Six Steps to Summer Savings

Family at the beach

Summer. It’s a time for fun, relaxation—and bursting budgets. From increased gas prices and higher energy costs to summer trips and kids who need something to do, costs can skyrocket during the summer months. Here are six ways to save on some of the most common expenses that pop up during summer.

  1. Cut energy costs
    • Adjusting the thermostat. As temperatures rise, air conditioning costs can spike dramatically in the summer. In fact, homeowners spend more than $11 billion every year to power their air conditioners.* Cooling costs can be cut almost in half by turning the thermostat up from 70 degrees to 78.
    • Using fans. Fans can help augment your air conditioner (while using less electricity) and allow you to turn up the thermostat about 4 degrees without sacrificing comfort.
    • Installing (and using) a programmable thermostat. Set your home to allow a warmer temperature when you’re away and save up to 10 percent on cooling costs.
  2. Keep kids active for less
  3. With the kids out of school, many parents spend a lot on activities to keep them busy. Average spending on activities and entertainment during the summer is over $600 per child.** Here are a few ideas to keep them entertained that cost (almost) nothing:

  • Having a campout indoors. It’s a great way to get young kids excited about your next camping trip.
  • Turning your driveway into a game. All you need is some sidewalk chalk to play popular games like hopscotch or create a bullseye for a bag toss game.
  • Planting a garden. Getting the kids to help with a garden of herbs and veggies teaches them about the value of hard work and helps them learn about the foods they eat.
  • Plan a thrifty summer trip
  • One of the biggest expenses of the summer is often a big family trip. Domestic airfare alone costs $391 per person on average—that’s over $1,500 for a family of four!*** This year, cut expenses by:

    • Visiting a state park. With plenty to do for everyone in the family and affordable passes, it’s a great alternative to pricier destinations.
    • Traveling to an off-season destination. For instance, southern Florida vacations are often cheapest in the summer months.
    • Many ski resorts also offer affordable summer vacation packages.
  • Cook more at home
  • With warmer weather, you may get together with friends at local restaurants more often. According to a recent Zagat survey, the national average spent per person on a dinner out is $39.40. Consider changing the venue to your own home with:

    • A barbecue at your place. Invite your friends to each bring part of the meal.
    • A horseshoe or bocce ball tournament. This is a great chance to have some fun and catch up.
  • Skip the theater release
  • Many of the biggest blockbusters of the year are released in summer. But a trip to the movies can be a hefty expense, especially for a whole family. Average ticket prices are over $8 per person according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Combine this with markups on popcorn and other foods that can exceed 700 percent, and a trip to the movies may take up your whole week’s entertainment budget. Opt for one of these fun alternatives instead:

    • Have a themed movie night at home. Have your family dress up like characters who could be in the movie or make snacks that fit the theme.
    • Look for local movie-in-the-park experiences. Many public parks screen free movies in the evenings during the summer. Be sure to pack some snacks and a blanket.
    • Check your theater for discount programs. Matinee ticket prices are usually cheaper, and many theaters have free or special movie packages for kids during the summer.
  • Cut back on driving
  • Fuel prices inevitably increase in summer, so even if you’re driving the same distance, you’ll be paying more. Not only is demand higher in the summer, but summer-grade fuel is actually more expensive to produce than winter-grade fuel. This summer, save gas by:

    • Carpooling. Whether you’re riding with a co-worker or taking public transit, sharing a ride means less fuel consumed overall and more savings.
    • Riding a bike. Enjoy some great exercise and take in the sunshine if your destination is reasonably close.

    Plan ahead This year, plan ahead for seasonal increases by making regular deposits into a savings account. That way, you’ll be prepared for the higher-than-average spending when it comes back next summer!

    Sources: *U.S. Department of Energy, **The New York Times, "$16 Billion: The Cost of Summer", ***United States Department of Transportation,

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