Summer Saving Strategies

Summer is a time to relax, kick back and enjoy your vacation. But summer can also mean an increase in your family's spending, such as filling up your gas tank or paying the electric bill.

Mellody Hobson, "Good Morning America's" financial contributor and president of Ariel Investments, has a few tips to help you make this your cheapest summer yet.

VIDEO: Mellody Hobson offers money-saving tips so you can spend less this summer.
How to Save a Bundle This Summer

Driving -- Money Saving Tips

Driving to your vacation spot will become even more popular this year due to the increase in airfare, Hobson said.

To help get more mileage for your dollar, Hobson suggested making sure all of the tires on the car are properly inflated and using cruise control. Cruise control will stop you from burning gas on unnecessary accelerations, as well as helping you avoid speeding and getting a ticket, Hobson said.

Hobson also suggested driving the speed limit, because lower speeds save gas.

Gas -- How to Find the Best Price
Although gas prices change from station to station, there are tools to help find the cheapest gas, Hobson said.

AAA has a free iPhone application called "AAA Triptik Mobile" that allows people to compare gas prices along the route, according to Hobson. The application can also give directions, maps and recommended hotel choices.

No iPhone? Use Triptik through AAA's Web site instead.

Air-Conditioning -- How to Save
Air conditioners account for approximately 16 percent of a household's energy bill, Hobson said. In order to cut that portion of your bill, set your air conditioner to 78 degrees when you are home and an even higher temperature when you leave.

Every degree below 78 will add approximately 5 percent to your energy bill, Hobson explained. Additionally, turn off unused lights and try not to let sunshine in, which would heat up your home and cause your air conditioner to work even harder.

Hobson also suggested replacing dirty filters in the air conditioner, even monthly if necessary, since dirt-ridden filters make air conditioners work more.

Lock in Your Winter Heating Rates Now

Approximately 60 million households use natural gas and more than 8 million use heating oil to heat their homes. If your house uses either of these then you may have an opportunity to lock in your heating rates by reaching an agreement with your utility provider on a constant rate that you pay each month, Hobson said, and it protects you from price fluctuations.

Although it's possible that customers could over-pay for the plan if gas or heating oil prices drop, Hobson said she thinks the consistency outweighs that risk.

In order to find out if your service provider offers a plan such as this, contact your state's public utility commission. But be aware of the fine print in the plan, Hobson said, in case there are hidden fees such as a termination fee.

Back to School Layaway
Back-to-school can mean big business. In 2009 the average family with a child in kindergarten to 12th grade was expected to spend approximately $550 on back to school items, equaling a national total of more than $17 billion.

One way to save money in the fall is to look into layaway plans from retailers such as Kmart and Sears, where you can choose the item and then make a periodic interest-free payment towards the item, Hobson said. Once it is paid off in a certain period of time, then you can take the item.

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