Staying cool and entertained during the summer doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. Though it’s easy to blast the A/C, spend money going out, and watch your savings dwindle, there are alternative ways to chill out without doling out dough. Little tweaks add up to a big difference, so pick a few (or all) of these strategies to ensure you’re on sound financial footing come fall. And if you’re itching to get away, check out our tips for budget travel.
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1. Use fans
Ceiling fans, stand fans, and tower fans keep rooms cool and circulate air while using a lot less energy than your A/C. Place one in each room, or just buy a couple and move them around depending where you spend the most time.
2. Keep the sun outside
You don’t have to live like a hermit, but keep curtains, blinds, and shutters closed whenever possible. Sunlight streaming in through windows heats up the house significantly, making your A/C work even harder to cool it off. Also, check for gaps in windows and under doors — anywhere heat can sneak in.
3. Don’t cook
Your oven and stovetop will radiate heat into the house — and who wants to hang in a warm kitchen right now, anyway? Summer is the perfect time for salads, gazpachos, sandwiches, and other cool dishes. Try exploring cured and pre-cooked meats, and when you do need to cook, use a toaster oven, slow cooker, or grill outdoors to get your BBQ fix.
Or satisfy your sweet tooth with delectable no-bake dessert recipes!
4. Hang out in the basement
If you have a finished basement, this is a great place to pass time during the summer since it’s naturally cooler. Turn it into a game room, reading room, or theater to keep the family entertained.
5. Switch lightbulbs
Switching old incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient LED ones will save you money during the summer, and for years to come. LEDs generate less heat than incandescent bulbs, and use up to 90% less energy. Since they last for up to 20 years, the savings really add up. Use them both inside and out (even string lights come as LEDs nowadays).
Not sure which LED light will replace your current incandescents? Amazon allows you to sort by bulb shape, wattage, light color temperature, and more so you can find the perfect fit!
6. Use your A/C the right way
Check the filter in your A/C and switch it out regularly to keep the system running smoothly and efficiently. Save the super cool air for when you really need it. If you can’t sleep in anything less than arctic conditions, wait until the evening to crank it up.
7. Water wisely
To save on your water bill, water your lawn in the evening so it doesn’t just evaporate. If you have an automatic sprinkler, be sure to turn it off when it rains.
8. Dry laundry outside
Don’t waste energy on a dryer when Mother Nature can act as a substitute during the summer months. Hang clothing in the sun — on hot days, it’ll be dry in just a couple of hours and it will have that wonderful fresh scent that’s far better than any fabric softener.
9. Shop at farmers markets
Fresh local produce is tough to beat and easiest to procure at this time of year. Not to mention, it’s a whole lot less expensive than the grocery store and it’ll help you avoid cooking since nothing’s better than fresh produce as is. Even better, grow food yourself in a backyard garden!
10. Stay hydrated
The scorching sun can (and should) lead you to guzzle beverages, but instead of expensive pre-made juices, iced teas, and alcoholic beverages (which will actually dehydrate you), try making your own thirst quenchers. Infused waters are inexpensive and delicious; you simply soak fruits and herbs in water overnight. They’ll also help keep you cool, especially if you pair them with a spritzing bottle.
11. Find cheap entertainment
Summertime means a lot of discounted and even free outdoor entertainment — carnivals, concerts, festivals, flea markets, and more. Museums often have free days in the summer. Outdoor movie screenings are a fun way to spend a summer evening. Local beaches and pools are inexpensive, and often offer summer passes which are worthwhile if you go often enough. Stay active by playing ball at the park. Or simply hit the library and encourage your family to lounge in the sun with a good book.
Got some boredom blues? Keep the family (and yourself) entertained with these 52+ low cost and free activities for kids and families!
12. Be wary of gas usage
Gas prices tend to be highest in the summer since there’s the greatest demand. Try to combine errands to minimize driving, and find the cheapest station on your regular driving route using the site Gas Buddy.
Fill up on Wednesday or Thursday mornings when gas prices tend to be cheapest, and avoid filling up on the weekend if possible. Parking in the shade will slow the process of gas evaporating out of your fuel, and a cool car also means you’ll use less energy on air conditioning. Finally, keep windows closed when driving, which can reduce gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
Summer downtime and heat can drain your energy and your savings. But if you make some easy routine changes and take advantage of summer’s money saving opportunities, you’ll stay cool and have fun without emptying out your wallet.