How the summer solstice can mess with your money

by Jeanine Skowronski
How the summer solstice can mess with your money

While Memorial Day feels like the start of summer, the season doesn't officially begin until the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun. This year, peak sunlight sets in on June 21, making that Thursday the longest day of 2018.

In many respects, changing to summer is easier than heading into the harsh winter months. But every season brings its own money challenges. Here are a few ways the summer solstice can mess with your budget.

1. Get ready for a bigger AC bill

While temperature spikes aren't usually immediate (the ocean has to heat up first, because science), the hottest days of the year occur after the summer solstice. Warmer weather is welcome after these cold, rainy days, but once your air conditioner gets going, utility bills tend to climb.

How to deal

Automatic thermostats, a ceiling fan (or two) and open windows at night can curb cooling costs. Find a few more air conditioner saving tricks here.

Bonus tip

If seasonal effects on your utility bill throw you off budget, look into a balanced billing program. Most utility companies let customers make a set monthly payment all year based on prior year costs. That lets you avoid huge bills during the peak of summer or winter.

Check if the provider charges a high fee to participate, though. And ask questions about what happens if its estimate was off. Some providers make small adjustments over the course of the year if it looks like you're under- or overpaying. Others expect you to pay overages in December, which defeats the purpose of escaping a big bill.

2. Summer solstice parties can take a pricey turn

Solstice celebrations are a time-honored tradition in many parts of the world. Most Americans reserve their biggest summer get-togethers for July 4, but if you are thinking of replicating the solstice parties popular in Europe, complete with costumes, beverages, a gassed-up grill and a fire pit, you could easily spend your entire summer budget with the entire season still in front of you.

How to deal

Set a budget and stick to it. Plus, know the risks. Homeowners and renters insurance policies offer liability coverage if someone gets hurt on your property and sues for restitution, but there are limits (and possibly) exclusions that apply. Call your insurer to review your coverage and potentially up your liability or property damage limits if they don't account for your love of throwing parties.

Bonus tip

Many states also have “social host liability” laws that hold residents responsible if someone gets drunk at their house and hurts someone or damages property. Most states focus on your liability after supplying alcohol to minors, but make sure you take steps to mitigate risk all around by keeping liquor out of reach of any children, offering plenty of food if you're serving drinks and taking away a friend's keys if they overindulge. You can learn more about summer party liabilities here.

3. Fun is expensive

Daylight starts to dwindle after the summer solstice, but the sun will continue to set after 7 p.m. until mid-September. Those are a lot of enticing hours to fill, so you could see your food and entertainment spending spike as the season sets in.

How to deal

Expect more of your discretionary spending to go to entertainment over the next few months and look for other places you can cut back. Are there subscriptions you're no longer using, but still paying for? Can you negotiate a long-term service contract, like your car insurance bill? Also, take advantage of every summer freebie you can. Fortunately, there are a lot of them. We swear.

Bonus tip

Be mindful of smaller summer expenses that can collectively cost you. Gas is a big one, especially if you plan on taking a lot of road trips this summer. You should also expect to pay for sunscreen, bug spray and more. We've got a list of hidden summer expenses to plan for here.

Image: warchi