Monday, June 9, 2008

Beat the heat without breaking the bank

Record high temperatures have slammed into the north eastern United States with a fury. My weatherman is flirting with 100 degree afternoons now and it's not even technically summer quite yet. Right now sweat is pouring down my forehead and I'm armed with a personal fan and an enormous glass of ice cold cranberry juice.

And yet I dread laying down on sticky sheets trying to catch a couple of hours of sleep in this stifling, oppressive humidity. Less than a month ago I was shutting up all of the windows at night and turning on the heater just to keep the temperature of the house at a pretty chilly 60 degrees.

Needless to say because of the equally oppressive New England winters and the cost of running such behemoths many homes don't exactly home standard with central air. While it's true my household has a small air conditioner it's best suited for a single small room at best. And even then it causes our electricity bill to spike dangerously high. Something we clearly cannot quite afford yet.

So, whenever we possibly can we have been attempting to flee our home for cooler pastures. But it's been very difficult to stick to our winter budget in our quest to stay cool. We've gone through a little brainstorming session and we think we've come up with a couple of ways to keep our dollars safely nestled in our bank account and our heads from over heating.

In this post I'll detail frugal beach survival.

  • Food. Bring your own: We recently paid a visit to Lake Sunapee on a quest to see how badly we could burn our nearly translucent hides. (I'll give you a hint: Very badly.) The day was crystal clear and in the 90s. The beach was lovely and relatively sparsely populated. And considering the lake was covered with ice in April, the water was fairly warm. (55 F)

    But it cost us $8 to park the car and $10 in gas to get up there. We expected these misfortunes, grinned and bore them. To cut costs we made our own sandwiches from scratch, filled water bottles with tap water and loaded up our cooler with ice packs. We knew it would be tempting to go for a slice of pizza or a hot dog from a beach side vendor, but it'd absolutely crush our budget just to fill our bellies.

    So we steeled ourselves and committed to our sandwiches and tap water. With the money we saved in food costs we'll be able to pay a second visit much sooner than we otherwise would have been able to.

  • Commuting. Take some friends, share the burden: Gasoline prices are sky rocketing. So why not plan an outing to the beach with a couple of friends instead of just the mister or missus? If you have a fair drive to the local swimming hole, river, lake, pond or ocean and you know you'll be paying an arm and a leg for parking go ahead and stuff as many people in your car as possible.

    Most beach goers go in twos. Double it and split up the costs accordingly. And hey, if you don't want to hang out with the people you shared a car with just go your separate ways.

  • Consider going somewhere more local: As a rule of thumb the ocean is almost always a busier and more costly spot to pay a visit. So why not stick closer to home and pay a visit to a local pond, lake or river so long as local regulations and conditions are permitting? You won't have to worry about crowds, the high cost of parking or getting all that sticky salt out of your hair at the end of the night.

  • Go for the long haul: My logic has always been if you're going to enjoy yourself really enjoy yourself. If you're paying an arm and a leg for gasoline, parking and food just to get a little bit of much needed sun, sand and relaxation make the absolute best of it.

    Get there early in the morning, stake out a good spot and set up shop. Bring a book and a stocked cooler. Stay for awhile. Maybe even until the beach shuts down. Squeeze every penny of value from your trip.

    If you feel tired of the surf, just take a nap.

  • Bring the right things: Ideally every beach trip should be prepared in advanced, preferably the night prior. To maximize your comfort level a couple of things are pretty much standard. Many substitutions can be made of the fly, however.

    • Beach Blanket: Can be replaced with an old, clean bed sheet.
    • Beach Towel: Easily replaced by irregular bath sheets.
    • Shade: If the beach is open with little to no shade, consider buying a small sun shelter. If you don't have that kind of cash you can always nap under a light cotton over shirt and a baseball cap.
    • Cooler: A must if you're planning on spending any appreciable amount of time on the sand. If you've recently lost yours to a tragic party accident a covered 5 gallon bucket with ice packs and a some manner of cover will suffice just fine.
    • Sunscreen: Required. Skin cancer goes poorly in a country lacking universal health care with a weak currency. Pick yours up at your friendly local mega-mart or discount big box store (Sam's Club, BJs). Never buy your sunblock at a beach side store or a gas station. Your wallet will thank you.

So long as you keep your budget in the front of your mind and do a little thought before hand you can escape the brutal summer heat and have a little fun in the process, whether it's at your local pond or an expansive beach.

Do you have some tips for summer beach survival for the frugal fellow? Post them in the comments along with a link to your blog and I'll link back to it in my next post!


michelle said...

Thank you for the tips! Packing your own food is such a great money saver.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ed ...
How you doing?
It's been awhile for you too, I see.
Hope things are well for you and your wife!!!
God Bless ...
dawn @ iowahippiechick

Ed said...

dawn: Hey! I see that you're back. That's great news!

My petering out is a long story, too. But I hope to have more time in the near future to blog a bit more.

Anonymous said...

I'm sending you & your family well wishes Ed ... hang in there friend!

Anonymous said...

Just checking in ...
Hope your doing o.k. !!!


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