Finances & Money Frugality

Keeping Warm in a Cold Home

Our home is almost 70 years old, and while it has new siding, roof and additions, the last owners never thought to re-insulate the home (or use better insulation for the additions) when they did their renovations a decade ago. So our cooling and heating costs can get a bit out of control, except that we follow a few frugal tips for keeping warm:

  • Dress in layers: This is an obvious one, but many people feel “I deserve to be able to walk around naked and be warm in my own home”. Well here’s news for you: You have to spend money on heating or renovations to be able to do that. For the rest of us, specifically those who want to save some moolah, we can just wear extra clothes, such as sweaters, sweatpants and even knit caps (hey, who’s going to see you wearing outdoor clothes inside your home?).
  • Wear socks: I bet you’ll agree with me that when your feet are cold, your whole body feels cold. Stick your feet in a bucket of hot water and you instantly feel warm. Well to keep those tootsies warm, and thus the rest of you warm, cover them up with socks, shoes or big bunny slippers.
  • Use curtains: If you’re not able or willing to insulate around your windows better, or buy better windows, then you can at least block the cold air sneaking through with heavy curtains. They also work in the summer to keep the cold air in the house and block the hot sun.
  • Keep the blinds/curtains open during the day: When it’s sunny, it’s warm. Let that sun into your house when it’s up in the sky.
  • Close the blinds/curtains at night: Conversely, when it’s night, it’s cold. Close the blinds and curtains to keep the cold air out and warm air in.
  • Use flannel/down bedding: Simply switching from the light summery cotton to flannel, and especially down (or faux down) will keep you warm under the covers at night.
  • Drink warm fluids: While you’re using energy, and thus money, to heat the water to make coffee, tea or cocoa, it will warm you up for a good hour. That 5 minutes to boil water vs 60 minutes of running the furnace makes a difference on your wallet.
  • Use a heating pad: While you’re lounging on the couch or recliner watching TV or blogging, you can use a small heating pad, set to medium, on your back to make your whole body feel warm. It’s using less energy to avoid using more energy.
  • Keep busy/Exercise: When you’re busy cleaning the house, doing laundry or running on the treadmill, you don’t notice the cold. When you’re exercising, you’re creating energy inside your body and therefore you don’t just feel warmer, you are warmer!

What do you do to keep warm at home in the winter?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • I get the dog to sit with me. She’s always toasty warm.

    We also have a space heater – I hate those things (and our electric is expensive), but I’ll run that for 5 minutes – just to take the chill off me. Then I’m usually okay for a couple more hours.

    I do hate when my DS says he’s cold and he’s walking around in a short sleeved t-shirt. I told him we’ll turn up the heat when he’s wearing a long-sleeved shirt AND a sweatshirt and he’s still cold. That hasn’t happened yet.

    All your ideas are great ones – we use them all in our house.

  • I run a space heater in only the rooms being used. This works for me most of the time but if I have company and we are all spread out and I need to run the whole house heater, then closing off the vents in the unused rooms works well too.

  • Wearing socks is the best tip. You lose so much heat from your body when you walk around barefoot, especially on concrete or wooden floors. Another tip is when watching TV or reading, keep a blanket over you.

  • I’m definitely one to layer on a sweatshirt… I LIKE wearing sweatshirts. Not big on wearing socks around the house, but I will put them on if I’m cold enough. I live in an old apartment building, so I do lose some heat to drafty windows, and a lobby that they don’t heat, but I also live on the 2nd floor and I can always tell when my neighbor downstairs has turned on her heat. I’m always delighted to need to turn mine down because I’m too warm.

    I had a roommate in college who I spent a ton of time battling with over the thermostat. She seemed to think she needed to wear a t-shirt and shorts all winter long, and turn the temp up to 80. She also had her bed along the wall with the register and had so many pillows and blankets on the bed that none of the heat could get up into her room. Needless to say, that caused some arguments… I probably turned the thermostat down 10+ times a day.

  • We live where it’s cold so I could identify with ALL of your tips. Like lulugal11 I have a space heater in my daughter’s bedroom at night. We turn the heat down pretty cool at night. My hubby and I pile on the blankets, but my 2-1/2 year old doesn’t always keep them on, so this works well for us. Also, slippers are a must!

  • We keep our thermostat no higher than 62, but now that we need to save even more money, it’s down to 58. Our furnace is about 25 years old, and our house is almost 100 years old with an unfinished basement and practically no insulation, so there’s no point in turning it up.

    We use space heaters as needed, and when I’m home I try to stay upstairs, where the floors are carpeted and the heat rises. I wear a thermal shirt with a sweatshirt or fleece over that, plus toasty slippers. Cuddly cats and dogs definitely help too 🙂

  • @fit wallet. 58? 62? Dang, it took me 4 years to get my wife to agree to go down from 74 to 72! We do, however, drop it to 62 overnight. We sleep with 5 blankets AND have a heated mattress pad under us 🙂 Makes getting up MUCH more difficult.

  • Great tips!

    I too live in an older home which is always cold in the winter.

    To stay warm we use: long johns, blankets, curtains, hot chocolate, and as of this Christmas we’ve added a new weapon to our arsenal…Smart Wool Socks. They are the best!

  • Don’t forget about getting a programmable thermostat. I keep my heat set at 58 degrees during the day while I’m at work and at (are you ready?) 54 at night. I set it to go up about 15 minutes before I get up in the morning.

    My daughter and son-in-law just got an electric blanket and they love it.

    I also burn lots of candles. They don’t heat the house but they offer a psychological warmth.

    Deb Harris

  • I don’t have to deal with this sort of thing at the moment – I have a simple choice of On or Off, and no personal responsibility for heating bills (but I generally have it Off 10pm-10am). However, I’ve lived in countries and building with less-efficient heating and old buildings, and here are a few things I learned…

    – Hot water bottle!!! My gas bill in Japan was HALF that of the others in the building mostly because keeping a hot water bottle at my feet kept me sufficiently toasty all night long. It actually stayed very hot for about 6 hours and was still comfy when I woke up. Cheaper and, I feel, safer than an electric heating pad.

    – Thick, heavy velvet or tapestry curtains over drafty windows. I had a friend with a “turret” (600-year-old building subdivided into apartments), which wasn’t insulated or heated. He kept a heavyweight velvet curtain across the entrance to the half-staircase and it stopped the draft as well as – or perhaps even better than – a door.

  • My wife and I live in central PA where it can, and is currently very cold. Our house, built in 1952, had zero insulation in the walls. For a hair over 2 grand, we recently had a team of pros come in and insulate it. Roughly 1500 square feet worth. It has made nothing short of a miraculous difference. Heating system kicks on far less often and the house feels dramatically warmer and more snug. For the feel of the house alone, it was well worth the money.

    Before that, we used strategically placed space heaters…electric oil-filled radiators. Research indicated that they were the most efficient. With the new insulation in place, we no longer need them.

  • @Mort, when it gets warmer, we’re going to get our brother-in-law to come down from central PA to add insulation to our exterior walls. I expect the cost to be about $1000-1500 (hopefully even less). It’ll be well worth it.

  • Programmable thermostats are the way to go. I set mine to 62 when asleep/not at home and 68 when we are at home and awake. When we first bought our house that was built in 1935 we bought new windows (about $8k worth) and I estimate that they have saved us about $1000 a year in heating/cooling costs. We also pay a set rate for our gas bill every month. By paying a flat rate year round we don’t get hit by a $300+ gas bill in January.

  • I live in MN where currently our HIGH Tuesday – Thursday of this week might not hit zero… The wife complains that she is cold, turns up the heat and she has no socks on. I walk around in golf shirts the majority of the winter so the cold doesn’t bother me. We turn it down to 63 during the day and 68 – 70 when we get home / night. We would have it cooler then 68 but since the baby (now 20 months) we have to think about her first.

  • I’m working from home today and turned the heat down low. I’m bundled up in a hoody, sweatpants, and thick socks.

    Though others would be miserable, my therm says it’s 61 and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Plus your body burns more calories trying to stay warm, and I’m still burning off some “holiday blubber”

  • 50% heat escapes from you head, so wear a hat. i like it cold in the house. wear slippers. you forgot one way to keep warm: snuggle

  • I agree -keeping busy – vacuuming, cleaning, or exercising are great ways to keep your body warm without pumping up the heating. But when I’m in a lazy mood, a ski cap, socks, and extra layers definitely help fight the freeze.

    Good reminders in your article. Thanks!

  • Agree with everyone. Programmable thermostats work very well. We set our unit for 64 at night, 68 for the two hours before we leave for work, 60 while we’re at work, then 68 10 mins before we get home from work. We reduced our Electric/Gas bill from $360 to $240 in Dec.

    Always have long johns, sweatshirt, knit hat and socks on.

    Started using a space heater this winter.

    Replaced the front and back doors in the fall with Energy efficient units.

  • We’re way too cheap (and poor at the moment) to turn on the heat. When it gets really bad, I go outside for a walk or run, do some errands, or go browsing at stores (without money on me!) to soak up their heat. It tends not to be a problem when we’re unconscious at night. The worst part, though, is my hands getting cold when typing. I’m considering investing in some fingerless gloves.

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