MISS MONEYSAVER: The savviest gadgets for staying warm this winter

For those, like me, who are still reluctant to turn on the heating, I have spent this week investigating alternative ways to keep toasty.

It’s a challenge if you are at home during the day. Some of my colleagues swear by The Oodie, which is like a jumper crossed with a blanket (and currently on sale at theoodie.co.uk with £30 off adult sizes).

Or you could go the full Michelin Man and treat yourself to a Selk’bag, a sleeping bag you can wear which has arms, legs and a hood. It’ll keep you warm, even on the coldest of days, and costs £59.99 (selkbag.co.uk).

Vicky, my head of content at MoneyMagpie.com, says she regularly uses products from Selkistore (selkistore.com) which specializes in heat pads you can wear. The SelkiBelt heat pad (£33.99) is designed to relieve pain and discomfort for those with conditions such as endometriosis and Crohn’s. But it’s also perfect for keeping you warm if you’re sitting at a desk all day or working outside. Filled with linseeds with an outer linen casing, you simply heat it up in the microwave, costing pennies at a time, and then tie it around your waist. There’s also a shoulder pad you can wear around your neck, similarly £33.99.

For those, like me, who are still reluctant to turn on the heating, I have spent this week investigating alternative ways to keep toasty.

For those, like me, who are still reluctant to turn on the heating, I have spent this week investigating alternative ways to keep toasty.

Some of my colleagues swear by The Oodie, which is like a jumper crossed with a blanket (and currently on sale at theoodie.co.uk with £30 off adult sizes)

Some of my colleagues swear by The Oodie, which is like a jumper crossed with a blanket (and currently on sale at theoodie.co.uk with £30 off adult sizes)

A cheaper option is a heating pad from Amazon (amazon.co.uk) which is £15.34. Vicky sits on one of these when she’s working.

Bright ideas for Christmas sparkle

I’ve been investigating which Christmas lights are the cheapest to run, not just to buy.

Paula Boston, from Festive-Lights.com says: ‘Modern Christmas lights use LEDs rather than filament bulbs. Plus, they tend to use relatively little electricity.’ She says an outdoor display of LED lights, left on for an average of six hours per night, costs 8p per month.

David Wilson of David Wilson Homes suggests using solar lights which are powered by sunlight during the day and then shine at night. You can get a string of mini solar-powered lights for £2.69 on eBay. He also suggests considering battery-operated lights as you will know you have already paid for the energy. Amazon has a lot of battery-powered Christmas lights on sale for £8.99 upwards.

You don’t have to break the bank to buy indoor Christmas lights. Dunelm has 200 LED lights for £10 (dunelm.com) with an advertised running cost of 2p per hour (calculated on October’s 2022 electricity rate of 34p per kWh). Whitestores (whitestores.co.uk) are selling 750 LED lights for £25.99 which they say cost 0.02pa day to run.

Another way to control your spending on lights is to add a plug-in timer.

Argos sells plug-in timers for £12.99 for a pack of three.

‘It does run on electricity,’ she says ‘but uses very little. It gets very warm and with that it raises your entire body temperature so you’re snug.’

A more upmarket version is the ‘Big Hug’ by Stoov (stoov.com/products/big-hug-grey) which retails for £139.99.

Her final touch is the small recycled wool rug on her lap which she says is wonderfully warming. Her mother-in-law bought it for her from the National Trust for £20. And she also has a pure wool blanket from La Redoute that she sometimes puts around her shoulders (laredoute.co.uk) which is also a very reasonable £14.

Wearing sheepskin indoors is a guaranteed way to keep your feet snug. Ten years ago I invested in some sheepskin house boots from Celtic & Co. Although pricey at £155 (celticandco.com), they do last a long time.

For a cheaper alternative which offers immediate warmth go for Lakeland’s microwaveable slippers. They’re £14.99. I know someone who wears them to keep warm when they sell their pottery at a local outdoor market.

When the nights turn chilly there are two tribes: those who love hot-water bottles and those who swear by electric blankets. I grew up with an electric blanket on my bed, but as an adult I’ve transferred my affection to hot-water bottles. I think that a nice hot-water bottle, encased in a woolly cover, is one of the most comforting things you can have on a winter’s evening.

They come in all shapes, sizes and colors but I’m quite happy with a cheapo High Street version like the basic Wilko one with cover for just £6.50 (wilko.com)

I have recently been introduced to the long thin hot-water bottles for snuggling up to on the sofa. They’re a little more expensive than ordinary hotties. Dunelm sell a cozy ‘teddy bear’ one in charcoal for £14 (dunelm.com) That’s not to say I’m anti-electric blankets. I’m not. But just not for bedtime. Instead, I love the new generation of heated blankets and throws which you can plug into the wall and use when you are watching TV.

Lakeland tell me that they’re so popular at the moment that they’ve temporarily run out of their own-brand version (prices start at £79.99).

Beurer also do a good range of heated throws from £69.99, which you can buy from Lakeland, Dunelm and Amazon, and The Range does an even cheaper one for £44.99 (therange.co.uk), although it also says that they are fast selling out.

Treat yourself to a candlelit concert… at a cut-down price

I’ve been investigating which Christmas lights are the cheapest to run, not just to buy.

Paula Boston, from Festive-Lights.com says: ‘Modern Christmas lights use LEDs rather than filament bulbs. Plus, they tend to use relatively little electricity.’ She says an outdoor display of LED lights, left on for an average of six hours per night, costs 8p per month.

David Wilson of David Wilson Homes suggests using solar lights which are powered by sunlight during the day and then shine at night. You can get a string of mini solar-powered lights for £2.69 on eBay. He also suggests considering battery-operated lights as you will know you have already paid for the energy. Amazon has a lot of battery-powered Christmas lights on sale for £8.99 upwards.

You don’t have to break the bank to buy indoor Christmas lights. Dunelm has 200 LED lights for £10 (dunelm.com) with an advertised running cost of 2p per hour (calculated on October’s 2022 electricity rate of 34p per kWh). Whitestores (whitestores.co.uk) are selling 750 LED lights for £25.99 which they say cost 0.02pa day to run.

Another way to control your spending on lights is to add a plug-in timer.

Argos sells plug-in timers for £12.99 for a pack of three.

Traditional electric blankets that you put on top of your mattress, under the sheet, are flying off the shelves, too. The advantage of these is that you can do what my mum used to do — put it on for an hour before she got into bed so that it was all warm and toasty as she got in. The makers of the Silentnight electric blanket say their Comfort Control blanket (from £22 at groceries.asda.com) only costs 1p to heat up for two hours before you get into bed.

If you like to have extra warmth through the night, Ava Kelly of Love Energy Savings says: ‘Using an electric blanket to keep warm at night could save you money on heating. Running an electric blanket costs less than 50p per night, based on an eight-hour sleep. Central heating can cost £1.20 per hour.’

But you don’t necessarily need to spend any money on electricity to have a warm bed. Luxury homeware brand Tielle insists that its hotel-grade mattress-toppers keep sleepers extra warm. These are not cheap, though — the feather-stuffed ones start at £182 (tielleloveluxury.co.uk/collections/toppers) — but they are luxurious. Pair one of these with the Aldi weighted blanket (£24.99 for 4.5kg or 7kg) and you can’t help but be warm, with no extra electricity needed. My friend, Emma, ​​has long been a devotee of a weighted blanket.

She says they keep her calm as well as warm.

Another way to get warmth without electricity is to use a heat-reflective bed sheet underlay (£19.99 at coopersofstortford.co.uk/) This was developed by Nasa to help astronauts combat freezing conditions in space. It stops heat escaping through your mattress, and its soft foam underlay helps to insulate the bed, too. Add another thing I grew up with, brushed cotton sheets, (from £15 at M&S) and you won’t want to get out of bed in the morning!

Dunelm’s Teddy Bear range of linen is also popular for offering an added level of warmth. Rachel, our researcher, has a daughter in drafty student uni digs so she’s bought her Teddy Bear throws (starting at £10 dunelm.com) to help keep her cosy.

Easy tricks to boost your pension

As I know from a number of pensioner friends, the rising cost of living is making life much harder.

So it’s more vital than ever to ensure you get all the benefits and help you’re entitled to. If you’re on a low income you may be entitled to Pension Credit. It’s made up of two parts: Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit and no tax is payable on either. Check how to claim for this at gov.uk/pension-credit.

The Winter Fuel Payment is even more important as bills go up. Those born on or before September 25, 1956 qualify for it. Check gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment for eligibility criteria. If you qualify for Pension Credit or certain other benefits, you could also be entitled to Cold Weather Payments.

You can find out more at gov.uk/cold-weather-payment.

Some over-65s don’t realize that they’re eligible for Attendance Allowance. This is a weekly payment from the government for those who need help with personal care because of an illness or disability to qualify.

The Winter Fuel Payment is even more important as bills go up.  Those born on or before September 25, 1956 qualify for it

The Winter Fuel Payment is even more important as bills go up. Those born on or before September 25, 1956 qualify for it

It’s only for those who’ve reached state pension age.

Call the Attendance Allowance helpline on 0800 731 0122 (textphone: 0800 731 0317) to get a form or download it from gov.uk/ government/publications/ attendance-allowance-claim-form.

As we move homes over the years, and change jobs, it’s easy to forget about old company pensions we paid into. You can trace old pensions on the Government’s Pensions Tracing website gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details

You can get a lot of help from AgeUK (ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/) which has a free online benefits booklet or call 0800 055 6112. Citizens’ Advice also has information on getting help citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits / as does Independent Age independent age.org/information/money.

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