The High Cost of Summer: How Hotter Weather Hits Your Wallet

Summer started earlier this year and is on track to be hotter than almost any on record. And that means it's going to be expensive, because whatever it is you like to do during the summer, you're going to do more of it and that's going to cost you.

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Summer started earlier this year and is on track to be hotter than almost any on record. And that means it's going to be expensive, because whatever it is you like to do during the summer, you're going to do more of it and that's going to cost you.

For starters, some things like gas are just more expensive during the summer. Then there are all the fun things you'll want to do during the longer days and the places you'll want to visit during three-day weekends. All this hot weather is going to cost you, so let's consider what you'll be paying for. Have you saved enough money for this long hot summer? Probably not.

Clothing. A story made the rounds last spring about how clothing would get about 10 percent more expensive thanks to higher cotton prices, and those haven't gone back down. But you don't need more clothes in the summer, you need less, right? Not exactly: If you're anything like us you can't wear your work shirts two or more days in a row during the summer because you sweat through them. And this year you'd have had to buy a round of short-sleeved items a lot earlier than you would have in years past, so if you're the type who budgets for that kind of thing it probably already screwed up your planning. If you're not the type who budgets for that kind of thing, you probably had a moment of clarity about it sometime in March, when the photo at left was taken in New York if you can believe it.

Coffee. Iced coffee costs more than hot coffee, and while your daily cup seems like a minor expense, those few cents add up. The decision on whether or not to go hot or iced is also one of the most immediately affected by the weather. So, if it's warm several days in a row, you'll drink more iced coffees, and you will pay more for it.

Driving. This is a no-brainer, but it's worth reminding ourselves: Gasoline usually gets more expensive in the summer because stations actually stock a different, pricier grade of fuel starting around Memorial Day. At least this is a built-in expense that kicks in on a prescribed date. A post on How Stuff Works explains the difference in depth, but basically what you need to know is this: "Summer-grade fuel is more expensive for two reasons -- because of the ingredients it contains and because refineries have to briefly shut down before they begin processing it. Summer-grade fuel also burns cleaner than winter-grade fuel."

Eating. Food prices are going up worldwide, and that's due to a lot more complicated factors than just the weather. But the warmth does come into play when it gently propels you out the door to your favorite restaurant, in particular one with a patio. "Typically in the restaurant industry, the summer is always your higher volume. You’ll also have your spikes in the holidays," said Paul Paz, a 35-year veteran waiter from Portland, founder of WaitersWorld, and co-author of The Professional Server. "Absolutely weather has an impact on whether people go out. Here in Oregon we’re so notorious for our wet weather, when the weather gets nice,  it’s like I didn’t realize how many people lived in Portland."

Drinking. Summer is a time to vacation, and vacations are a time to drink, so a lot of us wind up with heftier bar tabs for that reason. But it's the hometown tippling that's going to kill you. In New York, for example, you can't get away from pricey rooftop bars and extended-stay happy hours on summer Fridays. If you live in a place like New York or San Francisco you live in a place lots of people want to take vacations, and when the weather's nice they'll want to take more of them, and they'll want to stay with you. That means lots more catching up with your old, freeloading friends at (where else?) a bar. "I’ve worked in multiple places and some of them have a noticeable spike in customers during the summer," said Maurina Lioce, a longtime New York bartender. "Also people come in earlier in the day." A note to guests: Buy your hosts many rounds of drinks. This will be expensive. Budget for it.

Flying: Airfares are expected to go up this summer, and to stay high throughout the travel season. That doesn't necessarily have to do with the warm weather -- rather it's thanks to higher oil prices. But the extended pleasant snap means there's a longer window of nice weather in which to vacation, so you'll probably be tempted to do so more than once. You'll have to pay handsomely for it.

Oddly, not necessarily electricity. Obviously you're going to use more juice when you run your air conditioner than when you don't, so your electricity bill is generally higher in summer. But we had expected to hear of killer power bills nationwide, at least in the Northeast, temperatures haven't been quite high enough to require A/C. And the evenings are expected to stay cool (and cheap) at least through May. Some utilities increase their rates for the summer, but that's by no means universal. New York City customers are actually going to pay a little less this summer over last. Con Edison's Allan Drury said the utility predicted city rates at $102.36 for 350 kilowatt hours per month between June and September, compared with $103.96 for the same amount in the same period of 2011. In April, customers were buying around 300 kilowatt hours in both 2011 and 2012, for $82.90 and $85.03 respectively. Madison, WI.-based Alliant Energy lost money on the warm weather in the first quarter, as did Atlanta-based Southern Co., thanks to lower natural gas prices. So far, the extended warm snap does not seem to be gouging electricity customers.

[Inset photos from top to bottom: Reuters, AP, Bonnie Natko via Flickr]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.