7 Easy Ways to Keep Warm for Less: Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Frugal Living

13 Jan Snowy

Want to warm up and save money, without renovating? Keep reading for some easy ways to lower your heating bill this season!

Winter is really setting in up here in Northern Ontario, with double digit lows and wind chills to freeze your face off. This is the time of year I am really thankful for equal billing for my natural gas, because we use more energy in these cold months than any others. I am also nostalgic for my apartment living days when we didn’t have to pay for heat! Those radiators may have woken us up at night with their crazy loud banging, but they kept us really cozy warm.

Snowy

Of course I’m more than happy to embrace where we are today; but it means I have to be a bit more thoughtful about our energy use through the winter. However, please don’t think that means I think everyone should turn the thermostat down to 65 and shiver in their homes! I hate being cold. There is something almost luxurious about staying warm when it’s cold outside. In fact I think finding creative ways to experience abundant warmth without jacking up the heat, is a great metaphor for frugal living! Making sure you have the little things in place that make you feel taken care of, while working on the bigger habits that keep you in check financially, is the key to being happy on a low budget.

So today I will share with you my favourite ways to stay warm. These take very little to zero investment, so are suitable for owners and renters alike. Many are common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded or encouraged that we all deserve our own personal oasis of warmth, even in the coldest winter.

1. Wear a Hat

Yep, even indoors. While the old rumour that we lose 90% of our heat through our head might be a little off, it is true that we lose heat through any exposed area of skin. Despite this, except for those who wear a head covering for religious reasons, most of us are likely to leave this area of our bodies open to the air. So, keep your hoodie’s hood on or don a classic knit stocking cap, and you won’t mind a cooler ambient temperature.

2. Layers of Wool

Nearly all year long I practically live in a grey wool hoodie I found at St. Vincent de Paul in Ottawa. On really cold days I layer it over another (also second-hand) wool sweater. And sometimes I wear a shawl over that! It doesn’t take long before I’m peeling off the layers I’ve just put on. Just be careful not to get sweaty or you’ll get chilled, and need to go through the whole cycle again!

3. Drink Tea

You can make a beautiful ritual any time of the day with a special mug, a flavourful tea, and maybe a moment to yourself. You could write in your gratitude journal, and get yourself cozy warm at the same time!

4. Get Moving

See how many jumping jacks it takes to shake a chill. Keep a skipping rope on hand to power up after lunch. Take a brisk walk around the block, and see how much warmer your home feels when you get back inside.

5. Warming Foods and Herbs

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are foods that are considered to be warming or cooling to the body. Warming foods are said to be helpful during times when the body is chilled, and as many are foods we commonly associate with winter cooking, it is easy to make them a conscious part of your winter routine. Some warming foods include: onion, pumpkin, garlic, fresh ginger, coriander, clove, fennel, star anise . . . Sounds like the makings of pumpkin curry and a cup of chai tea to me! For more foods and their warming or cooling properties, visit shen-nong.com.

6. Personal Heat

Right before my due date for my youngest child, I pulled a muscle in my side with a bad cough. I had thought I would have to give up my plan for a home birth, but luckily my midwife suggested a heating pad to smooth my sore muscles. Amazingly it worked, and my son was born at home–in record time too! And a little side benefit is that we still have the heating pad. It is a little piece of luxury on really cold days to sit on the heating pad with a blanket over me on the couch, or to warm up the bed before I get in. I also have and use my hot water bottle, though I don’t recommend sitting on it.

A higher tech version of the heating pad is a mattress heating pad. Check out this article in Mother Earth News for information on that, and other inexpensive ways to cut down on heating costs.

7. Small Space Heaters

I don’t recommend closing off rooms of your house to preserve heat in the busier areas (it can cause condensation which leads to much bigger problems), but I do like to have a space heater for times when we want just a little extra warmth in a room. I really love our little electric wood stove–it was a gift from my lovely mother-in-law. It makes a little romantic fake fire glow, and it takes the chill off the living room when we get up in the morning or come in from outside. I like that the kids know how to turn it on themselves so they can roast their toes for a few minutes before going back to their play. It is a cosy addition to our lives, and plays into my farm-house fantasy.

There you go: my top tips for keeping warm, without a lot of investment. When writing this article I kept thinking about the scene in Frozen where Olaf says, “my own personal flurry!” I think we all need our own personal fireplace, keeping us warm wherever we go. But in lieu of that, I hope you will try some of my tips.

Have I missed any? Let me know your frugal favourite way to stay warm in the comments or in the 52 Weeks of Frugal Living Facebook group! Stay warm everyone!

Links for Week 1: Gratitude and Frugality–52 Weeks of Frugal Living

6 Jan

I’ve received a few nice positive comments from readers saying they got a lot out of my kickoff post. I’m thrilled that you are thinking about how gratitude can give a boost to your frugal living! This week the kids and I are all sick with a little cold and my nerves are somewhat frayed. So let’s just say I needed these reminders this week–maybe more than you!

Here are some links to inspire gratitude this week

Healthy relationships are foundational to a frugal life. This is why my first link is a meditation on using gratitude to heal relationships, from the Frugal Feminista, (contains a link to a gratitude meditation by Deepak Chopra).

This piece on Wise Bread details some ways to give thanks frugally.

Here’s some reinforcement for how gratitude augments a frugal mindset from Coupon Shoebox.

And finally, this nice piece from the Healthy Family Cookin blog has a great picture that just sums it all up.

Gratitude and Frugality: Week 1 of 52 Weeks of Frugal Living

4 Jan Simple abundance

Welcome to the start of my 52 Weeks of Frugal Living series! Thank you for stopping by. If you are new to the blog I hope you will take a look around through the archives. I’ve been writing on here since 2009, and there’s some great stuff from those days when I was a mom to one, working in an office, living in a two-bedroom apartment in downtown Ottawa.

So much has changed since then, but my dedication to frugal living has never been stronger. I am putting some energy into reviving this blog to help me stay focused on building frugal skills, but more importantly to share these skills that I have gained over the last five years with a wider audience. I hope to inspire my readers to reach for the life they truly want.

Simple abundance

Simple abundance

And to get there, I invite you to begin with gratitude. Giving thanks and acknowledging our gifts is the very best foundation for a frugal life–and even a frugal 52 weeks!

We all have so much, but sometimes we forget. We tend to focus on what we lack, when what we really need is to pay close attention to all the things–and people–we already have in our lives. We worry about our lives not being what we want them to be, and we forget to add up all the amazing gifts of the moment.

When we document what we have, we often realize we have more than we thought. How many times before starting my last push of Christmas shopping  have I started listing all the presents I’ve already purchased and remember “Oh yeah! There’s that one–and that one, oh and that thing too . . .” and realize I’ve already bought a ton that I had squirrelled away and forgotten about!

We do this with material things, and also with other gifts in our lives. When we make it a practice to honour what we have, we can start to feel fuller than before. Maybe we don’t need so much more. Maybe what we already have is more abundant than we think.

How to Practice Gratitude

1. Start a Gratitude journal

Books like Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach have been hugely popular for years. I started my gratitude journal last winter after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Closing in on a year of writing down what I’m thankful for, I am almost up to two thousand gifts, penned in small black ink letters. I don’t write every day, but I try to write often. Sometimes I forget for a long time, and I let my dissatisfactions take hold of me, but sitting down to write in my book always takes me out of myself and helps me to feel peaceful.

2. Take a Gratitude walk

Some days my 30 minute walk is the only time I have to myself. Maybe you have a daily drive, or some repetitive housework where you have a moment to think. Try listing the things you are grateful for. I have had walks where I am so taken up in gratitude that it has me grinning at trees and saying a goofy hello to everyone I meet.

3. Gratitude prayer or meditation

Most spiritual traditions have some practice of giving thanks. You can pick a deity that feels comfortable to you–or just praise the universe–and bring awareness to all the wonders you experience today.

4. Saying Thank You

I once got a job because I sent a thank-you card. I think the other candidate was more qualified, but because I said thank you, I stood out as someone my boss wanted in the office. I have also received notes of gratitude that filled my heart to the brim, especially unexpected ones. It can be a lovely practice, especially because it brings joy to another person.

How do you experience gratitude in your life? Leave a comment below or join us on the 52 Weeks of Frugal Living Facebook group!

The photo above was taken in my old apartment in downtown Ottawa when I had only one child and was working in an office. We didn’t have much, and I spent a lot of time then longing for a different life, but this photo captures a sense of gratitude for the simple beauty in my life.

52 Weeks of Frugal Living

1 Jan

It’s a new year! The holidays are winding down. If you’re like me, you’ve probably reflected on 2014 and set some goals for 2015. What do you want to focus on this year?

As I wrote in my last post, my One Word for 2015 is Revive. And like my yogurt culture that was waiting for me to bring it back to life with some feeding and care, there are a couple of other things in my life that are ready for my renewed attention.

One is my set of frugal living skills. We’ve been bobbing along this year, but there is so much we can do to improve our bank account and speed up our journey toward being debt free.

But the other big thing is this blog. This is where I bring these frugal living tools to my readers, and this is where I hope to inspire you to start–and continue–building the life you want, the life that is in tune with your values.

It is in this spirit of self-education and sharing that I am launching my biggest project yet:

52 Weeks of Frugal Living

This is the culmination of five and a half years of studying the art of frugal urban living, including reflections on past experiments, as well as new ambitious undertakings. A new topic every week, covering everything from setting financial goals to frugal hospitality to saving money on groceries.

And as a way of making sure I am really in tune with what my readers want to know, I’ve set up a Facebook group where you can ask questions and brainstorm with like minded folk to make the very best use of these frugal living tools.

It’s all free for now, and accessible right here on frugalurban.ca, so sign up today in the sidebar or down below to make sure you don’t miss a single post. I look forward to meeting you on the Facebook group! (It’s called 52 Weeks of Frugal Living.)

One Word for 2015

30 Dec

imageI’ve written before about how much I love New Year’s. I love the idea of starting fresh, re-focusing on what is important, re-dedicating myself to living my values in every way I can.

Of course, we can always have the grace to begin again every day, every moment, but I also love the energy of the symbolic re-boot of the New Year. It is a holiday that grabs hold of so many of us, inspiring reflections, lists, decisions and resolutions.

Last year, inspired by “One Word” New Years posts around the world, I posted my (no less than) Three words for 2014! They were Grace, Create and Engage. And they worked their magic through my year.

Grace

I was more deliberately forgiving of myself, and continue to work on extending this energy out to those around me. I practiced grace in letting go of others’ mis-steps, and I soaked it in when those closest to me accepted my apologies for days when I was grumpy, or when I said the wrong thing. It has been teaching me how very human we all are, and helped me to see how a lack of grace can hold us back from enjoying good relationships with others–and even with ourselves.

Create

My most exciting creation this summer was my square foot garden, with delicious tomatoes, juicy cucumbers, and surprisingly beautiful flax. I also work every day to create a peaceful home, an atmosphere of love and acceptance, and to create the kinds of nurturing relationships I really want in my life. This word has helped me to be active in choosing the life that I want, that is rich with my values.

Engage

And I still try to Engage with my kids, and with everyone I am with, as much as possible in every moment. It is hard. It is so challenging, I often feel like I am failing. In fact, I do often fail, letting my own work, my interests, my thoughts, take me away from really being present with the one I am with. It is a life’s challenge, one I accept, because the energy of those times when I can engage and really Be there with a friend, my mom, dad, sister, husband, child, those are the moments when I feel I am really making a difference in this world.

This year

Today I nursed my heirloom yogurt culture back to life after I left it in the back of the fridge for almost 3 weeks over Christmas. I got busy, and yogurt making fell to the wayside. It is supposed to be refreshed every week or the culture diminishes, and loses the power to culture a batch of yogurt. I had almost given up hope, but then I reflected on my experiences with sourdough and kombucha, two resilient cultures that can be brought back to life after weeks of dormancy, with just a little bit of regular feeding and some tender care. Could my heirloom yogurt culture be the same?

I decided to try: I took a spoonful of the sad, separated culture from the fridge and made a new batch. It looked okay, and so I made another batch just a day later. And with just two refreshes, my culture is back to its old perky self, making delicious healthy yogurt for me and my family. My culture was resilient; it came back to life in response to my diligence, care and attention. It was there waiting for me all along.

From this experience comes my One Word for 2015: Revive!

Bringing back to life, re-energizing, reinvigorating. That is the energy I am calling on in 2015.

And I have something big planned. Really big. I hope you’ll join me. It’s going to be an amazing year!

What’s your One Word for 2015?

Healing

7 Oct

I have been thinking a lot about healing these days. On one hand, about emotional healing regarding me and my kids, our relationships, and about me as a mother/former child. And on the other hand, physical healing in light of my arteries, which I recently found out are “moderately narrowed” (with “perfect” cholesterol levels, very uncommon for someone my age).

I believe I will heal in both areas, and I am itaking responsibility in each area to improve my emotional and physical health. I am approaching my healing in direct ways that are as basic as possible, not to over-simplify, but to increase my chances of continuing these therapies. Also, I figure it is best to first try the easy things that are recommended so generally as to be almost mundane, before trying more complicated or costly measures.

For the most part, the steps are interconnected, addressing both areas of health. For example, I have started to take an evening walk, which gives me time to pray and invite God to be present with me, and which releases endorphins, all of which help both my physical and emotional health. Meditation is also in this category, as it has been recommended by so many traditions for both emotional and physical well-being. Prayer too has been said to improve health generally.

I am also excited to start trying some other more specific therapies to try to elicit a placebo response in my body. That may seem weird, like saying “I want to believe something false”, but there is nothing false about the healing that people experience through the placebo effect. The body has amazing healing powers, and one’s attitude has a lot of power to either enhance or detract from wellness. I am making the decision to 1) believe that I can heal, and 2) try many things to see what might work.

My doctor told me, “There is nothing you can do. Take a baby aspirin every day, and we will test you again in a year.” Well, I am not going to do nothing. There are so many therapies to try, and a year is a nice long time to test their effectiveness. Here are some of the things I may try (if my health insurance will cover them):
– changing my drinking water. Chlorine and fluoride are toxins, which may compromise my body’s ability to heal. I will see what options are available.
– taking Ginkgo extract. It is recommended for improving circulation, so who knows! – trying Chiropractic or an Osteopath if I hear a good recommendation
– finding some Natto, a high source of vitamin K2 which is supposed to help the body appropriately metabolize calcium so it doesn’t end up in the arteries. – eating more veggies, as just about everyone recommends this! – and as mentioned above, walking and meditation and writing

Most of all, I don’t want to stress myself out, because that would compromise my healing, both emotionally and physically. So I am taking this on as a fun experiment, to see what I can do in a year.

Some differences between School and Homeschool, to help you stop worrying

16 Sep

I recently wrote this on Facebook to a mom who was just starting to homeschool, and worrying about her son’s learning. I thought it might help some other homeschoolers out there, so here it is: A few differences between school and home to help you not worry

– a teacher has 30 or so students; you have way fewer
– a teacher must assess all 30 students, and show that assessment to an outside authority; you don’t need to show assessment to anyone–unless you have a really worried partner, or need to report to a school board
– so your assessment can take many different forms, not just a stack of 30 homework pages
– at school, kids have at least a couple different teachers over the course of the day, they go outside for recess and lunch, under the care of different teachers and supervisors. They have a bus driver or two. And then they come home and “tell you about their day” . And then next year they get another set of teachers.
– conversely, at home, You Are Constant! They are with you all day, including lunch, “recess” and “bus” time. Not only that, but you are constant across their whole Lives! Think of the millions of learning connections you can help them to make simply because you are always there. You can connect the trip you took 2 years ago with the documentary you are watching, with what you had at the restaurant yesterday. This is huge!
– learning outside of school is just so totally and completely different than what is necessary at school. And I just looked mostly at the learning and assessing differences, leaving out the social and disciplinary differences.
– so please take some time and just live and make your lives as fun and lovely as possible, and then maybe start writing down what your child IS learning, and what she DOES like, and see if you can give her more of that :)
– and also keep track of the kinds of things you like doing with them, and how you like teaching, and consider your favourite teaching style along with your kids’ preferred learning style. It is a combination of You, your Kids, and the curriculum, however you define that.

And don’t forget to have fun!!!! It is a great privilege to have the chance to be with them every day

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