Enjoying the summer season doesn’t mean you have to splurge. Here are some easy ways to save money while soaking up the sun.
Strategize your farmer’s market outings
Though the earliest bird may get the best farmer’s market selection—being an early shopper may not score you the best deal, according to Consumer Reports. Because vendors want to minimize the amount of unsold goods they take back to the farm, they may be willing to agree to a lower price on their leftover merchandise near closing time, if you ask.
Ditching your mental shopping list at the produce stand can lead to savings, too. Being open to foods that are abundant and in season will score you a better deal than searching for a particular item that may be in greater demand and shorter supply.
Maximize efficiency of summer car trips
Whether you intend to pack up the family and drive to your summer vacation destination, or simply sneak in a long weekend getaway, there are simple money-saving auto moves that take little to no extra effort.
For example, the Federal Trade Commission advises avoiding use of the air conditioning as much as possible to save on gas, and keep it on the “economy” setting if you can’t take the heat.
Waiting in a traffic jam that has no end in sight? Shut off your engine to save fuel (and reduce pollutants). If you’re planning to load belongings onto the roof of the car, think again. Packing cargo on your roof decreases fuel efficiency by as much as five percent.
The best part about summer is the abundance of free activities. If you’re not already, get connected with local park and recreation centers, community papers and magazines, and your local chamber of commerce on Facebook and Twitter.
Not only will you stay “in the know” about local happenings, you may find free giveaways simply for engaging with the organizations on social media.
Freshen your filters
If you’ve got an HVAC system in your home, the simplest money-saving move you can make is to change your filters. It will cost you less than $15, reduce allergens and air pollutants in your home, and improve the efficiency of your air flow. Add a note into your calendar based on the time frame specified on the filter you buy so you don’t forget to change it.
Regulate indoor temperatures
If you work out of the home all day, boost your thermostat up so the AC isn’t running when no one is home and close your curtains to keep sunlight out. EnergyStar advises returning the setting to 78 degrees (F) when you’re at home for the most consistent air temperatures.
If you use a programmable thermostat, consider its location. One that is placed near direct sunlight, drafts, doorways, skylights, and windows, can give a “false read” of the real indoor temperature.
Take advantage of the outdoors in the summer as much as possible to reduce the amount of activities that unintentionally heat your home.
For example, grill outside instead of using the indoor oven, hang clothes on a line to reduce dryer time, let part of your hair dry in the breeze instead of using a hair dryer, and hang items that take the longest to dry, like blankets and towels, outside on a clothes line.
Redefine dinner and a movie
Instead of your standard (and pricey) dinner and a movie date night, stock your car with movie munchies and hit the drive-in! Drive-ins.com has a searchable database of more than 5,000 drive-in movie theaters nationwide.
Not only can your entire carload catch a new release for the same price (or even less) than you’d spend on one general admission movie ticket, it’s also a fun way to make lasting summer memories.
Make your garden work for you
If you’re trying to grow what doesn’t flourish in your area, you may be setting yourself up for a lot of unnecessary gardening expenses.
Increase your garden’s chance of success, and minimize maintenance, by planting what is indigenous to your area. PlantNative.org offers a guide to plants and flowers that are native to various regions.
If you use herbs in cooking, plant your own herb garden. Common cooking herbs like basil, dill, mint, rosemary and thyme are easy to grow (especially if you buy them already started), and one starter pot might actually cost less than you’d pay for a jar of herbs at the grocery.
Short on space? Simply carve out a spot that gets sunlight and skip the fertilizer for the best taste. When summer ends, you can easily dry herbs in the oven on the lowest temperature setting and jar them for winter.
Make margaritas (really!)
If your definition of summer includes a cool cocktail on a hot sunny day, skip the premade mixes, which run anywhere from $12 to $20 and are full of low quality liquor and a lot fake sweeteners, and make your own version with a decent liquor and fresh ingredients.
FoodNetwork.com suggests this recipe for a top-notch margarita: Mix one cup tequila with one cup of fresh citrus juice, a ½ cup of TripleSec and a ½ cup of sparkling water. Garnish with fresh citrus slices and salt–and enjoy!
Devise a solstice savings plan
If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, there are about 94 days of summer. Aim to save just $7 every day of summer, and you’ll have more than $650 accumulated by Labor Day. Whether you use it to pay down a credit card, loan, or to fund the upcoming holiday season, it may be the most important money move you make all summer.
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.