Last Updated July 12th, 2017

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

We’ve had some hot weather here lately. If there’s one thing I hate about summer, it’s what the hot weather does to my power bill. Using the air conditioner, even as little as I use it, gets so expensive. I set it to about 81 degrees F, so it’s not like I’m trying to keep the house cold. It still adds up too fast. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to cool yourself and your house that don’t involve using the air conditioner.

Ceiling Fans

The more rooms that have a ceiling fan in a house, the more I like it. My home office has one, and it is such a help, especially since I’m on the far side of the house from the air conditioner and only get a little of it when it does run. Moving air isn’t actually cooler, but it feels cooler, and that makes a warmer house much pleasanter.

Window Treatments

Windows are one of the big ways that heat gets into your house. Double panes help, but there’s still more you can do. First and foremost, keep your sun facing windows covered during the day to minimize the heat that comes in through them.

Look for window treatments that block sunlight. White is a good color to have on the outside, as it reflects a lot of heat. Anything that insulates the window or is considered to be light blocking is good. We have thermal shades in some rooms, and not only do they block the sun in the morning (great for sleeping in!), they keep the room cooler.

If you can’t afford to get new window treatments, you can use cardboard in the windows if you don’t mind ugly. It blocks a lot of heat. Another inexpensive alternative is to buy a Mylar emergency blanket and cut it up to fit your windows. Use painter’s tape to hold it up so the tape isn’t too hard to remove later. Mylar is wonderful at blocking heat. It doesn’t look nice, but if you put it up carefully you may be able to open your windows with the Mylar still on when the evening cools off.

If you can spend a little more, there are insulating films that attach to the window. They look much neater than cardboard or Mylar sheets taped to the window.

Solar screens are another option. They don’t block your view too much, but they keep a lot of heat out. This is something we’re considering as some of our windows need new screens anyhow.

Whole House Fan

We have a whole house fan, which is quite a help in cooling the house in the evening after the outdoor air is cool enough. Shut down the air conditioner if you have one, open a bunch of windows and turn on the the whole house fan to pull in cooler air and blow out the heat of the day from your house. It’s not as fast as an air conditioner, and some are pretty noisy (like ours), but it’s cheaper to run.

Use Ice And A Fan

For cooling a small area, place a bowl of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow the cooled air around the room. Just make sure it’s somewhere that the melting ice won’t cause any problems.


Enjoy Cool Treats

Start out by drinking cold water throughout the day. I keep an insulated drink bottle full of ice water at my desk. It’s the healthiest choice and it feels good to have a cold drink right there.

You can have more fun with cool treats too. Make fruit and vegetable smoothies. Have popsicles. Ice cream. Just don’t overdo the stuff that isn’t good for you.

Use A Cool Cloth

A cool cloth on your neck will help keep the rest of you cool. Dampen a washcloth and drape it across the back of your neck.

Take A Quick, Cool Shower

A quick, cool shower will help you feel much cooler. This can be a good idea right before bed. If you don’t mind damp sheets, don’t dry off completely, and they’ll feel cooler on you.

Run Through The Sprinklers

This might be more for the kids than for you, but a quick run through the sprinklers will get you active and cooler. Make sure you use sunscreen if you’re going to be out for more than a short time.

Open The House Up At Night

Now obviously, this depends on the safety of the area you live in and how cool it gets at night. If possible, open up your windows at night and leave them open to let the cool night air in and the heat out of your house. We’ve had warm nights where this still doesn’t help, but most nights it’s a good idea.

Use Your Barbecue

Cooking in your home will make it warmer. If it’s not so hot that you just can’t bear the thought of going outside, fire up the barbecue to cook meals. I love using a propane grill for this, since it doesn’t take long to heat up properly.

Plant Trees

This is a long term solution, and probably won’t help you this year or even next. Plant shade trees in your yard, with a focus on blocking the worst of the afternoon sunlight on your house. You don’t want the tree planted too close to your home, or the roots may damage your foundation, but you do want it close enough to give shade.

Put Up An Awning

An awning over the windows that get the most sunlight in your house can keep things cooler. It’s a bit of an expense, but it can be worthwhile.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 14th, 2017

20 Free Or Cheap Activities For Families During The Summer

When the kids get out of school for the summer, you want to be sure they do more than sit about at home watching one screen or another. The trouble is that things add up really fast if you have to spend much money on them. It’s a big help to know in advance what free and cheap activities are available in your area for your family.

I write various summer activities on our calendar if they take place on a given day or week. This makes it easier to remember what’s coming up. I tell the kids it’s their job to check the calendar and make sure I remember the things they really want to do.

Go Play With Friends

I’m putting this one first because this doesn’t happen enough for my kids or many of their friends. They’re so busy with organized activities, that they don’t often get to just go play with friends. Some of the issue for my kids is that none of their friends are in the neighborhood, and there are very few kids in the neighborhood at all.

Don’t plan everything your kids are going to do this summer. Let them make plans with friends or decide to head over to a friend’s house to see if they can play.

Movies In The Park

Many communities do free movies in the park once a week or so during the summer. These are usually free. The city we live in does them on Wednesday nights in the park, and the same movie on Thursday nights at the pool. I prefer the park, as it’s easier to let the kids run around. Check your city’s website to find out what happens in your area. The movies start once it’s dark enough for everyone to see the screen clearly.

You may need to get there early to get a good seat, and you will probably need to bring your own blanket or chairs to sit on. If it gets cool in your area on summer nights after the sun goes down, bring jackets or blankets to keep warm. Younger children may fall asleep if the movies run much past their bedtimes.

I also make sure to post on my kids’ class Facebook page when we’re going to a movie at the park, because it’s a great way to meet up with friends over the summer. Other parents don’t have to promise to go, but the kids have so much fun seeing which friends show up for each movie. They’ll share snacks, play until the movie starts, and snuggle up if it’s cool after the sun sets.

Cheap Movies At The Movie Theater

A lot of movie theaters now run children’s movies during the summer for a low price. They’re generally in the morning, and tickets should be about $1-2. The movie selection varies from fairly recent children’s movies to older selections such as The Wizard of Oz. Check your local theater’s website to see if they have any to offer and for ticket prices.

Summer Concerts

Communities may also do summer concerts in the park. Once again, you should be able to find out about these on your city’s website. As they don’t need to wait for darkness to begin, these may not run as late as movies in the park.

Summer Reading Programs

Many libraries offer summer reading programs to encourage kids and teens to read. They may offer prizes, and there may be special activities and crafts at the library as well. Check with your local library to learn what they offer.

Barnes and Noble offers kids a free book if they read at least eight books and record them in the Reading Journal. The free books the kids can choose from are listed on the journal.

Kids Bowl Free

If there’s a bowling alley in your area, they may participate in the Kids Bowl Free program. Check the website to find out. You will probably need to pay for shoe rental, but kid can have up to two free games a day.

Splash Pads

Many kids love to play in the water on hot summer days. When you don’t have a pool of your own, and the community pool admission adds up too fast, a splash pad can be a fun option. Water shoots up or sprays down on the kids from various items.

Some splash pads are free to use, while others charge admission.

Summer Food Service Program

No Kid Hungry is a program which serves free lunches to kids 18 years and under at approved sites during the summer. There’s no paperwork required – just show up. Any child can use this program, regardless of financial need, although the hope is that kids who get free or reduced lunch at school during the school year can make it to these sites so they continue to get free lunches during the summer.

To find a site, you can visit the program page on the USDA site, or text FOOD to 877877. Check to see what time each location serves lunch.

Local Playgrounds

Are there any playgrounds near you? Your kids may have a lot of fun playing at them. As they get older, encourage them to range more widely so they get more independent, and consider when they’re old enough to go to a park without you. Kids need to develop independence, and this is one way they will enjoy doing so when it’s appropriate for their age and your area.

Ride Bikes

Riding bikes is a great physical activity for the whole family. You can ride around your neighborhood, around local parks, or run quick errands on a bike. Once again, let them ride around on their own when they’re old enough, responsible enough, and you’re comfortable that your area is safe enough.

Go Geocaching

You can use a GPS enabled device, such as your smartphone, to find geocaches in your area or anywhere you go. You share your finds with the geocache community, and can make your own caches.

Free Admission Days At Museums

While admission to many museums can add up quickly, many offer free days, or are even free regularly. The California Science Center, for example, always has free admission, although there is a fee for parking, movies and special events. There’s still a lot to do there for free.

Check the websites of any museums you would like to go to and see when their free days are.

If you have an EBT card, you may be able to find museums in your area which participate in Museums For All, which gives free or discounted admission to families in the EBT program. Fees can currently range from free to $3 for museums participating in this program.

Work On A Skill Or Project

Each of my kids picks a skill or project each summer they want to work on. This gives me something to tell them to do any time I hear the words “I’m bored.” Mostly they want to make videos for YouTube, and I have rules for them about whether they can show faces, use real names, etc. They also have looked at improving artistic skills, learning to solder and much more.

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Home Depot offers workshops for kids to build small projects. The kits change each week and are free. You may be able to register online, but drop ins are usually welcome so long as there are enough kits. Classes are the first Saturday of each month. Parents must remain with their children. They also have workshops for adults, so if you see something you would like to learn, sign up for it.

Summer Code-A-Thon

Tynker offers a Summer Code-A-Thon to kids with free memberships to their site. It’s a 10 week program with a new project every week. Kids get certificates for completing projects, and the top projects each week get a t-shirt. Child accounts must have a connected parent account to participate.

YouthSpark Programs At Microsoft Stores

If there’s a Microsoft store in your area, your kids may be able to participate in free YouthSpark courses. Activities vary by the ages of your children. Parents must remain in the store for the duration of the event – these are not drop off classes.

Apple Camp

If you have an Apple store in your area, you may be able to sign your kids up for Apple Camp. It’s for ages 8-12, and is three 90 minute sessions. Kids choose their track from what is offered, and spend their time at the camp working on their project.

Use Educational Websites And Learning Games

If you want to work on academics over the summer, make sure it’s fun for your kids. They do forget a lot of what they learn over the summer, making it important to help them use their skills during their break, but this time should be a break.

There are fun sites for kids to keep working on their math skills, for example. My youngest loves The Prodigy Game. It’s a lot more fun for her than the math sites they use through school, although their accounts for those may be available over the summer as well. The basic account for The Prodigy Game is free, but don’t be surprised if your child wants a paid membership to access the extras.


Some places will allow families to volunteer with their children. My kids and I volunteer year round at a local animal shelter, for example. While many animal shelters only allow older kids to volunteer, you may be able to find places you can volunteer with your kids by checking VolunteerMatch.

Be Bored

There’s nothing wrong with kids being bored sometimes. That’s what will help them learn to come up with ideas on their own.

For more ideas, I did 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During The Summer a few years ago.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 11th, 2016

How to Encourage Your Kids to Reach Their Summer Goals

How to Encourage Your Kids to Reach Their Summer Goals

If your kids are like mine, they talk a lot about the things they’d like to do over the summer. Mine have talked for the past couple summers, for example, about building a hovercraft. It hasn’t happened yet. I decided to see what I could do to encourage them. They also have other things they want to make, learn or do.

The method we’re using is pretty simple. First I had them write out the things they want to get done this summer. I’m not talking family vacation stuff – that was a different conversation. I also don’t mean summer academics for the most part. Helping kids remember the stuff they learned in school has its place, but not in excess. Besides, sometimes the things they want to do will take that place up quite nicely.

My oldest daughter wants to be a better artist, learn to play harp, build that hovercraft, start a YouTube channel reviewing her favorite video games and learn to design apps. My son also wants to build a hovercraft and a go cart, learn to solder electronics and he has already finished building his Meccano Meccanoid. My youngest daughter wants to do a lot of crafts and learn to make doll videos.

Now, if we let this summer go like usual, once every week or two they’d remember a project and maybe work on it. Mostly, however, they’d just play together or on computers whenever I’d let them. Nothing much would actually get done toward their goals.

Here’s How We’re Fixing That

The kids and I looked over their goals and made a weekly schedule for each of them. The schedules for the younger two are very flexible. The schedule for my oldest is more strict, but we planned it that way. She wishes she could have a summer job, but isn’t old enough for one, so the things she wants to do which might make money are scheduled to be like a summer job.

All of the kids have a lot of completely free time in their schedules, and I consider this part important. They can work on their projects longer than scheduled if they want or cut the time short, especially for the younger ones. All of the kids are often free to do whatever they want, provided it doesn’t involve staring at a screen.

For the younger kids in particular, they’re also allowed to say when they’d really rather just play that day. The point in the schedule isn’t to force the kids to work on something; it’s to make them remember the things they said they want to do. Most times, they’ll want to do it, and they often work on whatever thing for longer than I put into the schedule.

That the scheduled time is on the short side deliberate on my part. I don’t want them feeling that these things they want to do for fun are burdens. There’s lots of completely free time surrounding the scheduled times, so that it’s easy to spend that extra time on a project that is going well.

Boring things such as chores are also listed on the schedule.

So far, this has worked pretty well. My son had been overwhelmed by the thought of assembling his Meccanoid at first, but once he got going on it, he realized it wasn’t that difficult. I ordered a Snowball microphone for my oldest so she can do her video game reviews. With the right software, she can start that soon.

The kids have taken advantage of the schedule’s flexibility. The day after he finished his robot, my son said he didn’t want to do project time; he just wanted to play with the robot. I told him of course he could – playing with what you made is certainly part of that kind of project. Even if he had wanted to do something else I would have been fine with it. It’s good for kids to just be kids during the summer, after all.

I hope that this whole plan will help my kids to plan their own time better. My goal was to add just a little structure to their days without controlling their activities too much. Unstructured time is very important to children – it helps them learn to make their own decisions and be more creative. The schedule we’re using is more of a reminder of what they said they want to do than a demand from me, and I hope that will be a good thing for them.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated July 8th, 2013

6 Things You Should Do For Your Online Home Business This Summer

6 Things You Should Do For Your Online Home Business This Summer

Summer shouldn’t be all about slacking off on your online home business. It may be a slow time for many, but there’s still a lot of work to do. Don’t take the entire summer as a vacation (do take some) – take some time to get these important things done this summer.

1. Review Your Progress So Far This Year

It’s the middle of the year, and a great time to see how much progress you’ve made on your goals for the year. Are you ahead, behind or right on schedule? What’s not working out? What is?

2. Plan For the Second Half of the Year

Now that you know where you are, where are you going? Look at what you had planned already, and decide if that’s still the goal. What has come up to change things? How will you change them?

3. Catch Up

We all run behind on things – paperwork, emails, writing, etc. Be honest with yourself and find the things you’re behind on, then work on catching up.

4. Get Ahead

What can you work on ahead of time? This is especially helpful if you’re planning a vacation. You can keep things running while you’re away.

Blog posts in particular are easy to write ahead. WordPress allows you to schedule your posts, and there are tools that allow you to schedule some basic social media posts. You won’t be as responsive if you don’t pay attention to the things you schedule, but sometimes it’s nice to not have to stress over these things for a while. Just one word of warning – be prepared to reschedule if real world events make anything inappropriate.

5. Train Some Help

Have you been considering hiring a virtual assistant? Summer could be the perfect time to do so. If you have some extra time right now, why not use it to make your work life a little easier?

6. Don’t Slack Off Too Much

Just because summer is a wonderful time for a vacation doesn’t mean you have to take all of it off. Take the time your family needs, but make sure they understand that you need to work sometimes. A productive summer can put you ahead of the competition in the fall.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 30th, 2013

Set Up a Lemonade Stand/Other Business – Day 30 of 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During the Summer

30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During the Summer

My kids are often interested in running a little business of their own, and summer is the perfect time! A lemonade stand is the classic kid business, but I’ve seen kids advertise roses and wallets made from duct tape for sale too.

Whatever your kids want to sell, keep it simple. Decide how much financial support you’re giving and how the kids will pay it back if they make money. It’s best for kids to understand that running a business has costs, learn how to keep them under control and how to pay off startup expenses. Depending on your neighborhood and ages of your kids, you may have to supervise more or less. Try not to get too involved – it’s their business.

Older kids may want to so something online, design an app, stuff like that. If they’re up for it, see what you have to do to let it happen. You may have to be the official account holder for anyone under 18, which can complicate online options for kids.

Set Up a Lemonade Stand/Other Business - Day 30 of 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During the Summer

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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