Most kids can't wait for the school year to end, but what's your take on their summer break? You might view the season a bit differently. Simply keeping your children occupied can cause you to rack up a considerable bill. Luckily, there are some easy, actionable ways to make summer a blast without going over budget. Consider these tips:
1. Teach your kids how to cook leftover recipes. Instead of letting food go to waste and having to buy more, give your kids a set of stock "kitchen sink" recipes that can accommodate any starch, vegetable or protein you have in the fridge.
Showing your kids how to cook is a fun way to keep the whole family occupied while also making your kids productive. If your children are too young to do heavy lifting in the backyard or drive to the grocery store for your family's weekly supply, getting them involved in the kitchen can help them help you. Plus, learning cooking skills doesn't hurt - your kids will thank you when they go off to college.
2. Take the kids to an air-conditioned place during the day. Instead of racking up a large bill by running the air conditioning all day, take your kids to the library, a free museum or other free, climate-controlled places to stay cool without spending a dime.
This is also a great way to avoid the soul-sucking TV screen and can help you keep the learning process going even during summer break.
3. Join a babysitting co-op. Babysitters can be pricey. Instead, consider enlisting other parents in your neighborhood in a babysitting arrangement, in which child-watching duties rotate between families.
4. Keep the kids busy. Arrange for your kids to do yard work or jobs around the house. If they're old enough, encourage them to babysit neighborhood kids. You'll have some time to yourself, and the kids will likely return exhausted, ready for bed and with more money than they had when they woke up. But be sure to thoroughly vet potential employers for safety.
5. Write off childcare expenses. If you pay someone to care for your preteen child so you can work or look for a job, you can deduct up to $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children. This includes day camps, as well as babysitters.
6. Find cheap summer camps. Summer camps run by community groups are often less expensive than those put on by private companies. Check into camps run by your local religious institution, city parks and recreation departments. Additionally, sport camps can be cheap alternatives, so check with your local high school or community recreation sports league to see if you can find a nice patch of grass for the kids to play on.
7. Don't heat the house when it's already hot. There will be plenty of days when the kids come home hungry and sweaty, but in such cases, don't cook and launder like you usually do. Barbecue outside on the grill instead of cooking inside, which will help prevent excess kitchen heat from boiling the rest of the house.
Also consider hang drying your laundry to save on energy costs.
8. Think state parks. Many families visit prominent national parks during the summer months, but with high park fees and limited lodging availability in the surrounding areas, such trips can get expensive.
Rather than fight the masses, take trips to state parks, which are often cheaper. You'll pay less in travel costs and still have plenty of fun. With smaller crowds, you may find a state park gives your family more space for recreation and relaxation.
Matthew Ong is NerdWallet's retail analyst, specializing in finding consumers discounts on everyday purchases. NerdWallet is a San Francisco-based financial literacy website that offers tools for users to find everything from scholarships to Sears coupons.
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