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Urban street in winterOne of the biggest challenges facing unemployed people (or anyone else who spends long periods of time at home) is the question of how to survive the winter. Do you freeze virtuously or switch the heating on and hang the consequences?  Unfortunately virtuous freezing carries its own risks – burst pipes and ill-health being the most obvious.

As my Social Science (OU DD100) tutor once observed, one of the most effective ways of improving the nation’s health would be to allow doctors to prescribe loft insulation and central heating. It would also help to reduce poverty and improve the quality of people’s lives – especially the elderly. Unfortunately, there are more votes in building new hospitals than improving housing stock. But I digress.

Fridge thermometer showing outside temperatureLast winter was a bit of a no-brainer. The temperature was so low that you had to have some heating on, usually on a 24-hour basis. With another unusually cold winter forecast, I thought that it was probably time to share some of my experiences.

Having been made redundant, I have a small pot of money to draw on and, although there is a natural temptation to hang onto it at all costs, I feel that some carefully targeted expenditure can be justified.

Obviously, everyone’s circumstances are different, these are some of the things that worked for me, but I’m open to further suggestions.


Search out the best fuel deal. (At least you’ve got plenty of time to do the research).
 2 Put thermostats on individual radiators. (This is definitely worth doing in terms of both fuel saving and comfort.)


Snuggle up with a duvet on the sofa. 


Boil a kettle in the morning and put hot water in a flask for use in drinks throughout the day.


See what your local outdoor shop has to offer. (My best bargains last year were thermal fingerless gloves (á la market trader) and hill walking trousers (hill walking optional)).


Spend time in the local shopping centre. (But only cost effective if you don’t buy anything).


Ditto B&Q.


Sit in a library (if the Council hasn’t closed it).


Visit museums. If  you’re lucky enough to live in a town which has free museums,  you’re on to a winner as they invariably have both heating AND interesting things to see.


Get a voluntary job of which more, anon.