July 3, 2012
With summer in full swing, your finances may be feeling the heat as much as you are. Energy bills are up, the kids are spending money (instead of spending time in school), and you're trying to save up for that costly summer vacation.
In other words, it's more important now than ever to save money. Here are five ways to turn down the heat on your finances this summer:
1. Save on Groceries
With the kids out of school, you might notice your refrigerator emptying out faster than before. If you factor in picnics and cookouts, your food bill could go through the roof.
The first step to saving money on groceries is to clip coupons and learn more extreme couponing tips. Buy an extra copy of the Sunday paper for extra coupons, and shop when your grocer doubles them. When you find an item on sale that your family consumes a lot of, stock up. Also, try generic brand items instead of national brand names. The difference in taste and quality is minimal or nonexistent, but the savings are significant.
2. Save on Travel
Saving on airfare for the entire family can be difficult - but it's not impossible. Use a website like BookingBuddy.com to track the price of your flight and get a better sense of when to buy. If you purchase your tickets early in the week (Mondays and Tuesdays are often when rates are lowest), and plan to depart on a Wednesday (generally the cheapest day of the week to fly), you may be able to score a better rate. And if your plans are flexible, name your own price for a ticket at Priceline. Also, don't forget to consolidate your kids' clothes into fewer suitcases to lower your checked baggage fees.
If airfare just isn't in your budget, check out your state's tourism website. Chances are you can find great destinations and deals right in your own backyard.
3. Plan a Staycation
To save a lot of money but still have fun, scrap the travel plans for an entertaining week at home. Schedule a classic outdoor game day featuring "red light, green light," "hide and seek," or "kick the can." Overnight camping in the backyard is always a hit with young kids, and hooking up the sprinkler can turn into an afternoon of fun - especially if mom and dad get into the act. If you have older kids, schedule one or more afternoon movie matinees and ask what they'd like to do. The possibilities are endless.
Plus, with the money you save by not traveling, you can afford to spend a little more at home. Take the family to the local water park or amusement park for example, or dine out one evening at your favorite restaurant.
4. Save on Home Energy
Adjusting your thermostat by three degrees can save as much as 20% on your home energy bills. Make the adjustment one degree at a time over the course of several weeks, and the kids won't even notice. If you have ceiling fans, make sure they're running in a counter-clockwise direction, which pulls cool air upwards. Also open doors early in the morning and after sunset to take advantage of cooler outdoor temperatures.
5. Save on Gas
To find the nearest stations with the cheapest gas, use a website or app like GasBuddy. Also, consolidate your errands whenever possible - never leave the house for just one thing. And if your kids participate in summer sports, take turns carpooling with other parents to save on gas.
Summer is a time to have fun, kick back, and relax. But if you forget about your finances for too long, you could end up in credit card debt or scrounging on back-to-school wardrobes. Instead, get in the habit of saving by following the tips above. Better yet, increase your annual savings by continuing these strategies into the school year.
What other ways can you think of to save money this summer?
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, a online publication that provides tips for saving money, living frugally, and attaining long-term financial goals. David lives in Atlanta with his young son.
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