Escaping the heat of the midafternoon by going out can end up paying for itself in the energy you save on air conditioning.
While there are a number of steps you can take to
, the best method is to not run your air conditioner at all.
If the economy has bitten into your budget so that you can't afford to give yourself a little splurge every once in awhile, you can even indulge in some of them and save money at the same time.
It costs approximately $6 to $10 a day (12 hours) to run your air conditioner, depending on the model and the cost of energy in your area. That can add up to $180 to $300 a month for the air conditioner alone and means if you can escape your house during the hot daylight hours, you can spend a little and still come out ahead.
There are also plenty of places you can go where you don't have to spend any money, but can remain cool during the summer heat without increasing your own energy bill.
Here are a few suggestions:
If one of the things you gave up to help your finances was that premium cup of coffee, you can have a cup while still saving money. Take your newspaper, laptop or a good book and head down to your local coffee shop.
For the price of a cup of joe, you can spend the afternoon reading the latest news, working or catching up on your reading, and it will still be less than if you cranked the air conditioning all day at home.
Movie tickets can be expensive so you might think it would be less expensive to stay at home watching a DVD even with the air conditioning on, but discounted matinee pricing is often available at the hottest time of the day.
This allows you to watch a movie at a fraction of the price of an evening showing, all while staying nice and cool.
If you need to entertain the kids, there are a number of summer movie programs that offer cheap (and even free) tickets:
offers $1 movies from June 25 to Aug. 6 on Wednesdays starting at 10 a.m. Groups can reserve tickets one week in advance at the box office at participating theatres.
Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse
offers 10 weeks of movies, with a different movie each week on weekday mornings. A punch-card ticket for all 10 movies can be purchased in advance for $5, or tickets can be purchased individually at the box office for $1 each.
ClearView Cinema's Kid's Club
offers an eight-week series of great family films with free admission every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. beginning June 26.
Regal Free Family Film Festival
offers a nine-week series of select G and PG movies for free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. There is limited seating and it is first come, first served. United Artists and Edwards theaters also participate in the Regal Free Family Film Festival.
offer a nine-week series of G and PG movies from June 11 to Aug. 6 on Wednesdays with doors opening at 9 a.m. and the movie starting at 10 a.m. for $1.
If you are looking to save money and make a difference at the same time, consider volunteering at a local charity. Your volunteer work will be greatly appreciated, you can give some good back to the community and you save on your energy costs at the same time.
Especially now with the economy struggling, charities are looking for all the help that they can get.
If you enjoy window-shopping and you can keep your wallet in your pocket, the mall can be a great place to stay cool on those hot summer days. In addition to staying cool, you can get a bit of light exercise as you walk around.
Even if you don't enjoy walking, you can grab a bench and people-watch. Some malls even provide various types of entertainment for you to enjoy.
If you have work that needs to get done or just need a quiet place to relax to do some reading, the library is a great place to hang out on a hot afternoon.
Not only will it be nice and cool, it will be relatively quiet, so you can concentrate. If you have kids, you can bring them along.
If you're looking for something different to do, quite a few museums offer midweek discounts and some even offer free days. Take an afternoon to enjoy the latest exhibits while escaping the summer heat.
Check your local newspaper or library to find out the local events that are taking place in your area. Many of these will be free or low cost and can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. These may include such events as art and craft shows, fairs, exhibitions, plays and local conventions.
Your local community center should also have a long list of summertime activities that they sponsor. Check to see if any of these are of interest to you and your family and sign up for activities that will take you out of the house during the hot afternoon hours.
You don't have to stay at home to beat the summer heat and by getting out, you not only save yourself some money, you can do it while enjoying activities you thought your budget might not be able to support.
Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.