When it comes to budgeting, I almost see it as a sport. And this season, there are plenty of opportunities to get in the game and save. Here's how my family lives on a small budget in the summertime:
1. Garden. This is the first year we've had an actual dedicated garden, but we've done some form or another of container gardening for several seasons now. When you can plant basil seeds at less than .10 a pop, it's much more fun and exponentially cheaper than buying $5 cut basil bunches at the market or — even worse — a $7 pre-made jar of pesto!
2. Cut down on air conditioning. When we lived in a little apartment, we skipped the A/C altogether. The choice was driven more by vanity than thriftiness: we simply didn't want to give up the view and light from one of only three windows for a window unit. Now that we're in a house with central air and are accustomed to hot city summers, it's no problem to keep the thermostat set to 77F. When chatting with friends, I am surprised to hear lots of people keep their thermostats a full 10 degrees lower than this! Setting the thermostat higher in the hot weather cuts down on those energy bills!
3. Tune in to the weather. Further reduce the amount that your air conditioning kicks on by responding to the weather. If it's a cool night or morning, open up the windows and turn off the climate control altogether. If you have west-facing windows, shade them well from the hot afternoon sun with plantings or awnings. It doesn't hurt that our house is situated under a decades-old oak tree that shades the house and keeps it cool on all but the hottest of summer days.
4. Head out. Cancel the gym membership and Netflix and stay outside. Get busy gardening (see above) or taking cool early morning (or late evening) jogs. In my case, most of my exercise comes from chasing a toddler around the park. To be sure we get in lots of outdoor time, we head out early and are back indoors in time for a midday siesta when the heat is too extreme for outdoor exertion.
5. Dress lightly. I am careful to buy lightweight, all-cotton clothing and linens for summer in particular. The natural fiber is cooler than synthetics (so we're more comfortable in our 77-degree interior) and dries really fast, too. This way, almost all laundry drying is done on the line (outdoors or in if necessary), saving the electricity and unneeded extra heat of running the dryer in the summer.
6. Vacation at home. This one's a pretty mainstream money-saving tip these days, complete with the coining of the term "staycation". Staying close to home for summer vacation, though, doesn't have to be corny. With my family's busy school-year schedule (my husband is a tenure-track professor), we hardly ever take advantage of all our mid-sized midwestern city and its surroundings have to offer. Summer is the perfect opportunity for us to explore locally and save up for big trips every decade or so.
7. Walk or bike. While it's difficult to do so when it's blizzard-y outside, summer is the perfect time to walk or bike on errands or fun outings. Even a walk to the grocery store can become an adventure. Refer to tips 4 and 6 for more reasons to travel this way instead of in a car.
What are your tips for saving money in the summer?