For Women & Co., by Melissa Fiorenza & Laura Serino, Authors of Twentysomething Girl: 1,001 Quick Tips & Tricks to Make Your Life Easier
It seems that every summer, as soon as the temperatures climb, monthly expenses do, too. Between blasting the AC on unbearably hot days to increasingly frequent trips to the ice cream shop, it's all too easy to break the bank before you even begin to consider an end-of-summer beach retreat. But not this year! It's time to switch things up. Read on for savings tips that'll have you spending more time soaking up rays -- instead of unnecessary costs.
1. Stay cool for less.
On average, air conditioning systems cost households nearly $375 in electricity annually. Help slash your energy bills this summer by investing in fans around the house, and using other ways to keep cool --like noshing on frozen grapes, taking cold showers, and closing the blinds during the day. If the AC is just too tempting, be sure to replace the filter monthly for maximum efficiency and get a regular tune-up.
2. Eat out more --at home.
The urge to dine al fresco when the weather's nice is understandable, but eating out all the time adds up. Instead, pack a picnic lunch every now and then and head to your nearest park (or your backyard). In the evenings, have dinner at home and then go out for just dessert and drinks. (Got little ones? Always check mykidseatfree.com for additional savings.)
3. Resist the lure of new clothes.
A wedding here, a company BBQ there. Events abound during summertime, but not every occasion requires a new dress. Consider swapping frocks with a friend or purchasing cheaper accessories (think statement necklaces, belts, or scarves) to change up the looks that are already in your closet. If you must buy something new, always check for promotion codes online or track the price of the item you want using a website like poachit.com.
4. Find free (or affordable) entertainment.
With so many ways to have fun for next to nothing during the summer, you should think twice about shelling out money for a huge concert or faraway festival. Some ideas: Enjoy a two-for-one movie the old-fashioned way at a drive-in; you can find the nearest one at driveinmovie.com. Check your town's main website for a calendar of free upcoming events, like concerts at the lake or plays at the park. Mini golf never costs much, and there's typically no fee for hauling your inner tubes to the nearest river for some lazy floating.
5. Don't go overboard on the sunscreen.
We don't mean that in an unhealthy way, as in, don't cover your whole body. You absolutely should, but get this: according to the American Academy of Dermatology, dermatologists consider "one ounce, enough to fill a shot glass" as the amount needed to cover exposed areas. So before you slather on the SPF and buy five new bottles, picture that glass first.
6. Cook outdoors.
Every time you use your oven or stove, you're heating your house - causing you to pump up the AC even more - and zapping energy. Take your tongs to the grill out back to prepare meals, use your microwave more often or load up on recipes that don't require heating at all.
7. Save on gas.
Road tripping can be a heck of a lot of fun - until you realize how much money you blew on gas. Here's your action plan from now on: Fill your gas earlier in the week, when prices tend to be lower, and look for discounted gas gift cards at giftcardgranny.com. Mobile apps, like GasBuddy, can actually pinpoint where the cheapest gas is nearest you. Lighten your carload to ultimately use less gas, and always, always, make sure you're not paying extra just for using your credit card. If you are, go with cash or go somewhere else.
8. Make entertaining a group affair.
Summer is the best time of year to constantly plan get-togethers with friends. But if you're always playing hostess, bills can add up. Opt for events at your house that require everyone to pitch in a little: a potluck dinner, a BYO game night, or an ice cream taste test contest where everyone brings their own pint.
9. Plan a cheaper vacation.
Okay, time to make your daydreams a reality and plan your next escape. Some advice: They say airline tickets are cheapest on Tuesdays. Always use a comparison tool like Kayak.com, and consider renting instead of staying a hotel (we like airbnb.com.) Do your best to pack as little as you can so you don't waste money on baggage fees, and check to see if your credit card comes with extra perks - like a credit for airline incidentals or a travel protection policy, just in case.
Sounds doable, right? Here's to a happy, affordable summer. Enjoy!
Women & Co., a service of Citi, is the go-to personal finance source for women. By providing financial content, commentary and community, Women & Co.'s mission is to get women thinking and talking about personal finance. Founded in 2000, Women & Co. is one of the longest running personal finance websites dedicated to helping women strengthen their financial futures.