The heat is on!

It’s officially summer and the season of outdoor recreation is in full swing. Summer means barbecues, swimming until it’s dark and grilling outside with friends. It also means blasting the air conditioning, heading away on vacation and … well … spending a lot of money.

Well it could mean spending a lot of money. But instead of busting your entire budget on one season, why not follow these tips and still have some cash left over when the leaves start to change?

Pack the Snacks

Especially if you have kids, one of the fastest ways to spend a ton of money while you’re out and about is on food, snacks and drinks. Travel prepared this season by heading to your destination armed with granola bars, fruit snacks, pretzels, almonds, etc. This’ll keep the kids from getting agitated because they’re starving, and it’ll keep you from dropping $15 just for snacks for your family.

Save on Energy

We could suggest turning the air conditioner off, but let’s be realistic. Instead, look for other ways to save on your energy costs this summer. For example, try letting your clothes air dry outside instead of running the dryer, replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones that are more energy-efficient, use the microwave or toaster oven to heat up leftovers since they use less energy than a conventional oven and grill outside as often as possible to avoid running the AC at its highest setting in order to combat the added heat from the stove.

Oh and about that air conditioner—make sure you replace your filters regularly to avoid increased costs due to restricted airflow.

If you’re not sure which appliances in your home are costing you the most in energy, check out this infographic from GE to find out how many watts your typical gadgets use up.

Conserve Your Water Use

Water bills can really add up in the summer months, especially if your family is busy filling up pools outside to splash around in and running sprinklers for the yard. Instead of cutting back on the outdoor fun, try to make up for it by making small changes to your water usage inside. Encourage your family to take shorter showers (which are much cheaper for your water bill than baths), and install a low-flow showerhead to conserve even more.

Make the Most of Your Windows

Installing high-performance windows, screens and films may seem like a costly endeavor at first, but they’ll more than make up for it by protecting your furniture upholstery, wood and art from damaging UV rays. If you’re in the market for new windows in general, look for a National Fenestration Rating Council label, which means the window’s performance has been certified, before making the purchase.

Save on Gas

Even if you won’t be heading on a cross-country road trip this summer, with the kids out of school you’ll probably be using the car more often than you do during the rest of the year. This means gas prices can really start to add up. Next time you need to fill up, try using Gas Price Watch or Gas Buddy to find the lowest prices available at thousands of stations across the country.

Cheryl Lock writes about personal finance at When she's not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at

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