Lower Your Expenses

The Mercury is Rising But Your Electric Bill Doesn’t Have To

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Table of Contents  
  1. In The Kitchen
  2. Hydrate Cheap
  3. Choose Your Clothes Carefully
  4. Carry A Folding Fan
  5. In The Heat Of The Night

The mercury is rising and so is your electric bill. But there are other ways to keep cool than just blasting your air conditioner twenty-four hours a day!

I grew up in an attic bedroom with no AC so the heat doesn’t really bother me. I feel fine with just a fan blowing on me. Some people can’t bare the heat but also can’t afford triple digit electric bills. There are plenty of ways to stay chill without cranking the AC.

In The Kitchen

Summer is my favorite time of year to eat. I’m pretty uninspired by winter ingredients so just chuck a bunch of stuff in the crock pot and eat the results. The crock pot is still nice to use in the summer because it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. You probably want to make things like pulled pork rather than beef stew though. Summer ingredients are inspiring though. Tomatoes, berries, peaches, delicate lettuces, fresh herbs!

The better the raw materials, the better the end result. So when you are using only the freshest ingredients, they don’t need much work to come out delicious. Go to a farmer’s market and get as much of your produce, eggs, and dairy as you can afford.

Summer ingredients will help cool you down for two reasons. The first is that they require minimal or no cooking. Here is a really good summer meal that requires the use of one burner for about five minutes.

Slice some tomatoes and fan them out on a plate. Drizzle them with olive oil, some ribbons of basil, and maybe cheese if your diet allows it. Mozzarella or feta are nice. A few cranks of freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt and there is your salad.

Put some mussels, which are dirt cheap, chopped onion and garlic and some beer or white wine into a big covered pot and steam for about five minutes. When the mussels are open, they’re ready. Slice some nice bread to sop of the mussel broth and tomato juices and dinner is sorted.

The other reason summer foods help you stay cool is because the produce that’s in season is mostly water. Lettuce, stone fruits, melons, tomatoes will help keep you cool and hydrated.

Hydrate Cheap

Water is free. Get a reusable water bottle and carry it with you. Some people bizarrely claim to not like the taste of water. If you are one such weirdo, you can still get your liquids in for cheap.

Buy some lemons, limes, or some herbs like mint or basil. Add them to plain water to give it a bit of flavor. If you are exercising heavily in the heat being hydrated is really important. I get a headache after a really good, sweaty, red faced run if I’m not careful.

I refuse to drink stuff like Gatorade. It’s weird colors and filled with gross dyes and about ten kinds of sugar that has been cleverly renamed. But it does help with the heat induced headaches.

There are alternatives though. I find mineral water more refreshing and thirst quenching when it’s really hot. Some brands contain sodium which is probably why it helps. It’s not free but not budget busting either. You can also make your own electrolyte drink. I make this one and it works well.

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Choose Your Clothes Carefully

I feel so sorry for men this time of year. I am rarely out of sundresses and sandals from May to September. Even when I worked in offices this was acceptable attire. The best the guys were allowed were short sleeved dress shirts. And since none of them wanted to look like Andy Sipowiicz, they usually still wore long sleeves anyway.

But you can find some relief even if you have a strict dress code. Lighter colors will be cooler and so will natural fibers. If you wore black polyester in direct sunlight while standing on NYC asphalt, you would probably burst into flames.

If you are going somewhere that good hair isn’t important, wear a straw sun hat. I wish more people would. They look so pretty and I like wearing them but always feel ridiculous because no one else is. They ruin your hair but you won’t get too sweaty if it’s a woven straw hat and keeping the sun off your face and neck is cooler.

Carry A Folding Fan

You might think this is weird but I see people on the subway platform, where it is Hell hot in summer, using them all the time and I have one too. I think it’s mostly psychological but even a tiny breeze down there or somewhere baking hot feels a little better. They’re also pretty and fun to use. Especially if you can master the art of flirting coyly from behind one.

In The Heat Of The Night

This is the sole thing I dislike about summer. I don’t mind being hot all day but when I get into bed I hate it. This is mostly because I can’t sleep with no covers (under the bed monster will get me) and because I sleep rolled up like a burrito. I have woken up hot in the night and kicked my legs and bawled from frustration at not being able to get back to sleep from the heat.

So I usually break down and set the AC to 47 degrees. But I don’t want to do that this summer. It feels like defeat after I spent months bitching about winter and longing to feel warm. So here are some things I’m going to try.

Take a tepid shower before bed. Not ice cold, just lukewarm. It will help lower your body temperature just a little. Put one of those ice gel injury packs on the back of your neck. In ancient Egypt they would wet and then wring their sheets. This probably works but sounds really uncomfortable. One of you try it and report back.

Hang a wet towel in front of a fan. I tried this and it does feel a little cooler! Or fill a shallow tray with ice and position that in front of the fan. Buy a Gel’O Cool Pillow Mat. It’s a pad you can refrigerate and put on top of your pillow so whatever side you’re sleeping on is the cool side of the pillow. (RIP Stuart Scott).

You don’t have to forego the AC all summer but you don’t need to run it 24/7 either. People have survived thousands and thousands of summers without air conditioning so you won’t melt either!


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Candice Elliott - Senior Editor Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.

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