Save money this summer!
Image Source: Flickr CC User Kev&Mon
School’s out and the weather is heating up in North Carolina – that means it’s prime spending time for vacations, outdoor activities, soaring air-conditioning bills, and all the other costs that come with the warmer months. Here are nine tips to help you save money this summer so you don’t max your plastic.
#1 Choose a Staycation or Visit Family
If a vacation isn’t in the budget this year, but your kids are clamoring for a trip, think outside the hotel box. Staycations at home can be great because, often, what your children really want is your time and attention. Yard camping, movie marathon nights and other activities outside your normal routine offer cheap fun. And if you want to get out of the house, why not pack up and head to grandma’s for a long weekend?
#2 Eat Without the Oven
Air conditioning costs can be astronomical in the North Carolina summer. Consider measures around the house to save on cooling costs. For example, avoid using your oven and opt for grill, toaster oven or stovetop fare. Cranking up the oven can counteract your A/C. You can also opt for fans on cooler days and spend time in cooler areas of your home (usually downstairs) so you don’t have to blast the air.
#3 Try a Childcare Arrangement
Childcare can get expensive in the summer if your children are usually in school and now you have to cover 10 weeks of care while you’re working. Consider arranging childcare with pals who don’t work. Or, if you're friends with other parents who can each take a day off work, try alternating care days so that everyone is covered but no one pays out of pocket.
#4 Check out Local Parks and Museums
Local, state and national parks are usually free or low cost. Some have pools, hiking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts and other kid-friendly activities. Pack a picnic, take a cooler of drinks and go explore. If you want a new activity to try while you're out there, consider GeoCaching – It’s a GPS treasure-hunting game that’s wildly popular. The basic app is free, and it’s free to play. Plus, it’s exercise!
#5 Go with Groupon and Coupons
Rather than deciding what to do and then looking for a discount, why not go the other direction and keep an eye on Groupon, Living Social and other discount websites? This is a good incentive to try new things your family hasn’t done before – at bargain prices. From putt putt coupons to rock climbing classes and local shows, there’s a ton out there to try on the cheap.
#6 Pack Some Snacks
Wherever you go, pack food and drinks. Sodas and snacks can cost you $20-$40 every time you go out. Buy nonperishable items like Goldfish in bulk, and keep a cooler in the car for beverages. That way you can hit the park or pool without ponying up money out of pocket every time your kids are hungry. Encourage them to focus on the experience of what you’re doing rather than making the event about food.
#7 Share a Vacation
Another option for a cheaper vacation is to travel with a like-minded, bargain-loving family. With two families, renting a condo or home for the week can be cheaper than a hotel. You can split the costs, and your kids will have built-in play pals. Look for a place at the beach, where you can have cheap fun playing in the sand, and with a kitchen so you can cook and save even more.
#8 Look for Free Local Events
Summer is a great time to find free stuff to do. Some parks offer free screen-on-the-green movie nights and others offer free monthly concerts. You might find a local business offering a free event with a bouncy house, face painting, or other kids' activities. Churches also offer free events, including Vacation Bible School. Local libraries usually have very active summer programs as well. There’s lots to do for no cost if you look locally.
#9 Consider Cousins Camp
One more option to keep your stir-crazy kids busy this summer without breaking the bank is a concept called “cousins camp.” If grandma or grandpa live nearby, they might enjoy having a week to spoil their grandkids over the summer. That gets the kids out of the house and gives them a chance to bond with their grandparents and cousins, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Something to consider…
Don’t let summer expenses erode your savings or drive up your debt. Plan ahead, and look for opportunities to save more and spend less without staying shut up in your house.
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