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Staying Warm Within Your Budget

As the temperature plummets, it's tempting to crank the thermostat and settle in for a season of toasty toes. But don't let the weather bully you into high energy bills. You can stay cozy without blowing your budget by finding some creative ways to keep warm.

Don't bare it
Bare floors can be chic, but they're also freezing. Roll out the rugs this winter and see what a difference it makes. Not only do rugs add a layer of insulation, they also make it easier to get out of bed in the morning!

The hole thing
Drafts are sneaky little energy suckers, bringing down temperatures and raising costs. Weather stripping helps, caulking helps, even a blanket laid down at the bottom of the door will help. However you do it, make sure to plug those holes.

Heat things up
A furnace actually uses a lot more electricity than a space heater. Plus, space heaters allow you to concentrate warmth on the rooms you frequent most. Keep the furnace as low as you can and use a few space heaters in key areas (bedroom, living room) to watch the savings add up. Be sure to close the door on rooms you're not using, so they don't draw warmth from the rest of the house. And to keep your furnace operating at maximum efficiency, make sure to change the filter periodically. A clean filter is much more efficient-and inexpensive-than a dirty one.

Layers upon layers
It may seem odd to bundle up just to stay inside but you'll feel pretty clever when you get your heating bill. Pile on the socks and long underwear this season and keep the thermostat down. Don't forget a hat! Much of the body's heat loss occurs from the head, so cover it up.

Inside out
Winter and cocoa are the perfect combination-and a practical one too. Hot liquids raise your body temperature and keep your fingers warm.

The buddy system
If you're watching TV with your spouse or kids, cuddle up under a blanket. It's a nice excuse for family time, and the body heat will keep you warm. A family pet can do the trick too.

Warm Zzzs
When you're ready for bed, try sleeping under a down comforter, which can keep you twice as warm as conventional blankets. You can find inexpensive comforters at stores like Ross or Marshalls. Another tip is to fill a hot water bottle with almost-boiling water. You'll be surprised by how warm these low-tech methods will keep you.

A blind eye
If you have blinds or curtains, keep them closed unless it's particularly sunny out. Direct sun can raise your household temperature, but otherwise open blinds let heat escape. You can also apply clear plastic over windows that receive direct sun. This will maximize the natural light while minimizing heat loss. And, of course, make sure that your windows are latched and storm windows are closed.

Get out
The initial blast of outside air may be intimidating, but spending time away from your chilly house is a good way to cut costs. Find a local cafe and buy a cup of a tea. You can nurse it for hours while you read the paper or a book. Before you know it, you'll have spent a pleasant, inexpensive and warm morning.

Start cooking
A warm kitchen and the smell of baked goods... it doesn't get cozier than that. Hibernate in the kitchen for awhile to take the chill off you and the house. Bonus: lots of treats for inexpensive holiday gifts and cheer!

Brrrrr. It's cold outside but you can stay warm with these suggestions for keeping temperatures up and costs way down. Have a warm and happy winter!

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