Ask the Readers: How Do You Cool Off on a Budget?

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The days are warming up, and they'll only get hotter as summer approaches. While it's easy to blast the AC nonstop whenever you break a sweat, this isn't the most energy-efficient or budget-friendly approach for most people.

How do you cool off on a budget? Do you stay indoors, or escape to somewhere cooler outside your home? Have you made any preparations in case a heat wave hits your area?

Tell us about how you cool off on a budget and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture

The easiest way to cool off for my family is to just hit the beach or swimming pool. Its free and they both are just a short drive from the house.

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Mary Happymommy

When my husband and I were first married, our little apartment had no A/C. We put in an A/C unit in the bedroom, but the rest of the apartment was like an oven. We used to go to Barnes & Noble to cool off.

Guest's picture

We oftentimes just open up a few windows to allow air to flow through the room we are currently in.

Guest's picture

That's a very relevant topic! Three main things: proper clothes, less heating and more shade, and you can maintain your temperature low without running your AC 24/7.

We actually had a piece on our site covering exactly that topic, cooling off on a budget:

Guest's picture

We are blessed with air conditioning, but before we had it, we would use fans and a bowl of ice in front of them as "air conditioning". It does help! The kids enjoy running through the cold sprinkler, and a dip in the lake nearby is always refreshing.

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I go for walks in the early mornings when it's cool and then take a cool shower. I think this starts my whole day off on the right foot so that the later heat is easier to take.

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Lani C

We spend a lot of time at the pool and bbq a lot so we don't heat up the house.

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As someone who does not have central air, I find the best ways to cool off are:
1) Take a cool shower before bed and dust bedding lightly with a mix of cornstarch or baking soda scented with a few drops of lavender essential oil.
2) Drink plenty of water
3) Have ceiling fans installed in every room possible.
4) Spend as much time as possible in shady areas near the water.

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Ice bucket in front of fan always works.

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To cool off I usually run the AC on low to knock the heat out. I personally don't do fans because I can't stand the noise and keeping a fan plugged in non-stop can help raise the utility bill and burn the motor out faster. Using energy saving curtains also helps keep the extra heat out too. I'll usually go to the library if it gets super hot and I want to do something fun--our library is also located near restaurants and ice cream shops

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Standard fan + bowl of water. The bigger bowl, the better. Place bowl between you and fan. Turn fan on. Voila, you've just made low power aircon.

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Karen L.

We keep the central fan on in our home which lowers the amount of time the compressor runs with our air conditioner system.

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I cool off by taking a cold shower

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If it's going to be a hot day, I don't open the windows or blinds/shades. It's amazing how much cooler it stays in the house!

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Chris Jurewicz

This is going to sound lame (and maybe it is!). We take our son to the library. Free air conditioning. Great play areas. And Mason loves looking for new books and DVDs.
CHEAP way to stay cool!

Also, we're fortunate to have a man-made lake in the city of Calgary. We go there a lot during the summer. Again, it's free!

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Betty D.

Last year I bought thermal curtains, and they seem to help. I keep them closed during the day. When I'm not working, I try to head somewhere to swim. If that is not possible, I go to a mall. I have to use the AC when I sleep though!

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Visiting a pool at a friend's while cooling off and spending QT together!

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jeannine s

We are lucky in we live close to Niagara Falls so on really hot days we would walk around the falls because the mist would cool you off. We also go to the park with shade and the creek

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Abby B.

We cool off by playing in the sprinkler and making home made popsicles!

Guest's picture

I live in a small farm house nestled on a hill surrounded by trees. I do not have central A/C nor ceiling fans but I fight the summer heat by taking advantage of the natural air flow in my home. By opening selected windows I am able to circulate the air and lower the temperature of the house enough to make a noticeable difference. I use 2 energy efficient tower fans on each end of the house to push the air for days where the breeze has settled. I keep my body temperature down with a healthy diet, fresh homegrown fruit smoothies, plenty of water and a short 2-3min cold water shower. If the heat becomes unbearable, you can find me in the woods with my feet in the stream. Stay hydrated this summer!!

Guest's picture

The easiest way to cool off around here is also free - jump in Lake Superior. That'll cool you right off for sure!

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Adam Skinner

After renting a room in an old Victorian farmhouse, I discovered an interesting method of cooling the house. We open the door to the basement, and allow the cool air to flow from there into the rest of the house. It works pretty well!

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Shari C

We have learned to open our windows strategically. Some stay closed and blinds drawn to block hot sun, others are opened with fans placed in specific places throughout the house. We actually have it down to a science, and it is frequently as cool as having the A/C on!

Guest's picture

Now? AC. :) I used to live in the high mountain semi-desert, and I used a swamp cooler there. WAY cheaper, and in dry areas, it works fabulously at 95 degrees or below.

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J. Pario

Strategically closing curtains.

Strategically opening windows for a cross breeze in the mornings.

Letting our bodies get used to the actual seasons. If you don't pamper yourself too much by rushing to the thermostat every time you are the tiniest bit uncomfortable, after a while 80 degrees in shorts can feel just as comfortable as 67 degrees in a sweater.

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Jamie Pellerin

I visit one of Maine's beautiful beaches for the day! :)

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Janet Fri

I use window fans in our bedrooms to cool off and stay on a budget.

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Lori P

Early in the day we keep all of our blinds and curtains closed. We set our AC at a higher temp to keep it from running all of the time so we have found that we still use fans because moving air helps with making us feel cooler. If the day is cooler we will open the windows on both sides of the house in the evening to get a cross breeze blowing through the house.

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We go to the beach, and bought a state park pass to cover parking fees for the year.

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Kristine R.

Schedule relax time in places that have air conditioning! :)

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Tabathia B

We use a ceiling fan at night if it's cooler but we mainly use central a/c unit to keep cool and lots of ice cream

Guest's picture

I open up the windows and put on a fan. And I drink plenty of water. If it gets really hot, I can always go to the library or take a stroll to the grocery store.

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We try to celebrate the warm temperatures of summer by doing special things - daytime movie matinees, marathon window shopping sessions at the mall, happy hour instead of heating up the kitchen making dinner.

Guest's picture

We live in FLORIDA and have NOT turned on the a/c for 3 years doing this;
Dress light. (light colors & light weight material)
Drink plenty of fluilds.
Ponytails or short haircuts.
We planted shade trees around our house. (A major help)
Draw the binds & curtians close 1st thing in the am.
When it starts to get hot out, we go to places that have a/c. We hit our liberary, volunter at a food bank and a nursing home etc,,,
We hit the water. Go tubeing down the river, swim in pools (friends & public) beach.
Our family had a meeting and discussed turning the a/c off and with the money saved, we would take a camping trip to the mountians. They know if a severe heat wave hit, the a/c would go on!
We stay very active and the a/c is on in our car going from place to place and so far we have takening 3 great trips because of our frugal tips!

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We use our ceiling fans to cool off plus spend more time in our basement since it is cooler than the rest of the house.

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Happy Love

I like to drink a glass of home-made lemonade (from lemon concentrate and sugar).

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Sit in the shade outside, use the gas grill and nice bowl of ice cream helps!

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I moved to Albuquerque, where swamp coolers work their magic! ;) I also wear loose skirts/dresses all summer, avoid running errands in the heat of the day, keep cold drinks and smoothies on hand, and try to escape once or twice a summer to somewhere cool in the area. Mountains are the best this time of year, as even an afternoon in the pines makes everything feel better!

Guest's picture

Luckily for me, my basement is nice and chilly in the summer, so I simply walk a few steps downstairs to get out of the heat. If I must stay upstairs though I open all the windows and run the house fan/box fans. During the day I leave the blinds closed to prevent the sun from heating up the rooms.

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Amanda Sakovitz

I finally live in a home where theres a cross breeze so for right now opening the window works.

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Thomas Murphy

I go swimming in my friends pool

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We rent our house and there are no shade trees anywhere near us. The rear of the house (with windows in the living room and spare room) has direct sunlight most of the day. In the mid-south that means lots of heat. Therefore, we keep the blinds closed and I made curtains made of reflective material on one side and fleece on the other. It helps keep the house cooler and dimmer (which feels cooler). On the advice of our HVAC technician friend - we use our programmable thermostat to keep the house a moderate temp while we are away so it doesn't have to work twice as hard to cool the house before we get home. When at home we run about it temperature appropriate clothing - shorts, tanks, tees, etc. so the house doesn't have to be cold, just temperate. If it is cool enough in the evenings we open the side and front doors to get some cool air circulating. Finally - we use a small window unit in the bedroom to keep it cool enough to sleep but it is also programmable so it doesn't run during the day and only for about three hours at bedtime.

Guest's picture

We use the AC sparingly while home. We turn it up to 82 when we leave, so we don't cool our apartment for the cat. We also visit family a lot, their cool house costs nothing to us.

Check out my Christian Mommy Blog at:

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We were given some A/C window units, so we have those in a few rooms in the house, and only run them if absolutely necessary. Most of them have a 'power save' or other automatic feature that will shut it off after it gets cool enough. We have regular window fans in other windows.

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I eat copious amounts of ice cream and popsicles!

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1. Dip a thin towel in ice water and hang it around your neck. or, dip it in water, squeeze it out, freeze it, then later put it around your neck.

2. Ice water, towel, and fan. This will cool you down nice and quick and /thoroughly/. Cloth diapers work best. Dip it in ice water, drape it over your face, and sit in front of a fan for a short while. I get over heated very quickly and easily-- this is how I save myself.

3. Dip a cloth diaper in ice water, ring it out, and drape it over a fan (make sure it's not dripping water and not covering the whole fan, be aware never to leave this unattended. Direct the fan at yourself and the air blowing through the cold towel will cool you down.

4. stick your feet in a bucket of ice water.

In some places with some houses, they get hotter than the outdoors. Open a door and a window so air can flow /through/ your room. This keeps it cooler when you don't have AC or need to cut down on the electric bill by turning the AC off.

Power down unnecessary electronics. When you aren't at your computer or TV, turn them, off. In small rooms, these make a LOT of excess heat.

If you live in a humid area like Florida (I DO!) make sure to run the vent in the bathroom when you shower. Especially if you take HOT showers. Also run the fans in the kitchen, open windows in the kitchen, to let heat from cooking escape.

Sleep with an ice pack wrapped in a towel! stick it in a pillow to hug!

Stuff your pillow in the freezer before bed. Seriously.

Guest's picture

I cool off by opening the windows at night and using a fan. It makes a huge difference

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Summer is one time when I care less about my budget and more about comfort. I hate hot weather so, when necessary, the AC goes on in my house regardless of cost!

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Mary Poggemann

A quick inexpensive way to cool down is to dampen a washcloth in cool water and lightly run over exposed skin.

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I go to the gym or run extra errands on really hot days after work so I'm at home less--thus using less AC (because I only turn it on when I'm home).

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Open the windows if it is cooler when the sun goes down. Otherwise, use a fan for circulation, and if I use the A.C. window unit, I make sure to keep unused rooms closed off.

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We run the AC a few hours in the evening, turn it off before going to bed, and then turn on the ceiling fan. That takes care of the humidity so that we can get a decent night's sleep.

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Bryce Palmer

Popsicles and and lemonade on the rocks. If you want to be cool this summer make sure your freezer is well stocked with popsicles and make sure to keep the ice trays filled. I can't think of anything better on a hot day than the feeling you get from sucking on a nice cold Popsicle, (root beer is my favorite flavor), or a big glass of lemonade filled with ice cubes. This can cool your core a few degrees. And when you're cool on the inside you'll feel awesome on the outside.

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I just embrace the sweaty lifestyle of summer in DC! I go bikeriding in the am, and relax in the pool during the brutal days. Also, making ice tea and eating watermelons works too!

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Lots of water and a swim in the lake!

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We close the blinds wherever the sun is shining in- helps a lot. We also turn off lights and put fans in the windows.

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We installed two ceiling fans on our back porch. Even yesterday, when it was 90 degrees with high humidity in our area, our back porch was exceptionally pleasant.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

We put up ceiling fans in every room, and keep them running, along with a stand fan in the living room and our bedroom, to help our ac do it's job better. Ice cream helps, too!!!

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We go to the pool at our local park. The kids love it.

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Alissa A

I use a lot of fans, keep my windows covered, and stay on the lower level which is always cooler!

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We're blessed with a whole house fan we run that does great at creating a breeze.

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Guest's picture

Okay, here's a weird way to cool off -well, this is more about beating the dreaded HUMIDITY (Bleh!). Believe it or not, turning a space heater on low will help to dry the humid air out in your house and reduce the effect.. strange I know, but the dry heat is much more bearable than the humidity. And to really cool you down quick without getting you soaking wet or forcing you to don your skivvy's, do this: take a face cloth, dampen it well with water, hang it in the freezer for a few minutes until it starts to freeze. Remove it before it gets too stiff, and place it around your neck or on your head for an extremely refreshing and cooling sensation! Plus as it warms up the ice-cold water will continue to drip and cool you off.

Thanks for reading..

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Debra K

We actually don't even have an AC unit here, so we open windows, use fans, and sometimes even hit up our local dollar theater or Subway or go to the mall to cool off. We also play in water outside.

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Wear light clothing such as cotton shorts and shirts. Drink plenty of fluids and don't go outside between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

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Open the windows, not the blinds. That way, the air comes in, but the sun stays out!