60 Frugal Summer Savings Hacks

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Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Rebecca Lake

Summer is a chance to spend time with the family and enjoy life at a slower pace. Keeping your budget in check can be challenging if you’re doing more activities with the kids or planning a vacation. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to save money in summer on everyday expenses, travel, and fun. Trying some summer savings hacks can help avoid an overspending trap.

Best Summer Savings Hacks for Frugal Families

Saving money in the summer months isn’t rocket science; it just means getting creative with your personal finance skills. 

These money-saving tips are all ones I’ve used to save money as a single mom living on one income. You can try one of them or all of them to ramp up your summer savings!

Ways to save money on gas in the summer

Gas prices usually creep up in summer since people travel more often. Higher demand for fuel means higher prices.

These summer savings hacks can help you feel less pain at the pump.

  • Run errands on the same day, instead of spacing them out during the week to limit how often you have to drive. 
  • Fill up on Monday and Tuesday when gas prices tend to be cheaper. 
  • Pay bills online so you don’t have to run out for postage or pay them in person. 
  • Check your tire pressure, as underinflated tires can lower your gas mileage.
  • Drive with the windows up to reduce wind resistance and keep the AC at a consistent temperature if you use it. 
  • Use a gas app or cash-back app to earn back a percentage of what you spend when you hit the pump.
  • Join your preferred gas station’s rewards program if they offer one, which can help you earn back a percentage of what you spend or snag discounts on gas. 
  • Use a credit card that earns cash back at gas stations and stack them with rewards from a cashback app or gas station rewards program. 

Here’s one more tip: go down to one vehicle if you can. 

I don’t mean you have to get rid of a second car; just don’t use it if you can avoid it. Stick with the vehicle that’s the most fuel-efficient as much as possible to make your gas mileage go farther. 

Save money in summer on energy bills

Utility bills can strain your budget in summer if you’re running the AC more often. But you can beat the heat (and the high bills) with these tips. 

  • Adjust your thermostat to a higher temp (78 is ideal, according to the Department of Energy) so the AC kicks on less often.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat so you can easily control the temperature during the day and at night.
  • Use fans instead of AC if possible to keep your home cool.
  • Set ceiling fan blades to turn counterclockwise to push cool air down toward the floor. 
  • Consider spending a little money on light-blocking curtains to keep out the sun’s rays and cool your home. 
  • If you have to water your lawn, do it in the early morning or evening when it’s least likely to evaporate and go to waste.
  • Check peak usage times with your energy company and avoid running the dishwasher or washer and dryer during those times. 
  • Line dry clothing instead of running the dryer. 
  • If your kids have water toys like a sprinkler or slip-and-slide, try to use them during off-peak energy usage hours and put a time limit on how long they run. 
  • Collect rainwater in a barrel to water plants or a garden if you have one. 
  • Plan meals that don’t require you to run the oven, which can heat your home and force the AC to kick on more often. 

Save money on food during the summer

Summer Savings Hacks for Frugal Families

Inflation has made going to the grocery store a nightmare because everything is so expensive these days. Having the kids home on summer break all day can drive up your grocery bill if they’re constantly poking around in the fridge or pantry for something to snack on.

These summer savings hacks can help keep your food budget on track. 

  • Start a garden if possible and grow your favorite veggies or herbs at home. 
  • Learn how to make bread from scratch, which can be cheaper and healthier than store-bought. (And it’s a great way to introduce kids to baking!)
  • Pay attention to your preferred grocery store’s sales cycle and when the items you buy most often usually go on sale.
  • Plan meals around the sales and stick with cheap pantry staples that can be used to make lots of different dishes. 
  • Try dirt-cheap meals that only include a few ingredients. 
  • Shop the farmer’s market or a local farm store if possible, since you might be able to get fruits and veggies cheaper. (The quality is often better, too.)
  • Resist the temptation to eat out and cook at home as much as possible. 
  • If you’re having a barbecue or backyard party, make it potluck or bring your own so you’re not burdened with covering all the food costs. 
  • Repurpose ingredients and leftovers into new meals whenever possible. 
  • Create a snack rotation of tasty, homemade treats for kids. Some examples of delicious and inexpensive snacks include air-popped popcorn, frozen fruit smoothie pops, and no-bake peanut butter bars
  • Use a cash-back app to earn money back or unlock special coupons when you shop at partner grocery stores. 
  • Join your local store’s loyalty program to get coupons or earn rewards on purchases. 

Where is the best place to buy cheap groceries?

The answer is usually determined by where you live. For us, Walmart is the cheapest but for you, it might be Aldi, Kroger, or another grocery store chain. Checking sales ads online is a simple way to see what different stores charge for the same items. 

Should you buy groceries from the dollar store? 

This is a tough one since it’s tempting because everything is relatively cheap. What you have to consider is how the unit price compares if you’re on a tight budget and are trying to stretch your grocery dollars. 

For example, a loaf of bread is usually cheaper but you can find better prices on canned goods at a grocery store. So again, it all comes down to how much time you put into comparing prices before you shop. 

If you’ve run out of frugal meal ideas a meal planning service can help. You can pay a low monthly fee and get an entire month of meals planned out for you, which can be a huge time-saver in summer or all year long.

dirt cheap meals

Need help with meal planning?

$5 Meal Plan is a weekly meal planning and prep tool that can help you save money and time in the kitchen. For just $5 per month, you can get a made-to-order meal plan to feed your family for less than $2 per person, per meal!

Save money on summer fun

Summer is all about doing fun things with the kids but you don’t have to go crazy spending money. Some of my favorite summer savings hacks revolve around ways to have a good time with little to no money required.

  • Check your local library to see if they offer a summer reading program, movies, or other activities for kids. 
  • Try a summer reading challenge at home using books from the library. 
  • Rent DVDs from the library and have movie days (or nights) at home. 
  • Find ways to spend time outside. If the playground equipment at the park is too hot, then take the kids for a walk around the neighborhood or plan a backyard excursion to look for bugs. 
  • Check with your local parks and recreation department or community center for free summer events, like movies in the park. 
  • Plant a backyard garden as a family.
  • Ask your local museum about free days or free family-friendly events. 
  • Skip the vacation and plan a staycation at home, checking out local tourist sites in your town that you’ve never been to. 
  • Give yourself a $20 budget and buy some craft supplies from the dollar store for the kids, then break them out any time a rainy summer afternoon rolls around. 
  • Look for other free events that are kid-friendly, like summer farm days or cultural festivals. 
  • Ask about kids’ summer movies at your local theater, where tickets may be as cheap as $2 or $3.
  • Check for kids eat free nights at local restaurants if you plan to splurge on an evening out. 
  • Visit a local botanical garden if they offer free admission days. 

Having fun with kids doesn’t have to be complicated or require a lot of spending. And these are all excellent ways to enjoy time together and keep kids off screens during the summer. 

summer savings hacks
Smart Summer Savings Hacks

Ways to save money on summer travel

If you’re planning to venture away from home on a family vacation, it pays to know how to do it cost-effectively. Here are some ways to keep summer travel spending at a minimum. 

  • Bundle airfare and hotels if it allows you to get a discounted rate. 
  • Drive to your destination if gas would be cheaper than flying (and your kids are old enough for a road trip). 
  • Travel midweek and book flights early in the day when fares tend to be lower. 
  • If you’re driving, keep a supply of snacks in the car so you’re not tempted to stop at a fast food spot on the way. 
  • Choose accommodations that have a kitchen so you can prepare meals in your room versus having to eat out at a restaurant or get takeout. 
  • Use flight search aggregators and deal websites to compare fares across different carriers. 
  • Stack cashback apps with a travel rewards credit card to earn double the rewards when you book. 
  • Review your travel card’s rewards program carefully to figure out which redemption or transfer options offer you the most value per point or mile. 
  • If your card offers travel benefits, like free checked bags, free or discounted companion passes, or complimentary airport lounge access, use them. 
  • If you’re going somewhere that gets a lot of tourist traffic, consider going during the shoulder season if your kids’ school schedule allows it. 
  • Skip pricey souvenirs that may get broken, lost, or forgotten about once you’re home. 
  • Learn how to pack a minimalist travel wardrobe for everyone on the trip to cut down on the number of bags you’ll need to check (and pay for) at the airport. 
  • Use a packing list to ensure you’re not forgetting anything so you don’t have to buy replacements for toiletries or other items while you’re away. 
  • Walk or take public transit while sightseeing if it’s cheaper than booking an Uber. 
  • If you’re going overseas, check currency exchange rates before you go and order foreign currency from your bank if it’s cheaper. 
  • Stick with a no foreign transaction fee credit card to cover international purchases. 

Opening a new credit card could save you money on travel if you’re earning an introductory bonus. For example, you might get 100,000 bonus points or miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. 

Just keep in mind that a bonus is only valuable if you plan to use it and earning it doesn’t require you to spend more than you normally would. 

Enjoy Summer and Save Money!

Taking in the summer breezes doesn’t mean you have to put your wallet in meltdown mode. With a little planning, you can have a terrific summer as a family without draining your bank account. 

What are your favorite summer savings hacks?

About Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance, freelance writer and homeschooling single mom of two. Since 2014, she's paid off nearly $100,000 in debt and grown her net worth to seven figures. Her work has appeared online at top personal finance websites, including Forbes Advisor, Bankrate, Investopedia, The Balance, CreditCards.com and U.S. News & World Report. Find out more.