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What’s Your “Selectively Hardcore”? The Non-Financial Benefits of Strict, Strategic Frugality

Right now, as I type this to you, I have to stop every few minutes to blow some warm air on my fingers. It’s not quite full winter here in Tahoe yet, but it’s definitely cold enough that we’re having to run the heat to keep our house at a bracing 55 degrees.

It’s cold enough that the dish soap won’t flow, but not so cold that we start shivering. (Most of the time.) And my icicle hands and feet will keep me up all night if I don’t take a hot water bottle to bed.

Frozen dish soap from keeping our house so cold // Our Next Life

Solid dish soap

The money we save keeping our house this cold — $250ish/month x 6 cold months = $1500ish a year — is no small sum, but has saving that money actually made a material difference in how quickly we’ve been able to reach financial independence or save for early retirement? No. (Though might equivalent savings in the future, when we have less margin for error in early retirement, make a difference in whether we stay within our yearly budget? Absolutely.)

Bundled up indoors in our cold house // Our Next Life

A (slight) exaggeration

The early motivation to experiment with how cold we could stand to keep it indoors stemmed from the shock of receiving that first ridiculous natural gas bill after we moved to Tahoe, and our environmental leanings for sure helped bolster our resolve in those early days of keeping it cold. (Saving money and fossil fuels = obviously good.) A commentary piece by the thoughtful writer Ken Ilgunas made us feel a little righteous for keeping the habit going, and then blogging about it here made it a thing. (And then MONEY doubled down on that.)

That’s even though I’m over here twice a week shouting to everyone who will listen about the value of radical moderation rather than doing things in the extreme. Posting pictures from Hamilton and of bringing home expensive pizza as my carryon luggage to prove the point.

But chances are good that when I write all that stuff about not making yourself miserable through your frugality (or cheapness), I’m writing it bundled up, from a room only a little too warm to see my breath.

Why? 

Because I think it’s important to do one thing consistently that tests you.

What's Your "Selectively Hardcore"? The Non-Financial Benefits of Strict, Strategic Frugality

A few weeks ago, I chatted with Brad and Jonathan on the ChooseFI podcast, and in their follow-up show, Jonathan described our cold house quirk and other equivalent choices as “selectively hardcore.”

I love that way of describing it. Because we are for sure not hardcore all around. We still sometimes make purchasing decisions based on convenience. We pay $4 for Vudu movies rather than the $.85 we could pay for Redbox (but which would probably turn into $4 anyway when we forgot to return it the next day). We do some of our shopping at Whole Foods when we could certainly do all of it at cheaper stores. And those are not the big ticket expenses. Let’s talk about the three trips we just booked… 

But as always, how we approach money — how we approach life — isn’t black or white. It isn’t all or nothing, or at least it shouldn’t be. Whether we have more money than time or more time than money, it’s still up to each of us to decide what feels worth our limited resources, and what doesn’t. That’s all Moderation 101.

But I want to make the case for having one thing that you do more or less all the time that feels just a little bit crazy, and that’s significantly outside of your comfort zone (even though the rest of the time I’m arguing that you don’t always need to get out of it). Maybe it’s literally outside your comfort zone like our cold house (we’d both be a lot more comfortable at 65 degrees), or maybe it’s figurative. But either way, having something that consistently tests you and your principles has a bunch of benefits that go way beyond the financial ones.

Tiny dogs crammed around a heat vent // Our Next Life

The dogs are small enough that they can almost fit into the heat vent.

The Benefits of Doing One Strict, Selectively Hardcore Thing

Could we afford to turn the heat up? Sure. And will I be sad in retirement if we have time to cut down firewood ourselves and burn the fire enough to get the house above 60 consistently? Nope. But I also wouldn’t trade the lessons that have come from sticking with this questionable idea.

Here are just a few of the things that keeping our house cold has taught us:

We’re stronger than we think. I used to shiver below 70, and felt physical pain from the cold below 60. But I adjusted, and learned that I can adjust to a lot of things.

Pain is temporary. The hardest part is each autumn when we transition our bodies from being used to the warm to being used to the cold. By the time real winter arrives, we’re acclimated and it’s surprisingly easy. (Except when getting out of the shower. That stays rough. But that, too, is temporary.)

It’s always possible to learn new things or embrace new experiences. We moved from LA and were pretty sure we were only ever going to be comfortable between 75 and 82 degrees, under sunny skies. We were wrong.

Comfort is a privilege. Being cold reminds us that many people are too cold or too hot for much of their lives. Climate control is a massive privilege, but it’s so easy for forget that. Keeping our house cold keeps us grounded in that reality.

Gratitude is something you can feel. When we go somewhere warmer than our house, the heat feels like a big, enveloping hug. It’s a glorious feeling, one we relish, and almost every time, I feel a big wave of gratitude for the warmth. And given that it’s grateful people who are happy, not the other way around, that visceral reminder to appreciate all the ways we’re so fortunate is always a good thing.

What began as a knee-jerk financial reaction has turned into this wise teacher, teaching us about life, ourselves and not really about money at all. But we wouldn’t have learned these lessons — and certainly not felt them in our bones — if we hadn’t stuck with this stubborn idea consistently every single winter.

Our choice of being selectively hardcore about our heat has taught us one set of lessons — and will certainly keep teaching us more and more — but any selectively hardcore choice you make comes with its own set of reminders and life lessons.

Don’t miss out on the chance to learn whatever lessons are waiting out there for you.

What’s Your “Selectively Hardcore”?

If anyone’s jumping up and down shouting “Cold house over here too!” you know I’d love to hear from you. Proclaim it in the comments! And for all of you more reasonable folks out there, what’s your selectively hardcore… or your idea of what you might make into your selectively hardcore? Any trial and error on selectively hardcore choices that didn’t stick, especially if there’s comedy value? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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105 replies »

  1. We used to keep our house at 58, but last year we chose to bump it up to 62 to help keep our house plants alive! We are hardcore about home improvements (which don’t happen every day) and in-source all the work. We’d rather learn how to do something than pay someone.
    We also are pretty hardcore in the summer about grocery shopping. I have doubled my garden every year and plan to continue the trend next year! In the summer, we eat what the garden produces. And we are still figuring out the right number of tomato plants! Fifteen is too many, we were drowning in tomatoes this year. Last week, when I finally had to buy non-root vegetables from the grocery store I rediscovered by love for broccoli. Eight broccoli plants isn’t enough! Yeah, we could go to the store, and buy whatever veggies we want, but we try to limit that! Our grocery bills were $110/month all summer, which was awesome. And we got plenty of variety from the garden, we just had to eat a little more seasonally.

    • I’m in awe of your gardening skills! I planted a garden last year but it was a little too late in the season and all of my plants died. They couldn’t take the Florida heat. I’ll probably try again next year.

      • I would be a terrible gardener in Florida! Michigan is nice and temperate with maybe a slightly short summer! Each year I improve, year one the weeds won almost every battle, we basically only got spinach.

        • Also probably fewer evil bugs in Michigan! Seems like everything south of the Mason Dixon line just has an endless onslaught of bugs, slugs and everything else that wants to chomp your garden! ;-)

      • It’s interesting learning what thrives where. I tried to grow lettuce in LA and it bolted almost instantly. But the tomatoes LOVED it. Sadly, now our growing season is so short, and the pests so prevalent, that we can’t grow much.

    • Have you tried canning? When we lived up north, I had a huge garden. 26 tomato plants, 100+ green beans, 15 pepper plants, lettuce, cucumbers, etc. We ate the tomatoes fresh and also used them to can diced tomatoes, tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, spiced tomato juice for chili and fancy ketchup for meatloaf. All made from scratch. Just research the types of tomatoes that are best for what you want to can – it’s very easy!

    • Oh yeah, the house plants HATE the cold. That is for sure true. ;-) And oh my gosh, I’m soooo envious of your tomatoes! I’d can the heck out of ’em and live on them all year! (A pressure canner is a big upfront investment, but with that many tomatoes, you’d make up for it in no time.) It’s definitely my biggest complaint about mountain life that we’re not in a garden-friendly climate, and I always envy people like you who can grow a ton of food. So next summer, know I’m living vicariously through you! :-D

    • My husband and I are so very lucky ti be living abd working in Nairobi Kenya with its fabulous climate – our home has neither heating nor air conditioning. We do use the fireplace when needed abd sometimes a small fan when its a little warmer. So definitely not even remotely hard core. But I agree with the philosophy!

      • That IS so nice! That was much like when we lived in LA — we didn’t have central air conditioning or heat, and just had a window air conditioner that we almost never turned on, and super inefficient heat in the ceiling that (thank goodness) we rarely needed.

  2. Interesting post wow. I definitely commend you for being hard core to save that much money – awesome!

    I think the biggest thing I’m hardcore on is walking / biking to work. It gets quite cold in the winters where I’m from and even with the cold, I bundle up, put on those gloves and scarf, and pedal my way to the office. My colleagues continuously ask me “did you bike today”

    Yes!

    “You are crazy”

    To you *bane voice*

  3. We keep the house warm since we have a 1 year old and I also get a stomachache when it gets too cold.

    However as soon as the baby goes to bed, we turn off off all the lights and stay in the dark, but the tv and/or laptop lighting do help a little.

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    • Definitely not pushing the cold house on you, BUT I used to get the stomachaches, too, but after pushing through a period of adjustment (not gonna lie — it wasn’t fun), I don’t get them anymore. Just in case you ever feel inspired in the future, once your kid is older. ;-)

  4. That is hardcore. We keep our Colorado cabin temp at 60 deg in the winter …. when we AREN’T there! Not sure if we are hardcore on anything these days. Certainly not on environmental comforts.

  5. I don’t think we’re too hardcore on anything really. We keep the house around 78F during the summer, which our friends think is the opposite of your version of hardcore. Winter it stays around 68-70, but that requires minimal heat effort usually. I try to keep it cooler if I’m solo at the house, but even then we’re talking maybe 75 – so chilly!! lol

    I still think if you guys had someone do an insulation audit of your house it would be worth it. There has to be more to your house losing that much heat than you guys choosing to keep it that cold. Our house in LA had poor insulation, and just by me adding some solar window film, new insulation in some areas of the attic and beefed up insulation in other areas, we saw a big drop in our AC bills, and even heat bills. We actually got snow every year we lived there.

    • Bunch of softies. ;-) And while I am definitely a fan of the energy audit, because you know I’m deep down a big treehugger and hate wasted energy, the problem here is about the jacked up rates that rural people pay. We had no idea about this before we moved here, but our price per therm of natural gas is MANY times higher than it was in LA. So even with an air-tight house, we’d still have this same problem.

  6. Any temperature below 65 degrees is too hardcore for me. I’m not sure I’m hardcore anywhere although some might think I am with some of my diet or fitness habits, like no added sugar or squats every night while I brush my teeth, but that’s just become normal for me. They’ve definitely taught me that anything can be accomplished if you put your mind to it…which means I could adjust to the cold if I wanted to…hmmm. Dang it!

  7. I keep my house at 60 in winter, 59 for overnight. Wow, 55 is hardcore. Getting out of the shower is the most miserable time.

    I don’t have a dishwasher, or should say have a broken one that I just never replaced. And I bike to work even though I’m semi-retired now and that’s only 2 days a week. I also bike to get most of my groceries and other sundries.

    Another great post. I like your comment about how being hardcore at something builds gratitude. When I go on a big mountain trip or some other multi-night adventure in the backcountry, this rings true. After spending numerous nights out in the wilderness in the cold/wet/snow etc in a tent, coming home to a shower and a sofa is BLISS. It reminds me how lucky I am to have a shower and a sofa!

    • Oh yeah, I straight up hate getting out of the shower in the winter. ;-) Let’s just say we bathe slightly less often when it’s cold around here. Hahaha. And your dishes and biking habits definitely count as hardcore — that’s so awesome! Nice work!

      And I love your mention of gratitude, too. If you’ve never known anything but comfortable furniture with heat and air conditioning, it’s easy to assume everyone has them and take them for granted. It’s good to remind ourselves that none of that stuff is a given! :-)

  8. We keep the house at 68-69 and even that’s borderline too cold for my wife :) I’d gladly bump it down to about 65 before I really cared that much!

    The one thing I used to do that I really miss now is being able to bike/walk to work. At 27 miles I suppose I COULD make the trip but it’d take so long that it wouldn’t really be worth it. When I find a new job within 10 miles I’ll bike for sure.

    In part because we’re still a one-car family, in part because I could use the exercise, and also I just really like the time being outside with my own thoughts.

    • I will say, especially to the women reading, that I was absolutely a person who was always cold before, and if someone had tried to play that thermostat game with me of sneaking it down a degree or two, I would have been unhappy. But what made the difference is that *I* decided that I wanted to learn how to deal with the cold, and I just decided to do it. Was the transition fun or easy? No. But it was worth it, and I learned a lot about myself in the process. ;-) So ladies, it’s possible to change your internal thermostat! And the bonus is that I’m a lot less cold now, and if I’m too anything, it’s often too warm. Which I’d rather be than too cold any day!

      But back to you, Dave. ;-) I admire that you used to bike to walk to work! And I hope you get the chance to do it again.

  9. We absolutely refuse to pay for TV service. Got an antenna a few years back and went with it. No streaming service either. Sometimes this means we miss a college football game we really want to see, but we are sticking to no paying for TV rule.

    • That counts as hardcore for sure! It’ll be interesting to see how much TV we end up watching in retirement, but right now I wouldn’t give up Hulu and Netflix. (Plus, in the mountains, bunny ears do nothing for us. No free broadcast TV to be had!)

  10. We use a programmable thermostat to keep our place cooler at night and when we are away, but that doesn’t seem at all hardcore. Living at 55 degrees would motivate me to look into side hustles like solar panels and selling net electricity back to the utility at 5x the kWh rate that normal people pay. That’s what early solar adopters are doing here. Home insulation and sealing air leaks might also be a good investments, especially for comfort. Dumping cable TV doesn’t seem to be hardcore (except for the rest of society), as we don’t watch much, but rather more streaming content. Finding alternatives to Comcast, now that is hardcore. I’m working on that.

    • The solar energy hustle only works in some places, but there are definitely some spots where the sell-back rate is super advantageous to residents with solar panels! (Sadly, we have nothing but shade on our lot or we’d be all over solar.)

  11. Oof I know I’m a southern wimp, but this is just driving that one home (I say as I was complaining in my head just this morning that getting out of the shower is soooo cold, especially because we don’t have a fan in the bathroom so we leave our window cracked to let the moisture out).

    I live in a horribly insulated building, which means the thermostat numbers are kinda suspect. When I woke up this morning it said 68 (probably because my neighbors have been turning on their heat, so some of that is seeping over to me), but it sure as hell didn’t feel like 68. I can handle actual 68-I’m not THAT wimpy! There’s definitely a difference between 68 because that’s what I have my thermostat set at and the heat’s been on recently vs 68 that’s apparently the ambient temperature because I’m delaying turning the heat on for as long as possible. Here’s hoping it’s December before my roommate and I give in (looking at you, weather)! My actual selective hardcore choice is to continue walking everywhere in the winter, even when it’s below freezing and the wind is blowing at 20 mph. Helps that I finally bought a down coat last year so now I’m actually prepared for cold weather!

    What’s not hardcore about my winter strategy is that I have a heated mattress pad and I put that baby to good use half an hour before bed, despite the electricity use I normally wouldn’t justify. My bed is SO COZY in the winter and I don’t have to worry about not being able to fall asleep because my feet are cold! Ahem, yeah, I should probably work on being more hardcore when it comes to being cold…

    • I think the fact that you walk everywhere even in the winter absolves you of any guilt of being an indoor temp wimp. ;-) And I wholeheartedly endorse the mattress pad heater — that is SO much more efficient than heating the whole room, so no shame!

  12. We used to keep our house around 68 in the winter, but this year I’ve bumped it way up to 72. I sometimes get SAD, so this is an experiment to see if a warmer house helps.

    I completely agree that it helps to have something “hardcore”. For me, that’s physical exercise. I do strength training, running, and HIIT. I know the strength training and HIIT is going well when I feel like I have to throw up when I’m done. :)

  13. My question is what do you do when friends or family come to stay? We keep our place cooler 65-70 during the day, but resist turning anything on for as long as possible. But when my sister visited from San Diego, I didn’t want to freeze her out.

    • Don’t worry. ;-) We turn it up for visitors! Though not a ton because the guest space is right over the furnace and is the warmest area of the house. (Our bedroom is the coldest.) We also usually keep the fire roaring while guests are here, which takes the edge off.

  14. Ooh. I’m in a sensitive place right now and this hit some buttons for me. Both the comment about pain being temporary and the cold, because I’m disabled and the cold has a negative effect on my pain levels. I absolutely know you didn’t mean it that way and I’m not here to say that, but it did make me want to ask you whether you’d consider a post about frugality where you have some limitations on what you can be frugal on?
    I know part of my issue is that I’m in a bit of a “poor me” place right now, and it feels like I’m making excuses when I start a sentence something like “I could be more frugal but….”, however, I would be interested in advice on how to mentally handle knowing that a disability costs more money. In a bad week I can pay £350 for treatments not covered by our health service,although £200 is more normal. I take taxis more often due to exhaustion, can’t use a lot of travel hacks as can’t stay in a hostel or take a layover etc. It’s hard sometimes looking at all that money going out for something that is so not fun. And feeling like we need to cut back on what other people would consider normal fun things in order to save. I know that must ring true to so many in the US with your health costs the way they are.

    There are so many ways we can cut down on things to be frugal. For example, you want to give your kids the best, but they don’t need it so you can cut back. But how do people feel about that where the decision becomes less about cutting back and more coming closer to harm? Thanks

    • Hi Victoria — Your question is such a good one! And I 100% understand that the cold house is not going to be the right version of hardcore for lots of people — especially you! I’m sure you know this, but I meant the “pain is temporary” as a metaphor for the challenge of adapting to any new habit that feels like a sacrifice. But in terms of your question, I can speak directly to having to spend a small fortune on groceries because of my celiac and Mark’s autoimmune disease, and my Raynaud’s from EDS mandates having to have a way to warm up my hands and feet or I can’t sleep at all. (Plus sometimes I just have to shell out a small fortune for physical therapy for pain, even if I’d rather not spend that money!) So I’m 100% supportive on not pressuring yourself to be frugal on the things that would actually endanger your health or happiness! In terms of getting past that stuff mentally, I’m a big fan of using the “death bed test.” If you are looking back on your life from your death bed, would you think, “It was such a waste of money to keep myself comfortable, and I wish I’d just dealt with more pain”? Or would you say, “I wish I hadn’t sweat the small stuff so much and had just spend the money to keep myself comfortable and functional”? (I bet it’s the latter for you — it for sure is for me! I don’t want older me scolding me now for being too cheap to invest in my own well-being!)

  15. Do you have any pro-tips (or duvet recommendations) on how to stay warm at night? We used to keep our house at 60 (which sounds balmy compared to 55, but was definitely tough for me) and have caved recently and gone up all the way to 70 because our bill is relatively cheap regardless but also because we have trouble falling asleep if it’s any colder!

    This post makes me resolved to start being hardcore at something again, though! We’ve recently become a little too comfortable…

      • I may have to try a microwaveable rice bag for the feet! My feet actually shockingly don’t get that cold at night (probably because I wear big fuzzy socks to bed) but maybe I can hug one… Oooo, maybe I need a heated body pillow… that sounds nice. Can’t fit that in the microwave unfortunately

      • +1 on the microwavable rice bags at your feet under the blankets. We do that. They also make microwavable disks for pets that stay warm much longer than rice bags with the downside that they are stiff. The disks are maybe 8″ in diameter and come with a fleece housing.

        • We’ve tried the pet bed heaters and our guys weren’t fans. We found a small dog bed that has some reflective material built in that reflects their heat back at them, and they LOVE that thing. (Bonus: no energy needed!)

    • Flannel sheets and a down comforter. Seriously, the flannel sheets don’t get that ice cold feeling that regular sheets do. And the comforter is sometimes so warm I wake up sweating and have to throw it off for a bit – and I got a regular one, not a heavy weight one.

    • Yes! Flannel or fleece sheets, a good quality down or down alternative duvet, and a hot water bottle placed in bed for 10 or 15 minutes before getting in. Fleece socks are also nice. :-) For a few years we used a heated mattress pad before we got into bed, but it broke and we haven’t replaced it — but with the hot water bottles, we don’t find we miss it that much.

  16. Wimpy down here in San Diego. I feel good at 72 in the winter. I am 71 and I think as I get older I need more heat to keep my bones comfortable.

  17. My husband (pre-marriage) turned his heat off unless he was home (so, from 8 pm to 5:30 am) AND turned off his water if he left the house. We live in Maryland, so heat is necessary several months of the year. Waiting for it to crank up to 60 (still crazy low for me) was unbearable for me. I’d sit in the car for 30 minutes before going in. We are married now and because heat is not something I compromise on, I pay the bill. We keep the temperature between 68 and 70. I managed to avoid turning it on at all until November 1st this year. For me, this is progress.

    On the reverse side, I could do without AC 95% of the time. However, the family complains… so we use it on occasion.

    We are selectively hardcore about charitable giving. We have been blessed with good steady incomes and have been good stewards of the money. We give until it hurts.

    We are also hardcore with leftovers. They rarely get thrown out.

    • Being hardcore with your giving and with avoiding food waste earn you gold stars from me all the way. :-) Mark grew up in Maryland, and his parents lived there for a long time but recently moved to Colorado, and they still keep the thermostat in your range… and when we arrive, they know to keep the basement nice and chilly for us, because we start sweating when we’re upstairs with the family! Hahaha.

  18. Selectively hardcore is not exactly the right word for it because it’s not all that hard core; however, I told myself and my daughter that we would walk to school every day this year, rain or shine. I live in SoCal so there is no snow. It’s a .9 mile hike and it’s super steep for about 1/3 of a mile (half is on trail, half on the road). I hike back to pick her up too. It saves gas, reduces the congestion and has a great view besides me getting a lot of additional minutes of cardio activity. From a time perspective, it only takes an additional 10 minutes (5 in each direction) but I feel a lot better about myself.

    We aren’t a huge consumer culture family but my kiddo’s 10th birthday is coming up and she asked for a specific present this year (only a couple of times in her life has she asked for something specific). I chose to spend a little extra effort and bought the item used on Craigslist instead of clicking for it on Amazon. I paid about 1/3 of the price, but had to drive 20 minutes to retrieve said item. Because there are some plastic pieces involved, I feel better about getting them used, despite the driving.

    And finally now that I’m not working anymore, I’ve resolved to keep the house cooler. I didn’t enjoy working from home while I was cold but now that I’m not sitting or standing around much, I’m determined to not turn the heat on in the morning to take the chill off the house like I used to. :) I used a little space heater for my office and that thing hopefully won’t get turned on all winter. I’m not sure how low the temp will go but it surely won’t be anything like Tahoe. :)

    • Walking in weather DOES count as hardcore. So I love that you guys both made this commitment and stick to it!

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens with our temperature tolerance once we’re not working, or at least not as much. Maybe we’ll like the cold MORE, or maybe we’ll like it less. ;-) Though in your case, if your place is anything like every place we lived in LA, the insulation was practically non-existent, so it could in fact get quite chilly indoors!

  19. I’m not sure if I havean equivalent! Maybe clothing – I almost exclusively thrift everything (sans bras etc).

    Houses here don’t have central temp control (hence why I love hotels haha). Houses here are also notoriously cold and DAMP. Therefore I can confidently say if I had the option, this would not be my hardcore frugality thing. Buying and then insulating this house has been the best thing I’ve done for my health after years of living in damp mouldy NZ rentals, it still gets pretty cold in winter esp in the mornings (as I said no temp control – but my HRV shows the indoor and roof temperature) but it’s so so so much better. If money were no object I’d probably want to install central heating and keep it toasty all the time but that’s really at the bottom of the house project list.

    • Oh the damp is another thing entirely, and I don’t think we would keep the house nearly as cold if we lived in a damp place! But it’s super dry here, so we don’t have that issue. I support you 100% in not wanting to deal with cold and damp.

  20. I second (or third) the suggestion to get an energy audit for your house. We had one and it made a huge difference in our comfort as well as our heating bill. And I also recommend making window inserts (which can be reused for many years if stored carefully). Doing these things and using your wood stove could have you living in a warm toasty home. You might need to find something else to be hardcore about. And just a heads up, I was tipped off a few years back that some folks of color are offended by the expression black or white (i.e. bad or good). Often using either/or is a good substitute….

    • I fully endorse this, too! Unfortunately that’s not our issue — it’s outrageously high utility rates that we only learned after moving here are a common problem in rural areas. We had no idea we’d pay many times here what we paid for natural gas in LA, not to mention all the added transmission charges that jack up the bill. And re: window inserts, those are good if you have ample sunlight — we do not as we live in a shady lot, so aren’t willing to trade what little sunlight we get for a tiny bit more efficiency. But envious of folks who have light to spare!

  21. In my circles, it’s unheard of for a family with children to not have a nanny/housekeeper, since it’s relatively easy and affordable to do so. But my stubborn mentality is, “If I can’t handle the upkeep myself, I shouldn’t have it in the first place.” Not only do I get to maintain my sense of just how much work it is to do things like (1) raise a child or (2) keep a house clean, but I also have a reason to avoid taking on more “stuff” that would require extra time to keep up. One of the main reasons that we’re a one-car family is because I don’t want to deal with the maintenance of another car.

  22. My thought during the first half of the post was, “but what about my dog??? He doesn’t have warm clothes!” Then I saw that you addressed that – small dogs that can fit on heating vents. hahaha!

    We have it set to be something like 57-58 at night, burst on to ~65 in the morning so it is tolerable to get out of bed, back down during the day, and back up to 65 in the evenings. Very luxurious by your standards. And sometimes I sneak it a little higher to ~68 if I’m cold…. But our bill is not too high, worst case was $200 for electricity + gas (with most of that being gas in the coldest month).

    Selectively hard core… Well, have been a one car family forever, no plans to change. That isn’t too hardcore given our lifestyles, but it saves us literally thousands of dollars a year. I can’t think of anything very hardcore that we do!

    • My furnace was broke the other day before it was fixed I put dog sweaters on my dogs, I think the smaller one liked it.

      I guess not hardcore in anything particular, just generally frugal naturally, I cook almost all meals at home and buy pretty much all clothes used

    • We’ve tried sweaters on the dogs, but they HATE them. But they have lots of warm, snuggly beds all around the house, access to the heat vent, and plenty of blankets on the bed and couch that they can curl up in. ;-)

      I appreciate that you turn your heat down at night (and I appreciate everyone who commented that they do this!) so that you’re not wasting energy when you’re not even awake to appreciate it. Given that you don’t do anything especially hardcore, maybe that’s a fun project to think about: asking yourself what toughness-building sacrifice you could take on to test yourself. ;-)

  23. I was reminded of the heat situation because both apartments in my building have been complaining about how cold it is. Our landlord finally fixed it, and the heat is blasting now :) One good thing about NYC is that people don’t pay for heat. But at the same time, you can’t really regulate it, so it’s either tropical warm, or too cold.

    Anyway, the fact that I was complaining about the cold made me remember when I lived in a big apartment with my best friend. It was an old house, but beautiful, with crown molding and a decorative fireplace. The only problem–the windows were old as hell. Well, we were shocked when we got the first heating bill. We both were so cheap, we decided to keep it at 57 the entire winter. We bought the plastic from Home Depot to put on the windows, spent most of our time underneath the covers when at home, and when we had to work, we wore our parkas and gloves to type :) It made me realize that I can get through a lot of things, if I really put my mind to it. On the other side, I’ve also never bought an air conditioner. I get really hot in the summer like anyone else, but I choose to use a small personal fan instead. And in a few weeks, my husband and are going to a super expensive dinner at one of the top restaurants in the world. There are some things I choose to be hardcore about because I didn’t used to have them, and I want to hold onto some things from when I was a kid. Because otherwise, I’m way too fancy now. It’s all about balance, right?

    • When we’ve stayed in places that had that all or nothing heat, we have not been thrilled. ;-) (And I think I had a radiator in my first apartment — wish I could remember what that was like!) And LOL — I totally relate to being miserly about some things and freewheeling about others. I’m bundled up right now, but we’re flying business class to Taiwan not too long from now. And we dropped $1000 at Per Se once. So yeah… balance… ;-)

  24. The thought process and benefits of this are very similar to the teachings of the Roman Stoics. They advocated doing things voluntarily that made you more uncomfortable than you needed to be. Whether that is living for a week as if you were flat broke or intentionally wearing clothes that would subject you to mockery or making yourself physically uncomfortable, the point is to make yourself grateful and humble while recognizing that you are stronger and more privileged than you would otherwise believe.

    Love that you have turned it into a habit rather than a once-in-a-while reminder.

    • Aw man, I missed a chance to talk about stoicism! ;-) So, yeah, um, I totally knew that I was pushing that philosophy. Hahahaha. I recognize that being in a position to do this is a huge privilege, but I do think those of us who have that privilege should make a habit of testing ourselves and finding that gratitude from time to time, even if it’s not all winter long. ;-)

  25. I am shivering for you over here! I don’t mind it being cold in the house when I’m sleeping and can burrow under blankets but I hate being cold. When it’s cold outside it takes me forever to warm up so I keep the house at a toasty 68 degrees (hopefully I converted that from Celsius properly!)

    We’ve been trying to make an effort to drive as little as possible. Earlier this summer we gave up our second vehicle and now try to bike/walk more. It’s been hard with the snow/cold snap we’ve been having but I there’s something refreshing about walking to work in the winter.

    • Hahaha. Thanks for the sympathy shivers. ;-) I always used to be cold, but really do think it’s possible for a lot of us to switch our comfort zones if we’re determined to do so — not that you need to be determined to do it just because some person on the internet keeps her house cold. ;-) And if you do keep walking to work in the winter, you will more than make up for your home temps, because dealing with the cold outside that consistently counts as toughness!

  26. Hi! We reduced our heating bill (electrical) to almost half when we switched to an air-water heat pump. Our heating system consists of warm water circulating through our radiators and also provides warm water for showers etc. I’m from Scandinavia and it’s a quite common heat system here. Is there any way to convert your house heating from your currently expensive one, to another system? Just in case you want to enjoy a warmer house in the future.

    • Earlier this year, we replaced our two electric hot water heaters with a tankless gas hot water heater, and switched our electric billing to variable rate pricing. That has lowered our power (electric & gas) bill by 25% compared to a year ago, despite the fact that we also purchased an electric car this year which we have plugged in every night.

      • We had hoped to switch to a tankless water heater, but learned that they aren’t well suited to cold areas like ours where the water starts out just above freezing. They don’t heat the water to a set temp, but instead heat it up by, say, 30 degrees. Which is great if it starts out decently warm, but terrible if it starts at 35. ;-) So we’ll live vicariously through folks like you! Haha.

    • It’s a good question, though I know those systems are not common in our area, and the issue is the expense of the natural gas which I assume would still be used to heat the water. But it’s worth looking into after we’re retired. Thanks for the suggestion!

  27. Great post – something we can all relate to. We live in Florida, so our hardcore comes in the summer, and it’s not super-hardcore. We keep the thermostat at 79 then drop it to 76 during sleep hours. Our true hardcore is vehicles. I drive an ’05 Honda that looks like it rolled out of a junkyard. Hail dings, oxidizing paint, loads of ugly… my co-workers must think I’m a chronic gambler. But it’s become a test of wills to keep it as our savings rate reaches 50% this year. When it does get replaced, I’ll take my wife’s 2009 Honda and she will get something new(er).

    • I’m laughed out loud — don’t let my ’04 Honda hear you talk that way about your year newer car! Hahaha. (Also, I’m assuming yours just saw some rough times since mine still looks just fine, just dated.) ;-)

  28. Mine is no car for maybe 13 years this time. I get around as much as possible by my feet, both walking and biking. I choose to live in a walkable urban area with good transit and bikeshare (and carshare, which I’ve also pretty much cut out, and of course Uber/Lyft).

    Also, I cut the cord over a decade ago and got rid of the tv, etc, and watch on the small screens. I do have Netflix (I still had both Netflix dvd and streaming until I dropped dvd about a year ago when I scrubbed my expenses) and streaming through Prime. Having both is pretty luxurious.

    I started to try to keep both A/C and heat off as much as possible about a year ago to keep my bills low, after being influenced by bloggers like you, and haven’t turned the heat on yet this winter. Hoping to make it to December without turning it on, but my billing period ends in a few days, so we’ll see.

    • Wow, that’s impressive! And those rideshares and good transit must help a ton.

      I’m super stoked to hear that you were inspired to cut back on your heating and AC use! I’m impressed you haven’t turned the heat on yet! Well done. :-)

  29. We have brown rice and beans for dinner 2-4 times a week. We buy dry beans, I soak, cook and freeze them all at once so when I need them, they’re insanely easy to prepare. It’s become such a habit that it doesn’t feel hardcore at all even thought ‘normal’ people might think we’re depriving ourselves. It’s a filling nutritious meal for pennies. When I don’t feel like cooking it prevents the default behavior of ordering food or buying prepared foods. When we do eat out, it’s feels more like a treat than an expectation, which triggers that feeling of gratitude you were talking about.

  30. We keep our heat at 60 during the day, and 65 at night. With that, we’ve had comments about that being too cold. I find if we go below 65 at night our kids end up getting sick more often, and we keep it at 60 during the day so it doesn’t kick on as often, but our dogs can lie in the sun to stay warm in a window. I do feel bad for your small dogs at 55 degrees, but I guess they must be fine. Any time we’ve tried to dip below 60 though, it makes colds and coughs never ending! Go you for your selectively hardcore effort!
    Our selective hardcore is probably not dining out. We go out maybe 1x a month at this point, we’re just so used to eating every meal at home. Also, we got rid of cable back before it was the thing to do (almost 10 years ago now) and dumped our cell phones over 10 years ago, too. So, we’re hardcore in that we basically only pay for the basics in our home, which makes me feel it’s perfectly okay to spend a little extra for 65 degrees ;)

    • I think it’s a different calculation with kids, and we give our dogs LOTS of ways to stay warm in the form of snuggly beds, blankets, windows in the sun, etc. Little dogs always let you know when they are cold, and ours shiver surprisingly little! (We’ve also tried sweaters, but they won’t wear them.)

      And, okay, your no cell phones note stopped me in my tracks — no cell phones at all?!?! That IS hardcore in this day and age!

  31. We are pretty hardcore about vehicles. We live in Northern Michigan, where getting several feet of snow at a time is not unusual and almost everyone drives giant trucks, SUVs, or at least a Subaru. When we moved here in 2012, I stubbornly drove my tiny ’89 Honda civic hatchback all winter long. It got 40 mpg, and with good snow tires I plowed through 2 feet of snow with the best of them! The maybe ridiculously hardcore thing was that the heater didn’t work…. I had a 45 minute commute in often negative temperatures. I just suited up and toughed it out for a year. But let me tell you, the next year I was SO grateful for my functioning heater!! I still drive a tiny (slightly newer) hatchback that gets great gas mileage, but hoping for an electric or hybrid soon.

    We used to keep our house at 55 at night and 58 during the day. After doing this for a couple years, I finally acknowledged that I was sluggish, distracted, didn’t want to get up in the morning, and not able to work effectively from home. Now we keep it around 63-65, and my life is immeasurably better. I’m very impressed that you are still going strong! ;)

    • Oh my gosh, your car habits count as hardcore all the way! I won’t drive my trusty Civic in any real snow (though we don’t put snow tires on it), and insist on driving the Subaru with snow tires if there’s a chance it could be slippery. I also LOVE that you tried the low temps for so long. It’s only possible because of many layers of fleece and the occasional fire to take the edge off the cold. :-)

  32. I thought about it for a few days. I only buy this one type of store brand peanut butter. Kroger’s creamy. It has only peanuts and salt. All those organic higher end brands have palm oil or molasses, something added that doesn’t taste right. I can get like 3 for $5. We eat a lot of peanut butter!

    Second category is second hand clothing. I am proud to say I haven’t bought anything brand new from retail (except one package of underwear) in 5 years. I can find just about anything I need or want on thredUP or eBay. There are millions of pieces of clothes already made, the resources are already consumed, waiting out there. OK I may have an exception with technical gear (like running shoes, or backcountry ski pants – zipper vents on the legs are a must), but I always look on eBay first.

    • You should make a t-shirt: Hardcore About Peanut Butter. ;-) And that’s admirable you’re so dedicated to getting all your clothes secondhand — I know that can be a major time commitment to sort through the offerings, so big ups you to!

  33. Seems to me one can be selectively hardcore in a couple of ways: 1-Do something the majority of people think is hardcore but isn’t really for you, which has comparative benefits but isn’t personally high cost, or 2-Do something that’s hardcore for you, which would bring the stoic lessons you reference such as learning pain is temporary, you are stronger than you think, enjoying treats more when you have them and all of that. In the first of these, my husband and I drive cars >15 years old, which some professional colleagues mock, but we both love our cars, so it’s not personally difficult at all. In the 2nd, we keep the house cool enough in winter that I resort to long-johns for months (which actually help a lot) and have to layer up at home, we avoid eating out, we limit alcohol consumption to the weekends, and we often rather than get a hotel when traveling… Of course, items in my 2nd category might be items in someone else’s category 1, etc.

    Tip for thriving in a cold house: we have a mattress pad heater that slips under the foot of the bed. We turn it on 15 minutes before turning in and turn it off once we are in bed. Low energy use, love it.

    • Well said! And we relate to both of these. Lots of the stuff we do fits into category 1 where others might find it weird but it doesn’t phase us. The cold house phases everyone, though. Hahaha. ;-)

      Also +1 on the mattress pad heater, though when ours died, we switched to hot water bottles, and those serve the same function.

  34. I would be calling the heating repair main if our house got down to 62 or 63. Yikes. My wife and kids would skin me alive if I kep the house that cold.

    I keep ours set at 70 or 71 for heat. Cool to 73-75 in summer depending on the month.

    Our two story house is amazingly efficient and our “big” heating bill is $125.

  35. I need to introduce you to one of your neighbors. He heats his home in winter almost entirely with solar (strategic design and window placement). Maybe there’s an opportunity to do some solar retrofit on your property?

    But I applaud the effort. We’ve chosen other areas to be frugal (1 car, groceries). Our small Tahoe house is kept toasty all winter. But our heat bill is only $100/month, so that makes it easier to justify.

    • Gosh, we WISH. We are lucky to have some glorious Jeffrey pines, but that means zero sunshine anywhere useful, which we lament for both solar and gardening purposes. Our house is also sited as badly as possible, with the large windows facing north, and essentially no windows on the south side. (This is one of my big Tahoe complaints — so few homes were built here with any intention!) And no shame in enjoying a toasty home — if our gas cost only $100 a month, we’d go toasty as well! ;-)

  36. It’s small, but I try hard to avoid driving or taking Lyft/Uber anytime I can walk or take public transportation. I’m sure it saves us some money, but it’s also a mindset of laziness that I don’t want to slip into too easily!

  37. My parents have had a wood-burning stove for the past 30+ years. My parents are in their mid-70’s and still continue to get wood and split it so after Thanksgiving they can fire up the wood-burning stove and heat most of the house. They still have their furnance that will kick on if it gets really cold and the stove can’t keep up. They like the exercise they get from all the wood related tasks (splitting, stacking, hauling, more stacking, etc). It probably helps that my dad grew up on a farm and embraces the work from dealing with the wood. I remember as a kid in high school many times, how we would spend time as a family of seven going to cut down trees (with permission), cutting up the wood and stacking it in a trailer to bring home. I often grumbled about doing that at the time, but it did build character and I often go over to my parents’ home (8 miles away) if I know that they are going to be cutting up or splitting wood, so I can help.

    • Wow, your parents sound amazing! I’m sure it was a drag having to get and split wood as a kid, but I’m in awe of folks who insist on staying so self-reliant past traditional retirement age! We’re hopeful we can get at least some of our wood after we’re retired and have more time!

  38. Our one crazy, hardcore policy is to go car free! This is a hardship in the states, to be sure; however, we are expat teachers currently living in South India. We love bikes – well, let me be perfectly honest – we are nuts about bikes. But here is where the hardship lies – the traffic in our city in South India is ludicrous. The white painted lane dividers are completely ignored, as are most traffic lights. There is no telling what will be sharing the road with you. From oxcarts to giant busses, to pedestrians who hop over the median, to auto rickshaws, to wandering cows and tractors. Nearly all the other expects here travel in cars and most of these hire a full-time driver to navigate the madness in the streets. We ride together on a tandem bike to and from work; my husband in front swerving to avoid traffic going the wrong direction, and me on the back, signaling lane changes and holding out the “Stiff Arm of ‘No’” to motorcycles and water trucks who would t-bone us. It takes both of us to make it happen, but we are able to make it work. If we have to go across the city, we just take an Uber which only costs maybe $2 each way – a fine trade off for not paying a car payment, gas, insurance, and a driver’s salary.

    • My heart started racing just reading this — WOW! You guys are amazing to be willing to put your bodies at risk like that to get around. But huge high fives for doing that! You guys DEFINITELY count as hardcore. ;-)

  39. Hi Tanja! (This still feels weird but nice kind of weird.)

    I simply cannot. Haha! I shivered reading this, and it’s starting to warm up here. We don’t do anything as hardcore as this, but we try to only turn on our heater for up to two hours (as soon as we get home from work) and use a hot water bottle for the rest of the night. We didn’t always succeed, but we’re happy for the times that we did. I also refused to turn the heater on in the morning, because my cold showers usually sets my body temperature, but my boyfriend complained a few times.

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