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Well, we’re halfway through a gorgeous summer, and while we’re all enjoying the blue summertime skies, the heat-related bills are definitely adding up as well. Cool off your summertime spending with these easy, money-saving tips!

(1) Time to Tweak the Thermostat – when we first fired up the air conditioning this summer, the heat was just starting to inch up to the 80-degree mark. Now that we’re kissing the melting edge of 90+ degrees several days a week, it’s time to tweak the air conditioning a bit as well. If you’re used to setting your air conditioning at 68 degrees, do yourself a favor and bring it up to 70 (or even 75 degrees) instead. Many experts agree that a simple 20-degree difference between outside and indoor temperatures are ideal for optimal comfort. Regardless of how you’re cooling your house, you’ll enjoy tremendous savings with the increase of just a few degrees in your thermostat. This is also a perfect time to replace your air conditioner filters (if you haven’t already) for maximum output at minimum costs.

(2) Fans to the rescue! – Daytime temperatures are hitting 90-plus degrees at their peak, and air conditioning is a must. However, nighttime temperatures are still consistently in the 60-to-70 degree range, so put Mother Nature to work for big time savings! Open up bedroom windows when you hit the sack – using a box fan during nighttime hours alone will save you big bucks on utility bills and give your cooling systems a well-earned break. For those who fear their unbearably hot sunrooms are currently off limits (unless you want to fry an egg on the coffee table), give serious thought to installing ceiling fans for fabulous air movement and far superior comfort levels for friends and family.

(3) Cool off the Kitchen! – No doubt about it, cooking at home rather than eating out saves big bucks on your food bill. One of the few downsides is the resulting heat it creates. Keep your kitchen fabulously cool (and save money doing it) with some simple tricks. First, a utility FYI: your microwave costs a fraction of your other appliances, and gives off far less residual heat than stove burners or oven broilers. With that in mind, keep your stove cooking to a minimum and utilize your microwave instead. if your family loves pasta like mine does, try cooking a double batch on the stove next time, keep the extras in the refrigerator, and microwave leftovers as you need them for fast, simple meals that won’t take a lot of time or require heating up the stove. Tip: when you do cook on the stove, keep pots covered to reduce heating costs as much as possible. Does your family love French Toast? Great! Make a triple batch, keep the leftovers in the fridge or freezer, and simply reheat as you need it in the microwave, rather than cooking batches time and again on a hot stove in an already warm summertime kitchen.
Another fabulous summertime trick – put your grill to work! If you can, designate at least one night a week to grill outside rather than cook inside. Hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, fish, you name it – it all tastes fabulous grilled outdoors, and saves the money and hassle of cooling your kitchen back down after an already-hot day.

(4) Keeping your car cool – Summertime is synonymous with lovely, long drives, beautiful day trips and fabulous car vacations. All of that extra mileage, usually with air conditioners blowing non-stop, can take a serious (read: expensive) toll on your car if it isn’t properly maintained. Luckily, maintenance is as easy as getting the occasional tune-up, regularly checking the filters, getting the oil and fluids changed on schedule, and keeping tires at their proper pressure for optimal use and top-notch gas mileage. By investing in proper maintenance, you’ll save in the long run with lower amounts spent on gas, tires, and longer life of the car itself. It’s a no-brainer.

(5) Emergency Power Outage Kit – I’m still trying to figure out if the violently stormy summer weather is getting progressively more dangerous each summer, or if I’m just getting old (both, perhaps?). With each summer that passes, my mind is filled with increasingly-vivid memories of storm-induced power outages that catch me off guard in some way or another. During the next power outage, keep your comfort level high, your irritation levels low and your expenses to a minimum with a brilliantly frugal Power Outage Kit. Here’s the basics to include: two flashlights per person in your household, with enough new, fully charged batteries to replace the flashlights at least twice. Add a small battery-powered radio and/or television set to keep up with news and weather announcements, as well as your Deluxe Scrabble game and a full set of playing cards for some perfect power-outage entertainment. Make sure you have a car-charger for your cell phone (you obviously can’t charge it in the wall outlet at the moment) and if you currently have only cordless phones in your home (unusable in power outages), give some thought to installing a hard-wired phone for emergencies.
Then, write down your utility company information on an index card, including phone numbers for the power company to report the outage and your account number. Please trust me on this, there’s nothing more annoying than rummaging through a pitch dark home office at 1:00am groping for the file cabinet so that you can then search for an impressively-elusive account number. Next, have an inexpensive ice chest at the ready, with blue-ice packs in your freezer ready to throw in there to keep food, beverages (and if necessary, medications) cold. Talk about a money saver! Keep a water supply handy, the general guideline being one gallon per person in your household. Add some easy-to-eat food items like cans of mixed nuts, granola bars, crackers, canned fruits, etc., as well as paper plates and plastic cutlery. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy and close to your Power Outage kit for any (dare I say “inevitable”?) slips, trips, bumps and wipeouts inherently connected with pitch-black rooms. Put together a Power Outage kit for yourself pronto, and give some thought to creating a few for friends and family as well. Any friends that initially respond with raised eyebrows and good humor will no doubt follow up with worshipful feedback after the first black out with stories of how it saved their sanity.

Above all else, remember that the numerous hassles inherent in a power outage are more than offset by how fabulous we look playing Scrabble by romantic flashlight. Viva triple word scores!