a special offer allowing us to install a peak interrupter meter instead of the regular one. This meant that from 9pm to 7am weekdays we had nearly free unlimited electricity use. Of course, from 7am to 9pm, the price/KWH was significantly higher than in other households. The house was all-electric so we signed up.

During the first 15 years all worked fine. We both worked and the house was just a little chilly after dinner until we could turn the heat on. Of course, we had piled a couple of layers of fiberglass insulation in the attic and paid guys to pump cellulose into the walls. Cooking created heat and if that wasn't enough we had kerosene heaters--the big year we spent $25 on kerosene!

In 2000 I was downsized and started a home business. It took about three weeks to figure out the kerosene fumes made me incapable of thinking clearly; bottom line, I can't type below 52ºF. Until last year I made do. An electric heat pad works wonders and I would alternate between sitting on it and putting it under my feet. My crock pot gives off lots of heat. One candle will raise the temperature in a room by about 8 degrees when it's 50ºF in the room. (it does nothing discernible when the room is 65ºF.)

A couple of years ago I learned that greenhouse growers use bubble wrap to insulate their glass so I have applied bubble wrap to all the windows that have sheers or curtains and even the upper panel on windows where there's nothing to see outside. In some cases I even put some in between the storm window and the inside window. Insulated draperies of course. Plastic over the window AC both inside and outside (the drapes cover the ugly).

Google timer has become my friend as it's easier than any of the others I've used over the years. It nags me to stand up, so I walk around or walk/march on my rebounder every 30 minutes. I drink hot flavored water.

After dinner we turn on a SunHeat Infrared 1500 watt heater for an hour or two; then the cheap electricity comes on. With baseboard electric heat, we run 6" clip on fans to move the heat to where it's best used in the winter and the AC in the summer. Without the fans the heat tens to rise to head level and stay there, drying out my sinuses, freezing everything lower. The are positioned for best circulation.

Even since we started using the heater, the chill bills have never been more than $130. [well, one month in 1998 it was $180 but that was when I got a new HP 4 printer and failed to turn it off after each use] . We're old enough now that I suspect we'll increase that limit a bit just to be more comfy.

Did I mention caulk and door seals and foam insulation? I upgrade these every few years. And this year I put plastic over the porch door we never use. Sometimes we run the kerosene heater on the porch because the freezer is there as well as our canned goods pantry. I don't like it to get below 40ºF.

On holidays and below zero days we bite the bullet and turn the heat on.

I suspect the next best thing to do is replace the windows as they're original; I can feel the cold rolling off of the one we don't do anything to in the kitchen.

The biggest heat loss, however, comes from DH. He smokes and, blessedly, does it outside so the door opens and closes often. I can feel the house temp change all the way back in my office. Some years I've put up tacky curtains on spring rods in the doorways between the door he uses and the rest of the house. It works, but not well enough to bother. Of course, I'm just convinced that when he opens the fridge door and stands there looking that the house temp lowers at least ten degrees, lol.

Edit if you decide to use this.........

Guest's picture

You might want to re-think the kerosene heaters. Toxins.....

Guest's picture
Kathy Thomas

We sleep with good old fashioned hot water bottles. They are cheap, take 8 minutes to prepare, and they keep us warm and snugly all night.

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Ernest S.

This may sound crazy, but when it's cold and windy, I just vent the moist shower air back into the house to boost the overall humidity. Not only does it boost the numbers, but it also makes everyone "feel" warmer.

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sit next to fireplace

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R. Williams

I ensure my home is insulated properly and winter ready. I scour the end of season sales to stock up on cold weather accessories and clothing and We also snuggle up with each other (My hubby & kids) with warm blankets and hot chocolate :)

Guest's picture

At home, I always wrap myself in my down throw. I love that blanket! In work, I leave a fleece jacket in my office. And home and work, I drink lots of tea in the winter.

Guest's picture

I bundle up in a lot of clothing layers instead of turning on the heat. And I drink a lot of hot tea and coffee!

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Rafflecopter won't open..but I tweeted as @1bets1.

Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Sorry about that, Betty! The Rafflecopter widget should work now.

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Guest's picture

Layers, hot tea, and taking advantage of our 3 wall heaters instead of central heating... we only heat the part of the house that we are actually using. :)

Donna Freedman's picture

Layers, layers, layers. Cotton long johns, even around the house. Wool socks (if your feet are warm your head is warm). Hot drinks. Keep something delicious simmering in the slow cooker. One of those heated throws, or just a frugal heating pad (aka the "rice sock"). Wear a soft scarf around your neck.
I do some of these things all winter here in Alaska, and they work: We keep our thermostat at 62.

Guest's picture

I fill a hot water bottle each night and take it to bed with me - and I reuse the water!

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Anne Burner

The thermometer stays set at about 66 - 67. I wear warmer clothes, put on a sweater, and keep a flannel throw over my legs. My cats take this as a golden opportunity to snuggle so we all stay warmer. Plenty of blankets on the bed. Slippers on my feet. I also tend to try to eat warming meals: soup, for example. Whatever little things I can come up with.

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Kat Skull

I use a very heavy down blanket at home to sleep. For the daytime I pile on thick socks to keeps my toes warm!

Guest's picture

We have an electric blanket. It pre-warms the bed (so no more shivering when you get in) and it allows us to keep the heat way down at night. I rarely need to keep in on when I am sleeping. Having the bed warm when I get in is usually enough to keep me warm all night.

Guest's picture

I keep my thermostat at 62 in the day and 60 at night and wear layers. If I go anywhere that is 70, I'm too hot. I wear layers and have a wrap that I wear over my lap. Cat goes on the lap also!

Guest's picture

Hmm... I keep the thermostat down but use a space heater. I work from home most days so I do keep it on fairly regularly. I also bundle up and use blankets liberally!

Guest's picture

I buy warm winter gear when it's on sale! No shame in that!

Guest's picture

Wear a lot of layers of clothing. I also love vests which keep your arms a little less hot, but keep your chest extra warm.

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Lori P

We wear layers and make sure that our heater is in good running order every season before using it.

Guest's picture

I found that a lot of people never open the window during the winter. I don't understand why. Fresh and humid air from outside gets warmer faster than the stale air that people are trying to keep in. Open the window and let the fresh air come in 15 minutes a day. You'll notice a major improvement in how fast the room gets warm. Plus, you lungs will thank you.

Also, I wear flats inside. I bought a pair of flat shoes in the summer and I only wear them inside the house, with socks on. I wish could wear wool socks, but they're too itchy and the moccasins that you find in stores are cheap made in China junk made from petrochemicals.

My entire body is cold when my feet are cold, so I always wear something with a solid sole inside.

Guest's picture

I use a humidifier. Humid air holds more heat than dry air and can make a cold bedroom much toastier.

Guest's picture

Also - when you take a hot shower, leave the bathroom door open to let the steam out into the house; and, if possible, put an old knee-high nylon over the dryer exhaust hose and redirect it to vent inside the house.

Guest's picture

I live in AZ, so staying warm usually isn't a challenge! On the rare cool days, I put on a sweater.

Guest's picture

To make the house more comfortable while keepong the thermostat turned down, keep a pan of water simmering - the added humidity will lessen the feeling of coldness. Use a wide pan, such as a stew pot/dutch oven for maximum exposure. Be sure to watch it carefully to avoid accidents, and toss in a cinnamon stick or a winter-themed teabag to add an ticing fragrance to the steam.

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Jennifer Marie

We turn the heat down in the house when we are not home

Guest's picture

Make sure I have socks on when I go to bed. It makes a big difference keeping me warm.

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i bundle up and stay under the covers A LOT.

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I often work at home and get cold sitting at a computer. In order to stay warm without pushing up the thermostat, I invested in a good pair of fingerless gloves to keep my hands warn when I type.

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I have a child who wears shorts to school every day and is never cold. For the rest of us, we wear sweaters and warm socks!

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Joy Buford

I wear a fleece scarf around the house. Just that bit of extra warmth around my neck keeps the chill away and keeps me from bumping up the thermostat.

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When I am really cold, I go out and get in my car and turn the heat on really high. It is an intense concentrated heat that I can't achieve with the electric heat pump in my home.

Guest's picture

Dress in layers, with silky long johns under my jeans to keep warm & extra blankets on the bed at night to keep the heat low~ If the bed is cold, I turn on my heating pad under the blanket for a few minutes before getting in bed, then turn it off. It saves money and keeps the air from drying out with over use of heat!

Guest's picture

While some people use the crock pot in the winter, i will use the oven, it heats up the house quickly besides having a great meal.

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Alissa A

I turn down the heat and bundle up...layers, layers, layers!

Guest's picture

Remember to move! Get the blood pumping and improve circulation. Shovel, do the dishes, straighten up the house, do some stretching or cardio, make love, anything you want to get yourself moving.

If you are having one of those days that you can't seem to get warm, then take a nice hot bath. The water will warm you up instantly! And don't waste the warm water when you are done. Let it cool in the tub and release the rest of it's heat before sending it down the drain.

Long underwear, sweaters, and slippers are our friends! It is a lot easier to stay warm then it is to warm up once cold. Cooking at home heats the kitchen and saves money from not eating out! Hot tea, coffee, and soup are all warming and delicious.

Investing in good quality coats, gloves, boots, and hats will be an enormous help in staying warm all winter. And the quality ones usually last a lot longer then the cheap ones anyway...

And longer term, extra insulation around the house is always a good plan. Everyone always thinks of the attic (which is important) but remember that the walls and floors need insulation too! A programmable thermostat can save big money by only raising the heat during the afternoon and evening (aka when you will be there to enjoy it).

Good luck everyone! I hope that my advice helps.

Guest's picture

I wear layers and when at home, warm socks.

Guest's picture

A space heater is my best friend. Instead of heating the whole home, I can heat the area right around me. Mmm, toasty.

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Holly S

We wear sweaters or layers around the house and then turn the temps down at night and use electric blankets on the bed.

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Set the thermostat low and Layer, Layer, Layer!

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Layers and drinking hot tea and hot chocolate. The warm mug also keeps my fingers warm, since they're the only thing that doesn't get layers.

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Dressing in layers and, when I'm at home, cuddling under a blanket with my two snuggly dogs!

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We build a fire and play the Wii!

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Melissa Hansson

We try to dress appropriately, even around the house. And we drop the thermostat really low at night and use a heated mattress pad to stay comfortable. We eat lots of soups and stews and bake, because that oven heat helps with the house temperature, too.

Guest's picture

Plastic insulation on the windows, long underwear, my hot water bottle and a space heater (just heating the one room I'm in!)

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Kristine R.

We have a programmable thermostat and we seal up the windows with plastic. This really helps us stay warm and save money!

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First and foremost, a programmable thermostat! Having it go down slightly at night and up during the day helps. We have lots of warm blankets and warm clothing since we live in a northern climate (it might get up to 20F today!) We also use homemade rice bags to warm our feet since 2 minutes in the microwave keeps them warm for quite a while. We use electric blankets on our beds to warm them up, then turn them off before sleep. Most of all, lots of movement during the day. My hubby says if I'm cold, just vacuum and then I'll be warm. After I run after him to give him my best "Hmmmph!", I'm usually warm. LOL

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Double layering and ALWAYS wear a hat!

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Laura J

We have a couple doors that we get huge drafts coming in, so I put blankets in front of them on the floor! We also put the plastic on a few windows where we get alot of cold coming in! for the heat in the house, with little ones...I do keep it warm and have to pay the price. :( But I do whatever I can to keep the drafts out! I like to save laundry too for the colder days and the dryer helps too!

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J. Pario


Space heater.

Intermittent exercise -- 10 jumping jacks will keep me work for 20 minutes! :)

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A heating blanket keeps me cozy!

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Our furnace runs on propane, which is not the cheapest heating method, but natural gas is unavailable in our rural mountain area. We keep our programmable thermostat at 66 when we're home and it's set to 62 degrees and night and when we are at work during the day. 66 is not all that warm for my skinny body, so I wear warm clothing including sweatshirts, flannels, wool socks, and slippers. We also pre-buy our propane for the winter when propane is still cheap (during the late summer). Instead of having to buy propane at $2.80 a gallon in the dead of winter, we pre-bought the propane at $1.49 a gallon months prior. This takes some saving up throughout the year to buy $1,000 or so in propane all at once instead of monthly heating costs.

Our house conveniently came with a pellet stove. Pellet stoves burn wood pellets which are safe, cheap, and clean burning. On the coldest days, we burn a $3.69 40lb bag of wood pellets in 24 hours. On less bitterly cold days, you can turn on the pellet stove say on a weekend morning and turn it off by noon, keeping the house above 66 until night time. This way the house is WARMER than 66 degrees, the furnace doesn't kick on, and we save money on propane.

During the late fall, we seal our older windows with the rope putty and plastic. The rope putty fills in drafty cracks and the plastic creates an insulating air gap between the plastic and your window, keeping the rooms significantly warmer.

I don't mind sleeping with temperatures low, because I LOVE layering on the blankets and comforters. However, my husband does not like sleeping with a lot of blankets and he tends to like the bedroom a little warmer. This winter we purchased an infrared space heater. It is energy-efficient and you can program the temperature to your liking. We shut the bedroom door and our room stays at 65 degrees while the rest of the house is at 62.

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Snuggle with my honey.

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We hang insulated curtains, use door draft stoppers at the bottom of little/rarely used doors, put an 'insulation tent' over our pull-down attic door to help stop heat loss, and leave the oven open after cooking dinner to allow the leftover heat to help.

The best, most cost-efficient thing we ever did was have a wood stove installed. Sure, it costs money upfront and money to have it cleaned every year, but we live in a rural area and have the space to have 3 or 4 cords of full length wood delivered each spring. It takes some time to cut, split and stack it, but it's good exercise! Even though it costs us money to use our wood stove every year, we save so much on heating oil costs that it's well worth it (and a as bonus, we have heat even when the power goes out!).

Guest's picture

Layers, layers, layers and countless cups of hot tea!

Guest's picture

Instead of buying a heavy, thick jacket, I have always worn just a 3-season jacket in the worst winters. I layer other clothes under the jacket and stay warm.

Guest's picture

I feel like I'm cheating - but I live in an apartment and don't pay for heat! I also don't control it - so sometimes it's too hot and I'm wearing shorts and sometimes I'm freezing to death and it's time to layer up!

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Happy Love

We put plastic over our windows, particularly those in our old house that are single-paned. We also humidify the air so that it feels warmer. My favorite clothing item for warming up is polyester fleece.

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Tabathia B

We use small heaters in the girls room during the day and in the bathroom at bath time, wear layers during the day, robes at night, insulation around windows and doors and wear slippers or slipper socks on our feet and have plenty of hot chocolate

Guest's picture

Honestly, using lots of blankets and wearing warm clothes works best. I get mine at the thrift store. Also, doing some exercises in the house can really warm you up.
I also like doing some baking and then leaving the oven open after its finished until the heat goes away. No use wasting it!

Guest's picture

We keep our thermostat low - around 63°F. We all wear layers around the house, have lots of throw blankets on chairs and couches, and use a heated mattress pad at night.

Guest's picture

Wear layers, drink hot tea, and MOVE AROUND!