It's belt-tightening time, America. Whether you're motivated by a less than robust economy or environmental concerns, now's the time to make reducing, reusing and recycling your summer priorities. But who said cutting back has to be hard? Here are some easy and sensible ways to save.
BE COOL-NOT COLD
Limit air conditioning to the hottest days. (And raise your thermostat a few degrees to reduce both your energy bills and the risk of regional brownouts.) Fans use less energy and can effectively cool your home when paired with open windows for a nice cross-breeze.
USE OFF-PEAK ENERGY
Run your dishwasher and do your laundry at night, when there's less demand and prices are lower.
DRYER ON VACATION
Now that the weather's warm, it's the perfect time to limit the drain of the dryer by line-drying your clothes (outdoors if possible).
Conserve H2O by watering your lawn in the early morning. Plant drought-resistant native plants (exotic plants need a lot more TLC like fertilizer and water), and use rain barrels to collect precipitation you can use later.
SWAP "VACATION HOMES"
You may not think of your house as a vacation home, but to someone across the country-or ocean-it may be. Sign up with a home exchange network and find a family to trade homes with for a week. Besides enjoying a more authentic local experience, you'll save money by cooking some meals at "home."
THROW A CLOTHING SWAP
The lady of the house can host a girlfriends' night in by ordering in pizza, renting chick flicks, and-the highlight-having a clothing swap. Everyone brings freshly laundered summer clothes they no longer wear or have outgrown (in good condition only, please!), and gets to take what they want.
SAVE THE BAGS
Plastic bags sit practically forever in landfill, or, worse yet, pollute our land and seas (where they can kill wildlife). Many stores now charge for plastic bags, too. Use tote bags to save money and the environment. Reuse any plastic bags you still have by giving them to your child's daycare center or school, or by tying them securely to dog-leash signs in public parks, where pet owners can use them to stoop-and-scoop.
Summer babysitting is typically easier than cold-weather babysitting, so if you're planning an evening out, skip the hired sitter and ask another family to watch your child in return for your services the following weekend.
ENJOY THE BREEZE
Running your air-conditioner in your vehicle guzzles fuel. Save gas by opening your windows and using air conditioning only when even a breeze isn't enough to cool you. (And consider carpooling to work to save even more gas.)
REUSE BUILDING SUPPLIES
If your summer plans include home improvement, save money by visiting a Habitat for Humanity ReStore depot. You save cash, help out a worthy charity, and rescue perfectly good fixtures from the dump: talk about a triple-threat win proposition. (And when removing fixtures from your home, don't throw them out-donate them, too.