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If you’re anything like me, you’re loving this fabulous turn to warmer springtime weather, especially after the crazy winter we all just endured. I mean, really, was Mother Nature totally hormonal last winter, or just plain mean? Both? When it comes to the warmer months that lie ahead, there’s no better way to welcome a spectacular summer than to dive into it well prepared, and for as little cost as possible.

The Clothes – We all want to freshen up our wardrobes with some fabulous new pieces. Shorts, summer dresses and suits, bathing suits, shoes — ladies, start your shopping engines. Did you just get an amazing deal on a summertime cruise? Upgrade with a new fabulous wardrobe to match! However you’re ringing in the summer, forget the cheaply made polyester knits, go for the designer names that make you look and feel great! Just don’t dare to buy them retail, not when they can all be found (for easily 50-95 percent off) at your local meticulously run consignment stores, thrift stores and church stores. I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to these goldmines, and trust me when I tell you, the best of these stores are taking couture clothing to an art form.

Kids’ clothes – Looking to update your kids’ wardrobes as well? Do your shopping in about five minutes time, for easily 90 percent off, with a click or two on Craigslist. As I type this, parents (far more organized than I) are cleaning out their kids’ closets, piling well-made, sturdy, easily washable designer name clothes into bags, and getting rid of it for $10 (or less!) online, often with detailed pictures you can comb thru to make sure it’s the right style for your kids. I’ve done this countless times, folks and I’ve never had a bad experience. Find a mutually convenient place to meet (local diner, school, church) and update your kids’ wardrobes with dozens of new outfits, often spending no more than $20 total. It’s a fabulous summertime ritual that does this Frugalista’s heart good.

The tax-write offs! – Somewhat-related clothing note: Once the weather starts hitting 80-degrees on a regular basis, you’re also in prime time to donate your winter clothes and gear to a local thrift shop or church store. Get rid of the sweaters, slacks, boots-that-never-quite-fit and old coats (you know, the ones in the back of the closet that you never wore), and above all else, make sure you get a receipt so you can detail the amount in your charitable contributions on your next tax form.

The utilities – To all of you who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of last summer’s utility bills, I have an easy, lucrative challenge for you. Head to your local home improvement center for about 30 feet of clothesline ($5 tops), and tie it to whatever is standing upright in your backyard. Porch railing, swing sets or a hook attached to the garage. Then hit the local dollar store for $2 worth of clothespins. Start drying your clothes (especially your bath towels) on this handy, easily-taken-down clothesline, and watch your utility bills plummet compared to last year. To those of you with association rules against this activity, have a polite chat with your neighbors, then with your association board. Assure all involved that this new addition to your home will be virtually unseen by passersby, and casually mention that the savings (in the hundreds, if not thousands) will lend itself well to paying your yearly dues. The iron-clad association rules of years past (in the days of ever-rising home values and lower unemployment) may be somewhat more flexible in the current economy.

The beach gear – if you’re planning a beach trip and looking to get the kids a few new things for it, hit your local Dollar Store for everything you need! Shovels, pails, sand sifters, toys, nets, games to play in the car, and just about every other beach-worthy item they might enjoy burying in the sand.

The tan – if you’re over the age of 5, you’re well aware of the dangers of tanning unprotected in the sun. Not only does it prematurely age you at an exponential rate, but who the heck has the time to lay out in the sun for hours anyway? Hit your local discount grocery’s cosmetics section, and find the brand name spray-on tanners for easily 50-80 percent off. They look incredible, they take five minutes (yes, that’s minutes) to apply, they easily last for a week, and your gorgeous skin gets thru the summer looking perfect and protected.

Air conditioning – I know, it seems absurd to be thinking about air conditioning, especially since it feels like many of us turned off our heaters, oh, last week. But trust me on this, the frigid days of winter will feel a long way off come the first heat wave. One of the biggest money-saving tips for summer is simply being prepared for it by the end of spring. Now is the time to have your air conditioners serviced and finely tuned for optimal cool air production come summertime. The same air conditioner repairmen that can make you a same-day appointment today are going to have to put you on a five-day waiting list at a $100-just-to-visit premium to get to you in the 95-degree heat come August. If your air conditioner is on its last legs, now is the time to shop for a new one, and shop carefully for the one that will cool the square footage of your home in the most energy-efficient, lowest cost manner possible.

After this crazy winter, we all deserve a fabulous summer in the sun! Spend a couple of minutes utilizing these easy strategies, and you’ll not only save your skin, but your hard-earned cash as well.

Frugal On!!

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