Ways to Stay Warm on a Budget

Staying warm is one of those very animal instincts that we can all relate to. You can stay warm, with minimal expense, if you think about it and inform yourself.  Insulation can be very inexpensive, and body heat can be conserved.  Plus so many tricks and simple scientific methods can be employed.  Take heart, and think warm thoughts.  Here are some ideas:

Body heat – use it or lose it!

Stay dry.  Wear layers of non-wicking clothing.  Wool, not cotton, will keep you warm.  The synthetic fleeces and thermal weaves help as well. Warm and dry socks are essential to maintaining body warmth, and hats and vest can make an enormous difference when layering clothing.  If you are on a tight budget, invest in the basics – a couple of pairs of wool socks, and some long johns and/or leggings, plus a warm wool cap and gloves.  Look at the second-hand shops, Goodwill, or the local Rescue Missions. 

Sleep warm.  Invest in a thermal blanket and a good wool blanket.  The very old army blankets of pure wool are still some of the best.  You can find them at Army surplus stores, or consignment shops, for next –to-nothing.  Some have been mended or patched, but the insulation quality is excellent.  These will keep you warm, with the thermal layer below and the heavy wool above.  And, the insulation ability of newspaper is amazing. Think layers.  Layers of newspaper below your sheets or quilted anything – mattress pads as well as top layers, can help.  And sleeping in good heavy-weight flannels and thermal underwear is also practical if you have a limited heat budget or are simply conserving utilities.

Snuggle up.  Keep afghans and quilts on your chairs to wrap up in as temperatures drop at night.  Share those blankets with a lover or relative…snuggle up and be cozy.  Body heat is wonderful and almost geometric when shared.  Winter nights can be memorable, with warmth and “the family bed” as so many grandparents told us.  The old “three dog night” was not just an Eskimo myth…cats and dogs love to share your bed, and they can add to considerable body heat.  As long as your animals are clean and healthy, there is nothing wrong with sharing the bed.

Dress for the weather.  Wear hats to keep body heat reserves, and gloves when outdoors.  If you live in an under-heated place, those fingerless gloves are good for comfort and functionality.  There is nothing wrong with the ancient practice of wearing a nightcap or pull-on hat to bed, and wearing socks to bed is another way to keep body hat maximized.  Scarves and shawls also add warmth to your wardrobe, inside or out.  Turtlenecks and scarves wrapped round the neck make a big difference in that wind-chill factor.  All of these items can be found for a bargain at Thrift shops or dollar-type stores.  Even synthetics can do the job, but wool is always best, when it is truly cold.

Heat the room(s) you use:

If money is at a shortfall, just keep heat going in the rooms you really use.  Shut off, and insulate, even with hanging a blanket in doorways, the rooms that are un-used.  If you can set it up, keep heat-zones in your house-system, with separate zoned thermostats.  If that is not an option, keep the settings low, but not too low so that pipes would freeze.  This would be 40-50 degrees.  Then, use space heaters, like the better oil-filled or energy-efficient electric/infrared type heaters for the immediate space you are in.  Some folks can manage woodstoves, taking care for all the safety issues, in most-used rooms.  Never use your oven for heat.  This simply is not what they were designed for.

Maximize passive solar heat:

You may not think that you have solar heat, but if you have windows, you probably do. Open up all the curtains during the day, when the sun is shining into those windows.  Then, follow the sun around the house, and close curtains and blinds, through the day but especially at night.  Keep trees trimmed and away from those windows, for maximum options.

Old milk-jugs filled with water and dark food coloring, stacked in a window, on shelves, can make an incredibly good solar collector.  If you have a big window, with shelves or a wide sill, this can be a huge source of heat.  Add some fans to distribute the warm air and you have auxiliary and free heat.  The Mother Earth News magazine has many articles on this simple technology, with outstanding system, and much more archived.

Winterize that house:

The biggest thing you can do is to insulate your attic, and to seal windows and doors. There is always an inexpensive way to do this.  The conventional methods are to use fiberglass or blown-in cellulose insulation, or panels of manufactured insulation.  If you are on a tight budget, think “hollow space” or layers.  This could be corrugated cardboard layers of newspaper, or hollow-core packing materials.  There are some toxic materials that should not be used, or that will decompose in time.  Be aware what is safe.

Insulated material or hollow-core blinds add thermal efficiency to window treatments.  Simple plastic “storm windows”  kits are easy to install and quite inexpensive, compared to manufactured storm windows.  These are sold in hardware and big-box or home-improvement stores as well as local thrift stores.

Psychology and Physical Senses:

There is a link between feeling warm and most senses – keep your home humidified and filled with warmth.  A kettle on the stove, the scent of warm soups and oven-meals, scented candles, and even the colors of bright, warm fabrics can make you feel warmer.  Have tea-time (always an inexpensive drink, make cookies, and keep a few plants for humidity.  The scents of cooking and spices or exotic candles can make everyone feel warmer.  Pile on the sweaters and the wear your fuzzy slippers all day, if you must.  Bring out the warm pillows and grandma’s afghans for the cold months.  Put down throw rugs, and hang extra curtains, or even blankets over windows at night.  Hibernate.

Remember that good sense and instincts will keep you warm.  One ultimate survival item could be the old “space blanket”…a thermal, foil-quilted and lightweight wonder sold at camp stores and departments.  But just sitting on wood or upholstery, not metal, and wearing layers, or insulating with layers of anything – straw or newspapers or quilts – Make your nest, and stay warm.