Summer is a very special season. The days are longer, the nights are warm and brimming with possibility, and I find that people tend to be in the best of moods on days when the sun is shining and they can do just about everything outside. As someone who makes every attempt to live frugally (not in a Scrooge-y type of way but in the way where I maximize every dollar and try not to waste,) summertime also holds the unique opportunity to utilize the fresh air, good weather, extra hours of daylight, and outdoor activities. And believe it or not, this special season holds the prospect of actually saving money through some easy changes. Give one, two, or all of the below suggestions a try and check your budget at the end of the summer. I think you’ll be pleased with the end results.
Cut down on your Cable
Get yourself outside! I can understand wanting to have a hearty amount of channels for gloomy, cold and wet winter days when there’s no real possibility of spending the weekends or weeknights outdoors. But summer is special, and it just might be the cutting down of the channels that forces you outside with a book or on a walk. Plus, think of all the money you’ll save by going basic. I checked recently, and the difference is around $20 a month for my provider.
Eat Dinners In
Summer is a great season for socializing, but it can be just as fun to get together with friends and family at someone’s home than going out to a restaurant. One of my favorite things about summer is being able to grill outdoors, and grilling is a perfect group-dinner activity. Shish-kabobs, corn on the cob, grilled chicken, burgers, fish, and grilled veggies are all easy to grill and will cost much less if made at home; but will taste just as good! Plus, you don’t have to tag a tip onto the price of dinner. (Just recruit your friends to help you do the dishes and tell them you’ll call it even.)
Bring the Bar to You
Again, I understand that frequenting the watering hole is a fun way to meet up with friends and unwind. But you can save a significant amount by mixing your own drinks at home. Stores like BevMo, Trader Joe’s, and Costco sell beer, wine and liquor for far less than the bar. Costco sells 24-packs for $24. I dare you to find a bar where you can buy a beer for a buck. Most bars sell beers for about $4-7 if it’s not happy hour, meaning you can save as much as $6 per beer.
Stop Hitting up Starbucks
Believe me, I am a huge coffee fan. I understand the need for that daily cuppa joe. But I’ve also found ways to skim the price off an iced coffee and save around $10 every week. One very easy solution is to brew your own. Since for some reason I am awful at brewing my own coffee, I’ve taken to buying a Starbucks; coffee traveller, which is a big carrier filled with 96 fluid ounces of coffee. It makes about twelve 8 oz. servings, and at $14 total works out to about $1.16 per cup. I bought my own to-go iced travel cup (Walmart, $5), which has paid for itself by now, and I brew my own ice for free. Adding in the cost of sugar and Half; Half, each coffee I make costs about $1.50. I don’t think this would work very well if you wanted hot coffee every day, but I prefer mine iced in the summertime so I just pour the coffee into a pitcher and stick it in my fridge. You can’t beat that.
Quit Buying your Produce
Summertime is the best time to grow your own garden and get some fresh, inexpensive produce. You don’t even have to go all-out with it. Start small with some herbs like oregano, basil, and parsley. Seeds are very inexpensive, for example my parsley seeds were 50 cents a package and I grew a ton of parsley that lasted me all summer last season.
Cut Down on AC
In some parts of the country it gets hotter than others, so this might not be an option depending on where you live. But if you can use the AC in only one room, like your bedroom (because it can be close to impossible to fall asleep in a stifling room), you will save a bundle on your electric bill.
Turn off the Lights
Take advantage of Mother Nature’s; and Daylight Savings Time’s; longer days. Wherever and whenever you can get by without turning the lights on, do it!
Stop Paying for Books
Check out your local library and you might just be amazed by what you find. Most libraries are equipped with AC, ahhh a nice way to beat the heat if you’ve gotten too much sun for the week, and offer free DVD and book rentals. Get all of your beach and summer reading from the library without paying a cent.
Score Free Entertainment
This is THE season for community festivals, outdoor concerts, and other open-air functions many of which are 100% F-R-E-E. Check your local city’s calendar of events for the summer and make sure to jot down the events on your calendar so you don’t forget. Pack your own picnic with food and drinks to avoid paying overpriced vendor fees at the functions.
Save on Gas
If you live close enough to town, try walking or riding a bike to run errands. If you don’t live close enough you could give public transportation a try. Waiting for a bus in the freezing cold and rain is never fun, but in the summer you can pull out a book, pop in your iPod earphones, and wait in pretty good weather. It’s a good time to try public transport because weather conditions are generally mild; and as a bonus, not everybody’s car offers AC. But I’ve never been on a city bus that didn’t have freezing cold air conditioning.
Give Up Indoor Movies
Indoor movies cost something like $11 these days (and that’s not even talking about IMAX prices.) But drive-ins, open-air movie theaters where you sit in your car, cost around $7 per person or $15 per carload. AND you get to see two features for that price! Not to mention you can pack your own soda, popcorn and Junior Mints for a fraction of the price you’d get it for at the concession stand.
Now I can’t guarantee that any of these suggestions will turn you into an overnight millionaire, or even that it’ll boost your credit score. But as the old adage goes, a penny saved is a penny earned, and if that penny can be put towards paying off a credit card or student loan, then the more power to you!
DK is a blogger who specializes in writing about personal finance. You can find some of his other work at RoadFish.com