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How to survive the 'thermostat wars'

Are you always a little colder than the rest of your household? These tips keep your core temperature up and your heating bills down.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 13, 2012 1:23PM

Logo: Woman Adjusting Thermostat (Fuse, Getty Images)When I lived in Alaska years ago, I was always turning down the thermostat. My then-husband would turn it back up. This made no sense to me: Why didn't he just put on another layer?

When I moved back to Anchorage at the end of September, I discovered that eight years in the banana belt of Seattle had thinned my blood considerably. Now I'm the one who's always chilly -- and it's not even that cold yet.

So I wear a fleece layer or bathrobe over my shirt, and wool socks instead of cotton ones. If it's particularly nippy there's the option of thermal or polypropylene long-handles. (Frugal long underwear; more on that in a minute.)

Do you tend to be a little (or a lot) colder than your partner and/or family? Quit fighting the thermostat wars. All that does is raise your utility bill and make other people sweaty.

In other words: If you can't heat 'em, join 'em. Embrace a cooler overall house temperature, but stay comfortable with these 11 tips.

Heat yourself

1. Wear the right clothes.
Layers, layers, layers: tights or long johns under your slacks, a T-shirt or long underwear shirt topped by a blouse or shirt plus a sweater, sweatshirt or fleece layer. Wool socks instead of cotton (aka "the winter death fiber"). Felt or fur slippers in the house. If you're super-thin-blooded, wrap a scarf around your neck and/or don a fleece cap.

None of this has to be expensive, incidentally. Use a price comparison website for the best deals on long johns and wool socks. Or cash in rewards points; I paid for my extra layers using gift certificates earned from the Swagbucks website.


2. Auxiliary warmth sources. Dig up that afghan your grandma made for you, or get a fleece throw for a less bulky but still effective layer of protection. (My niece got chenille throws for $3.99 apiece on Black Friday; watch for similar deals this year.) Two other options: a lapdog/affectionate cat, or the famous "rice sock."

3. Plug in some warmth. Last winter a friend gave me a heated throw (sort of a mini-electric blanket). You could also use a heating pad across your lap with one of those afghans/throws on top.

4. Look for extra heat.
Do you take hot baths instead of showers? Leave the water in the tub until it cools: The warmth (and humidity) will have an impact on your household temperature.

Run the dishwasher in the morning instead of after supper, suggests Jenny C., a reader at the The Dollar Stretcher: "That way I have the excess heat in the house when I can use it, not when I'm asleep under covers anyway." Cook or bake then, too.

5. Sip hot beverages.
Tea, coffee, cocoa or broth all provide instant inner warmth; cradling the hot mug is soothing, too. I'd be sparing of the cocoa and also of sugar, cream or flavorings added to tea; the calories do add up. Some folks swear by plain hot water with a slice of lemon.

6. Pump it up.
Lisa H., another Dollar Stretcher reader, does pushups when she gets chilled: "This really warms me up since it's such hard work." Personally, I've found getting up from my workspace and walking around for a couple of minutes does the same thing.

Keep the heat

7. Get a programmable thermostat.
Set it to bring the temperature up before you get home. Coming into a cold space is a bummer, psychologically speaking. Put the lights on a timer, too, so you're walking into a (relatively) warm, well-lit place.

8. Winterize your home.
Some utility companies offer free energy audits. If you're a do-it-yourself type, see "19 easy home-winterization projects" on MSN Real Estate. Even the non-handy can insulate power outlets and light switches according to this post on Lifehacker.

9. Rearrange your space.
Does your living room have cold spots no matter what you do? Move the furniture around so your favorite chair isn't in the freeze zone, advises Sharon O'Brien in a post on


10. Heat where you are. If your den or living room is just too uncomfortable to enjoy, get a space heater. You can get a decent one for $50 to $100, according to the Lifehacker article, which is "far less than the cost of keeping your entire home warm."

11. Go outside.
Seriously. Take a walk, or at least go out to pick up the mail. When you come back, the indoors environment will feel much warmer by comparison -- especially if you allow yourself a cup of that cocoa.

If you're the "cold" one in the household, how do you stay warm?

More on MSN Money:

Nov 13, 2012 10:17PM
Get a wood stove. I figure we save $1,000 to $2,000 a year in heat costs, paying about $350 for dump truck load of wood. It pays for itself in about 2, maybe 3 years.
Nov 13, 2012 6:56PM
Have home cooked meals.  You'll probably eat better and heat the house at the same time. Having baked goods is always nice this time of year.
Nov 13, 2012 4:37PM
You should probably cut some wood and shake out the coals in the morning also...
Nov 13, 2012 6:38PM
I bought heated throws for everyone in the house. About $35 each. They only use 150 watts each, when turned up all the way. 

I turned the heat down to 64 degrees and everyone's happy. 

It will probably save us $300 on Gas heat this year.
Nov 14, 2012 12:30AM
Seriously, if I had to wear a cap and scarf around the house I'd give in and turn up the heat!  We make sure our drapes are closed when the weather is cold, and it conserves some warmth.
Nov 16, 2012 12:23PM
Saddest part is the frail old folks who cannot afford the fuel bills yet are not physically able to chop and haul wood or do-it-yourself projects, nor do they have the physical health to tolerate the cold. Space heaters maybe OK but many are highly dangerous fire risk and the cost of electricity to run them can get prohibitive. Maybe it's a good thing when us old gals get hot flashes. Layers are best to keep you warm, buy some oversized sweatpants to wear over your normal clothes (check out the Salvation Army Store), a sleeping bag is good at night, and hopefully you have somebody wonderful to snuggle with !!
Nov 17, 2012 5:47PM
From Tina 
There are few things you can do:
1) Place a few hot water bottles into your bed
2)Start to saw really warm clothes for yourself, if you cannot, call me on
3)Place your bed next to the radiator
4)Buy yourself the warmest soft shoes 1 size bigger than you need to walk at home
5) place woolen insulation into these shoes
6) Eat food that provides energy
7)Get a cat and look after it's health  properly so you can let it to sleep on your bed- cat's body temperature is higher than human's

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.