How To

Summer Savings: 9 Ways to Cut Costs

Summer can be a pricey time of year after factoring in vacations, entertaining the kids and running the A/C on extra high. Whether you plan to travel afar or stay local this summer, these 9 money-saving tips and tricks can help keep more money in your bank account.

#1 Bank on Free Fun

“Check your local listings for free and low-cost events,” says money saving expert Karen Cordaway. “Maybe you catch a jazz festival or get free admission to a museum on a certain day of the week.” For example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is free on Friday nights.  Search online by using key terms like “free summer programs” or “free summer fun” for some helpful results.

On this site, learn how kids may be able to bowl for free in your town. There are also free or discounted movie days at local theaters. Regal Movies, for example, has “value days” at theatres across the country.

#2 Buy in Bulk

Speaking of movie tickets, did you know you could save by purchasing them ahead of time at your local warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club? At Costco.com, for example, you can find a 10-pack of tickets from AMC or Regal starting at $89.99.

The average cost of a movie ticket in 2016 was $8.65, but if you live in a major city the price can be higher, which makes buying in bulk a lower cost alternative. Tickets are generally valid for any movie at any time and with no expiration date.

Another way to save at the movies: Buy a discounted gift card for your local theatre on a resale site like GiftCardGranny. A quick search there found a number of discounted gift cards from AMC theatre selling for as much as 19% off.

#3 Get the Summer Pass

The math might work in your favor to sign up for a seasonal membership at your local museum or attraction, if you plan to go more than a few times during the summer.

Some member programs provide cool incentives and free day passes for friends.  And as financial blogger Andrea Deckard told me, “many season passes offer valuable reciprocity benefits.” In other words, your membership becomes valid at partnering museums where you may be able to enjoy free or discounted admission. “If you are on vacation, look up another facility in your destination. We have done this many times through the years, as we visited various states. It’s nice to have as an option for those rainy beach days,” she says.

#4 Mind the AC

In the past, electricity costs in the summer have averaged $114 per month across the country. Joshua Crum, a dad of three and consumer advocate says he pays special attention to his family’s air conditioning consumption to save money during the hot months.

Crum uses a Wi-Fi thermostat to control the temperature at home when they’re away and cooks outside on the grill to avoid heating up the house inside, which in turn requires turning up the A/C.

He also aims to time his family vacation during the hottest times of the summer.

“We make it a point to leave during two of the hottest weeks of the year. This has saved us enough to afford the entire vacation…We also make more night and early morning trips so the car’s air conditioner’s not required,” says Crum.

#5 Go Where it’s Cheaper

Why go overseas when some of the best and most inexpensive travel destinations are here in the states? Forbes recently listed some the world’s most affordable vacation destinations this summer and discovered that here in the U.S., spots in Maine, Arizona and Oregon offer great bang for your buck. If you’re near or in one of these states, consider a local excursion.

#6 Need Lodging? Book Last-Minute

While you’re planning that local trip, save up to 50% on hotels using the mobile app HotelTonight. You can locate deals up to about one week prior to your trip, but the later you book, the lower prices typically become. The app’s GeoRates feature helps you land extra, exclusive savings off already-discounted prices.  For even better prices, try to book your room during the mid-week or Sunday evening.

#7 Put a Cap on Gas

While current gas prices are lower than in summers past, it can’t hurt to know a few fuel savings tricks. One strategy is to plan ahead to map out your road trip to include stops at stations where gas is cheapest. You can do this by using apps like GasGuru and GasBuddy.  You can sometimes save money just by crossing state lines due to varying tax rates.

Again, a discounted gas station gift card can be your friend. And it’s another reason to plan out your trip and identify the stations along the way. If you know the specific gas stop you’ll visit, you can be certain to use the discounted gift card there.

#8 Leverage Flash Sales

For last-minute travel savings, check out flash sales sites Groupon Getaways and Jetsetter for specials.  At Jetsetter, the site typically provides a selection of hotels and tours at up to 40% off the regular price. These deals are offered for a limited time between five and 10 days only. For a comprehensive list of current discounts and promo codes from these and other major travel sites, check out GoodSearch.

#9 Know When It Saves to Fly

According to FareCompare.com, the least popular (and therefor cheapest) days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most affordable times are dawn, red-eyes and flights around the dinner hour.

The best day to shop for tickets according to their data is Tuesday at 3pm ET, which is when airlines release the most sales and the competition matches the lower prices so you have more deals from which to choose. Non-stop flights may be more convenient, but adding a stop (or two) can sometimes save as much as 50%.

 

Have a question for Farnoosh? You can submit your questions via Twitter @Farnoosh, Facebook or email at farnoosh@farnoosh.tv (please note “Mint Blog” in the subject line).

Farnoosh Torabi is America’s leading personal finance authority hooked on helping Americans live their richest, happiest lives. From her early days reporting for Money Magazine to now hosting a primetime series on CNBC and writing monthly for O, The Oprah Magazine, she’s become our favorite go-to money expert and friend.