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How to beat the heat without hurting your budget

Are you already feeling the heat this summer, but also trying to stay on budget? Here are 12 ways to stay cool without heating up your spending. 

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    To help cool your home without going over your budget, draw your blinds. Keeping direct sunlight out of your living-space will have an immediate effect on the air temperature.
    John Nordell/The Christian Science Monitor
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According to my calendar, summer is officially (and finally) upon us. And thank goodness. As a Chicagoan who endured another brutal winter, the summer solstice couldn't have come soon enough.

Bring on the sun and BBQs (snatch up this Kenmore Stainless four-burner grill for $200!) and the beach and libations (slurp down 15 bottles of wine for $85!) and the baseball games that go on forever and sandals (and, for the love of all that is good and holy, toenail clippers) and fireflies and Slip ‘N Slides and the outdoor music festivals and fireworks and on and on. Oh, and lest we forget, bring on the inescapable, disgusting, overwhelming heat that manages to invade every inch of your life and then some. Time to bring on the sort of heat where walking half a block can leave you sweating so much that you’ll end up looking like a hungover and haggard Ryan Lochte after stepping out of the pool post-400m IM (minus the red, white, and blue grill, Olympic physique, and post-lobotomy eyes).

As someone who naturally runs about as hot as a communal indoor hot-tub, I've had to find, develop, and figure out a multitude of ways to stay cool when Mother Nature feels like proving Al Gore right by cranking up Earth’s thermostat to record-setting temperatures. Whether it’s taking the time to understand how a ceiling fan circulates air or simply running cold water over your wrists, there are plenty of quick, easy, and affordable (and often money saving) tips and tricks that will help you stay cool in spite of the heat.

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Increase airflow in your home by creating a cross-draft.

Ever notice how opening a window never quite cools things off? Well, that’s because you need to utilize cross-draft ventilation. All you have to do is open one window, locate another window on the other side of the room, open that one as well and - voilà! - you’re now moving considerably more fresh air through your living space.

Figure out how your ceiling fan works.

This was something I never took the time to consider; I always figured that turning on my ceiling fan was a guaranteed means of bringing the temperature down. That’s not always the case. The majority of modern ceiling fans have two settings: one for wintertime that creates an updraft, moving warmer air that’s risen to the ceiling, and another setting for summertime that circulates cooler air downward. Ballacor has some great deals going right now, check them out and save up to 45 percent off of select ceiling fans.

Draw your blinds and/or create some exterior shading.

Keeping direct sunlight out of your living-space will have an immediate effect on the air temperature. On top of that, you can always flex your green thumb by planting some trees outside of your home’s windows in order to keep that direct sunlight from further heating the air. If you’re in the market for some new blinds, use our 15 percent off coupon from The Shade Store to add a bit of shade to your living space.

Cut back on appliance use.

Also, if you can turn it off, turn it off. Using your washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, TV, computer, and leaving the lights on not only chugs up a ton of power, but they also emit a significant amount of radiant heat. Don’t get me wrong, energy efficient appliances, like this $998 Samsung Stainless Steel Fridge from Home Depot, are great and I think they’re the only way to go when appliance shopping, but just because they’re energy efficient doesn't mean they’re not actively heating your home every time you run them.

Don’t let hot air get trapped in your attic.

When I was in high school, my bedroom was the only room on the top floor of my parents’ home. Come summertime, that room would begin to absolutely cook, regardless of how low I would try and set the thermostat. It wasn't until I installed a fan in the attic above me that my room finally cooled off. All it took was exhausting the hot air that had built up and become trapped in the attic. The upper floors of the house cooled off, the AC didn't have to work overtime, money was saved, and sleep was reclaimed. Try using ta fan with a built in timer to keep that heat from amassing in the upper stories of your house with any regularity.

Program your thermostat.

Most thermostats are set to hold at a consistent temperature all day until you tell it otherwise. It only takes a few minutes and you can save a ton of money on your energy bill by not overusing your AC, especially when you’re not around to enjoy the artificially chilled air.

Keep your cooling systems up to date.

While any air conditioner has a few different parts that require regular maintenance, the easiest way to improve the efficiency of an existing unit and save on air conditioning costs is to clean or replace its filters at least every couple of months per season of use. If your air conditioner is older than a decade, though, consider investing in a newer, high-efficiency model. Replacing your filters every 1-2 month can improve performance by 5-15 percent, but upgrading to a modern system from an outdated one can cut your cooling costs by 20 percent in one fell swoop.

Keep AC units out of the sun.

Once you've got your AC unit, you can increase its efficiency by up to 10% by making sure it's in a relatively cool area shaded from direct sunlight. Avoid drop cloths and enclosures -- your best bet is natural cover in the form of a non-shedding tree or shrubbery patch, which blocks out the sun while allowing air to circulate in and out of the unit.

Bigger isn't always better.

Don't spring for central air when window units will do and don't buy a window unit that operates at a higher capacity than your space demands. Even if you like it frosty during the summer, it's a waste to trick out a tiny bedroom or shoebox studio with a turbo-powered AC unit designed to cool restaurant kitchens in the sun's core. Not only do over-sized air conditioners waste energy, they remove moisture from the air less efficiently than properly-sized units. The freezing cold humid air that results is what's responsible for that nasty, clammy feeling you sometimes get in a mall shop or office building where the AC is really on full blast. For more information and a simple guide to choosing the right air conditioner for your space, check out Energy Star's website.

Try out some Scottish showers.

Never heard of a Scottish shower? Neither had I until I read some of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. The British super-spy would initially run his shower hot but would finish off his shower with freezing cold water. Once I found out that 007 took cold showers, 15-year-old me had to as well, unless, of course, I was going to allow myself to be any less a man than James Bond. Cold showers have been shown to help relieve depression, improve the look and feel of both your skin and hair, improving your circulatory and immune systems, and increasing fertility in men. Not only that, but cold showers aren't engaging your water-heater, helping you save more money on your energy bill. While you’re at it, check out this $10 two-pack shower curtain pack from Choxi!

Don’t neglect your pulse points.

Running cold water over the inside of your wrists, soaking your feet and ankles in cold water, or draping a cold, damp towel over your neck can drop your body’s core temperature almost instantaneously. This is a quick and easy fix that you can use anywhere you have access to water.

Give up and leave the house.

Spend a hot day basking in the AC at your local art museum!

While I stand behind all of these tips, sometimes you just need a level of AC that is beyond responsible household energy management. Rather than crank your own air conditioning, get out and mooch off of someone else -- go window shopping and enjoy the artificial sweater weather blasting from every store, relax at the library with a selection from the Western canon, take advantage of free days at local museums, or head to the movies and blow all the AC money you're saving on a matinee ticket and a giant ICEE.

Never forget to keep yourself hydrated and try to keep up a consistent regimen of consuming water throughout the day. Try to wear less-constrictive clothing made from breathable fabrics like linen and cotton. If you’re going to be out in both direct and indirect sunlight, be sure to wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15. There’s nothing worse than getting too much sun and not being able to shake the feeling that your sunburned body is ready to spontaneously combust at any given moment.

Cheers to a great summer. Stay cool, y’all.

This article first appeared on Brad's Deals.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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