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10 Frugal Ways To Beat The Heat


The Pacific Northwest escaped the onslaught of heat waves the rest of the US had endure so far this year, but it looks like our good luck is coming to an end this week. We are finally getting our first heat wave of the year so I thought it’s time to write about frugal ways to beat the heat. Our AC is out of commission right now so we need any help we can get. I was too cheap to fix it because we only get a few days per year when it’s hot enough to turn on the AC. This year I won’t be able to cool off in the office so it’s even more essential to find other ways to cool off.

Here are my 10 frugal ways to beat the heat

1. Water features

Take advantage of your local water features to cool off. We live in the city and there are many water fountains nearby. Baby RB40 loves to go splashing in these water features and it’s a great way to cool off. Your area might have rivers, lakes, or even beaches. These water features are natural heat sinks and it’s always cooler near a body of water. A community pool is another great option if there is one in your area.

frugal ways to beat the heat

Try not to get any water in your mouth though. These fountains recycle the water.

2. Cool nights

 Our main trick is to let cool air in at night and close the curtains during the hot day. This is usually enough to get us though a hot day or two. However, this doesn’t work as well during a long heat wave because it doesn’t cool off enough at night.

3. Spray Bottle

Put a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator and spritz yourself when it gets really hot. I just read about this and will have to try it this week.

4. Electronics

Turn off nonessential electronics and unplug them. Try holding your hand above your big screen TV when it’s off, but plugged in. It is still emanating heat. All your electronics convert electricity into heat so if they are not in use, unplug them.

5. Cooking

I think we all know to avoid using the oven as much as possible during a heat wave. I have a hankering for some pizza, but I think it will be worth it to go out this week. Making pizza is much better in the winter because it warms up your home too.

6. Go commando

Go ahead and skip that underwear during the heat wave. Or if you need the security, go with the light weight boxers instead of briefs. It’s better for the men’s fertility anyway.

7. Library

We’ll hit the library and other free AC zones too. This is a great way to get out of the house. Our library has a great magazine section and childrens area and it’s fun to spend an hour or two there. I think maybe we’ll hit the mall if the heat gets really bad, but that will be our last resort.

8. Mind over body

While you’re at the library, pick up some great best sellers. When I’m engrossed in a book, I rarely notice what’s going on around me. This will take your mind off the heat. Perhaps take up meditation?

9. Yoga

Do a set of yoga. You know they charge extra for hot yoga? The room is heated to 104 degree Fahrenheit with the humidity of 40%. Summer is your chance to do hot yoga for free so why not take advantage of the heat. I’m not sure how to crank up the humidity, but I think the heat will be quite enough.

10 Hot tea

beat the heat hot tea beverage

Hot tea & cookies in China

My dad always recommends hot tea for any season. Green tea is a powerful antioxidant and tastes great once you get used to it. I think drinking hot tea does help make you feel a bit cooler, but I don’t really know why. I found a story on NPR about cooling off with a hot drink. One scientist said the hot beverage caused the TRP1 receptor nerve on your tongue to tell your body to cool off by sweating. It works the same way with spicy food as well. My theory is that your internal temperature heat up a bit so the difference between your body temperature and the ambiance temperature is less. That’s why it feels less hot.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to put on lots of the sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Mrs. RB40 grew up in the CA desert, but there is no way she can live there anymore. We are used to the cooler temperatures now and hope this will be our only heat wave of the year.

Do you have any tips on beating the heat? 

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Hanne August 15, 2012, 5:25 am

    I work at home, and don’t have airco. I live in the Netherlands, so it is really not necessary. But it can get hot sometimes in the summer. When I am working at my desk, I put a tub of water under my desk and put my feet in it. Really a great way to cool off! You can put some icecubes in if it is very very hot.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 7:34 am

      That’s a great tip. I’ll add that to the main post later.
      A tub of water wouldn’t work for us though. The baby would go crazy with it. 🙂

  • John @ Calling the Puts August 15, 2012, 6:14 am

    I grew up in Korea and I know that my grandparents used to tell me to have hot soups because it’s going to cool me down – not sure if I believe it then, but not sure if I believe it now, but I suppose telling the body to sweat off would definitely help! I also try to grill a lot during summer.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 7:35 am

      I think hot food does help. I’m sure your grandparents also tell you not to drink an ice cold drink when it’s hot either. 🙂

  • Nick August 15, 2012, 7:22 am

    I love it! I’m a big closed curtains during the day guy. I think it makes a HUGE difference, although I don’t have any “science” to back it up. Good stuff.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:01 pm

      That’s the biggest factor for us too. 🙂

  • Chase Miller August 15, 2012, 7:46 am

    We have an attic fan that sucks all the hot air up into the attic while pulling in the cool air from outside. We run it in the evenings and mornings to cool off the house!

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:02 pm

      The attic fan is suppose to be the best way to do it without an AC. We live in a condo though and couldn’t figure out a way to blow the warm air out yet. I have a fan on the balcony blowing cool air in. Our windows are kind of weird.

  • Alexa August 15, 2012, 8:26 am

    tip for beating the heat in Houston, TX…move to Portland! haha

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:02 pm

      Hahaha, yeah. That’s why we don’t want to move south.

  • Squeezer @Personal Finance Success August 15, 2012, 8:31 am

    I will try and find a shady spot to lay in.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:02 pm

      That will work too.

  • krantcents August 15, 2012, 9:31 am

    You could go to the Mall, but leave your credit cards at home. Movies can be another choice at the height of the heat, although that costs some money. Hang out at a friend’s who has A/C.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:03 pm

      All my friends are working. 🙂

  • [email protected] August 15, 2012, 11:14 am

    You know the people in Phoenix are laughing at this! In Colorado, we go to the mountains. It never gets hot really above 8500 ft. If that’s not an option, lots of theaters show second runs of kids movies for free on certain days of the week. You can always go to one of those indoor playgrounds like at McDonalds. I might rather be out in the heat though.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:04 pm

      I used to laugh at this when I first moved up here. People here turn on the AC in their car when it gets to 70 degree. 🙂
      There are some nice indoor playgrounds in the area, but I’m saving those for winter. The kid doesn’t seem to mind the heat much as long as he’s in the shade.

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland August 15, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I’m just going to be out in it! I love these hot days.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 2:04 pm

      It’s way too hot for me now. I guess we lived here too long.

  • John August 15, 2012, 3:46 pm

    I didn’t think we had any water features over by our house until we went on a walk to Starbucks. And bam, there it was! Kind of wanted to run through them, but there were too many little kids. Ha. Thanks for the article!

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 10:47 pm

      Do it! Hahaha. It’s fun to run through a fountain on a super hot day.

  • jefferson August 15, 2012, 9:31 pm

    Hah.. Mixing Cooking and going commando can be hazardous!.. Be careful!

    I wish that my town had more of those water features that you mention. My kids would love them. As is, we have to make our own water features in the yard by turning on the sprinkler.

    • retirebyforty August 15, 2012, 10:51 pm

      Heh heh, going commando is not full on nudity, but I see your point.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc August 16, 2012, 5:07 am

    Never thought I would see “go commando” in any PF list. I do think I need to adopt your “spritz yourself” advice.

    • retirebyforty August 16, 2012, 2:07 pm

      It’s hot here today. We just went to the fountain and only stayed 10 minutes at the free concert. It’s way too hot to sit in the sun.

  • Savvy Scot August 16, 2012, 5:31 am

    OR.. you could move to the UK and it wouldn’t be a problem 😉

    • retirebyforty August 16, 2012, 2:08 pm

      You don’t have any heatwave at all? I think Portland is actually very similar to the UK, climate wise.
      It only get really hot a few days per year here.

  • 65aspiringyogini August 16, 2012, 6:46 am

    When I lived in rural Nicaragua, where it is very hot and no one has aircon and many don’t have running hot or cold water, we would get up before 5 am for more vigorous work (i.e. gardening, laundry, building, milking cows, making tortillas and cheese) until about 11 am. Then most people would shower (with a bucket of water and bowl to splash it on you or have it run out of a cool cistern) and put on fresh clothes before having lunch and a siesta. Afternoons were for resting, reading or studying Spanish. Evenings were for cooking, visiting neighbors, walking the beach or playing and watching soccer. Everyone did it this way and for the first half of the day people would wear the yesterday’s outfit and afternoons the new, clean set of clothes. This worked well for the rainy season as well, since it tended to rain in the afternoon (and we collected that water); however, on those days the heat wasn’t the problem.

    • retirebyforty August 16, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience. So that’s where siesta comes from. It’s a great idea to stay out of the sun in the afternoon. One of my old roommate was from Nicaragua and he didn’t share much about the country. 🙂
      In Thailand, we showered a few times per day too when it gets really hot and humid.

      • 65aspiringyogini August 17, 2012, 5:14 am

        Kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s in Nicaragua, even those whose parents got them out of there, had a very rough time and I can imagine that your roommate might not talk about his home life much. If he had stayed, he would have likely been conscripted into the army. Because of the U.S. staged Contra war against the Sandinistas, Nicaragua is now one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. Only Haiti is significantly worse. We are extremely fortunate people here in the USA! That is why I really enjoy your blog so much; you show us wonderful examples of the sweet life we can live here!

        • retirebyforty August 17, 2012, 2:21 pm

          Yeah, you’re right. They had a hard time there and moved to a pretty bad neighborhood in CA (South Central.) Life is better there now right? My roommate went back a few times and his extended family have some kind of business there.

          • 65aspiringyogini August 17, 2012, 2:41 pm

            Certainly, things are getting better now that they at not being bombed by us and they are not at war with each other. They are getting a lot of attention for their Ecotourism and cheap living now and they are modeling Costa Rica, but they have a long way to go, since many are quite poor. I really enjoy the reality check I get when I go and visit; I am amazed at what young people there have managed to accomplish and their willingness to work much harder than my university students do here in the US. If your roommate’s family had a business there, then they would be considered well-off by Nico standards. However, lots of businesses were taken from owners during the war; some got them back and others did not.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina August 16, 2012, 7:35 am

    We really need to put up our curtains. We have the rods and curtains, but even since we moved into the new apt. we haven’t made time. This is a reminder!!!

    I live in Texas. During the summer 100+ degrees are typical. Even pool water feels like bath water.

    I shower right before going to bed so I feel cooler during the night, and shower in the morning too.

    • retirebyforty August 16, 2012, 2:13 pm

      Yes, put them up! You need them in Texas…
      I used to live in San Fernando Valley in Southern CA and the 100+ degrees were pretty typical too. I don’t think I can live in those places anymore. We got used to the temperate climate. 🙂

  • Marissa @ Thirty Six Months August 16, 2012, 9:18 pm

    Number 6 is the best tip ever. I had to take a break from reading the rest of the list since I was laughing so hard.

    • retirebyforty August 16, 2012, 11:03 pm

      Hahaha, glad to be of service.

  • Kris @ Everyday Tips August 17, 2012, 7:34 am

    It has been awfully hot here in Michigan this summer. Our utility bills have been insane. We grill quite a bit. I would love to open the windows at night, but my kids have allergies and then end up sneezing all night if I do that. So, we live in expensive air conditioning. I guess it is one of those expenses I have learned to live with because I cannot stand being uncomfortable. I don’t know how I handled growing up in a small house without air.

    The tea idea is very interesting!

    • retirebyforty August 17, 2012, 2:23 pm

      We escaped the whole heat wave thing until now. It’s pretty surprising, but I can’t complain.

  • Don August 17, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Hmmm, I like to go down in the basement and hang out when it get really hot (not that it does in my neck of the woods).

    I guess there is always swimming in a pond or nearby lake (if one can’t sneak into their neighbor’s pool).

    • retirebyforty August 18, 2012, 9:09 pm

      The basement is a good idea. Most houses here do not have a basement though.

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