Here in the Northeast, winter is knocking on our door. Whether you can’t wait to hit the ski slopes or you’d prefer to hibernate until spring, there is no way around dealing with the cold winter temperatures. Today’s special guest post by Jacquelyn Pica from The Penny Hoarder outlines 14 frugal tips you can use this winter to stay cozy while reducing your utility bills. Take it away, Jacquelyn!
Winter is coming, and we all need to brace ourselves.
Summers have been feeling warmer and winter is about to be colder. But are you financially prepared for even lower temperatures?
Good Housekeeping recently published an article stating meteorologists predict an “above-average snowfall will bury the Northeast,” with New York and Boston areas potentially seeing an extra 6 inches of snow for the 2017-2018 winter.
In hopes of curbing the higher spending associated with a colder winter, here are 14 ways to stay warm on a budget and reduce your utility bills this winter.
1. Cook a Meal
This option will help you save money in two ways: one, you won’t be eating out and two, the extra heat from cooking will warm up the house.
Cooking in the oven or Crockpot is best, as those will tend to generate the most heat. Learn how to bake the perfect loaf of bread, simmer the best chicken noodle soup and roast the most tender pork tenderloin.
2. Get Physical
Instead of sitting around shivering in a bundle of blankets and sweaters, get up and move around! You could try some home exercises to get the blood flowing, or clean the house.
I know — none of these are very fun options, but moving around naturally warms your body up.
Money-making bonus: If you’re looking to shed a few pounds over the winter season, sign up for HealthyWage and you could earn money for losing weight.
3. Layer, Layer, Layer
Reader’s Digest covers the methods behind layering clothes properly. The first layer should always be a snug-fitting shirt that’s comfortable to wear and, for women, possibly tights or leggings.
The best type of fabric for a second layer is a cotton flannel or wool sweater, topped with a polyester fleece or nylon jacket.
One of my co-workers said she and her family wore long johns under their clothes to stay warm when they lived in Wyoming. Another co-worker suggested layering clothes you already have instead of buying expensive, heavy clothing.
Look through your closet to see if you already own the types of clothing mentioned above. If not, you’ll know which pieces you need to purchase to keep your body well-insulated.
4. Snuggle with Furry Friends
Have you ever wanted to push your pet off of you in middle of the night because they feel like a mini space heater? Since it’s cold out, use that to your advantage!
Snuggle up with your cat or dog and keep each other warm.
5. Insulate Windows with Plastic
Cover your windows with cheap, clear shower curtains or clear plastic sheets. This keeps cold air out but still lets sunlight in to act as a natural heater. It might not look the best, but at least you’ll stay nice and warm.
If plastic wrap and shower curtains don’t excite you, insulate your windows with bubble wrap, which is almost always fun to have around. Call around to local furniture or department stores to see if they have extra bubble wrap. If not, it’s pretty affordable at Home Depot.
It’s important to leave curtains open during the day to let the sunlight in, but once the sun goes down make sure to close them. If possible, invest in some insulated curtains to close at night and help keep the cold out.
6. Properly Seal Doors and Windows
If you haven’t already, make sure you weatherproof all doors that lead outside in your home. All you need to buy is a weatherstrip seal — you can get 17 feet for $4.88 on Amazon. This helps prevent air leakage.
A cheaper alternative to weatherstripping doors is to stuff a towel underneath them. It’s not as permanent as a weatherstrip but still keeps warm air inside.
To seal windows, use caulk. Permanently shut windows can be weatherproofed with regular caulk. For windows you’ll want to open again once the warm weather comes back, seal them with temporary caulk that peels off. Energy.gov provides a helpful guide on caulking windows.
7. Burn Some Candles
Not only do candles provide a nice ambiance, they also act as tiny heaters. Light up a few candles nearby to stay warm without having to touch the thermostat.
For this method, I’d recommend using the largest candles you can find. Tealights are cute and all, but it would take probably 20-30 of them to feel any actual warmth. I usually find pretty big candles on sale at my local Home Goods store for around $7.
8. Make DIY Reusable Heating Packs
Instead of using an electric heating pad, make your own reusable heating pack with some rice and an old pillowcase, flannel shirt or sock. If you use the sock, just fill it with rice and tie it off. With any other material, you’ll need to be a little handy with the sewing needle.
These little rice heating pads work great — stick them in the microwave for 60 seconds and you’re good to go. Put them under the sheets at the end of your bed to keep your feet nice and warm until you fall asleep.
Once winter is over, put these rice packs into the freezer and use them as cooling pads during warmer seasons.
9. Cover Hard Floors with Blankets or Rugs
If there’s room in your budget, buy rugs to put on hard floors to help with insulation.
Target, Walmart, and RugsUSA all sell rugs at an affordable price. You could also browse local thrift stores, yard sales or estate sales to find a good deal.
10. Close Off Unused Rooms
This one’s pretty simple: Keep doors closed to any rooms that aren’t being used. This prevents cold air from going through the rest of the house. Plus, it keeps the heat contained in a smaller area, so your heater won’t have to work as hard to warm up the entire house.
11. Fuel Your Fire with Newspaper Logs
Did you know it’s possible to make logs out of newspaper to help keep a fire going? Neither did I!
Once you’re done clipping weekly coupons, soak the newspaper in a bucket of water for about a day. The next step requires a rubber mallet, which you can buy on Amazon for less than $7, and a wooden dowel. This Instructables guide details the entire process, which seems pretty easy.
12. Create Humidity
A humidifier makes the air warmer without you having to turn up the heat. The moisture also helps curb dry hair and skin.
If you don’t want to buy anything, create your own humidity by taking a hot bath and leaving the water in the tub until it cools.
13. Insulate Electrical Outlets
Yes, cold air can sneak in through your electrical outlets. Make sure all outlets, and even light switches, are insulated properly.
Install gasket covers — you can find them for as little as a few bucks — to every outlet and light switch in your house, and stop cold air from coming in.
14. Invest in an Electric Blanket
While looking through a few frugal threads on Reddit about how to stay warm, I saw tons of comments about investing in an electric blanket. I found a queen size one for only $25.90, which is a pretty good price.
Hopefully you’re able to implement a few of these tips and save money on your utility bills this winter! If you end up stuck inside due to a snowstorm or icy roads, here are some ways you can still earn an income at home.
Jacquelyn Pica is a junior writer/SEO specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Find her on Twitter @jacquelynTPH.