10 Frugal Ways to Beat The Heat

10 Frugal Ways to Beat The Heat350Are you staying cool this summer? The Pacific Northwest doesn’t get hot too often but we get a heatwave occasionally. Last week was one of those so  I thought it’s time to update my frugal ways to beat the heat. We moved to our duplex last year and we no longer have AC. Oh no! Actually, it hasn’t been too bad. We survived 2 consecutive days of 100-degree heat by cooling the house down at night. IMO, we don’t really need AC in Portland. It rarely gets that hot here.

2020 is a bit different. Most offices are closed and you have to find a way to stay cool at home. My wife is working from home and I retired from my engineering career years ago. We have to cool off at home somehow. Here are my frugal tricks.

*This post was originally written in 2012. I updated with the latest info.

1. Cool off at night

This is our goto trick to cool off. If you don’t have AC, the best way to keep your home cool is to air it out at night. Fortunately, it cools down quite a bit at night in our area. Usually, the temperature drops at least 20 degrees. I open all the windows and screen doors and let all the cool air in overnight. This cools down the house enough for us. On those 100 degrees days, the hottest our home got was 82 degrees. It was uncomfortable but not that bad.

Cooling off overnight is a lot more environmentally friendly than using the AC. Our neighbors’ AC units are on all the time. We can hear it cranking day and night. I don’t think AC is an efficient way to cool off at night. The house is closed up so the temperature stays pretty warm. It’s better to open up at night to cool off.

Of course, if the heatwave was longer than 2 days, our home would heat up more. This is highly dependent on where you live.

2. Water features

Take advantage of your local water features to cool off. We live in the city and there are many water fountains nearby. RB40Jr loves to go splashing in these water features and it’s a great way to cool off. Your area might have rivers, lakes, and beaches. These water features are natural heat sinks and it’s always cooler near them. 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.

Unfortunately, most pools and fountains are closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year we visited the rivers and beaches instead. It takes more time to get there, but those trips are worth it. Wow, RB40Jr grew so much. It’s amazing.

3. Spray some water

Put a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator and spritz yourself when it gets really hot. I read about this but it never got hot enough to try.

However, RB40Jr has been playing in our shared backyard with the neighbors’ kids. They splash each other with the hose, water guns, and water balloons. The sprinkler is a lot of fun too. They had a great time during our mini heatwave. Luckily, our backyard has plenty of shade so they can stay out there without having to worry about sunburn. Don’t forget your sunscreen when you go outdoor this summer.

4. Unplug your stuff

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 in the summer. I have a hankering for some pizza but I’ll go pick up takeout instead. Making pizza is much better in the winter because it warms up your home too.

In the summer, I cook on the stove. Most of my goto recipes take less than 10 minutes on the stove. Check them out on our YouTube channel – Eat by 40! Here is a sample. Subscribe if you enjoy the video.

6. Go commando

Go ahead and skip the underwear during the heatwave. Or if you need the security, go with the lightweight boxers instead of briefs. They are way more breathable.

This year we’re home all the time so we can walk around in our underwear when it gets too hot. My outer clothes come off when it hits 80 degrees inside. What about you?

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 a children’s area. It’s fun to spend an hour or two there. Also, you can hit the mall if the heat gets really bad, but that will be our last resort.

Free AC is hard to come by in 2020. The libraries are still closed to foot traffic in our area. Most stores, restaurants, and cafes are not open for inside seating either. Big box stores are open, but I don’t want to spend more time there than necessary. Free AC will have to wait until next year.

8. Mind over body

Fortunately, we can still pick up books and movies from our library. When I’m engrossed in a book, I rarely notice what’s going on around me. This will take your mind off the heat.

9. Yoga

Do a set of yoga. Do you know they charge money for hot yoga? The room is heated to 104 degrees with a 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 drinks

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 it tastes great once you get used to it. I know drinking hot tea help make you endure the heat, but I don’t really know why.

Well here, 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. You turn on your body’s natural cooling system instead of relying on AC. I’m sure the heat helps you lose weight too.

Stay cool!

Whatever you do, don’t forget to put on lots of sunscreens and drink plenty of liquid. We only have a few weeks of summer left. Let’s enjoy it while we can.

What about you? How do you beat the heat? If you have AC, at what temperature do you turn it on? 

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

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51 thoughts on “10 Frugal Ways to Beat The Heat”

  1. I think I should try the cooling off at night plan. I made a half-hearted attempt at it in the past, but I was worried that the small kids would go out the window. They are bigger now and hopefully more safe than a 4-year-old.

    It is interesting to look at young pictures of your kids. I have one as the background on my phone – kids aged 3 and 2. The oldest is nearly 8 now. He’s so tall and acts like he’s 17.

  2. Funny post Joe! Good tips too. Maybe keep on eating ice cubes? I like going to the beach super early to do my beach cleanings and it’s always so cool and nice. One gets the whole place to oneself.

  3. Depending on the climate, an evaporative cooler can be a lower energy & lower cost alternative to A/C. We find it especially helpful to support the “cooling off at night” idea.

  4. Personally we eat a ton of popsicles during the summer, lol. My rule is as long as we get outside for either a walk, hike, or bike ride, then they get popsicles. I’m trying to get the last 15 lbs off, so I’m all the La Croix all the time. If you trick yourself into thinking that La Croix orange is Fanta, then you’d be amazed at how many you can drink in one sitting.

  5. I like all those ideas… but I do have to say that I was your neighbor with the A/C a lot of the time. As cheap as I can be sometimes, I can’t sleep if it’s too warm. We were stupid and had a bigger house so I would turn the A/C on when I got home from work in order to try and get it cool enough by bedtime.

    Now we’re in the opposite scenario – we’re living in my inlaws’ basement while we figure out our next move. It’s nice and cool down there!! 😉

  6. OMG #6 haha. I know Mr. FAF does that. He runs around the house only in his underwear when it gets too hot. He has moved to the basement with our son, and it’s cooler down there, so I haven’t seen him running around shirtless and shortless in a while. As for me, I don’t think I’ve ever done #6 😀

  7. 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).

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

    • 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. 🙂

  10. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

        • 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.

          • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

    • 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    • 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. 🙂

  18. 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.

    • 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. 🙂


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