Summer is kicking off at a time when inflation is near 40-year highs. Families are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, at the grocery store, and when they open their utility bills. Summer is wonderful, of course, but for many of us, summer is already a time of high electric bills. In some areas of the country, electric bills are already up 15% over last year. Luckily, there are still ways families can save that don’t require them to spend the summer sweltering or forgoing all entertainment and fun. Small changes can still equal big savings. Changing how and what you cook, switching up entertainment choices, and working toward becoming more energy-efficient are all ways the average person can make sure their budget works this summer. But if an air conditioning repair bill or other emergency pops up, there’s always the option of a loan to help you through tough times.
Take Advantage of Free Entertainment
Now is the time to follow the social media accounts of local governments, parks and recreation departments, and library systems. These entities usually host free entertainment during the summer. Traditional offerings include concert series, plays, reading-based activities for kids, outdoor movie nights at local parts, and fireworks displays for major holidays. That means that a night of entertainment for your family can cost as little as packing a picnic at home. If your town has a swimming pool, check whether residents get free or discounted rates. Your library might also offer free streaming services. Look over your budget and determine what paid entertainment these free options can replace. Forgoing a pricey theme park season pass to focus on local parks or pausing a gym membership during the months when you can swim or run outside can help you improve your finances without sacrificing fun.
Cook With In-Season Ingredients
Food costs are a worry for many families. It’s classic personal finance advice to suggest basing meals around food that’s on sale, but that’s because it’s advice that works. For produce, that usually means cooking with in-season food. Seasonal produce is often wonderfully cheap, and summer offers up a bounty of produce. What’s currently in season varies from region to region, but early summer typically sees favorites like zucchini, blueberries, lettuce, and tomatoes. Mid-summer is when corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and other types of squash are harvested. Late summer is when eggplant, Swiss chard, and peppers come to market. Unsure what to do with your bounty? Try these money-saving, healthy, and delicious recipes:
- 25 Ways to Use Zucchini: Few food items are as cheap as zucchini is at the height of its season. Luckily, it’s an incredibly versatile vegetable that can be used as the basis of pasta dishes, soups, and baked goods.
- 21 Affordable Summer Recipes That Taste Like a Million Bucks: Eating cheaply doesn’t mean not eating well. With inexpensive summer produce, it’s possible to turn out company-worthy meals for very little money.
Change How You Cook
Food costs aren’t the only prices on the rise. Energy costs are also a real concern. Keeping our homes cool this summer without blowing the budget is going to require making some adjustments to our lifestyles. One adjustment is changing up how we cook in warmer months. Turning on the oven or even using the stovetop heats up the kitchen, which means your A/C has to work harder to keep your house cool. So instead of baking or sautéing, try these cooking methods instead:
- Turn to Cold Foods: Not everyone enjoys a hot, heavy meal during the depths of summer anyway. Focusing on salads and other cold dishes saves on energy and helps everyone beat the heat.
- Light the Grill: If you have access to a grill, use it! Burgers are a perennial classic, but grilled vegetables take on a whole new flavor profile when cooked over an open flame. It’s a fun summertime experience that will also help keep those cooling bills in check.
- Use Other Appliances: Have a toaster oven, air fryer, Crock-Pot, or pressure cooker? Now is the time to put them into heavy rotation. These appliances don’t heat up the kitchen like the oven or stovetop do, making them perfect for whipping up summer meals.
- Change When You Cook: Some recipes absolutely must be made in the oven. Instead of cooking in the heat of the day, either make the meal in the early morning hours and just warm it up later or make dinner after the sun goes down and eat fashionably late.
Keep Your Home Cool
Humans have worked to cool their homes off during hot weather since long before air conditioning was invented. Before you crank up the A/C, explore other ways to beat the heat.
- Close the Curtains: Closing the curtains against the worst of the midday sun helps to keep your home cooler.
- Open the Windows: At night, turn off the A/C and open the windows on opposite sides of your home. Next, place fans in the windows on one side of the home. The fans will work to push out the stale air from your home and pull in cool evening air.
- Use Fans: Fans don’t use a lot of electricity but drastically improve how the air temperature feels.
- Check Your Bulbs: Incandescent bulbs give off heat. If you have any of these in your home, switch them out for LED bulbs.
Maintain Your A/C
There are steps you can take to lower your cooling bill and still run your air conditioning. The first and most important step is to change the filter. This applies to window units as well as central air. Aged and dirty filters cause airflow issues and require the unit to work harder to cool your home. Filters are cheap, and changing them regularly can greatly increase the efficiency of your unit. It also can extend the unit’s life, which will save you major money.
Invest in a New Thermostat
Do you have central air but an old thermostat? Consider investing in a new thermostat. A basic thermostat from a big-box store now comes with the ability to program it. A programmable thermostat lets you set up a schedule that cools your house when you need it and lets the temperature rise when no one is home or when everyone is asleep. Some people might find a smart thermostat worth the price. According to Nest, which makes one such device, users can save around 15% on their cooling bills.
Hang Up the Laundry
Along with changing up your cooking routine, tweaking how you handle laundry can save you money. Many people find that they have a lot more laundry in the summer because they change clothes more often and get their clothes dirtier than they do in the summer. But running your dryer costs money, and it also heats up your house. On the other hand, setting up a clothesline is cheap, and it lets you dry your clothes without using any power.
Going outside is good for your mental health and your physical health, and it can also give you opportunities to make good memories while saving money! When you’re outside, you won’t need to cool your house as much or use energy-consuming lights, computers, and televisions. So head to the park or just out in the backyard! Along with playing with the family, outside time is a good time to undertake some DIY projects around your property and home, and you’ll save even more money by not having someone do these chores for you.