Thursday, July 7, 2011

Money saving tips for the summer

Now that it's summer and heat is sweltering it's time to start blasting the AC and think about escaping to the beach. Before you do that, though, I've scoured the internet for a few money saving tips you may want to consider.

From WiseBread:
- Book in Advance: Nick and I are pretty familiar with this one because he often has to go on business trips at the very last minute and I'm always completely amazed at the prices his plane tickets cost (we're talking $900+ for a 3 hour flight). We've also been smart and bought plane tickets waaaaay in advance and essentially gotten them at around 50% off what they could have cost. Hotels can be the same way, especially if you are going to stay at boutique places or a very popular destination. I know some people prefer to wait and see if they can get those last minute deals, but if you have something really specific in mind it doesn't always pan out. So play it safe and book in advance.
- Stay with Friends and Relatives: If you are lucky enough to have people to you like, have the space, and can tolerate you while you visit somewhere, stay with them. We have two couches and a queen size blow up mattress so we let friends stay with us all the time. It's a great excuse to force them to spend time with us too (we miss people and like to catch up). Hotels are so expensive and depending on where you go, could be the bulk of your trip cost. So if possible, be cheap and stay with someone! But make sure you bring them a gift to say thank you. Otherwise it may be the last time you get to take advantage of that.
- Tune Up Your Car: Gas prices usually go up at the beginning of the summer (although is it just me, or did they go down this year?!), and with all the driving to the beach or road trips planned, you should make sure you get a tune up. Your car will run better, and you could prevent any unforseen issues that might happen when you're in the middle of Wyomming and the next rest stop is 80 miles away.

- Cook Outside: Turning the oven on means more heat in the house which means you use energy/gas to cook, and then more of that to get the AC going again. If you can, fire up that grill and keep the heat where it belongs, outside.
- Watch the Weather (for the AC): Unless you're me, and thinks that when it turns 78 degrees it's too hot and the AC should be on all the time, you should really keep an eye out to see what the weather is. In the SF Bay at night it drops down to well below what the day temps were and simply opening the windows for some cross ventalation is the best AC in the world. So make sure you check both day time and night time temperatures to make sure you really need to keep the AC or if you can let mother nature do her job.
- AC Filters: Think of this like the filter in the dryer. If it's dirty and clogged, it takes twice as long to dry your clothes. If the AC filter is dirty it takes twice as much energy to cool off your house. Plus think about all that nasty stuff it might be blowing around.

From Energy Right:
- Be aware of the electronics that are on when the AC is: Certain things like lights in rooms that no one is sitting in and computers that are not being used create heat and use up money (both because they're using energy themselves and because they're making the AC work harder). Nick's computer room is the hottest in our apartment because he's always got 3+ machines going at once. Unfortunately for us that's how he built our firewall and internet connection, so even though he's at work right now I couldn't be online safely typing away if they weren't on.
- Check window frames/caulk, etc.: This is a good one for the winter too. Make sure your window frames are sealed so no heat gets in or any good stuff gets out.
- Use your curtains and blinds: This is a personal favorite of mine. It's counter intuitive to keep your windows closed all day while you're out at work, but if you do that and close the blinds/curtains, you not only keep the hot air out, but you block the sun from using the windows to create more heat. If you aren't using AC (or even if you are), this is a great way to naturally keep the place cool. We do this and our downstairs (which isn't even a basement, it's completely above ground), feels like it has had the AC blowing all day. Then at night we open up all the windows and let the cool air in. During the winter this works just as well, except open the curtains and blinds and let the sun in to create a little bit of extra heat.

From the The San Francisco Gate:
I'm just copying and pasting the whole thing because every tip they have is a great one:

1. Washing Your Own Car - In the winter, we can get away with driving a dirty car (in the Bay). It rains all the time, and the weather's pretty cold (it also doesn't snow), so it's rare that you'll even find an open carwash. Come summer; however, your car gets dirtier, and local carwashes will welcome you with open arms. If you can, resist! Instead of dropping $10+ at every carwash visit, do-it-yourself. You'll get some good exercise, time outside, and over time, you'll save money. Plus, you'll be helping upkeep the value of your car, and you'll be able to afford a carwash more often.
2. Gardening and Landscaping - If you're planning a new landscaping project, do it yourself instead of hiring a landscaper. Get the family involved for some healthy time outside. If you're brainstorming projects, consider revamping your garden with landscaping that requires minimal water. Finally get rid of that dead lawn, and replace your flowers with blooming cacti. Why use water when you can have a garden that looks beautiful without it?
3. Painting Your Own Home - If those chips and cracks are finally getting to you, invest in a new paint job to invest in the value of your home. If you can, do as much as you can yourself. You'll get a good workout, spend time outside, and save money. If you need guidance, you can even work with a professional to help guide you.
4. Growing Your Own Food - Grocery store produce is so expensive! Plus, your kids will think that the vegetables taste better if they have a hand in growing your garden. Gardening is relaxing, fun, and cost-saving when done right. This kind of project will also provide your kids with an excellent learning experience.
(Side note: start up costs can be pricey for this, but it's well worth the investment in the end. Just make sure you choose vegetables you actually like and cook with on a regular basis so nothing is wasted.)
5. Washing Your Pets at Home - Pet grooming expenses can really add up, even if you're only going in once or twice a month. Yes, washing your pets can be unpleasant, but during the summer, the weather's nice enough to hang out outside with a bucket. If your pet is averse to cold water, bring a bucket of warm water outside. After all, it's most important that your pets stay comfortable and healthy.
6. Biking or Walking to Run Errands - Next time you pick up the keys to run an errand around the corner, stop yourself. Over time, these little trips add up. Instead of trapping yourself inside of a car and wasting money, walk. After all, the days last longer, and you spend way too much time at your desk. If you're planning to buy something, bring a backpack or bag. Your body will thank you for the workout and time outside.

Now a couple tips from me!

- Plan ahead: My friend Mike will be the first person to tell you I am a planner. I always have an itinerary ready of where I want to go and what I want to do. Granted, I'm not one of those people who wakes up at 7am on my days off to cram in everything ever, but it's very time and money effective to at least know the direction you want your day to head in. When possible, buy tickets for events ahead of time (you can usually save a few $ compared to buying them at the door). When going places like the beach, parks, or even long car rides bring refreshments and snacks with you. It's a lot cheaper than buying stuff there where costs are jacked up by a lot. And if you are driving someplace, make sure you have accurate directions. You can save on the wasted gas of being lost, and a lot of frustration too.
- Check your rewards Credit Card to see if they have special deals. I know with mine if I sign up, I can get 5% cash back on certain summer time themed purchases. But I had to sign up to get that deal. Sometimes they also offer discounts and/or extra points on purchases if I buy through their website.
- And lastly, when driving out of your neighborhood (whether in a rented car or on a road trip) refer to websites like Gas Buddy or phone apps to find the best prices of gas near by.

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