Avoid a Summer Meltdown with These Ways to Keep Cool

Yesterday the temperature was in the 90’s here in New Jersey, and I was looking for some ways to keep cool without spending a fortune on air conditioning. It seems like this summer is off to quite a warm start all around the USA and it’s not even a month old yet. It’s been 100+ degrees in lots of places out west and in the 90’s here in the northeast, ugh! With another 10+ weeks ahead of us of warm and muggy days, what are you going to do to cool off?

When the temperature spikes, you'll need some ways to keep cool without spending a fortune. Try these simple tips to "chill out".

You could jet away to a fabulous resort vacation someplace in South America where the temps stay in the 60’s and 70’s in what is considered winter there. You can even take off and cruise in Alaska or Nova Scotia or camp out in the great state of Maine. Those trips would definitely do the trick except for one tiny problem. They can cost you a small fortune and if you are traveling with your family, kiss your financial peace of mind good-bye and say hello to Mr. Credit Card Debt! So what can you do to stay cool this summer without burning big bucks? Here’s my list of cool low- or no-cost ways to stay fresh, save you money, and not go into a costly “hot money mess”!

Ways to Keep Cool

1. Dress “Cool”

If you’re thinking that going naked all summer will keep you cool, you would probably be right. The problem is that it just won’t pass muster in your town and at your job so you’ll have to choose another alternative.

When it comes to trying to stay cool, wearing the right clothing materials is a huge advantage. Cotton is always a winner either for dress or casual. The big thing here is to stay away from synthetics which don’t breathe and cause you to sweat bigtime. Natural fabrics will always work best. Try to wear light colors as they will not attract the heat as much as the dark ones will.

2. May I Have Your Hat (and Shades)?

I’m sure you have a baseball cap around the house someplace or if not, you can buy a pretty good sized cheapo one at your local dollar store. Help protect yourself with that and add a pair of sunglasses too. I know you’d love to have those flashy $200 ones at the Sunglass Hut but seriously, Foster Grant makes some nice ones and you can get them from $5 at stores like Walmart.

3. Air Conditioning for Free

Most of us are fortunate to have some form of air conditioning where we live, either as window, room, or central air if we can afford it. An alternative to air conditioning, and an aid to it as well, are ceiling fans that can cool your home off nicely too. But hold on, here where I live, electricity is really costly and that’s something I think we all can relate to. I keep my air conditioning on, but at temps that aren’t exactly freezing so I can save a little. But keep the faith please.

You can take advantage of “free” air conditioning simply by heading out your door and making a short trip to a whole lot of places. Number one on my list is the mall. Browse around finding a cool spot to people watch and all in air conditioned comfort in the middle of a sweltering July or August day. You don’t have to buy a thing, no one will check!

In addition to the mall consider these free air conditioned places

  • Library – Cool off and read a book, magazine, or newspaper. There’s usually free wi-fi and free internet use on their computers. You might even get to see some free entertainment or a lecture too.
  • Check out a nearby museum – Admissions are not always charged (check and see which times and days are totally free) and you can find new wonders and learn while cooling yourself away from the midday heat!
  • Take in a matinee at the movies – My Mom said that the day I was born (July 31) was the hottest day of the year so she went to an air conditioned movie and relaxed. Unfortunately, I was somewhat in a hurry that day so she never made it to the end and I was born in the air conditioned hospital, nice but unplanned.

4. The Obvious Choice – Hydrate Yourself

Of course you need to drink when it’s hot, water being the best choice of course. It is free (at least it’s really, really cheap) from your tap and cooled in the fridge. Even if you buy cases of water from your supermarket in the summer, you can pay as little as 8 cents a bottle on sale. Normally I’d say don’t spend money on bottled water but this time I’ll give you a pass because it’s so darn hot!

You can also drink: a cold soda, a brewski, a frozen slushie, an ice pop, or any kind of juice or cool beverage. Keeping hydrated will really help.

5. We All Scream for Ice Cream

I remember fondly piling in the car and heading to a place like Dairy Queen for some soft serve on a really hot day. Whether it’s soft or hard, gelato or sherbet, water ice or snow cone, getting some ice cream is a treat that beats the heat every time. You can find lots of bargains at ice cream parlors or shops with local BOGO (buy one get one free) coupons or other discounts. Places like Cold Stone Creamery and Rita’s are two that come to mind right away. In any event, even McDonalds will sell you a cone for about a buck and it’s worth it.

6. Let’s Do The Swim

One of the biggie fun events in summer is to get wet, and the pool is the number one place to do it. It can be your own backyard blowup pool or the above or in-ground type if you are one of the luckier ones. You can even use your lawn sprinklers to run around in to get wet!

But even if you don’t have your own, most areas have public pools or at the very least, township swim club pools that are pretty affordable for a family membership. Around my area, there are lots of developments and communities that all have huge pools which are included in the price of the association fee whether you use the pool or not. So…use the pool!

Mother Nature is also a swimming/bathing haven of course and if you live near a lake, river, or beach like our Jersey shore then that’s a great place to head to cool off. Most of the time the air temp is considerably cooler at the water’s edge and even if it’s not, there’s water right there to cool off in!

7. The Frozen Wash Cloth Trick

Here’s one tip I know will cost nothing and really works. Take a couple of wash cloths, 3 or 4 and wet them and put them in the freezer. Then when you need them, take one out and wrap it around your neck, wipe your face, and enjoy! Afterwards, drop in the washer and do it again. You’ll always have a couple ready when you need it.

8. How About a Boat Ride?

Whether it is out on a fishing boat, friend or family’s cabin cruiser, rowboat, paddle boats, sailing, canoeing, or kayaking, being out on the water is such a “cool” way to chill out. To be honest, even if you are just hanging out around the marina sitting on a beach chair watching the boats drift by, then you can cool off pretty well too.

Summertime is what I look forward to every year and even if it’s hot, I still love it. But, I do get a little bit drippy when its 95 degrees and humid even in the shade and that’s why I always try to find the cure for it. Staying hydrated, seeking a little shade, and trying to at least have some refuge in an air conditioned place for my senior body has to be a priority for me. And oh yeah, I try and live by the old saying, “never let them see you sweat”!

So what are you doing this summer to keep cool? Are you throwing out the budget and zooming off to Iceland or are you doing something more budget friendly to stay fresh all summer long?


  1. Fruclassity (Ruth)

    For #1, I find I have about 3 outfits that are perfect for super hot summer weather – and I’m wearing them over and over again. I sometimes feel a bit self-conscious (“People will think I have no other clothes!”) but I’m not about to go and buy more outfits (that won’t work for our winter months). I like that frozen cloth idea! Haven’t tried that one yet.

    1. I seem to live in my light-colored t-shirts and shorts when I’m not hanging at the pool these days. And I agree, I’m not going to make it a fashion show and spend a lot of money on my everyday summer wardrobe. As I’ve gotten older, my tolerance for the heat has actually improved, but I think it’s because I’m not doing too much these days! Thanks for your comments, Ruth.

  2. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    Great tips, Gary. We eat a lot of popsicles in the summer to stay cool, and frozen grapes. Both seem to help, along with eating lightly.

    Do most of your activity in the early morning or late evening so you can lay low in the worst of the heat. Cook without your oven or stove if you can and limit the use of incandescent lights, since both can heat the air around them.

  3. Steveark

    We just tough it out through the summer. I play tennis singles outdoors at 1PM almost every Saturday in the summer here in Arkansas. It will reach a true 105 deg F at that time of day and with the humidity the index is even hotter. I’ve measured the surface temperature of the concrete at 148 deg F. What can I say, we just sort of get used to it. Oh and I’m over 60 years old. Now what were you complaining about, oh yeah 90 degrees in New Jersey, yeah that sounds pretty brutal.

    1. Oh my, I’m totally worn out just from reading your comment! Kudos to you being able to play tennis in that kind of heat. It’s one of those sports that I had to give up quite a while ago and I really respect that you can still do it. Make sure you take a few bottles of water with you when you go out to the court.

  4. Mel

    You could also add picking up a cheap tube and floating down a river. If you and a friend do it, you can park one car and one end and the other at the other end and it won’t cost you anything more than the price of the tube.

  5. You know I love the ice cream one!

    Any kind of wet cold cloth seems to do wonders especially if you’re working out doors. Frozen, even better.

    Our county is undergoing highway construction the likes of which I’ve never seen. It’s going to be 96 degrees today and we passed the crew out there working on our way home from our walk. The guys standing in the road directing traffic with the “Slow” and “Stop” signs have wet T-shirts hanging over their heads.

    1. Oh, I have such pity for those poor folks that have to work 8 hours outside on a hot, humid summer day. It’s hard to escape the heat and every time I pass by someone in that situation, I have the urge to get them a cold drink. I’m really happy that I spent most of my working career in an air-conditioned office. Thanks for your comments, Mrs. G.

  6. Melissa

    So true!! It’s been in the 100s since like May here in Phoenix. Granted, that’s typical, but still, it never ceases to surprise me. Pools and ice cream (or popsicles!) are my favorite ways to stay cool 🙂

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