How to Save Money During a Summer When Everything Is Super Expensive

An inflation rate over 8% means that just about everything is more expensive this summer — from groceries to gas, airfare to air-conditioning.

But higher prices don’t mean that summer fun is out of reach. There are plenty of worthwhile strategies to consider that could help you save money on gas, as well as tips to keep in mind for lowering the costs of cooling your house, heading out on vacation and more.

How to save money this summer

Here are eight tips for saving money when you’re on vacation or staying close to home, even as prices rise everywhere.

Be smart about air conditioning

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is forecasting that households will spend an average of $454 on electricity over June, July and August — roughly $151 per month. That means it pays to be strategic about when and how you cool your home.

Consider turning your thermostat up a degree or two, and make sure you close the doors to rooms you aren’t using so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard. You can also use a smart thermostat to set a slightly higher temperature in your home when you aren’t around. There are other creative ways to keep cool while you sleep too, possibly enabling you to switch your A/C to fan mode or turn it off entirely at night.

Take advantage of the great outdoors

When the weather is nice, consider skipping an indoor outing like a restaurant meal, shopping trip or a night at the movies in favor of a picnic, hike or another outdoor activity. Many state parks have free admission days, and walks and other activities outside are a great way to keep active without paying for a gym membership.

If you’re looking for an extra nudge to get outside, consider canceling a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu for a few months. Even dropping down to a cheaper tier of service or going without some pay channels can save a few bucks. Switching from Netflix’s premium plan ($19.99 per month) to its basic plan ($9.99 per month) for three months will save you $30. If you have younger kids, you can spend that extra cash on backyard water toys to use all summer long.

Celebrate weddings more frugally

Summer is wedding season, and 2022 is expected to be the hottest year for weddings since 1984. The average cost of attending a wedding in 2019 was $430, according to a study by the wedding website The Knot, and costs are even higher for out-of-town events. If you have a full wedding calendar and a tight budget this year, it makes sense to cut back on your expenses.

You can rent a dress or suit from a service like Rent the Runway instead of buying a new one, and you can split accommodations with a group if you’re traveling out of town. Make sure you pick out your registry gift early (so you can find something that suits your price range), or consider a homemade wedding gift if there’s truly no room in your budget. It really is the thought that counts.

Pay attention to where you get gas

Gas prices are at a record high, averaging about $4.60 per gallon. That’s a whopping $1.60 more than this time last year. If you’re taking any road trips this summer, it’s a good idea to pay a little bit more attention to where you fill up — especially around state lines.

The GasBuddy app says that since gas taxes and other costs differ from state to state, “waiting until you cross state lines can either cost you or save you a lot of money on gas.”

In Illinois, for instance, a gallon of regular gas costs an average of $4.97 lately. But across the border in Iowa, average gas prices drop to $4.17. In California, drivers are now paying an average of $6.07, compared to $4.91 across the border in Arizona.

Travel with fuel-efficiency in mind

Making small changes to the way you drive is another way to save money on gas. Avoiding abrupt accelerating and braking is not only safer, it will also improve your fuel economy. Using cruise control on the highway will also save fuel, as will turning off your engine when parked rather than idling.

And with gas prices so high, consider taking public transportation, riding a bike or walking whenever possible to cut out driving costs entirely.

Stock up on seasonal items

If there’s a little wiggle room in your budget, the summer months can be a great time to stock up on seasonal items — potentially saving you money on goods you’ll need down the line.

The warmer months are a great time to buy summer clothing because of the major sales surrounding the July 4th holiday, according to DealNews.com consumer analyst Julie Ramhold. She expects discounts to average between 40% and 50%. Look for deals on outdoor gear and activewear throughout the summer, too.

Other seasonal items like garden tools and porch furniture also tend to be discounted in August, and Ramhold predicts that consumers will see the best deals on barbecue grills and lawnmowers as the season winds down in September and October.

Shop smart at the grocery store

Grocery prices are up 11% over the last year. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to cut costs at the supermarket. You can swap out expensive cuts of meat for cheaper ones, for instance, or opt for frozen instead of fresh.

In-season local produce (like corn and tomatoes in the summertime) tends to be fresher and cheaper than out-of-season produce. For many nonperishable items, it’s cheaper to buy the generic option instead of the name brand. Make sure to take advantage of store coupons and rewards programs, too.

Travel off-peak

If you’re vacationing this summer, avoiding the most popular travel days and times can help you stay on budget. You’ll save an average of $75 on domestic airfare when you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of the weekend, according to the travel search site Hopper. Booking a vacation for September and October — or sometimes even just in late August — rather than the peak summer travel period is also a simple and reliable way to save a bundle.

This logic applies to destinations, too: it’s less expensive to travel to less popular spots, and you’ll save money when you get there, too. An April report from Hopper found that a roundtrip ticket to Ibiza, Spain would cost travelers more than $1,000 this summer. A ticket to Tulum, Mexico, which offers many of the same amenities as Ibiza, was going for $455 — more than 50% less.

More from Money:

7 Strategies People Are Using to Combat High Gas Prices

Free Gas Cards, Tax Holidays and Other Discounts Are Coming to Help You Save at the Pump

More Americans Cancel Expensive Cable TV Packages as Inflation Soars

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