It’s not just money. Here are 25 different ways to save time and energy this summer…okay, cash, too.
FOOD & LIBATIONS
1. Use paper plates and napkins. They don’t cost much, and meals clean up more quickly. (Use them as firestarters, if you’re feeling guilty.)
2. Save your leftover coffee – keep it in the refrigerator for iced coffee and specialty drinks.
3. Find a sturdy snack you like – and buy it in bulk. Package in smaller bags and use for travel. Keep a few in the car for short trips, as well. (Pretzel sticks, bubble gum, non-chocolate candy bars and red licorice are good travel companions.)
4. Pick fruit. A ‘U-Pick’ place and less than an hour’s labor will net you quarts of delicious strawberries, raspberries or blueberries for shortcake, fruit crisp and the freezer. (Or find it for free.) Wash fruit and spread out on a cookie sheet; put in the freezer. When it’s frozen, store in a plastic bag. That way, you can pull out only the amounts needed.
5. Iced tea – fast, cold and refreshing. Few calories, too, even if you (shudder) add a little sugar. (Yes, I grew up in the North.) Make it up fresh two or three times a week, and it’s ready whenever you need a pick-me-up. A pitcher of water, with lemon or cucumber slices, is refreshing, too. (Take along a bottle’s-worth whenever you have to run errands, and you’ll be less apt to buy soft drinks or coffee.)
6. ‘Instant’ lemonade. Squeeze a lemon slice into a glass of water, then add a sugar packet and stir up. Presto: lemonade. (Many restaurants add lemon in your water, per request.)
7. Stash a utensil packet in your backpack or glove compartment. A knife, fork, spoon and napkin, kept in a plastic bag, gives you the freedom to stop at a deli or grocery store for an impromptu meal or picnic.
8. Museums have free or reduced-rate days. (In our state, Colorado, these are regularly scheduled throughout the year. Check your local calendar.) Even if they charge admission, it could well be “suggested donation.” (Chicago’s Art Institute has such a mention.) In that case, you can pay what you decide, regardless of the amount mentioned.
9. Visiting a major city? Look for a group pass to major attractions. New York City’s
Explorer Pass’ lets you choose from 3, 5, 7 or 10 options, including the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, at up to 40% less than visiting each place separately. Chicago calls it the‘City Pass:’ 5 attractions for $94. Check before you go.
10. Make one-stops while on the road. Plan travel so you gas up, use the facilities, and get a snack – all in one place, or within a few miles.
11. Paying toll may be cheaper. The higher price of gas (not to mention your time) may make avoiding the toll road more expensive in the long run.
12. Save up spare change, and keep a handful in the car. Five dollars worth covers most parking, tolls…and emergency ice cream when you’re overheated. (McDonald’s currently offers cones for 50 cents.)
13. Need to keep more money in the car…and worried about break-ins? Stash the bills in a closed tampon box in the glove compartment. Thieves are unlikely to look inside, or take it along.
14. Start a babysitting exchange. Swapping mornings or afternoons with other moms will give you much-needed free time, or help cover work responsibilities. To entertain the kids —
15. Turn on the sprinkler. Throw out a couple of bath towels for post-play lounging. Add a handful of tiny candy bars or some lemonade. Or –
16. Sponsor a Treasure Hunt. Round up leftover candy or cookies. (My mom always used this opportunity to clean out her cookie jar and candy drawer.) Scribble out a number of location clues, then hide them, one by one, around the house and yard. The final clue leads to the hidden goodies, stashed in a decorative box. (Think pirates’ chest!)
17. Hold a rainy-day walk. A cousin used this budget way to distract her children while living in the Portland, OR area, famous for its “liquid sunshine.” After dressing them in grubby clothes, she led them out to a local park or field, and let them stomp through puddles to their hearts’ content. The soaked-but-happy kids came home to hot showers, soup and reading library books by the fireplace while they toasted their toes. They could also:
18. Roast marshmallows and weenies. (Add squares of dark chocolate for S’mores – you’ll find yummy variations here.) If you don’t have a fireplace or outside fire pit, use a metal tub or garbage can. Even a small metal tin will work in a pinch.
19. Find a swim spot that doesn’t charge. It may be a state park, the public landing at a nearby lake, or your neighbor’s swimming pool. For the latter, offer something in return – dessert twice a week or free babysitting. (One clever girl swapped a few hours a week at her rec center’s childcare facility in return for using the workout areas – and the pool.)
20. Hold a neighborhood block party. Split up food and drink responsibilities, or offer a bring-one-ingredient dish, like StoneSoup. (Or set up a grill, and let everyone bring their own meat, plus a side dish.) Put up a sheet (or choose a light-colored wall) and show movies outside. Or –
21. Look for a free outdoor movie. Many communities show movies during the summer… some even throw in free popcorn.
22. Game night. This is growing increasingly popular with twenty and thirty-somethings, thanks in part to dedicated gamesters like Trent of The Simple Dollar. Serve dessert and coffee, then set out a complicated board game, like Ticket to Ride. Or revisit an old classic like Rook or poker.
HOME & HEART
23. Save on air-conditioning by opening windows wide late at night, to catch any breezes. Close them tightly in early or mid-morning, to keep the air inside cooler.
24. Wear (and wash) a minimum of clothing. Knit shirts and shorts can be hung up to dry straight out of the washer. (You can often get away with no ironing by doing the same for easy-care shirts, sundresses and such.) Use jeans, towels and nightwear more than once. (If you’re traveling, cut back your needs by planning to hand-wash a few items as needed. Or learn to roll.)
25. Text messages and photos to your family – especially grandparents – instead of Facebook. This is especially important if your loved one is computer-phobic or rarely visits FB. Texting captures what you’re thinking and feeling at the moment, and gives them a feeling of being-there closeness. (It can also be used to check in daily, instead of long phone conversations or lengthy IMs.)
Take time to relax and have a good summer.