10 Dumb Money Mistakes We Make Every Summer

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Woman making a summer money mistake
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Summer is the season for fun in the sun. But as life becomes more carefree this time of year, it’s easy to get a little careless with your finances.

Some common financial mistakes during summer can leave you poorer than you should be by the time autumn rolls around. These are budget-busting blunders many people make year after year.

Avoiding the following dumb money mistakes can help you get the most out of the warm weather months without putting your finances in the deep freeze.

1. Cooling your house when you aren’t there

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Some folks leave the air conditioning running at full tilt even when they are away from the house. They believe that if you let the house warm too much, the AC unit will have to work extra hard to cool down the house later.

But the truth is more complicated. For example, keeping the AC unit off during the hottest parts of the day can actually boost your system’s efficiency because the unit struggles to work effectively when the weather is warmest.

A team of engineers tested various approaches to cooling homes in Arizona and Georgia. In both cases, they came to the same conclusion: Turning the AC down during an eight-hour workday and raising it upon returning home was the most energy-efficient approach.

2. Leaving blinds open on hot days

Nosy neighbors peeking through the blinds of a window to spy on homeowners
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About 76% of sunlight that hits a standard double-pane window enters your home and generates additional heat, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Closing your blinds helps deflect the sun’s rays so you can keep some of this heat out.

Blinds made of thicker materials — including wood and faux wood — tend to do a better job of blocking the sun’s rays than lightweight aluminum Venetian blinds.

3. Running the sprinkler in the afternoon

Lawn sprinkler
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On hot summer days, it’s important to give your lawn a cool drink of water by running the sprinkler system. But don’t make the mistake of doing this in the heat of the day.

Watering your lawn during the hottest part of the day results in greater water evaporation, which leads to unnecessary waste of both water and the money in your bank account. The best time to water your lawn is in the early morning, when the sun is just waking up.

Avoid watering in the evening because the lack of sunlight means your lawn can become a bit waterlogged, which can put your grass at risk for diseases and rot.

4. Not budgeting ahead of time for summer fun

Tourists in Barcelona having fun during summer vacation and visiting Barcelona Cathedral historic landmark
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Perhaps you have dreams of one big summer trip, or multiple smaller outings to your lake or cabin vacation home. Maybe you plan to spend the summer at concerts and festivals.

By all means, enjoy a little summer fun. But beware of overspending on leisure activities, which can lead to debt problems later on. Budget for your summer activities and stick closely to those guidelines.

Before you whip out the plastic and put yourself into the red, learn more about the “7 Credit Card Debt Mistakes to Avoid.”

5. Using the wrong credit card when traveling overseas

Woman says to stop using credit card
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If you plan an overseas trip this summer, make sure you grab the right credit card. Some credit cards charge foreign transaction fees. Using these cards to pay for something in Europe or elsewhere can tack on an extra fee of between about 1% and 3% of the purchase price.

This fee can even apply if you shop from home on websites based outside the U.S. The best way to avoid the foreign transaction fee is to use a credit card that does not charge them.

6. Overlooking cheap in-season produce

Woman having summer fun
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Produce that is in-season during the summer is a great bargain because it is both cheaper and more flavorful during this time.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture keeps a list on its website of produce that is in season during the summer. Examples include:

  • Fruits: Cantaloupe, cherries, honeydew melons, mangos, peaches, plums, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon
  • Vegetables: Bell peppers, carrots, corn, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, summer squash, zucchini

You will find more money-saving tips in “15 Ways to Fill Your Cart With Fresh Produce for Less.”

7. Not suspending your gym membership

Senior Woman Exercise
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Only the hardiest of souls are willing to brave a daily run during the dead of winter. But during summer, it’s much easier to jog, play pickleball, swim or hike outside.

If you spend much of the summer season getting active outdoors, you might not need a gym membership. Check with your gym and see if it will allow you to suspend your membership during the summer so you can save a little cash.

If the gym says no, check into other gyms that do allow this option. If you find one, cancel the membership with your current gym and sign up at the new gym once fall or winter rolls around.

For more on saving money while staying fit, check out “5 Free and Cheap Ways to Exercise at Home.”

8. Driving instead of using your bike

Couple riding bikes
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Riding your bike is a great way to get some outdoor exercise during the summer. And every time you hop aboard and pedal your way to an errand or engagement, you save money on gas and prevent additional wear and tear to your vehicle.

This approach works best if you live in a city or suburban area where you have a lot of stores, restaurants and other establishments nearby.

Folks who live in one of the “The 10 Most Bike-Friendly Cities in America” can really benefit by switching from four wheels to two whenever possible during the summer.

9. Not waiting for tax-free weekends to make purchases

Back to school shopping
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Many states across the U.S. offer sales tax holidays during limited periods. During these holidays, taxes are suspended on products such as back-to-school items, personal computers, hurricane supplies and other goods.

The dates of such tax holidays vary from state to state, but many are in July and August. Waiting to purchase items during these times might save you money.

The Federation of Tax Administrators keeps a full list of the sales tax holidays on its website.

10. Forgetting to look for deals at garage sales

Yard sale sign
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Summer is the season for garage sales. Savvy shoppers know they can pick up furniture, tools, furnishings and other items at bargain-basement prices simply by shopping these sales.

You can also put some extra change in your pocket by hosting a garage sale of your own. For more, check out “How to Make and Save Money at Garage and Yard Sales.”

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