Fuel's gold A few practical measures will help keep your home warmer without breaking the bank
High fuel prices are one of the controversial topics of our times but look here to stay. No one, however, should have to suffer the cold through lack of funds to pay the bills. The government’s Winter Fuel Payment for everyone over 60 provides a buffer. You can receive between £100 and £300 - tax-free - to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before January 5, 1952. If you think you are missing out, call the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (0845 601 5613 for textphone users). And if you receive Pension Credit, then you might also be eligible for Cold Weather Payment.
Basic, inexpensive steps in cutting your fuel costs include increasing loft insulation, using weather-stripping around walls and doors, using expanding foam for small spaces and putting up thicker curtains and blinds to prevent heat loss. As an added measure, consider changing energy supplier.
For further ideas, do a free online home energy check at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call 0800 512 012 to get a paper copy.
Food for thought
Warming, hearty foods on a cold day both comfort and sustain. Slow cookers can be bought for under £20 and use little energy. Leftovers can easily be made into a casserole and all kinds of creative soups and stews rustled up with little effort. Cook large quantities and save time, money and effort by freezing the rest for another day. Visit our food channel for delicious ideas.
Charity shops are not the only place to update your winter wardrobe for little outlay. Street markets are worth checking but beware the quality. Major supermarkets often offer clothes at bargain prices. And stores such as Matalan, Primark, Peacocks and TK Maxx can be good sources of inexpensive clothes. Try buying one item from an unfamiliar shop to start with, to see how well it washes. Online, eBay is an alternative – and Amazon sells clothes too, often branded, at reasonable prices. Then, of course, there are other online fashion giants such as Asos, with bargains galore.
Fit for purpose
Local adult education centres offer a wide range of health and fitness-orientated courses and some are tailored for those over 60. You should be entitled to a concession of 50% or more on the cost, and may be lucky enough to find a free course. Meanwhile community centres can be another source – check your local newspaper, library, Facebook groups, the internet and at the centres themselves. Leisure centres, too, offer a choice of activities. Concessions should be available for people aged 60 plus, those on benefits or with a GP referral.
Dark evenings and long cold nights require entertainment to divert us. Don’t overlook the obvious – libraries are as ever a source of free books and DVDs. Online shops such as Amazon offer goods second hand as well as new – real bargains can be had on books, DVDs, audio - even fitness equipment.