11 Frugal Hacks to Stay Warm and Save Money This Winter

Have you turned your heat on yet? After I divulged that Mr. Frugalwoods and I haven’t–and likely won’t until November–I received a number of comments and emails from readers asking that I share our methods for thermostat abstention.

WinterIsComing

We adore the shoulder months of fall and spring when we live totally sans climate control. Heating and air conditioning are money drains and we save a bundle by flat out not turning ours on. Summers are rather mild here in Cambridge, MA and we were able to squeak by with AC only in July and some of August.

Our winters, on the other hand, can be epically harsh. Going without heat all winter is an absolute impossibility–in addition to being extraordinarily uncomfortable, our pipes would freeze and burst, which is about the least frugal thing in the world. Despite this fact, we spend a fraction of what most folks do in order to avoid the shivers every winter. Here’s how!

11 Frugal Hacks to Stay Warm and Save Money This Winter

1)  Don’t turn it on.

Wait as long as humanly possible to turn your heat on. In the early fall when the temperatures are waxing and waning, don’t get all hyper (as I am wont to do) the first time it dips below 60. It’s probably going to cycle up again before deepest winter sets in. Stay strong, my frugal friends!

2)  Capitalize on solar heat.

What direction does your house face? We have a south-facing sliding glass door and we open those curtains during the day to let the sunshine soak in. Sometimes Frugal Hound and I pretend we’re cats and lay on the floor in the sunlight. Natural heat: feels amazing and is free!

Frugal Hound's warmer

Frugal Hound’s warmer

3)  Buy a hound warmer.

The first winter we had Frugal Hound, we quickly realized we needed a way to keep her warm. Being a greyhound, she doesn’t have much fat or fur and so she’s naturally a bit of a chilly dog. She has blankets on her beds and we tuck her in at night, but, she thrashes around chasing squirrels in her dreams and uncovers herself.

We conducted research into hound-warming mechanisms and lo and behold, found the K&H Pet Bed Warmer (affiliate link). This thing is fabulous. It’s basically a rectangular, waterproof, chew-proof heating pad that slips inside of her doggie bed. It plugs into the wall and is weight-sensitive, so, it heats up when she’s laying on it and doesn’t when she’s not.

The hound warmer uses very little electricity and keeps the hound snug. I’ll caution that I think an animal could chew through the cord and/or pad if they’re an aggressive chewer, so use this at your discretion. Frugal Hound isn’t a biter and she’s never shown any interest in electrical cords, so we’re in the clear.

The warmer slips inside Frugal Hound's dog bed cover

The warmer slips inside Frugal Hound’s dog bed cover

4)  Buy a human warmer.

Every year we debate the merits of purchasing an electric blanket, but, we have yet to take the plunge. What we do have is an extremely inexpensive little bag of rice that we heat up in the microwave. It’s perfect as an individual warmth device and we’ll drap it over our necks, laps, or feet for a bit of added heat.

5)  Sweaters and blankets and slippers, oh my!

Wear all of your sweaters at the same time! Ok maybe not quite, but, Mr. FW and I do dress accordingly for the season. People, if you are running around the house in a t-shirt in November, newsflash: you’ll be freezing. I typically wear long underwear as my base layer with fleece PJ pants (pirate-print to match my pirate trash mug) and a hoodie sweatshirt. Sometimes I’ll layer a big sweater on top. Frugal Hound has a snuggly fleece coat that she wears indoors during the deepest chills. Changing behavior and clothes with the seasons is imperative. Plus, you get to pretend you’re in Little House on the Prairie (those people did not have heat).

Feeling roasty toasty on her hound warmer

Feeling roasty toasty on her hound warmer

6)  Snuggle up.

In case you needed an excuse to squeeze your loved ones, here you go: body heat! Mr. FW and I love to curl up together on the couch to write or in bed to read. It’s frugal, it’s fun, and it’s good for your relationship. Bonus: drape your Frugal Hound across your lap for added warmth! Or, go curl up on the hound warmer (don’t think it hasn’t crossed my mind… that thing is toasty!).

7)  Fire up the oven.

Mr. FW shows off his homemade artisan boule

Mr. FW shows off his homemade artisan boule

In the same vein as dressing for the season, cook seasonally too! Resident chef Mr. Frugalwoods rarely turns the oven on in the summer, but in the winter, oh man does that oven get a workout! Last night he baked homemade artisan boule bread and split pea soup, both of which warmed the house up. Oven heat is no joke. Mr. FW’s culinary exploits yesterday raised our temp from 61 to 67 degrees!

8)  Live in a small house or zone heat.

If you live in a small space, it’ll be cheaper to heat. We actually don’t live in a very small house (as it’s destined to be a rental property), so we instead employ zone heating. Since we rarely use our upstairs, we heat it to the bare minimum to prevent freezing pipes. Ditto for our basement. The main floor, our primarily dwelling space, is where we concentrate our heating.

One of our upstairs guest rooms. It's pretty cold right now :)

One of our upstairs guest rooms. It’s pretty cold right now 🙂

9)  Windows: you have options.

Mr. FW and I are extremely fortunate that our current home has new, insulated windows (thank you previous owners!). But, in the past, our apartments have been drafty and ill-insulated. To combat air infiltration around windows, Mr. FW used Mortite weatherstrip and caulking cord along with window shrink film fitted over every window (affiliate links). This dramatically reduced drafts and is a sound option if you’re renting or not planning on buying new windows for your home. We currently have Mortite on the windows in our basement as they’re less insulated than the others.

Mortite caulk seals up our basement windows

Mortite seals up our basement windows

10)  Insulate, insulate, insulate.

Insulating your home is the best way to temper your climate control expenses. At the very least, adding attic insulation is often a cheap and easy DIY project that’ll pay dividends after the first few years. The cost/benefit relationship of insulating beyond just your attic is a complex and expensive undertaking that’s worthy of exploration.

Frugal Hound walking through the snow canyon Mr. FW dug so we could exit our home last winter

Frugal Hound walking through the snow canyon Mr. FW dug so we could exit our home last winter

11)  Acclimate and get over it.

At the end of the day, if you want to achieve frugal weirdo status with low heating bills, you’ll have to acclimate yourself to an icier ambient temperature. There’s no way around it.

Once Mr. Frugalwoods and I finally cave and turn the heat on, we keep it set at 62 degrees during the day and 58 at night. Yes, this is a lot lower than your average American, but, we’ve never claimed to be normal :).

I’m a naturally cold person and I’ll be honest, I’ve had to adjust to this over the years. My first winter in Boston was not a pleasant one–I was incessantly freezing in our dank basement apartment. But, I’m now totally accustomed to our climate and our indoor temperature.

Mr. Frugalwoods and I are not the only frugal folks who keep our home this frosty–check out this entire thread (started by my friend The Goblin Chief) of hardcore thermostat enthusiasts on the Mr. Money Mustache forum.

What temperature do you set your thermostat at? What are your tips for staying toasty?

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146 Responses

  1. I had a very similar post planned for Wednesday! With the focus of course being on two custom dachshund lap warmers. And fuzzy socks…

    We only turn on our heat if there’s a possibility that the pipes will freeze and even then it’s set at around 60. It’s just so much easier (and more pleasant!) to put on a sweatshirt and cuddle under the blankets.

  2. I love cooking with the oven in the winter, makes everything warmer. I also try to prepare more hot food and drink as they instantly heat you up from the inside out.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Absolutely! I forgot to mention hot drinks! We’re fiends for coffee, tea, and cocoa in the wintertime. Just makes sense to ingest warmth whenever possible.

  3. Window shrink film has worked great for us the past two years. Unfortunately I don’t think it will work this year. Our new cats are much more active than our previous 21 year-old cat and took it upon themselves this Spring to rip holes in the plastic shrink.

    Our renter in the basement uses a space heater so we turn the heat down at night and when we leave. It costs us a lot less than running the heat throughout the whole house and the heat from the space heater creeps up to our upstairs.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Cats + window shrink film sounds like a disaster! That stuff does rip a little too easily in my opinion too. Good deal with the space heater heat traveling up!

  4. While at home and awake, I set my thermostat to 68°F. Then, when away, it’s 58°F or lower. It seems that I save from two to three percent on my energy bills this winter.

  5. I just have to move south. VERY south. I keep the heat at 72 at night and 74 during the day and I’m still cold sometimes. I have electric heat in my bedroom so I can be extra toasty. You guys are frugal WARRIORS! I am in awe. Serious awe! :O

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahah, thanks! We are a little cold, but, we persevere. It’s all about the layers of warm clothes for me :). And a mug of hot tea!

  6. Alicia says:

    Yeah, my parents always complain about how cool our house is, even after we crank the thermostat because we know they’re coming over. Our biggest thing is loads of blankets, and sweaters and socks. I shouldn’t be in shorts in February 🙂

    I’ve been going back and forth on getting an electric mattress cover (rather than a blanket) but since we moved and now rent, it’s off the list for awhile. If we move back to our home, then we’ll re-evaluate.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oooo an electric mattress cover sounds super cozy. We’re having our annual electric blanket debate right now and I kind of think the blanket might win this year…

  7. We haven’t turned the heat on yet either, and I hope to refrain from doing so for as long as I can! With that being said, our kids are only 3 and 5 so we can’t really let them freeze either. I’m pretty happy with how well-insulated our new house is. Last year, our heat bills were very reasonable.

    • FWIW, I remember reading that the Japanese believe that it’s good for children to be cold and that this is necessary to their lung development. Evidently their preschools are (or were) kept quite chilly and the kids wear shorts!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      There’s definitely a happy temperature that everyone has to figure out for themselves. I remember as a kid being so warm in the top bunk that I’d open the window in January. 🙂

  8. Tarynkay says:

    I grew up in FL and can attest to the power of acclimating. Or, as my grandpa said, thickening up your blood. But still, I use my heating pad all winter. And I wear fingerless gloves inside.

    We keep the heat low, but we do raise it for guests. Did you guys cover not drinking ice water? My parents come up from FL to visit, and we cannot crank the heat up enough for them. They would like it to be 80. 80 is stifling. Of course they are cold, but then they drink ice tea incessantly. I am always offering hot tea and warm socks (my mom refers to her nylon trouser stockings as “winter socks”).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Great point about not drinking ice water! I totally forgot to include our warm beverages strategy. We’re both walking around with mugs of tea all winter long. Oh no, your poor mom and her socks!

    • Mrs. PoP says:

      Ummm.. any pair of socks is winter socks in FL! =) When our winter truly hits and Mr PoP wants to turn the heater on for a week or so I always have to remind him he’s not allowed to do so until he puts on socks and a sweater and is still cold. He likes to joke it’s his right as a Floridian to walk around barefoot all the time!

      • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

        I have friend here in Boston who think it’s their New Englander right to keep the AC on all summer to stay in the 60s indoors. Same idea, except they are addicted to sleeping under mounds of blankets.

        I do notice the barefoot living in the south. Even in the summer, it still gets chilly enough here in the evening that socks are usually a good idea.

  9. Alright, I’m completely guilty of turning the heat on already despite my boyfriend’s wishes. There’s something that really makes me feel uncomfortable about not having it on when I’m freezing! This post does make me think I should reconsider, however. 🙂 When the heat is on, we keep it at 66ish, which in my opinion isn’t that warm. At night, of course, we turn it down to about 62. And I really think we should wrap our windows this winter – we have a ton and I think it would help a lot.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      The window wrap is amazingly easy and efficient if you have drafty windows. It made a huge difference in our previous apartments. Plus, it doesn’t take long to install and (key for me), it hides behind blinds or curtains so you don’t have to look at it 🙂

  10. Kassandra says:

    Our building turn on the heat early this morning for the first time and I was grateful for it. It’s been a little nippy of late but like you, I wear the flannel and hoodies when working at home to keep me warm. If we did control the heat, DH would have had it on already for sure!

  11. We haven’t turned the heat on yet either!! I told someone recently that it was about 56 degrees in our home and they thought I was crazy. We usually light a fire to warm things up. We also keep throw blankets everywhere and just cuddle up. It is not always comfortable; however, we love when we see our utility bill and we also know we are banking up our funds that will get used up in the winter when we eventually do turn on the heat.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      AWESOME! You guys are rockstars! I figured we couldn’t be the only ones up here in the Northeast who haven’t turned the heat on yet 🙂

  12. Last year, we had free radiator heat, so we were toasty, toasty! This winter will be a rude awakening. It might be worth investing in some warmer jammies and trying to teach the tots to keep blankets on (at least they already have fleece jammies) and to sleep in socks. And I’ll consult Mr. FP about insulating. So far, we have only had the heat on for a few frosty mornings.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Free heat is a nice deal! Warm clothes and socks really do help. Once we have our hoodies and hound coats on, we barely notice how cold it is. And, insulating (even just around the windows) can reap huge dividends once the real chill sets in. Good luck!

  13. Nicola says:

    I have to admit, we’ve had our heating come on in a morning for a while now, as I feel the cold really easily and it’s no fun being cold. However, it’s at a low temperature compared to others so I’m not too worried for now 🙂 we do the cuddle thing too – but ours are cats rather than a hound!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yay for cuddling! Pets are such great little heaters. Frugal Hound is way too big to be a lap dog and sometimes I wish I had a cuddly cat to snuggle up with 🙂

  14. Michelle says:

    We turned on the heat for a few days when it dropped down to the 40s. Hasn’t been on in a few weeks though. It’s supposed to be 85 degrees today so we might need the AC!

  15. #11 is my favorite, although that is a work in progress in this house. 🙂 Our goal this year is to do better than we did last year by a good 4 degrees. We rarely use our A/C, but we are huge freeze babies in fall/winter.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m glad to hear it’s your favorite! I was worried it might be a little harsh, but it’s true :). I think just having that awareness is key. And, you have some harsh winters to contend with–good luck!

  16. Kara says:

    We turned our heat on, turned it off, and now it’s back on! We used to be more rugged before we had kids! A good pair of slippers makes a huge difference!

  17. If all that extra snuggle time turns into pregnancy time, that might take a bite out of the money you save on the heat. 😉 I kid, I kid!
    I’m seriously impressed that you guys can keep it that low. I have tried to keep it lower (we keep it at 67 at night) but when my 3 year old woke up freezing bc she had no one next to her to snuggle up with, I felt bad.

  18. We have kept our thermostat set at 74. Since reading one of your last articles, I’ve been turning the thermostat off and opening windows for fresh air. The hubby comes home and turns it on … it’s thermostat wars lol! He is amused that he grew up in situational poverty and had to live frugally and now it seems to be the thing to do.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! Tell him to put on a hoodie and have a nice mug of tea. He’ll be turning down the thermostat in no time! 🙂

  19. I only have one gas heater that is both for the living room and bedroom and you just turn a nob. It heats up very quickly and then you manually have to turn it off again. I’m OK with that as I don’t pay for gas (yay!) and my place is small. I like to sleep when it’s cool but hate going to bed freezing, so I put an electric pad in my bed right before bed and then turn it off. So cozy. What’s so cute is when I walk in and see my cat sleeping right on top of it. I don’t get it…he has fur! 🙂

  20. Lauren says:

    We haven’t had to use the heat yet here in PA. It would be awesome if we could make it to mid-November! For me, blankets are essential to staying warm in the house. I have a flannel one that I use when I’m sitting around, and we have the warmest comforter from Ikea for bed.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, we’re hoping to make it into November but it’s always a challenge. We got some great sun today which bought us a couple of indoor degrees and the rest of the week is looking OK. We’ll see! I’m competitive, so this is right up my alley!

  21. Ms. Mintly says:

    We moved from a larger (well-insulated) home to a place that’s much smaller (but seems poorly insulated). It’s very shaded, and even when it was beautiful outdoors yesterday, our house barely changed temperature inside! I had to open all the windows!

    We have been considering the windows shrink wrap idea, and it’s good to see so many commenters saying that it works well.

    I love curling up with a book and hot tea under a blanket (or two, or three….), so I’m happy with a colder temperature. I’m with the previous poster who mentioned her kids, though. I feel bad having the temperature down to Super Frugal temps because I don’t want her to be super cold.

    We currently have the thermostat set at 66…. hoping we don’t have to crank it any higher when it gets down to freezing temps outside!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, the shrink wrap really saved us in our old apartment. Those windows were in terrible shape and single paned. It’s well worth the couple of bucks.

  22. Strandedrocks says:

    First off, I love, love, love the wide plank wooden floors, beautiful. I had to convert the temperatures to Celsius and I must say 62 F is about 17C and that is about the same temperature my house is at right now. I think it’s doable for this mild fall but come winter I don’t know. Don’t your windows have condensation?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks! We love the floors too. It’s just the way they built houses 120 years ago!

      We don’t tend to get condensation in the winter. I think it’s a combination of our windows being well insulated (so they aren’t that cold on the interior pane) and the fact that our heating system tends to dry out the house. Our lowest humidity of the year is during the winter months.

  23. LOL! This is so like us. We often remark what our friends would think if they come over in the winter time to see us dressed in our ski bibs and down jackets inside the house! My theory on acclimating to cooler temperatures in the winter is that it helps us stay healthier too. Not sure if there’s truth to that, but seems to bear out anecdotally in my experience.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard of folks taking cold showers to jumpstart their metabolism, so maybe this counts too? I think I’ll stick to my hot showers though 🙂

  24. I have a mental image of you and your hubby hovering over Frugal Hound, tucking her in like a small child at night. I love it!
    I just looked at those window products. Our apartment is old and I’m worried about drafts this winter. I’d had in the back of my mind to do a little research into what others do, so this was a good reminder and good start.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Thats… pretty much what happens. 🙂

      The window film really saved our bacon in our last apartment. It had windows that were in terrible shape, and single paned to boot! Filming them isn’t a cure all, but it was a pretty good bang-for-your-buck solution in a rental.

  25. Jules says:

    When I am done baking in the winter, I prop open the oven door so any extra heat billows into my kitchen. I do the same with the toaster oven, believe it or not. Any little bit helps! 62 degrees is too cold for me when I am home (I live in Wisconsin). I work in an office that is ALWAYS cold, so after being cold all day and then driving home in the snow and cold, I just can’t take it anymore. My gas bill is only $38 per month all year round so I have mine set at 68 degrees when I am home. I have done a lot of energy saving items to my house, such as new windows, new storm door, new attic insulation, caulking, etc., which is why my bill is so low in my 1,000 square foot duplex.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow! That’s an amazingly low gas bill! Congrats on making smart energy efficiency choices! It must feel great getting that bill in February!

  26. We haven’t needed the heat yet this fall (we live in GA and the temperature today is 85). We try to go as long as we can without using it . Our house has 2 units so we keep the upstairs one off completely until it’s time for bed then we turn it on to 65 (our dogs get cold, even in their sweaters) and the main level thermostat is kept between 62-65. To keep warm, we rely on blankets, sweaters, and fuzzy socks. We have a gas fireplace in the living room that we use when we are home in the evenings, much cheaper than running the heater. We also eat LOTS of soup in the winter, instantly warms you up!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Mrs. FW got me a pair of fuzzy socks last year that have been named my “Muppet Socks”. Yes, they are blue, fuzzy, and wonderfully warm.

      Soup is where it’s at! Warm, filling, and warms the house up as well. Chili as well!

  27. Great tips! The boule got me excited! I love baking bread and this is the perfect excuse!

    I am in a weird situation heat wise. I’m in the Midwest, but I live on the 3rd floor. Last winter (the brutalist) I had our heat at the lowest possible setting. The two roasty toasters below me kept everything nice and warm all winter. I believe there were even a few days I was in shorts! The madness!
    The apartment below me is showing signs of vacating, so we’ll see if I can manage another “heat free” winter. Either way, I’ll be bundling up before I turn it up!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! The benefits of apartment living!

      And yes, bread baking is one of my favorite winter traditions. I hate doing it in the summer… but once winter sets in there’s no reason not to fire up the oven and make lots of delicious and cheap bread!

  28. Mrs. FW,

    One more tip: Move south. 🙂

    We rarely run any type of active climate control during the winter in our apartment here in SW Florida. The nights are generally pretty cool, which is a great environment for some fantastic sleeping.

    Of course, I’m a total baby when it comes to cold weather. If it’s below 70 I’m complaining. 🙂

    Best wishes!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! See, we like cold weather much more than hot weather. You can always add insulation… but there’s a limit to how much you can take off!

  29. Kim says:

    I would probably just wrap up in blankets. I don’t like it warm when I’m sleeping anyway, but the kiddo does freeze, so I’d say we are more climate controlled because of that. The heat is almost never over 66 except for a couple of hours in the evening if we’re freezing.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We love our blankets. Although one of our nicest, softest, warmest king sized blankets somehow ended up claimed by Frugal Hound. We spoil that dog… 🙂

  30. I keep mine set at 66 when I’m home and 62 when I’m gone. Even at that temp, my parents say they need to leave on their winter coats when they come over for lunch or on the weekends. I don’t turn mine on until Nov 1st too. I think I’m going to make it a bit further than that this year due to the warm Indian Summer weather we’ve been having here. 🙂

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! Our parents are the same way. We turn the thermostat up when they’re here. No reason for anyone to be uncomfortable, though we do rib them about it 🙂

  31. Tawcan says:

    Great tips. We just moved in to our new house and I’ve already went around and turned off all the electric baseboard heaters. I also programmed the thermostat to make sure that the heat is turned off at night and when we’re away.

    Fire up the oven is a great way to use the heat. I’ll ask Mrs. T to bake lots this winter. 😀

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh man, electric baseboard heaters can really run up the bills. We had one in our original basement cambridge apartment and we tried never to use it. It also sorta smelled like burning when on, so that might have had something to do with our reticence as well… 🙂

  32. May says:

    I have been experimenting with lower temperatures – I work from home so the temp. goes down after everyone leaves for the day and after we go to sleep. Flannel sheets on the bed are great for toasty sleep. Hot flashes work to but they are unpredictable so I have to dress warmly. That picture of frugalhound is awesome.
    My grandmother told me that they used to put stones on top of the woodstove and heat them up and then throw them in to heat up their beds. I will try it if we ever get one.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      We definitely would do the stone style if we had them. I guess our modern equivalent is the microwavable rice filled tube that we warm up before going to bed. It’s so toasty!

  33. Ryan says:

    #9 – Last year I made window shrink frames like the one below for our more drafty windows. This way you don’t have to buy more window shrink, and instead just place the frame in the windows each year. Plus, it’s double sided.

    https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3689/12915103235_b8165b0c74_c.jpg

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      I _love_ the idea of re-usable frames! Do you screw them into your window casing? Or just use some double sided tape? Looks like there’s some sort of gasket around the edges to make an airtight seal?

      I may steal this idea for the basement windows…

      Thanks!

      • Ryan says:

        No screwing. Just enough weatherstripping around so it forms a tight fit and stays in place. Exact measurements are a necessity! There is some tape coming out toward you when you put it in place, they act as handles so you can pull the thing out!

  34. Mrs. PoP says:

    So far we’ve used the heat at least once or twice every winter, but I’m hoping that this is the year we can get away without using it at all! Not only is the electric heat expensive to run (seems to be more than AC!) but we’re really hoping to keep it off for the remodel this winter to keep from re-circulating construction dust. *fingers crossed* that we don’t have a cold winter! (By FL definitions, of course.)

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Electric resistance heat is definitely expensive. Here’s to a mild and delightful winter in south florida! When I was little I lived in Miami, and I remember my parents hosting pool parties for new years eve. Seems wild to think about living up here in Boston…

  35. Allison says:

    We don’t really struggle with heating bills down here in TX. We usually turn the heat on for a few hours when we get home only from Jan-Feb, and then we don’t need it. We turn it on to get the chill out of the house. We turn it off before bed. We use a down comforter and have a heating blanket that we have not used in about 3 years.
    For us, our bills get really high in the summer. Its over 100 degrees for weeks at a time, so for us, the summer is the killer.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah, I imagine you wouldn’t do much heating in TX!

      It’s those sweltering stretches of summer that I don’t miss up here in Boston. People start complaining when the high temperature is over 80 degrees. This summer we only had 4 days that broke 90 degrees.

  36. Ugh I need a Beanette warmer. Her little hands and feet get freezing. I put socks on her hands before bed haha.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! I’ve alway been told that babies prefer it to be a little on the cool side… but socks on the hands seems like a great solution!

  37. We made it through September without heat and it was pretty cold those first few weeks! We used to be a 72 all the time house, last year we did 68 during the day and 65 over night. This year we’re trying 65 in the day and 62 over night. Maybe next year we’ll go Frugalwoods low! Thanks for the tips. electric blankets are something that we’ve been looking into for years too, they make so much sense really.

  38. Mr. 1500 says:

    Regarding #10, blow in cellulose is one of the best things ever invented. Most heat is lost through the roof, so having a well insulated attic is critical. The very first thing we do whenever we buy a home is go to Home Depot and stuff the Honda Element with cubes of cellulose. Then, we go back and get the blower which they let you borrow for free since you bought the insulation.

    Mrs. 1500 then load the cellulose into the hopper while I crawl around the attic with the hose. You can complete the job in an afternoon and I’m pretty sure it pays for itself within 2 seasons if you live in a cold place.

    It has been in the 30s here already and the heat has only come on once (thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night). I can’t recommend this enough!

    • Even Steven says:

      What if you don’t have an attic where does the insulation go in one of the old multi-unit brick buildings?

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      ++ to cellulose! Our attic had blown in fiberglass sometime in the past, which is much less friendly than cellulose.

      It’s on my list to add cellulose on top, but since there’s already a layer of insulation existing… it hasn’t risen to the top of the project list.

  39. Jefferson says:

    We try to keep the house fairly cool in the winter, and warm in the summer.. But I am not one of those who takes great pride in being the last one on my block to turn the heat on. We certainly haven’t turned it on yet here in Missouri, but the weather has been beautiful so far. This upcoming week might be change all that, however.

  40. Jenna says:

    We live in an apartment with gas heating shared by 7 apartments. It’s included in our rent. However, this does mean we have ZERO control over the heat. During the winter we put up curtains to block airflow from cold parts of the house to contain the heat.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh man, that is the worst. We had an apartment once where the thermostat was totally controlled by the unit above us. We didn’t pay for heat (yay!) but we either froze or roasted depending on the time of say (boo!).

  41. Sometimes the 115-degree summer days do wear…but I must say, not having to turn on the heat more than once all winter long more than pays for a month or so of discomfort. It’s never too late to move to Arizona! 😉

    Is Frugal Hound a grey? Love greyhounds — had one adopted from the track. Best dog ever.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Much respect for living in America’s toaster oven. Better you than me! 🙂

      Frugal Hound is in fact a Greyhound. She had a very short and not very illustrious track career. We adopted her when she was 3. They are the best dogs!

      • She is beautiful!! Walt the Greyhound was seven years old when he came to live with Anna the German Shepherd and the human.

        And though you don’t have to dress up your grey in warm clothes and booties here in the wintertime, it’s absolutely so that you can’t leave a greyhound outdoors or even take it for a daytime walk in the summertime. They don’t tolerate insane heat well.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Awww, thank you so much. She’s such a sweet girl. I love Walt as a greyhound name–perfectly regal! So true about the heat. It doesn’t even get that hot here and still, Frugal Hound is panting up a storm in the summertime!

  42. Trista says:

    My first apartment was on the top floor of an apartment building. I rarely had to turn on the heat because I was getting it from the apartments below and on the sides. I tend to keep my temperature around 59-62. If I put it on 68 I have trouble breathing (I had to Google a temperature converter). Then I had a boyfriend and I stole his body heat for awhile. When we broke up he kept that apartment and I moved in to a basement on my own. Needless to say I replaced him with a heated throw. I couldn’t stand the cold of the basement and the empty bed. I like to place it between the bed sheet and the comforter and turn it on for a few minutes before bed. I haven’t used it in the last couple of years because I’ve lived in very well insulated apartments. But I think it will be making a comeback this year. My new place seems like it might be kind of drafty around the door.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Door weatherstripping is really cheap and could stop those drafts cold (hah!). It’s peel and stick, so no permanent changes needed to the apartment. Though the next tenant should thank you!

  43. That weight-activated frugal hound warmer is fascinating! I love the idea.
    My random frugal tip: when I was in university, our house was ancient (pre 1900) and AWFUL at keeping heat in. That was the only period in which I actively blow dried my hair. I bought a blow drier, so that I didn’t have wet hair in the cold house. It made quite a difference. Plus, my room was tiny, so it would warm my room up a decent amount, too.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Hah! I don’t have that problem (all beard, no hair) but Mrs. FW definitely uses the hair dryer more in the winter. Our bathroom is usually cold too, so it’s an added benefit.

  44. Even Steven says:

    This year we switched to an electric mattress cover(much cheaper than the electric blanket), it not only keeps us warm when we go to bed, it prevents us from heating the whole house. I read some calculations online that said you pay 11 cents an hour for your electric blanket so figure a dollar a day instead of turning on your heat and paying $300. I’ll have to do some Even Steven calculations and do an Electric Blanket addendum;)

    PS: I’m still working on the email response, my heart hurt a little when the words March 2015 came out.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m really tempted by all of these mentions of electric blankets and mattress pads! Sounds very cozy. Frugal Hound certainly loves her heated pad. P.S. My head hurt to write the words “March 2015” :), so no worries!

  45. Debra says:

    No heat for us here in Rhode Island either
    🙂
    When it does cone on, we keep it at 62 ~ and at 60 at night or when we aren’t home.
    Honestly? I’d much rather be cold than too hot.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      It’s been a really mild fall so far, hasn’t it. We’re enjoying this somewhat balmy 😉 weather. Glad to hear we’re not the only New Englanders toughing it out! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  46. Frugalwoods, I have a question. What are your favorite finance sites to read?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Tough question because there are so many! We really enjoy Mr. Money Mustache, 1500 Days, Root of Good, Planting Our Pennies, Budgets are Sexy, Financially Blonde, and so many more! Thanks for stopping by.

  47. Mrs. Maroon says:

    Oh to be talking about turning on the heater!! We were over the 90 degree mark for most of last week in Oklahoma. Weather here is starting turn a bit though. Mini Maroon 1 has even gotten to wear a light jacket to school the last two days, but it covers the short sleeve shirt to be ready for the 80s in the afternoon. When winter does set in though, we like to use individual heaters in each room for sleeping. We will be buying a new one this year too with the recent arrival of Mini Maroon 2. Any good suggestions??

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congratulations on the arrival of Mini Maroon 2! I believe that the oil-filled electric space heaters are supposed to be a bit safer than others, but beyond that, I’m not much of a connoisseur. I confess we don’t even use a space heater around here… 🙂

  48. mrs TIP says:

    like Mrs. Maroon, it’s still getting up to 90 here in Texas. certainly no heater yet. i have plans to get the window shrink wrap stuff in December or January, though. thanks for the tips, Mrs. FW!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You are most welcome, Mrs. TIP! Thanks for stopping by! I can’t quite imagine 90 degrees right now… sounds like a distant memory 🙂

  49. isabelle says:

    I recommend the electric blanket! Seriously, you won’t regret it! I haven’t started heating yet and that’s because of the blanket. I live in Montreal and usually i would have heated already since the beginning of October. I used to love my rice bags but this is much better!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Good to know! I actually think we might buy an electric blanket today… it’s just getting so cold here :). Thanks so much for stopping by!

  50. We are fortunate because we happen to have a wood burning fire place, so our heating can be much cheaper. It can be a pain to babysit all night though so we do turn on the furnace here and there, it just doesn’t add up to much at the end of the month.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We would love to have a wood burning stove or fireplace! It’s certainly our plan to have a woodstove in the future. I just love a roaring fire–it’s so cozy!

  51. Claire says:

    It gets FRIGID in my apartment during the winter months. The large glass windows and Victorian charm that I find so charming during the summer suddenly transforms into the space to an icy tundra. The space heater is my ball in chain, though I’ve also started to sleep with hot water bottles!

    I feel like a pioneer and they keep me warm and toasty without leaving a heat source on.

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Isn’t it funny how the very things that we all find charming about old homes are the exact attributes that contribute to energy inefficiency?

      The row house we rented while living in DC had _amazing_ windows. Gorgeous, original, glass with the tiny imperfections that makes old glass so neat. They were soooo cold in the winter.

      Our current house has replacement windows with absolutely no charm. But dang if they aren’t amazingly comfortable to stand next to 🙂

  52. Cindi says:

    I do most of what you do BUT we must have an electric blanket! That combined with our down queen sized comforter makes life better for us in the winter. I live in a 1140 sq ft home BUT we basically live in the bedroom (it’s huge!) We keep the thermostat at 64 during the day and 62 at night. Doing this has dropped out propane heating requirements from 1000 gallons a year to 600. Our electricity rates are very low where we live so I supplement heating in our bedroom & kitchen on an as needed basis with a smallish heater set on low, low, low! Our electricity bills have never gone up. In fact, they have gone down living this way. Surely you know ovens use up a lot of electricity? I cook many meals in a crock pot instead.
    We live in a brand new, custom built modular home that is so energy efficient I could scream (with joy). It’s so economical to live here. Fantastic windows, no leaks or cracks anywhere, no drafts……nothing like modern technology to help you stay green AND warm. Ceiling fans keep us cool in the summer!

    • Mr. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like you have things well dialed in. Good work!

      Good question on the oven. Since we’re in the city, we have natural gas. It’s darned cheap in the quantities used for cooking… and we’d be burning it anyway in our boiler!

      But good call on the crock pot. I do have a couple of favorite recipes that are definitely due to be brought out this season. So efficient AND tasty!

  53. Erin Shumz says:

    My daughter (11) and I go in this frugal direction here in Chicago. Thermostat when we get home at night at 3:30 pm is moved to 70 degrees (just hear me out) at that pace it gets the house warm in about an hour or two. At 8:00 pm the thermostat is moved down to 60 degrees. This is where the house slowly cools down for wonderful sleeping under many blankets. Wake up at 6 am and set the thermostat at 63 degrees (we have two little dogs that are home all day and we need to be mindful of them.) I do like your idea of the electric bed but my boys like to eat their bed randomly and I can’t bear the thought of them hurting themselves, so they have sweaters and blankets and just a little heat.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That sounds like a great system! And, I totally understand about needing to keep the doggies warm! I’m always checking Frugal Hound’s ears to make sure they’re not cold :). Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hi!

  54. Kitty says:

    I love your tips. With winter really hitting here in England I like to make warming soups and puddings, both of which I’ve been known to have for breakfast when I want something extra warming inside (hot apple crumble for breakfast-yummy!) Outside it’s around the 40 mark at the moment and my heating isn’t on. I’ve got some lovely fleecy slippers on, a huge fleece jumper over two other layers and a mug of hot chocolate next to me. The temp is supposed to be dropping below 30 tonight so I may crank the heating on this evening for a couple hours to make sure nothing freezes.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow–I’m impressed that you don’t have your heat on yet! Nicely done! Layers are definitely key. I usually have on about 3 total, which keeps me so warm and comfy.

      • Kitty says:

        Thanks, the temperature dropped quickly today (in fact it didn’t increase much), so I popped on the heat half an hour ago but it’s set to around 60 (trying to figure the conversions in my head). It’s a thermal tights and thick trousers day today. And a nice pan of soup bubbling away on the stove. Thankfully the forecast is warmer towards the end of the week.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          Mmmm, your soup on the stove sounds divine! I’m currently snuggled up with two blankets and a mug of hot tea on the couch. I really enjoy the coziness of winter!

  55. CG says:

    We live in a country where insulation isn’t an important option when building so chilly/warm houses are very normal. Unfortunately, we spent nine years in places where 60 was cold so moving to a town where it snows has been quite the change! Fortunately we have individual heaters in each room so, to keep costs down, we just turn on the heat in whatever room you’re in (or going in – at night we turn the bedroom heat on about 15 minutes before bedtime) and turn it off when you leave the room. The downside is the lowest temperature setting is 64 but we deal with it. We also have two of the pup warming pads for our “kids”, a heated blanket for the couch, and a dual temperature mattress cover for our bed. I am a hot sleeper so I like to turn mine way down or off while the husband would sleep with his as high as it will go.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Sounds like a good system for staying warm! The doggie heating pad is wonderful–we like that she can be snuggly warm all the time even though the house temperature is lower. The human heating pads are pretty good too 😉

  56. Darcy says:

    May I ask what brand electric blanket you guys bought and where? Do you like it or wish you’d bought a different type? Also, I have a queen bed and wonder whether the queen blanket will be large enough to tuck in or if I should move to a king size blanket. I intended to buy one last winter but they were quite a bit pricier than I anticipated. I’d be so interested in your solution! Thanks in advance!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We bought a Sunbeam brand blanket from Bed, Bath And Beyond–but we only got it there because we had a gift card to the store. I imagine you can find it cheaper elsewhere. The Sunbeam brand seems just fine and has worked well for us.

      We got a queen sized blanket for our king sized bed and it works just fine. The queen was a lot cheaper than the king and we reasoned we didn’t need the blanket to hang off the edges of the bed. We measured our mattress first and then compared that to the blanket measurements, which worked well. Good luck to you!

  57. Vicki says:

    This is a late comment but keeping the costs down on heating is on my mind as we are now experiencing Fall/Winter soon in Australia. Where I live is desert like and so scorching in summer and in the winter it does get chilly, not as chilly as North America which I know from living in Canada for 20 years before coming back here. I have been on a frugal quest and this year I am determined to keep our heating down. Ours is gas and we do the zone heating idea where we heat our main kitchen/living room. Gas is cheaper though it still needs electricity. I did not get through all 133 comments to see if these have been suggested but I use hot water bottles, the ones with the knitted cover to keep them warm for many more hours. I have one when sitting on the couch or in bed. I use door stoppers for the drafts. I also close the doors of all the rooms I am not using to keep the cold air our, especially if there are open vents in the windows.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Those are great tips, Vicki! We also employ zone heating in the winter and only heat parts of our home to the bare minimum to prevent pipe freezing. Hope you stay warm on the cheap this winter–sounds like you’re off to a great start.

  58. TomTrottier says:

    More tips from Ottawa, Canada:
    – Cut some Reflectix (or similar) & use velcro to put it over windows, for the winter if the window is not really used, or just at night. You can also get plastic sheet kits for windows & doors that adds an extra layer of dead air for insulation. You can add them both in and out, and even leave them up year round.
    – Renting? Choose a middle unit so the units around you warm you up by conduction. I’ve hardly used any heat in apartments or town houses with adjoining neighbours. Heat included? There are usually bylaws that mandate landlords must provide a certain level of heat for you.
    – Got radiators? Put Reflectix behind it to insulate the wall and reflect the heat back to you. Don’t put anything on the radiators, except perhaps an evaporative tray to up the humidity.
    – An electric blanket, electric mattress pad, or warmed hot water bed will keep you warm at night. Turn the thermostat down to 50°F(10°C) Quits, down or synthetic, are warmer & lighter than blankets. You can use them on top of electric blankets.
    – I have used a programmable thermostat to automatically raise the temp in time to get up. I have set it to go on for when I get up, and then set it back to 50°F three times. There are usually four settings per day. So if I want it to be warmer, I have to get up and tell the thermostat to warm-up until the next set-down. Then it goes back down again. This is also good for when you do not know when you will be back. EG, up at 6am, down at 8am, 8pm and midnite.
    – Is your electricity price time-sensitive? Got electric heat (shudder)? Warm up your place when it is cheap, eg, before 7am & before people cook dinner.
    – Heat pumps are often more economical then furnaces down to about 50°F outside if you have whole-house AC.
    – Fireplaces radiate heat – but they suck warm air out the chimney. Stoves or closed fireplaces are warmer, especially if you can provide them with cold outside air for burning.
    – Drafts? The first & cheapest thing you can do is caulk all the cracks and crannies on the inside of your outside walls, and around outside wall outlets. Use a IR temperature gun to see where your walls are coldest. Helps keep out bugs & mice, too. Put some insulation strips on all your door frames. You can get a “door sweep” which seals when the door is closed, but lifts when you open the door.
    – Forget 1500 watt space heaters. Use an infrared heater or heat lamp pointed right at you. But warm clothes are better. When cold, I often put my plush polyester bathrobe on over all my other clothes.
    – Warm sox are good – but you can get lightweight “glacier” booties at a reasonable price at a serious outdoor store like MEC or REI that will really keep your feet warm. I’ve used black duct tape when I wear holes in the sole…
    – BIke in winter? Yes, but use studded tires for safety & keep face & extremities warm. Use gaiters to protect your lower leg from spray and keep it warmer. See http://www.icebike.org/Articles/Ottawa.htm

  59. Cie says:

    Not sure if it’s been mentioned already but I try and to all my housework in the evenings. Any excuse to get up and moving when the temperature plummets can do wonders. Ten or twenty minutes exercise, a few yoga stretches, just getting up to make another cup of tea can help make you feel a lot more toasty.

    It’s hard not to fall into the trap of sitting around after work, but adding in some extra physical activity can help stop you reaching for the thermostat dial in a blind panic 😉

  60. Tracy says:

    I’m in Texas and 2014 was a cold winter and 2015 looks like being the same!

    I get up at 6 every day to walk the dog, gloves and fleece stop my hands from seizing up. I have osteo-arthritis so cold makes it worse.

    I don’t put on the central heating, but have heaters near where I sit to take the chill off, and an electric underblanket on the bed which I use if I’m sick.

    I’m down in the south of Tx the north and panhandle gets much colder, snow and frost by December.

  61. What a great site to have happened upon! I live in Belleville, Ontario, Canada abd thus far we’ve been blessed with mild temps and no snow. However, being frugal to the bone I am always on the lookout for great tips for lufe and living…keeping warm fits right in! I love the hot water bottle with flannel or knitted cover! Just want to say I think your greyhound is sooo cute.

  62. Tara says:

    I love this post as I grew up in a household with a dad who’d bark when we were cold, “Put on a sweater!” as if that was the final answer. As a result, I’ve learned to live with low temps in our house. We keep it around 60/61 during the day although in the bedroom, I do have to have it somewhat warmer at night because I can’t breathe cold air with asthma. We do have zoned heating and our bedroom is the first to receive the radiant heat so we usually have it around 65 at night.

    My husband had grown accustomed to this too now and even calls slippers “poochies” like I do and is sure to put them on, (along with a sweater!) when he’s cold. It’s crazy how my in-laws are so not tuned into this, and will turn up the heat and then complain about $300-$400 electric bills in the winter due to their unnecessarily high heat temps (whole house is electric, unfortunately as they’re in the country).

    The only time where my preference for the cold can kill me is in the summer, when humidity really gets me. As a result, I am someone who does have to have a window-unit a/c on, at least at night, when I sleep. Plus, while in the summer I can walk around in my underwear and a tank top during the day in my house, if we have guests over, I must put on more decent attire and likely have to crank up the a/c, lol!

  63. Suzewannabe says:

    Live in the middle floors of apt complexes. Floor 1 always cold, floor 4 must have outrageous cooling bills.
    In Texas, 60 is freezing. We go down to 70 because we are older. Plus, I get hot flashes and have Reynauds, so, I take on the temp of whatever the room is or whatever I’m drinking.
    Coffee coffee, sugar free Russian tea.
    While in NZ, tho during the end of their winter, they had a heated mattress pad. We thought that was neat and may try it in Sedona soon!

  64. Marenda says:

    When we first purchased our home in the suburbs it came with an electric heat pump. Gas wasn’t available in our area. Our first winter bills were higher than our housepayment. Egads! I got to know my new neighbors quickly and came up with more than 10 people that agreed to put gas inside their homes if the gas company would install the lines. Once this was accomplished our heating bills were cut in half.
    We now keep our heat at night at a balmy 57 and during the day at 60. Our living area windows face south so we get heat from there during the day. We also supplement our low heat with a family room Kerosene heater that we run during the day. Some family members are home during the daytime. We wear layers, socks, and slippers.
    Taking showers for many years were a really cold experience. We soon discovered that my garage sale candles I pick up will warm up a bathroom for only pennies with the door closed. 3 Candles lit for 30 minutes prior to showering make the room really toasty.
    When I bake we leave the oven door open when baking is finished. Eat warm foods, and drink warm drinks. We have insulated curtains, and insulate what we can around the windows. BTW when you don’t work something hard it lasts longer our furnace is now 30 years old 10 years past what it is supposed to last.

  65. david says:

    I keep mine at 80 degrees feirenhights
    I love my natural gas heater
    Plus my electrick heater in my bedroom uses little electric

  66. Brian says:

    So glad to read this, I thought I was the only weirdo that felt like 62° was warm enough. At first I thought it was just the thermostat telling lies until that died and had to be replaced. I found this out starting with the thermostat being set at 68 just like it was all my life, but as soon as I felt warm enough I kept lowering the temp drastically reducing the cost!
    Great read! Stay cozy!

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