Sunday, December 30, 2007

Keeping the heat off & other ways to save money by competing against yourself

The calendar is about to switch into 2008, and I still have not turned on the heat in the apartment this winter!

This has certainly been helped by the fact that Washington DC is warmer than Chicago. (And that since it's an apartment building, I don't have to worry about freezing pipes.) But it has not always been easy. There've been more than a few days when not only blankets, but also sweaters, fuzzy slippers, and tea or hot chocolate have been needed to keep me warm. And getting dressed in the morning is usually a bit uncomfortable.

But it's worth it. It's not so cold that I'm miserable. I kind of like the experience of snuggling up cozily in a quilt that protects me from the chilly air. The coldness in the morning does a good job of getting me out the door, rather than dawdling and being late to work. I like saving money. I like improving my environmental impact. And... I want to see how long I can keep this streak going!

I'm hoping I can go the whole winter. Then maybe two. Someday I'll be telling people "I haven't turned on the heat in years!" Or if I don't make it, I'll certainly remember the date I gave in, and will try to beat that next winter.

Maybe I'm more strangely competitive (with myself!) than others, but this same approach has helped me do better in other ways, too, from bringing my lunch into work to staying on track with exercise. It's harder to give in to a temptation and tell yourself "Well, just this once won't hurt!" when it ends a streak and starts you over again from scratch.

I've done this on my own for awhile, but it reminds me of something I read recently at LifeHacker-- Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret-- which involves marking an X on a calendar every day you reach your goal, and then telling yourself "Don't break the chain!" I typically track my success in my head rather than visually, but I can see the attraction of watching your streak grow before your very eyes.

Sooooo... 1) Do you keep the heat off/low during the winter, and if so, do you have any tips for keeping warm and keeping your hands off the thermostat? 2) Is it only me, or do you also try to motivate yourself through streaks/chains/records you can be proud of and then try to top?


Brooke said...

Of course I set my heat down low!!! My husband complains because he likes to wear a tank top and shorts around the house, but that disgusts me!!! (not my husband wearing those things, but the fact that it's December and he's wearing those things!).

I read the Seinfeld advice and I think I'm going to try it!

bpt said...

We've not gone without heat, by any stretch, but we keep it at 62. I am a big fan of cuddl dud longjohns, as well as WinterSilks and WyomingWear socks. I also find that when I drink tea, I like to use the cup as a handwarmer! My basic observation,which I've never actually seen touted anywhere, is that it's a lot easier and resource efficient to heat yourself rather than the whole dwelling.
Another adored tool in this challenge is an electric mattress pad. When you say you haven't turned on the heat, does that include other heating devices like room heaters et al? Kudos to ya!
I have a lot of suggestions at my post

sheri said...

I try to keep my heat as low as possible, but I have to admit that I am a real wimp when it comes to cold. I do wear lots of layers and wrap up in blankets, but I am usually still cold (even though I live in the South!), so I do occasionally bump up the heat or drag out an extra space heater. I do much better keeping the A/C off in the summer!

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april said...

I have a friend who lives in the South who hasn't turned his heat on in several years. I was suppose to visit for several weeks but kept putting it off during the colder months because of it. Well, I just returned for my month long visit without the heat and it wasn't so bad. There were at least 10 days that dipped into the low 30's while I was there. My friend does use a space heater in the bedroom and spends most of the time in there (and this person works from home). The space heater only comes on sporadically to break the chill by warming up the room quickly, before bed, upon waking or during a shower. My friend dresses appropriately for the season and the level of coldness in the house--my friend wears a sweatshirt and puts on shoes to go into the kitchen, for example. I have to admit that once I got used to it (the first week, I was miserable and felt like I was going to freeze to death), it was kind of fun. It was exciting to know the heat bill was nonexistent and my body adjusted. By the last few weeks, I could actually hang out in the cold kitchen for over an hour without problem and was actually at times too warm with the space heater on. And also this seems to be primarily a frugality and possibly an environmentally friendly thing, having your body working in a colder temperature does keep you more active which could lead to productivity and maybe some extra calorie loss (after the initiation phase of being too cold and less productive, of course). I live in the Northeast so I would consider a lower temp but probably not all the way off. I currently have it on 68 and I have been too warm since returning home.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I couldn't do it (and it wouldn't be practical in Denver where we've hit 0 the last couple nights). I did blog about my plans for keeping warm this winter and followed up with how it's going; although this site won't let me link to my posts, they're up there, with a few comments. I *love* my electric blanket (cheaper than a space heater to use), and I got some new warm slippers for Christmas that I hope will keep the blood flowing to my feet. Good luck on your personal challenge!

donn jean said...

I keep our heat down low and wear plenty of layers -- fleece tights, wool pants, 2-3 tops, wool socks, shoes, and on the really chilly days, a hat or head scarf indoors. If I'm sitting around on the computer, I get cold -- so I just get up and start doing something more productive.

We had it off several weeks into winter but finally turned it on when a serious cold spell hit. At night, I put it down to 52 or so (any higher and I get too hot to sleep - we've got 4 blankets on the bed) and the daytime it gets set up to 58.

So we don't go without, but make do with as little as we can.