Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I have a very low tolerance for cold. I'm the kind of person who gets cold in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. And I'm like that kid in A Christmas Story. Randy? "I can't put my arms down!" I'm 5'2, so bundling up means I usually can't move. And I can't stand cold toilet seats. Is that TMI? And images of hell always being red and fiery? I don't buy it. I think hell, if you get into that sort of imagery, should be depicted as a cold, blue freezer.

The one drawback of our beautiful, 1850s farmhouse is that it's a beast to heat. And we heat with oil. Yikes, right? (The good thing is it stays pretty cool in the summer). And the other good thing is that these awesome cast iron radiators (when they're heated) hold heat really well.

We have natural gas in our townhouse and our heating bills were SO CHEAP, so moving here has been a big adjustment that way. We knew it would be, but since we couldn't run our clinic in our townhouse garage (the HOA frowns on that), it's a good move for us just the same.

Electric's going up in a year, so we're taking advantage of it being cheaper this year and using energy-efficient space heaters in one or two rooms and pretty much making ourselves stay in those rooms. Thankfully our clinic and bedrooms are electric heat which means we don't have to heat the whole house to be warm at night. In fact, we let the house get pretty cold at night, but our rooms stay nice and warm. I'm very, very happy about that.

Oh, and we're all about electric blankets. One of my favorite things each night is to climb into our preheated beds. Soooooooooooo cozy!

We're in the middle of caulking (anyone else think that's a funny word?) windows and weather stripping doors and even replacing one window (it's the only one the previous owners didn't replace and since it has a big, old crack in it, it's got to get replaced--we can feel the outside wind when we walk by it). We're even getting some fabric/material and compression rods to put in some of our doorways to help hold in heat. If anyone has any ideas on how to not make that look totally tacky, we'd appreciate it. We keep doors closed, too. We have A LOT of doors in our house. We're bleeding the radiators and have turned off several of them so as to not heat rooms we don't really use a lot. We haven't yet turned on our heat. As I type this, I'm wearing a scarf and socks and long johns and our house is at about 58 degrees. Brrrrrr.

Eventually we'll turn on the heat, but for now, we're counting on how it's supposed to heat up a bit more this week (low 60s), so why start now? (We do the same with our window A/C units in the summer). Mark and the kids seem fine. I'm the one who's always freezing.

We keep hoping oil prices will keep dropping so we can store up for the winter. We have some, but we haven't filled up totally for winter yet. This past year, we had a guy come in and give us a free estimate for what it would cost to convert to natural gas heating. Since we have no duct work, it involves a lot of work. I read online that it's not as expensive as you would think and that it's worth looking into. Well, the estimate was $15,000. Yeah, that's WAY more expensive that I was thinking, so that's out.

Sucky thing about the economy being so awful . . . you talk yourself OUT of buying stuff you were planning to buy. For us, that's a wood stove. I really don't have a lot of wants, but I do want a wood stove. We know exactly where we're putting it. And the cost of the stove isn't so bad, it's the hearth and the pipe thing that goes up and over the roof that make it add up. I love the smell of a wood stove. And it's so warm and cozy. And bonus, when you lose electricity, you can keep heating your house (and cooking, if needs be!). This past year, we had a couple of ice storms that knocked out power for most of the day. We kept warm at our friends' house up the street huddled by their fireplace. We have no back up heat source when we lose power, so that's how the idea of the wood stove began to form.

We were considering getting the wood stove (with blower) this year, but we've decided to hold of and watch how things are economy-wise first. Plus, I just did the math the other day and figured out that by paying the minimum (we hope to be paying more than the minimum eventually), we're poised to finish paying off our student loans when we're 64. That's right, one year before retirement age. Cheerful that, isn't it? (Thankfully, though, since we've recently switched to a 15-year mortgage on our farmhouse and since, during residency, we've paid extra on our townhouse mortgage when we've been able to, our mortgages will be paid off before we're 50, so that oughta expedite the whole student loan thing (which is, essentially, another mortgage). But I digress. We're talking about heat).

So, two questions:

1. What were you thinking of buying that you have now decided NOT to get because of the economy? (We've told the kids that even Santa is dealing with a recession-though we ARE celebrating Christmas big time joy-wise given that this past year was a strange and difficult Christmas dealing with my Dad's death).

2. What kinds of things do you do to save on heat in the winter?

And one more thing--I've read and heard conflicting thoughts on whether it's cheaper to keep your house at one constant temperature or if it's cheaper to let it get cold at night and heat it up during the day. Anyone know for sure?

Updated to add: By the time I finished writing this, I couldn't feel my fingers and my nose was like a mini ice cube. It's too cold to not have heat on, so we've turned it on. Wimps.


emily said...

yikes, I hope your clinic rooms are warm, no fun to stick needles in somebody when you can't feel your fingers! I wish I had some ideas, but we rarely have to use our heater in the winter, being in a condo on the second story. we get heat from all sides (except for poor noah, his room has 2 outside walls and his room gets freezing 'cause our heater never turns on).

emily said...

My aunt and uncle have a wood burning stove and their house was also SO HOT. I loved the thought of it, but once that thing gets going it just kept the heat for hours (days, it seemed like). you'd probably love it!

emily said...

I haven't not bought anything because of the economy. We were short on cash before it went bad, so I'm used to (trying) to be frugal. I guess we eat out less, but that's about it.

Boquinha said...

Yeah, the clinic is soooooo toasty and nice--it's the warmest part of the house so once a week, I'm nice and warm. :P

Yeah, we're eating out less. I'm guessing that's a big one for people.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

I feel your pain (literally!)
Even though I live in the South, it gets plenty cold here in GA. Last night was our first freeze (very early for that to happen here). I hate being cold too.

btw - I did hear on the national news that heating oil prices are going down, as gas is going down, so you may want to call around and see if you can get locked in on a price now before it starts to cycle back up.

Anyway, as far as the economic downturn, YES, we have made some adjustments. Certain things that (a year ago) I would have said we "needed" I have now re-categorized as "wants". I'm also being a much more savvy shopper. Christmas will be MUCH more frugal this year.

When I feel the urge for "retail therapy", I either go shopping at a consignment shop, or even Goodwill. And, candidly, I rarely go shopping for myself anymore.

And as far as being warm, for ME, a hot bath followed by my UN-sexy flannel robe and slippers goes a long way. (And a glass of red wine helps too.) :-)

Really, it's all about being creative.

My cousin has raised (and is still raising!) EIGHT kids on 1 modest income - it CAN be done. You just have to be smart with what you have.

We are all blessed to be Americans and soon - SOON!!! - our country will be back on the right track. I am VERY optimistic about the future!

Boquinha said...

HWHL, I love your optimism! And I hear you on the hot bath--that does wonders. Or a hot shower. Either way.

Your first freeze and it's early! Wow! We've lived in Arizona--you'd think I would LOVE living in an area that's hot all the time. I love that it's not too cold, but I do like seasons. Something about it is good for the soul. Plus, in AZ, everyone's always cranking their A/C, so really, you're usually freezing! Used to drive me crazy.

You're so right--I totally know we're fine but it is good to know we're not alone and it's so nice to share ideas and commiseration. :P And I know you know how it is to have your own business, too. It can take a while to get going (we've heard that 2 years is the rule of thumb though some people say as much 5!). We've passed our one year and we're loving it. We wouldn't trade this, no way, no how. We love it.

Another thing for me is that after living in West Africa, I hardly can even bring myself to use the word "need" anymore. Not even in jest. Of course, I wasn't ever cold there . . .

Jill O said...

Oh man, I too hate being cold. I am freezing from November to March. (however, November is 3 days away and I am writing this with my windows wide open and my three year old out playing in the water. It's 74 degrees out there, gotta love Utah!)
Santa is bringing all of us brand new slippers. I find that if my house is cold, slippers totally make a difference. It's tough with Lucy because she is so small. I feel bad for her crawling around on a cold floor, but what can you do?
We keep our furnace at 60 during the night and 68 during the day. 68is NOT warm when there is a raging blizzard outside, but it is do-able. My guests usually complain so I keep a basket of blankets right next to my couch. We also have a wood burning fireplace we like to use, however the Salt Lake Valley gets rotten inversions and they won't always let you burn. The inversion keeps the temperature way down so you are expecially freezing when that happens. Again, gotta love Utah!
As for cutting back, we eat out a lot less too. Kinda sad because I love to eat out. I also have been shopping at thrift stores for cloths and things. This is not such a sacrifice because I love to get in there and dig around for some great finds. Simpler meals is another big one, and less treats. Oh, and I made the goal to cook most of my food from scratch. You would be surprised how cheap things can be if you make it all from nothing.
YOu could be like the pioneers and take up quilting. Then you can drape the quilt you are working on those freezing cold nights. Two birds with one stone!

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

That's a good suggestion.
Back when I was making the "big bucks", we ate out ALL the time. We don't eat out much anymore (and when we do - believe me - it's nothing fancy!

Also - if you guys have Aldi near you - you can save a ton on groceries there. As long as you can get past the fact that everything there is a "no name" brand, it's really a good deal. (My husband is a little bit of a "brand name snob", but I could care less.... as long as it tastes the same and it's good quality, I'm fine.) And it really truly is about 30% - 40% less! :-)

D'Arcy said...

I grew up in an old house that I froze in most of the time. My parents had a wood burning stove in the main room, they would keep the fire lit until we were all under the covers and once you got those covers warm, you didn't get out until you had to.

My parents STILL don't turn on their heat, they use little space heaters, but most of my life has been spent being cold in winter. I know it sounds cruel, but they have a huge house that would just cost TOO much.

Now I am the same way, I have a small house and I don't turn up the heat and everyone that comes over Ijust hand a big quilt too. I am paying the bills now, so wear that sweater. (although I whimped out yesterday and turned it up to 74)

As for what I am NOT buying...Christmas gifts for anyone, they are just going to have to feel my love. A new coat that I need and cutting down on going out to eat (a big vice of single people!)

jaredski said...

We've always lived like there was a recession on, so we're not really changing anything. Except that this year I finally got a raise that was bigger than the rise in cost of living, so if anything our Christmas will be better than usual.

My method of keeping heating bills down is to turn the heat down to 68 every time my wife tries to turn it up. It's an ongoing battle that she mostly wins because she's home more often.

Boquinha said...

Again, Jill, go figure! ;) I feel similarly about November to March, April, May! Sounds like you're having glorious weather!! I love when it's 70s for Halloween. It was like that this past year. This year? 50s! So you guys turn down your heat at night, too. That's what we do. Some people say it takes more energy to heat it up again the next morning than it does to keep it constant, but I'm not sure I buy that. We use programmable thermostats, too. Oh, I remember inversions in Provo! YUCK! It's so oppressive, too. And hey, we love to eat out, too!! (Listen, if you'd ever like to get away for a weekend or so, feel free to come here! We're happy to host and I'd love to introduce you to a whole slew of restaurants!). I think we'd have a blast. :)

HWHL, thanks for the Aldi tip. You know, we do have one and haven't ever been in it (yet). We do shop at our local Amish grocery stores and we get INCREDIBLE deals there. You have to be careful and look at expiration dates, etc., but you can get good stuff. We're so trying Aldi--thanks for the reminder! We've been meaning to get over there.

D'Arcy, I wimp out now and then, too. I am wearing more layers these days, though. (I am not a fan! I'm a t-shirts, lounge pants, and sandals kind of girl). But I dislike wasting money, so I'm wearing layers. Cut out the Christmas gifts and eating out, but get yourself a coat!!

Yeah, Jared, we kind of do, too. Your battles sound like my childhood battles with my parents.

Lena said...

We keep our house pretty comfortable all the time for Great Grandma's sake. I would just LOVE a woodburning stove too!

We didn't take a trip to Utah this year because of crazy gas prices but I doubt we could have made it even with the wonder $2.19 per gallon we got today. It's so hard to be patient but my husband is a recent grad and just got his first year of experience in his field so we still feel blessed that we are on the right track. I didn't order anything for Super Saturday this year because we just can't nickle and dime away for cutsey crafts that no one really wants anyway, lol. I think we eat out less as well.

Boquinha said...

Lena, have I ever told you how great I think it is that you guys have your Grandma living with you? I'm sure it's not always easy, but what a wonderful thing for your family memories, too.

For what it's worth, I have an online colleague who said his family took a 2,000 mile road trip vacation several months ago despite the increased gas prices. He says that they did the math and it ended up costing them about $100 more than they figured it would have when they planned the trip a year beforehand (when prices were lower). When he put it in those terms, road tripping didn't seem so bad! But, wow, $2,19! The low here is $2.45--wow! And you guys ARE on the right track. We know how that goes--starting out and all. Boy do we hear you. And I LOVE your line about Super Saturday. That's hilarious.

terahreu said...

Oh sooooo familiar! We used to pay at least 500 a month just on oil in DE. That is when it was cheap! We finally gave in and bought new windows but never really got to see how it helped as we moved soon after the windows were installed. It is not fun! I don't think we could have afforded another winter with the gas prices the way they are. We used to close off various rooms in the house, which did help a lot.

I grew up with a wood stove and that thing can crank out the heat! It was benefical and maybe most economical.

As for what we are sacrificing...hum...we were going to buy a house in Utah to rent. Not as easy these days since we are currently working for AIG.

Boquinha said...

Yep, Terah. Sounds familiar is right! I have to admit that the housing mess has helped us HAVE a townhouse to rent. I'm really kind of happy we weren't able to sell it. Besides being sentimentally attached, it's nice to have rental income and I think real estate is good investment. And it helps since we cashed out our meager retirement savings (as much as we could w/out penalty anyway) to start our business, so having the townhouse feels like retirment investment as well.

Swawaeve said...

I always feel the same way through the winter.(meaning that sweatshirts and longjons are almost always on, and every now and then I wear gloves when I'm just around the house because my hands are freezing) Plus atleast last year anyways when the boys and I would visit you during the winter (also cause we would walk to your house to visit) we would all be saying "Stacy's house is always warm" over and over again till we got inside. Brrr. :P

Boquinha said...

LOL, thanks, Sierra. That's so funny that you think that. It probably seems that way compared to outside. When my mom visits in the winter, she says it's cold!

arinandevasmom said...

You and I agree on hell being a cold-weather location! I hate cold weather too! I grew up in an old farm house - my mom and dad still live there. And I refuse to spend the night during the winter because not only is the toilet seat cold, but so is the shower!

On saving energy during the winter. We purchased a woodstove in DC, but then found out how expensive it would be to install (we got bad info from the salesman) and ended up returning it. But, I do love wood heat and it would save you a bundle. We also close off all the rooms we don't have to use and we use heavy insulated curtains over our windows. We turn the heat off at night, if we can. Someday, we will build our own fuel-efficient house!

Paul lost his job last month, so we've cut back on a lot of things. We bike or walk as much as possible. We haven't bought school pictures or books in the book fair. Basically, we are talking the essntials of food, gas, and electricity/phone/house pmts.

Also, was wondering if I could use one of your quotes on my blog? The one about not being able to use the word "need" anymore? I love it. I'll give you proper attribution!

Boquinha said...

Tess, I'm so glad to know you drop by now and then!! I've been following yours, too, and even have a post up on which to comment (your recent one about the Candy Fairy). And yes, you may use my quote (I'm not sure what it is but you may use it!).

I'm so sorry to hear about Paul's job. I didn't know. That must be extra stressful when you have even more cute, little mouths to feed. Congratulations on the beautiful baby. :) I hope more good things turn up soon.