27 September 2023

Heated debate: How to stay warm without freezing the bank balance

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Trent Hamm* takes a long cold look at many wise ways for keeping warm in winter for less money.

Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju fotografie

A few days ago, a true cold spell rolled through our area.

Given that it was also a day where every member of our family had some business out and about, it meant that we were all exposed to the frigid elements.

I don’t mind cold weather, but there comes a point where frigid temperatures become nearly painful to experience, and when you have to go outside for a particular errand, such temperatures are particularly nasty, even when the wind is blowing.

Many people around here respond to this with all kinds of expensive gear and disposable items, but some of the best tools I have for combating frigid temperatures and keeping myself warm are very inexpensive.

Here are some of the things that my family does to keep the worst of frigid temperatures at bay.

We use reusable hand warmers.

These are just small cloth bags with dried rice inside of them.

You can actually make one easily out of a sock by putting some dried rice down in the toe, putting clothespins in place above the rice, then cutting the sock about two inches above that, rolling it down, then sewing that little roll of cloth together.

Then, just microwave the hand warmer on high for about 60 seconds or so and you have yourself a toasty hand warmer that stays nice and warm for a surprisingly long time in your pocket.

I often take one of these to bed with me, too, warming one up just before I go to bed and tossing it under the covers with me.

We dress in lots of layers of clothing.

As I write this, I’m wearing a t-shirt, covered by a long sleeved t-shirt, covered by a sweatshirt, and a pair of sweatpants covered by jeans.

If I were to go outside for very long, I’d probably add another layer to my bottoms. All of the innerwear – the stuff you wouldn’t see in public – is stuff that’s well worn but still keeps me warm, so I don’t have any need to buy a lot of clothes for this.

There’s really no need for a special “warm” winter wardrobe.

We open the curtains/blinds on any windows facing direct sunlight, but keep them closed on other windows.

Direct sunlight tends to warm up a room, so we open the curtains on windows with direct sunlight shining upon them to let warmth into those rooms and leave the curtains and blinds closed on other windows.

We add caulk to any windows that leak cold air, and we add weatherstrips and door stops to any doors that leak cold air.

Cold air leaking through the edges of windows and doors is a great way to lose heat throughout the cold winter months.

While no method is perfect, our strategy usually is to identify spots around windows where air is leaking and add caulk in those spots (a very easy task with a caulking gun), and to add a weather strip to any doors to the outside where cold air leaks through the edges.

In some cases, we add a bit of clay to the inside of the door frame if a weatherstrip won’t work well, as clay can block a small amount of cold air flow very well.

We also use draft blockers (effectively, a small pillow) along the bottoms of some doors as a temporary fix.

We bake a lot of food.

Baking a loaf of bread in the winter is even more cost effective than doing it in the summer, because during the winter months, one can just leave the oven door open afterward and allow the heat to flow out into the house.

Thus, during the winter months, we tend to bake a lot more than we do in the summer because the heat actually helps with our energy bill rather than working against it.

We keep water in the tea kettle at all times.

Tea and hot chocolate tend to be consumed quite a bit during the winter months in our home.

Not only does a hot beverage make you feel much warmer (meaning that you’re not as predisposed to raise the temperature of the home), but the actual act of boiling the water adds additional heat to the home.

We make this convenient by keeping water in the tea kettle, as we often use an entire kettle’s worth of water once or twice a day.

We get some indoor exercise.

It’s often easy to think of a northern winter as a “hibernating” time, where people are curled up under blankets to stay warm and not moving around much, but I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to feel warm indoors in the winter is to exercise.

Do an exercise routine or some body weight exercises and you’ll feel incredibly toasty.

We keep blankets out in every room.

Whenever anyone is doing anything that’s sedentary during the winter at our house, they’re wrapped up in a big thick blanket. We have stacks of blankets that we keep in every room, so if you’re going into a room to watch a television show or read a book or play a game, you just grab a blanket and swaddle yourself in it.

That way, you’re always nice and toasty.

The big idea here is simple: You don’t have to keep your home thermostat running at 72 degrees Fahrenheit for everyone to feel warm all of the time.

Doing so is incredibly expensive, especially when there are so many other simple tactics to use to stay warm during the winter months.

Keep that thermostat lower and use some of these tactics instead when the snow is flying and the wind chill is frigid outside.

*Trent Hamm is the Founder of The Simple Dollar. He tweets at @trenttsd.

This article first appeared at www.thesimpledollar.

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