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Smart Strategies

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Save Big on Summer Home Expenses

Slash your cooling costs and reduce your water bills with these simple tips.

Summertime and the living is... expensive. Yes, all those warm, sunny days can really take a toll on your budget around the house. But you can reduce those costs with these simple strategies. The best part? You can put the extra money you save into your retirement accounts.

Keep It Cool
Most households see their electric bill skyrocket in summer, largely due to air-conditioning usage. But there is more to reducing your energy bill than simply turning off your A/C and suffering through the dog days. The real cause of rising costs is the thing that makes you want to turn the air conditioner on in the first place: heat. You can lower your A/C usage (and your bills) by keeping your home cooler before it heats up. Your first move is to keep blinds and curtains closed during the day. While it's tempting to let all that summer sunshine fill your home, those rays will steadily raise the temperature indoors. The same principle applies to lightbulbs, which can heat up a room if left on all day. You'll also want to avoid cooking on your stove or with the oven whenever possible. Both radiate heat and will make your kitchen even hotter. Instead, head outside and fire up the grill, or opt for no-cook recipes.

Bonus tip: Ceiling fans can actually help you get more out of your air-conditioning. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, running a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting on your A/C about 4° F with no reduction in comfort. You'll save energy too.

Water Wisely
Another common summer budget buster is the water bill. Seasonal yard maintenance and gardens soak up plenty of H20, but there are a few simple ways you can squeeze the most out of your water—and reduce your usage. For example, watering your lawn or garden early in the morning will allow your plants to drink up every last drop because heat evaporation is less prevalent. Also, avoid watering on windy days, as water can get blown away from your plants. You can also cut down on usage by placing a rain barrel at the bottom of your gutters to catch rainwater, which can then be used to water your lawn for free.

Bonus tip: Plant native species. They require less water overall since they are naturally accustomed to your climate and soil. And make sure you mulch your gardens. Mulch holds in moisture so you can water less often.