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5 Tips to Save on Summer Gear

From sunscreen to bathing suits, there are plenty of ways to lower the cost

summer beach bag filled with suncscreen, towel, sunglasses, hat and more
E+ / Getty Images

Trips to the beach, backyard barbecues and lazy days in the pool aren’t the only hallmarks of summer, at least in 2022. Consumers can add pricier sunscreens, bathing suits and other warm-weather gear to the list, thanks to 40-year high inflation, which is running at 8.3 percent as of April.

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“Inflation is hitting pretty much every category,” says Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert. “Consumers should expect to pay more for absolutely everything. It’s important to try to save as much as possible.”

Bathing suits, sunscreen and other summer gear aren’t seeing double-digit price increases like vehicles and electronics are, but the costs are rising along with inflation.

As Memorial Day approaches, you may want to consider these ways to save.

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1. Go generic with sunblock 

Families can go through a lot of sunscreen in a summer, and regardless of inflation, it can be pricey. One way to save is to choose a generic brand.

“It doesn’t have to be a name brand for every product,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, founder of  AskTheMoneyCoach.com. “Usually, the store brand is about 30 percent cheaper, whether it’s sunscreen, tanning lotion, even bathing suits and swimwear.”

To up the savings further, consider purchasing your sunscreen from a discount or dollar store. If the sunscreen’s expiration hasn’t run out, you should get the same protection whether you are spending $1 or $15. “SPF tends to degrade over time, so be mindful of that,” Bodge says. 

2. Shop the sales

According to April’s consumer price index, apparel prices are up 5.4 percent year-over-year. Summer fashion prices typically peak in the spring and start to come down as the weather gets warmer.

“There will be a host of mega summer sales coming with Memorial Day, which is the official start of the summer season,” Bodge says. “You’ll see a range of sales activities” across the country.  

3. Consider gently used items

If you are shopping for kids or grandkids — or even yourself — a great way to save money on bathing suits, sandals, cover-ups and other summer gear is to buy them secondhand. From brick-and-mortar thrift stores to online secondhand shops, there are plenty of options when looking for used clothing. Not only can you save a ton, but it’s better for the environment than purchasing something new.

4. Buy in bulk

If you use a lot of sunscreen or towels throughout the summer, buying in bulk is another way to cut down on the cost. This strategy only works if you are going to consume it. The last thing you want to do is stock up on sunscreen and be forced to throw it out next summer because it’s past the expiration date. You can also save on bathing suits and other summer gear at the wholesale club stores, Bodge says. “If you are already paying the wholesale club membership, you should be buying as many things as possible there,” she adds. “Big-box stores like Target and Walmart are also getting very good at offering cool, stylish, well-made products at a discount.” 

5. Install a browser extension

If you’re comfortable shopping online and you use your desktop or laptop computer for most of your browsing, consider installing a deal browser extension, which tracks the products you’re interested in and alerts you when they’re on sale. “Go to Slickdeals.net, CouponCabin.com or — pick your poison —and install it in 30 seconds,” Bodge says. “As you shop and browse, little alerts will pop up if there is cash back or a coupon. It’s very easy to install a browser extension if you are already shopping online.” 

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