Posted on 6/29/2012 15:39 EST
With summer heat hitting most of the country hard this week, we focused on one of the most-loved ways to cool down: ice cream. Read on for more about our search for the best cheap ice cream, as well as binocular recommendations, summer date ideas, and gardening tips.
Summer activities such as ballgames, bird-watching
, and sightseeing cry out for a quality pair of binoculars. One of the best options under $50 is the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I, which weighs just 6 ounces, making it ideal for backpacking or traveling. For the ballpark, try the heftier Bushnell Permafocus 7x35. These binoculars have a wide field of view and keep the action in focus. For more picks, check out our buying guide to cheap binoculars
New Blog Posts.
8 Cheap Dates.
For couples on a budget, warm weather presents lots of opportunities to spend time together without spending much (or any) money. Get out and try one of our cheap summer date ideas
Cheap Gardening Tips.
Tired of paying so much for organic veggies? Grow your own! We found surprising ways to save on gardening
, from dollar store finds to discounted greenery.
Best Cheap Ice Cream.
We gathered some lucky volunteers and ran a taste test of inexpensive national ice cream brands
. Find out which treat came out on top -- and which cartons aren't worth the calories.
Posted on 6/28/2012 11:26 EST
Blue skies abound, the sun is warm, and the grass is green -- and you want to enjoy it with your special someone without busting the summer budget. Don't worry, we've got you covered with these low-cost, romantic summer date ideas.
1. Play in the park.
Remember how much fun it was to play in the park when you were a kid? It's still fun for adults and makes for a carefree and cheap summer date. The next time you take out your special someone, hit up the local park and go prepared with games and activities. Items to bring along for the perfect summer date in the park: kite, Frisbee, football, baseball mitts and ball, blanket for lounging, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water.
2. Attend a local fair or festival.
Forget the local pub, you can do that in the winter. Instead, head out to the community fair or festival for a merry summer date. Take a spin on cheap rides, play cheap games, sample local foods and drinks, and enjoy being out and about snuggling and holding hands.
3. Browse the local farmers market.
Your local farmers market is a healthy and cheap way to spend a few hours on a summer date. Treat your eyes and stomach to super-fresh
local produce and homemade goodies, and people watch for entertainment. Buy what you need for a romantic dinner, then head home and whip up something yummy for the two of you to share. All in all, a simple, satisfying, and low-cost
4. Go to an outdoor movie. Glamour
reports that many communities host summer movies in parks and on lawns. This is a particularly romantic summer date especially if you're watching a romantic movie. If you can't find an outdoor movie near you, try the local drive-in
. This may be a blast from the past, but it's a nice change from the run-of-the-mill
5. Get moving.
Athletic types can try this summer date idea: rent bicycles and take a ride. Some communities have rent-a-bike
programs and others, such as Denver, offer biking tours of the city. If nothing like this is available in your area, use your own bikes or borrow from friends to explore the city on wheels. No access to bikes? Check out the local state park and take a hike instead.
6. Enjoy local entertainment.
In addition to fairs and festivals, many communities host summer concerts -- often for free. For example, Worthington Parks and Recreation
(a suburb of Columbus, Ohio) offers a free summer concert series every Sunday from May through August. Don't forget to take a blanket to cuddle up on, as well as snacks and maybe a bottle of wine for a delightful and romantic summer date.
7. Grab dessert.
Instead of the typical dinner out, go cheaper and opt for dessert out. What better way to celebrate summer than with an ice cream cone? Or, stop by the local pastry shop and snack on sweet delicacies. As the capstone to this summer date, choose a place with a patio and linger with your honey as the sun sets.
8. Go fishing.
Pack a picnic basket, grab some poles, and head to the nearest fishing hole. In today's fast-paced
world, a slow day of fishing may be just the summer date you and your sweetie need to catch up and relax in each other's company.
Now it's your turn to share. Tell us the best cheap summer date you've ever been on and what your ideal cheap summer date would be.
Posted on 6/26/2012 9:54 EST
Gardening, as a hobby, can be expensive if you're not careful. You start off with a few planters and a rose bush, next thing you know you've got scalloped stone edging, custom trellises, and the finest organic tomato plants money can buy.
But there is another way: Keep your backyard and your wallet full of greenery with these cheap gardening tips.
The key to keeping gardening costs in check means taking a resourceful approach and getting your hands dirty. While your local garden center might carry hundreds of specialty plants, pots, and assorted green-thumb tools, most are unnecessary for a successful garden, particularly when growing vegetables.
Check the dollar store.
We've already showcased our deep love for the dollar store
in previous posts, but they are a cheap gardening tip not to be overlooked. Dollar Tree and other dollar-store
chains often carry a limited selection of seeds, gloves, pots, and other supplies in season. While home improvement stores and garden centers sell seed packets at prices ranging from $1.19 to $1.89 a piece, dollar store selections typically run two for $1. Starting plants from seeds
is much cheaper than buying plants and seedlings from a garden center or nursery.
Use what you've already got.
If you want to grow your own vegetables, try starting plants from seeds gathered from vegetables you've purchased for consumption, like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupe, etc. Many herbs, like basil, mint, and rosemary, can be started from cuttings. Just take full-length
sprigs and place them in water in the sun and wait for roots to sprout. Even old vegetables that are no longer fit for eating, like potatoes, onions, and garlic, can be salvaged and planted. Once roots or green shoots start growing from the vegetable, dig a spot for them outside and make sure to keep them well watered.
Sometimes having a green thumb also means thinking green
--as in being environmentally conscious. Cheap gardening tips that will leave the Earth grateful call for growing some of your own food and engaging in some recycling. Use wooden take-out
chopsticks for staking small seedlings when you transplant them outside. Laminate the covers of seed packets with clear tape and attach them to the end of a chopstick to mark off and identify rows of plants in the ground. Old coffee cans, plastic cups, or cardboard egg containers can be used as tiny planters to get seeds started.
Be bold. Nurseries
and garden centers occasionally have plants that have dried out or lost their blooms; ask nicely and you may score a haul at a discounted rate. If you live in an area where there are lots of well-landscaped
parks, keep an eye out for the day city workers change over the plantings. Much of the old growth is pulled out and sent off for composting, so rely on the same cheap gardening tip used with the nurseries: ask one of the workers if you can take a few plants for your own garden. And finally, check online sites where you're sure to find sales on bulbs that are past season.
Your garden should be an object of enjoyment, not a drain on your wallet. With these and other cheap gardening tips, you might find that the biggest fruits of your labor are the beautiful and tasty returns on your small investment.
Posted on 6/22/2012 14:52 EST
This week at Cheapism we're all about summer. Whether it's time to replace your AC (or you're looking for ways to save on that bill), your kids need entertaining, or you've decided to host a summer BBQ, we've got all the tips and advice you need.
New Blog Posts.
Keep Cool this Summer & AC Recommendations.
Climbing temperatures don't have to mean a sky-high
utilities bill. Learn how to keep yourself and your home cooler with our summer tips
, and check out our top recommendations for cheap AC units.
10 Cheap Summer Activities for Kids.
Take advantage of these leisure- time months by trying some of our 10 ideas for free or cheap summer activities for kids
. We found free bowling, free movies, and free books - as well as lots of ideas for fun at home.
Best Cheap BBQ Meats.
Whether it's a weekend BBQ or a planned the 4th of July cookout (it's coming up fast), check our tips for the best cheap cuts of meat
to grace your grill. Guests will be happy and so will your wallet.
Posted on 6/20/2012 11:36 EST
Posted on 6/19/2012 14:30 EST
Posted on 6/15/2012 17:23 EST
Posted on 6/13/2012 11:47 EST
Posted on 6/8/2012 14:09 EST
Posted on 6/7/2012 10:06 EST
Posted on 6/5/2012 6:24 EST
Posted on 6/1/2012 13:35 EST
Posted on 6/21/2012 11:11 EST
The first day of summer ushered in record temperatures in the Northeast and sweltering weather throughout the country. In this kind of heat, keeping a lid on the air conditioning bill during the summer is a challenge. It's so tempting to just reach for the dial. But before you do, consider these beat-the-summer-heat alternatives.
Keep curtains and shutters closed.
During the day this keeps the sun from streaming directly in. If it's still warm, invest in dark or heat-blocking
curtains -- a cash outlay, yes, but surely cheaper than several months of steep AC bills.
Don't leave windows open.
Except at night. That's right -- open your windows at night to let in cooler air and shut them first thing in the morning (preferably before the sun comes up) to lock in the cool air and beat the summer heat.
Hang wet sheets in front of windows.
Some summer nights just don't cool down and the house still feels suffocating. Apartment Therapy
puts forward a novel idea for beating the summer heat: wetting sheets and hanging them in front of open windows. The outside air blowing in through the wet sheets creates a cooling effect that's much cheaper than air conditioning.
Create cross ventilation.
To do this you need several cheap fans
. Experiment with their placement to generate the best cross breeze. If you have windows on opposite sides of a room, position one fan to pull air into the house and another to push hot air out. For an additional dose of coolness, Lifehacker
suggests placing a bowl of ice in front of a fan; as the ice melts the fan disperses the cool evaporation into the room. It's not air conditioning, but it does provide some relief from the summer heat.
Turn off and unplug everything.
Every appliance (big and small) puts out some heat when it's running. If you aren't using an appliance, turn it off and unplug it. Additionally, avoid using big appliances when it's really hot outside. Cook on the grill instead of the stove and hang laundry out to dry instead of running the dryer.
Hang out in the coolest parts of the house.
If you're home during the day, beat the heat by staying out of it. A basement will undoubtedly be cooler than the upstairs, so park yourself (and the kids) down there. In the late afternoon, when the sun hits the west side of the house, move to a room on the east side.
Use plants to cool off.
Plants certainly can't come close to replacing the AC, but they do produce slightly cooler air to help you beat the heat this summer. This goes for plants indoors and out. Yes magazine
says placing trees and tall plants, such as grapevines and sunflowers, around the outside of the house helps block the heat, which in turn helps lower AC bills.
Finally, leave the air conditioning off when you aren't home. Cheapism's picks for the best cheap air conditioners come with 24-hour timers, so you can set them to turn off automatically at the time you usually leave for work. If the tips above aren't enough to beat the summer heat, check out these room air conditioners:
- For a small space of 150 square feet or so, the Kenmore 70051 (starting at $160) may be all you need. Reviewers say it's easy to install and use, and it outdoes bigger, pricier units in features and energy efficiency.
- The Frigidaire LRA074AT7 (starting at $159) is exclusive to Lowe's and can cool up to 250 square feet. Both consumers and experts call it quiet and effective in online reviews.
- An area up to 350 square feet can benefit from the LG LW8012ER (starting at $220). Consumers praised the performance of last year's model and have greeted this one with similar acclaim.