Guest Article: The Frugalista Guide to Keeping Your Family Cool and Sane this Summer

Photo Credit: Flickr Commons, Dave DeSandro via a Creative Commons License

Photo Credit: Flickr Commons, Dave DeSandro via a Creative Commons License

When it comes to summer time, small children, and quite probably, small spaces and limited cooling means or funds to run such means, you have almost a surefire recipe for tired, cranky, hot, sweaty, sticky kiddos and moms. Almost, but it doesn’t have to be a guarantee. Whether you need to plan to invest in cooling, or you can make do with other means, here are some of the best ways to keep yourself sane and your children happy all summer long.

Away from the House

Whenever possible, take yourself and your kids out of the house on the hottest of the summer days. There are plenty of free and cheap (under $1 options) available that you should definitely be taking advantage of.

Play Tourist

This could potentially require driving, so this one may be slightly more dependent upon whether or not there’s room in your budget for that. If there is, then take advantage of whatever attractions your town or city has to offer. Whether it’s an art museum, a children’s museum, science center, park, aquarium, wildlife reserve, an ancient bookstore or a legendary restaurant (splurge on an ice cream shake to split), get out there and check out the local recommendations. We’re almost always surrounded by multiple hot spots within our own city radius that people pay money to travel to come and see, yet we never go because we think it’s just too “normal.” Go! Many of these touristy places are free, and bonus: they’re usually highly air conditioned which means your family stays cool during the hot summer afternoons at no cost to you!

Pool Hopping

Staying in or near water is one of the very best ways to keep your children and yourself cool. Whether you have beaches, lakes, community pools or kiddie pools in the park, you should be able to track down water that’s very accessible and cheap if it isn’t free altogether. Make it a summer of “pool hopping” to avoid boredom. Your kids will enjoy heading to the pool much more if there is a variation, and they’ll make more friends this way.

Errand Runners

Take the kids with you to run all your errands during the hottest afternoons. Aim for errand trips that involve lengthy time spent in one stop, as opposed to jumping from one store to the next. If you need a couple hours in the grocery store, do it between 12-2 or 11-1. You’ll kill two birds with one stone, you’ll escape the heat of the house in exchange for a free, chilled environment, and you’ll get your errands done. Make it more exciting for kids by telling them that it’s their summer to learn how to shop. Allow them to help and make some of the decisions. They’ll dread the whole experience much more if it’s “about” them.

At the House

The “One Room” Plan

When you’re stuck at home, you’re going to want to stay in the coolest room you’ve got, whether that’s the basement, a bedroom or maybe even a den. Create one room that you diligently cool off at night, cover the windows with material to block out the light during the day and cut coming and going to that room to a minimum. You may even want to consider a small window ac or portable ac so that you can get some relief if the weather hits that point where there’s no other option. Some hot, humid climates just don’t offer even nighttime cool downs, and with very young children, it can get unsafe. But cooling an entire house is a massive energy drain and will empty out a wallet in no time flat. You should avoid central air at all costs. If you can’t afford a portable ac, look into an evaporative swamp cooler. While not a good idea for humid locations, they can still bring down air temperature by up to 20 degrees and cost much less to run.

The Backyard Plan

If you can create a shaded oasis in the backyard, this will probably become your saving grace for sanity this summer. Try to find a used kiddie pool at a garage sale. You’ll have even more adaptability to the hot weather if your kids can jump in water within 2 minutes of you telling them to. Do your normal inside activities outside: eating, reading, crafting, you name it. Your kids will welcome the space and you’ll get a chance to breathe too.

Just remember that even though we tend to worry about summer being harder than ever on our attempts to live within our budget, it doesn’t have to be that way. Skip getaways and go to the dollar movie store occasionally as a treat. Eat popsicles for dessert (the ones that cost pennies!), or better yet, make your own out of koolaid or fruit juice.

Summer is supposed to be amazing and fun and wonderful, so keep your cool and stay cool while you stay in your budget!


Freelance writer Jocelyn Anne is currently working alongside Air & Water, a heating and cooling company that promotes a portable air conditioner as one of the most cost-efficient and frugal ways to cool down a house.


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