Published August 25, 2013
Don't let a few inconveniences prevent you from fully enjoying the year's best weather. Here's how to punch through the stress so you can spend more time with your feet up by the pool.
Long work hours are killing your fun
The solution: Tap into your vacation time by scheduling half-day Fridays. Americans left an average of 9.2 paid days unused last year, a Hotwire.com survey found. But 2 months of half-day Fridays costs you only 4 days. Your boss probably won't even notice; according to CEB research, the average boss toils 8 hours a week less in summer.
(You're more likely to perform better, be more productive, and follow workplace norms when your boss treats you slightly better than your coworkers. Discover How to Be the Boss’s Favorite.)
Your yard is becoming a jungle of weeds
The solution: Fire up the blowtorch. Seriously: It's a quick way to take out weeds, says Matt Blashaw, host of DIY Network's Yard Crashers. Plus, flaming is nontoxic and a whole lot of fun. Just avoid dry areas or anything right next to your house, and keep a hose nearby just in case. Blashaw likes the Bernzomatic TS8000 kit ($50, homedepot.com).
The neighbor's party sounds like a rave
The solution: Join the crowd—briefly. Drop by with a six-pack, drink one beer, and then quietly ask the host to turn the music down as you leave. "That works better than calling," says Edwin Riley, the author of Stress Rx. If he ignores you, wear earplugs and negotiate the next day. And avoid calling the cops if possible; you'll poison future relations.
(Need to speak truth to power on your own terms? Trick your opponent with these tips and find out How to Win Any Debate.)
Brown patches are overtaking your lawn
The solution: Don't mow so short. "Taller grass holds more moisture," says David Mellor, Fenway Park's grounds director. If you live in the South, raise your mower deck to 1.5 inches; in the North, make it 3. (Regional grasses thrive at different lengths.) And don't water after work; the best time of day for moisture retention is 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Set a timer.
Pests are gobbling your garden
The solution: Try Bacillus thuringiensis, or BT. This naturally occurring bacterium attacks bugs like hornworms and cabbage loopers from the inside so only the plant eaters suffer, says Blashaw. Another option: Spray diluted neem oil. It doesn't harm mammals or birds but is toxic to scores of pests, such as aphids, mites, beetles, and white-flies. "It kills them and their larvae, but it doesn't harm your yard," he says.
(Can you spot the danger of dirt? Learn about The 10 Dirtiest Foods You're Eating and give yourself a recipe for clean living.)
Your AC bill is cutting into your beer money
The solution: Ask your utility company about a "demand-response" program to limit energy use during peak hours. Con Edison, for example, will install a free smart thermostat that cycles the compressor (but leaves the fan running) in half-hour bursts during times of highest energy use. The company offers a $25 incentive to enroll, and the device can save you roughly 10 percent on your annual energy bill. (Check out these others ways to hack your electric bill.)