If you couldn’t tell by the blaring heat, the bikinis and the ads for discount gym memberships, summer is finally here. For many areas it got off to a rocky start, with lingering cold fronts and major storms tearing through most states and leaving us dazed and confused. To add to the strain is the continuing economic hardships that have most people feeling the pinch, meaning this is going to be far from a golden summer.
But there are ways you can keep from wasting any unneeded cash over the next few sunny months. Whether you are heading out for a vacation or staying home with the family, all it takes are a few little changes to make all the difference in the world.
Make Your Own Drinks
Apart from being expensive and unhealthy, soda and other bottled drinks are a serious strain on the environment. They might taste good but the cons definitely outweigh that pro. Especially given how much money adds up being spent over the weeks without us even noticing. I learned this first hand when I started putting the amount of money my husband spent on soda in a jar for every one he bought for a month. It came out to – no joke – $72.00. Of course this also counted ice teas and fruit drinks bought by the bottle.
This led him to give it up, and instead we make our own drinks, or mix them from concentrate. A few favorites from my kids come at much less of a cost. We buy frozen juice and keep jugs of it on hand in the fridge, which is always nice for our kids for drinks with meals or for a snack later in the day.
For my husband and myself I make iced tea. I take four bags of camomile and put them in a gallon jug of filtered water. I add in honey and fresh fruit to taste. It tastes even better than the sugar-filled bottled stuff he used to buy, and he can fill his thermos for work.
For iced coffees I make a pot like normal and then let it cool. I then pour it in a jug with as much milk as I personally like (wait until it has cooled or it will steam the milk). I add ice cubes, sugar and vanilla extract. For something sweeter add some chocolate syrup or caramel sauce and some whip cream to the top.
Buy Local Produce
If you have been to the grocers lately you might have had a shock at the rising costs of fresh produce, especially fruit. This has led many people to begin buying canned, but this will limit the taste of your food, increase your sodium intake significantly and fill the world with unneeded cans.
Instead, track down a nearby farmer’s market. Most states will have one in every city that operates once or twice a week. The produce is all locally grown so never frozen or transported over state lines, and it is a fraction of the cost. The market opened here last week and I got a pound of strawberries for $1.50 and a watermelon for $.50.
If you want further savings you can join your local co-op. They work by asking you to volunteer an hour or two to your community, and in return they give you a week or so of food for an average sized family for a fraction of regular grocery costs.
Cut The Costly Vacation
I have seen a lot of articles suggesting you ‘pretend’ to go on a vacation. But let’s face it, the prospect of having a faux-getaway at home is depressing when you get right down to it. We all need to get away sometimes, but you can do it in a more cost effective way.
Rather than spending thousands to take off in a plane for a major family vacation, do something a little more close to home and simple. For example, we are planning on heading to California, which is only a state away. We are staying in a cheaper motel since we plan on spending very little time there. Most of our trip will be spent on the beach, which is free.
Rather than going to the main attractions (Disney Land, SeaWorld, ect.), we have found online lists with family-friendly activities that wont cost hundreds for a single day. There won’t even be hours-long lines per ride!
Careful With The AC
Sometimes you just have to have the air conditioner on. No one likes to be panting in heat, and it is one of those lovely – if not completely necessary – luxury items we don’t want to give up. Try using the auto feature to keep your AC running only to a certain temperature. The usual recommended is 68 F, or maybe as low as 65. Once it hits that temp it will shut off and only turn on to keep it maintained.
You can also do away with it at night all together. Instead, open the windows and in each bedroom put a fan in the window to blow cold air. Try keeping any unnecessary doors (bathrooms, closets, ect.) closed, and the bedroom doors open to circulate that air effectively.
Have An At Home Movie Night
I don’t know about you, but I hate sitting in a crowded theater in the summer. Most will have an AC running, but so high you actually have to bring a sweater with you. The people around have been in the hot sun and smell like B.O. All in all, not pleasant.
One of my favorite summer activities is to host an at-home party at my place for friends or family to watch a movie together. We pop air-popped popcorn, pass out lemonade and watch whatever we decide to stream off of Netflix. It is cheaper and much more pleasant, even if the movie isn’t the latest high-grossing blockbuster.
Look Into Community Listings
Every year my local university has outdoor concerts and symphonies for free. A park nearby has free outdoor showings of movies, mostly indie but some high-budget Hollywood flicks from the past. This week there is an outdoor street fair for local artists and performers. If I can find all of this in my rather small city, I bet you can find plenty of things in yours for cheap or free.
Get a local paper, especially the free ones, and check out the listings for events happening near you.
Forget The Water Park
Water parks are ridiculously expensive. They might be fun to go to once during the summer for a special treat, but otherwise there are better ways to have fun in the water. Turn on the sprinklers in your yard and let the kids play, get a small pool (there are some great upright ones much bigger than your average kiddy pool), and get a slip and slide or other fun yard accessory.
For a day in the pool, check out some of your community pools. If you live in an apartment with one available for use, take advantage of it. Go in the mornings or evenings to have more of it to yourself.
See, it doesn’t have to be a hassle to save money during the summer, and it doesn’t have to cut into your fun, either. What are some of your summer cash-saving tips.
Annie is a frugal mom and money-saving blogger writing for Mobile Phone Finder, the best free online tool for mobile phone comparison.