Winter finally decided to show up last night. I know this because when I woke up this morning, there was the lightest layer of snow on the grass. By the time I'd gotten the three cats off of me and gotten out of bed, the snow was completely gone. But, for a brief moment, it was there.
(For those of you up north who have been having snow since late September/early October, well, that's what you get for living up in the great white north.)
In the past year or so since I started trying to pursue a more frugal lifestyle (admittedly because I didn't have another option), I've learned a thing or two about saving money on energy bills. So here are my suggestions for the winter:
1. Weather Stripping is Your Friend. Sam and I are currently living in an old house that was built in the late 40's/early 50's, and as such has lots and lots of drafty old doors and windows. To be fair, our landlady has been steadily replacing those windows, but she only has about half the house done. When the first hints of cold weather started showing up in October, Sam and I spent a Saturday going around the house tacking up weather stripping around the doors and caulking around the windows. It cost us a grand total of $15--including the caulk gun, and I know we saved at least that much on our gas bill last month alone.
2. Cook Hot Meals. Growing up, my Dad would often talk about how certain foods were winter foods because they would "thicken up your blood" and help keep you warm. And there is a certain amount of truth to this. T'is the season to be making hearty soups, baking goodies, and eating lots of red meat, as these are things that warm you up from the inside out. Especially if you make chili--that'll keep you warm for a good long time. The corollary to this is to drink hot drinks--hot tea, hot cider, mulled wine, coffee, hot chocolate. All of these things do wonders to help warm you up as well. Which leads me to....
3. Use Your Stove/Oven. It didn't take long into our marriage at all for Sam to figure out that the main reason why I make so many cookies/breads/pies/roasts/chicken bakes etc. in the winter is that it helps to warm up the house. For some reason I don't completely understand, using the oven heats up the house far better than our actual heater ever dreamed of doing.
4. Switch Your Ceiling Fans to Run Clockwise. It sounds counter-intuitive, but running your ceiling fans in the winter (if you have them. My sympathy to those of you who don't. I've been there.) actually helps to reduce your heating bill. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the side of the base to change what direction the blades of the fan run. In the winter you want that fan to run clockwise, as that'll push the warm air up by the ceiling back down into the room.
5. Take Advantage of the Sunlight. One of the first things I do when I get up in the morning is open up the blinds on the side of the house that's getting sunlight. Letting in that sunlight does wonders for helping to heat up that side of the house. It also makes kitty cats happy. Then, after lunch I'll close back up the east side of the house and open the blinds on the west side. As soon as the sun starts setting you need to make sure you have all the blinds closed back up to help retain the heat you've gathered during the day. Of course, for many of you there actually isn't anybody home during daylight hours, in which case...
6. Kick the Heater Down if No One is Home. I'm not saying turn your heater completely off. However, as much as I love my cats, they have built in fur coats and do not need the house to be as warm as I do. If I know Sam and I are going to be gone all day doing errands--or if we're going out of town--I'll kick the heater down to about 68 degrees. True, the absolute first thing we do when we come home is kick the heater back up, but even at 68 degrees it'll still be significantly warmer inside than outside.
7. Get Up and Move. Exercise is of course an important part of staying healthy. However, it also helps to raise your core body temperature. If I'm completely freezing my tail off, I'll get up and make myself be active. Sometimes that means chasing the cats, other times it means getting chores done. Most frequently, however, I'll crank up loud music and dance around for 10, 15 minutes. Admittedly, I do this when NO ONE ELSE IS AROUND. However, it's still fun and warms me up.
8. Blankets are a Beautiful, Beautiful Thing. If you ever come over to our home, you'll notice that we have blankets draped everywhere around the house. I originally started doing this because my dear, sweet Sherri gets cold very, very easily. However, I will frequently drape a blanket across my lap instead of getting up and turning the heat higher, especially when I'm the only one at home and the kitties are feeling snuggly.
9. Turn Down the Heater at Night. Not nearly as low as what you'd turn it down to if you were gone, if for no other reason than that would make it nigh impossible to get out of bed in the morning. At least for me. However, being in bed with lots of blankets, a spouse, and a bunch of cats, Sam and I don't need to have the heat up nearly as high. Even if you're lacking the animals and spouse, once again blankets are a beautiful, beautiful thing for retaining body heat at night.
10. Invite People Over. Speaking of body heat, another excellent way to help keep the house warm is to invite people over. Extra bodies in the house will help to build up the heat, as well as warming up one's heart and soul. (Corny, I know, but I couldn't resist.) Particularly if you can get them all doing something active with you, like playing one of the incarnations of Rock Band. Or, if you lack the tech for that, there is also charades, dancing, and midget wrestling. You know, in case you needed some options....