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RISMedia, June 22, 2011—(MCT)—Recent bumps in the economic recovery and higher gas prices are putting a dent in plans for summer vacations this year. A recent survey found fewer than 50 percent of business owners plan to take a vacation this year, down from more than 60 percent last summer. Finding extra money to take that much-needed break is possible if you use the right strategies.

One way is by reducing energy costs. Begin by looking around your home. You will need to make a small investment in improving the energy-efficiency of your home, but in the long run it will pay dividends. Many local utility companies will do an energy audit on your home for little or no cost. Start by calling them. Or visit www.energysavers.gov and click on Your Home for tips on energy assessments.

Common areas that can be improved to reduce gas and electric bills are sealing window leaks, adding insulation and having your air conditioning unit tuned up. If you need a new air conditioner or hot water heater, tax rebates are available this year. These two units use the most energy in a home so updating them with more efficient technology can pay off the most.

Secondary are your home appliances. Check to make sure refrigerators are not too cold (37 degrees is recommended for refrigerator, 3 degrees for freezer). And only run washing machines and dishwashers with full loads. Outside the home, keep gas prices down by checking GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com for the best prices in town (or downloading the apps on your smartphone). Fill up your tank on Wednesday or Thursday before 10 a.m., recommends Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil & Gas. Gas prices rise on Thursdays in anticipation of weekend travel, he says, and 10 a.m. is when most station owners make their price change for the day. Unless it is an emergency, do not buy gas Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Whether driving to work or to a vacation, take only what you need. Every 250 extra pounds in a car eats up an extra mile per gallon of gas, Faulkner says.

Making money doesn’t all have to be earned. Adjusting habits is an easier way to get more money for summer fun.

Dan Serra is a financial planner with Strategic Financial Planning Inc. in Plano, Texas. Email him at serrafinance@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @danserra.

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