Don't neglect your budget this summer.
Summer is a minefield for wayward spending. Weddings, vacations, summer camps and bored kids at home are all attempting to separate you from your money. Here's how to approach the summer months in the most budget-friendly way.
Cut the cord.
If you haven't done so yet, summer is a great time to cut the cable cord, says Emily G. Stroud, financial planner Fort Worth, Texas. Use Wi-Fi streaming options to find lower-cost entertainment on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Or, better yet, use the warm summer temperatures as an excuse to get outside, go for walks, do yard work and enjoy other television-free activities.
Find summer freebies.
Summer is prime time for street festivals, outdoor concerts, craft fairs and other community freebies. Bring your own snacks and water bottles for a truly low-cost experience.
Host a garage sale.
Throw open the windows and start decluttering the house. Resell any valuable or vintage items to a local secondhand shop or at a garage sale.
Visit the local library.
Your community library contains a wealth of free entertainment, from books to DVDs, kids programming and story times, Stroud says.
Have a picnic.
Pack a basket with sandwiches, cookies, drinks and other favorite foods, then head to the park for a picnic. Don't forget to bring along a soccer ball or favorite lawn game. Your kids will love this low-cost activity. "It's more special and fun to eat your food outside," Stroud says.
Keep your kitchen cool and clean by opting to prepare your meals on the grill outside. You don't just have to make burgers and hotdogs, says Michele Cagan, certified public accountant and author of "Budgeting 101." You can make lasagna, cake, pizza, corn on the cob and other unexpected meals on the grill.
Ditch the car.
Opt to walk or bike while the weather is good, Stroud says. Not only is ditching the car healthy for you, it will save you money on gas and reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle.
Budget for your vacation.
The last thing you want to do is put your vacation on a credit card (unless you're collecting points and plan to repay it immediately). Make a spending plan for your vacation and promise not to go over budget. Start saving now, if you haven't already, so you have cash on hand when paying for your summer trip.
Sign up for a CSA.
Folks can sign up for a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, to have farm-fresh ingredients delivered to their home or a nearby pick-up site. This will help avoid impulse purchases and temptation at the farmers market, Cagan says. If it seems like too much food, consider splitting the cost and the produce with a friend or family member.
Book a hotel room with a kitchen.
When on vacation, save money on meals by booking a hotel room with a kitchen in it. "The hotel room will cost a little bit more, but the amount you'll save on food will be amazing," Cagan says. The exact cost difference will depend on where and when you book your hotel room.
Take your summer vacation the last week of August.
Most families don't want to vacation just before school starts, Cagan says, so you'll be able to find better prices and less crowded destinations in the last week of August.
Bring cash on daytrips.
When you're on a vacation, leave the credit card at home and promise to only use the cash you've brought for the day, Cagan says. This will help you prioritize important expenses and call it quits before you overspend.
Tap your dependent care FSA.
A flexible spending account for dependent care is typically offered through your workplace. Employees put pretax money aside for qualified child care expenses, which provides a tax break. Use those funds to pay for summer child care such as summer camp, Cagan says.
Look into tax credits.
Don't forget to tap tax credits for eligible dependent care expenses. The child and dependent care tax credit is available to offset the costs of qualified child care services for dependents under age 13.
Check out low-cost camp options.
Your local YMCA, parks and recreation center or community nonprofit may offer affordable summer camp options for school-age kids, Cagan says.
Consider a nanny-sharing arrangement.
Partner with another family to share the services of a nanny, Cagan says. This nanny-sharing agreement typically works well if you have two or three kids between both families. You'll be able to split the cost of hiring full-time child care.
Try a care swap.
Coordinate with neighbors or family members to each take a week or two off this summer to care for your own kids and the other neighborhood kids, Cagan suggests. During a care swap, you'll need to feed and mind a group of kids, but when you're at work, another parent will do the same for yours.
Ask about camp discounts.
Discounts may not be advertised online, but it doesn't hurt to ask if the camp offers them for a family who enrolls multiple kids or commits to sending their children for several weeks, Cagan says.
Use a programmable thermostat.
Reduce cooling costs with a programmable thermostat. You can set a schedule for the temperature to be slightly higher during the day and cooler at night when the family is at home.
Reverse your ceiling fans.
During the summer, you want your ceiling fans to run counterclockwise in order to push cool air down. Many ceiling fans have a switch on the side or top of the fan itself to reverse the direction.
Go to a matinee.
Take advantage of school-free afternoons and free air-conditioning by treating your children or yourself to a less expensive movie matinee.
Pick up a summer side hustle.
Earn extra money this summer with a part-time job. Side hustles may include delivering groceries through an app, running errands on TaskRabbit or housesitting and petsitting for summer vacationers.
Visit parks and campgrounds.
Ditch the pricey theme park for a more affordable state park, national park or local campground. Pack activities, a lunch and let the kids tire themselves out.
Track gas prices.
Gas costs tend to rise in the summer. In July 2018, for example, the national gas price average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.84, according to AAA. In November, it had dropped to $2.56. Use an app such as GasBuddy to track prices nearby and scale back on driving costs.
Research memberships and free days at nearby attractions.
Your local attractions, such as zoos, botanical gardens, museums and aquariums, may offer free days this summer. It may also be worth picking up a membership, which could pay off in as few as two visits.
Boost your summer budget.
To recap, here are some tips on how to save more this summer:
-- Cut the cord.
-- Find summer freebies.
-- Host a summer garage sale.
-- Visit the local library.
-- Have a picnic.
-- Grill outside.
-- Ditch the car.
-- Budget for your vacation.
-- Sign up for a CSA.
-- Get a hotel room with a kitchen in it.
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