Winter can be tough, but after years of living in Chicago I've figured out a game plan to stay warm and survive winter. Read my 14 tips so you can too!

14 Tips to Help You Survive Winter from a Chicagoan

If you’re from the Midwest, you know how tough winter can be. But for some reason Chicago seems to have the best winters of any city. And by best, I mean freeze you to the core, make you want to move anywhere warm kind of winters. And considering I am cold anytime it’s below 70 degrees, I’m starting to think of myself an expert in how to survive winter, no matter how cold and icy it gets.

Aside from cold weather fashion, which you can see in my  20 Winter Fashion Must Haves from a Chicagoan post, there are many items you can utilize to stay warm. And through trial and error over the years, I’ve learned what methods work, which are worth some extra money, and what to avoid. Here are my tips.

1. Invest in good, wool socks

Seriously, the one is important. If your feet are cold, your entire body will feel cold. Wool socks are expensive, but even partly made of wool is worth it. And if they’re slightly thicker, that is even better. I tend to try to buy hiking socks of medium thickness, like these: Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Socks. And even if you feel you can’t justify the money to have a bunch of these, having just a couple pairs for the really cold days will be more than worth it.

2. Run your fans on low, backwards

Warm air rises, right? Well instead of spending your hard earned cash to heat up your home just to have the air rise up and out, turn those fans on to help push the warm air back down to where you are. Most fans have a setting on the side that can be switched for the winter. It sounds like it wouldn’t do much to help, but trust me, it does.

3. Slippers are not just for old ladies

Speaking of warm feet, slippers are a must during a cold winter. Especially in any room that isn’t carpet. My favorites are the tall Muk Luks. They are worth the money, very cozy, and help keep your legs warm as well.

4. Get a space heater for the bathroom

There is nothing worse than taking a nice hot shower just to get out to a freezing bathroom. But a small space heater turned on a few minutes before a shower will make the experience feel much more like a spa. I usually pick out the clothes I want to wear after the shower and have them in the bathroom as well. That way I can get out, get dressed, and still feel warm and toasty.

This is the heater I have, but it’s mainly because the designer of our house thought it would be a good idea to have a master bathroom with a vaulted ceiling. If you have a normal sized bathroom, something smaller like this one would work just fine. Just make sure to keep them away from water.

5. Schedule fun winter activities

This tip may not keep you warm physically, but it will mentally help you get through the cold times. If you have a favorite activity that you can only do in the winter, make sure to schedule out some time for it. For example, I love ice skating. And as much as I hate being cold, I still look forward to this activity every year. It helps me tolerate the cold coming when I know I can bundle up and get out on the ice soon.

6. Don’t skimp on a coat

In Chicago we don’t mess around with coats. They should be heavy and go down to your knees. A hood is also a must to keep the wind off your neck. Just like socks, at least partially wool is my favorite option. Down can be great as well.

For some coat ideas, check out my other post 20 Winter Fashion Must Haves from a Chicagoan

7. Become best friends with your crock pot

Throwing a bunch of ingredients together just to come back to a hot, delicious meal for dinner is a great feeling. And hot meals are appreciated so much more on cold nights. I have this Crock-Pot that I use a couple times a week. I love how large it is so I can always have leftovers!

8. Make sure your boots are made for walking

If you’ve gotten this far into the post, I’m assuming you’re also from a chilly climate – and so you know how easy it is to stay inside all day long on the couch, curled up in your blanket burrito. But sometimes you have to go outside (or if you’re like me, you start to go crazy without a good long walk under your belt). So make sure your boots are not only tall and warm, but they will also stand up to the test of long walks through snow, slush and salt. I’ve had my eyes on these for awhile.

9. Light some candles or get your fireplace going

While candles don’t give off much heat, and a fireplace can actually make your home colder in the long run – having either of those near you will make you feel warmer, even if you technically aren’t. I’m not sure the exact science behind it, but I think simply our brains see fire and think heat, making us feel warmer. My favorites are Woodwick Candles – they combine the two!

10. Dress in layers

Layers trap heat between them and so even a couple thin layers will work better than one thick one. Especially if you’re located in a town like Chicago, where the wind can be brutal.

11. And tuck your first layer in

This may sound silly, but you will not believe how much it helps. I always wear a tank-top under my clothes during the winter and if I’m going to be outside I will tuck it in. That helps create a seal with your first layer of clothing trapping heat in and wind out.

12. Forget fashion for a bit

No, this doesn’t have to go for every day in the winter obviously, but if you plan on being outside for more than just a short time, forget being fashionable. This may be different in other cities, but I know in Chicago we can always tell who isn’t from the area when they’re dressed for looks instead of warmth in the winter. And you know what doesn’t look cute? Goosebumps and frostbite.

13. Drink plenty of warm liquids

Having a hot cup of tea does wonders when I’m cold and just can’t seem to warm up. And having a hot mug is a perfect way to warm up cold hands. I tend to drink out of mugs more than normal cups as soon as fall hits. And I always laugh when I see people using the cardboard sleeves on their coffee cups – what is the point?

14. Dress your bed for warmth as well

Flannel sheets and a second blanket are must haves. And if you’re generally always cold like I am, invest in a Heated Mattress Pad. And then come back to thank me after you do. Mine is my favorite winter accessory. I don’t sleep with it on, but I do turn it on a few minutes before crawling into bed and it is perfect. On extremely cold days, I can usually be found laying in bed with a good book and it turned up.

Bonus. Spend time with someone who loves winter and isn’t always cold

So clearly you shouldn’t count on me for this one… but if you have a friend who loves winter and is generally positive about the season, spending some time with them could help. The emotions of others effect us, so if we surround ourselves with those who jump for joy every time it snows, we may start to dread the snow and cold a bit less.

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, make sure you don’t miss 20 Winter Fashion Must Haves from a Chicagoan!

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Winter can be tough, but after years of living in Chicago I've figured out a game plan to stay warm and survive winter. Read my 14 tips so you can too!Do you have a favorite way to stay warm and survive the winter?

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  1. What timing for the second nice little snowfall we got last night! LOVED this post 🙂 The hubs got us a huge heated blanket for our bed three years ago and it has been the best thing ever during the fall and winter months. This way I’m nice and toasty warm when I’m trying to fall asleep instead of shivering to death. Loved your tips Alex!!

    • Thanks Christina! And heated blankets are the best! I actually saw heated slippers the other day… that may be pushing it though haha

  2. Yes to all! Could not agree with you more on the tucking in thing. Fleece socks and slippers is my go-to at-home look!

    • The tucking in thing seems so logical but I swear it took me forever to understand how much it really does help ha

  3. Oh man, I wish I knew about these when I was going to college in Spokane! I was ALWAYS cold–and my utility bills showed it. Great tips!

    • I can already tell my bill this year is going to go up! I’m used to dealing with the cold but now that my husband works from home he turns the heat way up. I think he needs to read my post again haha

  4. These are all great tips! I remember the cold winters of Chicago all too well – taking the pup on walks was excruciating, but I survived! I miss it dearly and would trade it for anything though! xxx

  5. I love your warm toasty tips! There is something about a hot mug of goodness that makes you feel so much better when you are cold.

  6. Oh yes. I agree with all of these. I didn’t know that about the fan, though. I’m going to check and see if ours have that setting to go backwards. Pretty cool. I bought about 3 space heaters on clearance at the end of last winter, and I have one going on my feet right now. 🙂

    • I had two space heaters crap out on me last year and then I totally missed the clearance at the end of the season. Now I have one big one for the bathroom and a tiny one I carry around with me haha

  7. These are FANTASTIC tips! Having lived in Chicago my whole life, I thought I’d heard it all when it came to how to stay warm – but there are some here that are completely new to me! Especially the one about turning the fan on backwards – what a novel idea! I also like the tips about putting a heater in the bathroom for post-shower, and tucking in the first layer of clothing. Genius!

    • Thanks Emily! Hope I made your Chicago winter a little bit warmer 🙂 And seriously, try the space heater in the bathroom. It may use a little bit extra electricity each year, but it’s so worth it.

  8. I lived just across the lake from you for 6 years! If it wasn’t for having a space heater in the bathroom, I probably would have boycotted showers entirely.

  9. Great tips. I live in Texas and when it’s winter or snow, we shut down. The space heaters and slippers are must haves.

    • I sort of wish we shut down during cold or snow. Though we may be shut down for over half the year then though 😉

  10. Tucking in the first layer really makes a difference. A good coat and boots made for walking are a must! Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    Doused In Pink

  11. This looks like great tips for the winters that you have. I would love a white Christmas. I did have two many years ago in Pennsylvania. Thanks Alexandra for bringing this post to the Blogger’s Pit Stop. Every post adds value for us all. We love to see you enjoying the blogging experience and we want to help you achieve that. Whatever your blogging goals we hope you have found a piece of knowledge here that will help you going forward.
    Kathleen, Pit Stop Crew

    • It doesn’t look like we’ll be having a while Christmas this year but I’m totally ok with that. I know January will make up for it haha Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Yes, yes and yes! lol These are all such a great tips, especially making sure those cute boots are made for walking and for snow!!

  13. These are great, and I use every one of them. Well, except the space heater in the bathroom — that is the one place I like it to be a little cool while I’m getting ready. 🙂 Congratulations for having this post featured in #ThePinterestGame this week!

  14. Jen

    Love this. I have lived all my life in Texas and Florida and we just moved to Montana. This is my first real winter and our first time in the snow. So far we are loving it. Dressing appropriately makes all the difference. I bought Alpaca socks and they are the best.

  15. Tips really rewarding.I will apply all these tips for the winter of our country.Hope will bring good results as you say.

  16. Erica

    New to Chicago…my 1st winter and these are great tips! I was definitely prepared…

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