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budget

Homelife, Money Saving

Sanity Savers when it comes to Summertime Spending

Summertime.  The pool is open.  School is finished.  The schedule is more relaxed.  I love this laid back time of year.

But with the increased air conditioning bills, vacations, summer treats and extra activities it can be an expensive time that can drive your bank account batty!

Here are eight ways our family enjoys the summertime fun while keeping our bank account in a sane place!

Ideas to reduce

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1.  Change the temperature in the house.  Start with just one degree.  Set your thermostat one degree warmer in the house than you normally do.  This was really hard for me at nighttime because I like it cold, but we have adjusted.  We tend to go 78 during the day and 73 at night.

2.  Fans.  Invest in ceiling fans and floor fans for the summer.  This will help you keep the A/C on a warmer temperature while still feeling cool in the house.  We have several box fans and also have an older model of this rotating floor fan that is a favorite.  It has lasted for years.  On really hot days, we bring the floor fans from the bedrooms to the downstairs.  It’s amazing what a whirlwind of air you can create!

3.  Enjoy summertime treats at home. My kids love to hit up local ice cream joints or snowball places in the summer, but with six of us it can add up quickly.  (know your multiplier, right?)  We  make going out an occasional treat instead of a regular activity.

For those occasional “going out” snowball treats, here in the south we visit Kona Ice.  This summer we “invested” in the $5 refillable cup.  We bring it to every swim meet to refill for $3.  Yes, the $2 small is cheaper, but that gigantic refill is such a fun treat this summer!  We wash the cups at home and store them so they’ll be ready for the next Kona Ice visit!  I assume we can pack them in our pool bag when summer ends and use them next year.

For “at home” snowball treats, my parents treated us to a snowcone machine by Waring and we love how safe and easy it is to use with the kids.  Consider making a purchase similar to this or putting it on a Christmas wish list.  We have tried several and this one is the best ice!

NOTE:  Hershey syrup makes an excellent snowball.  They don’t seem to know about marshmallow fluff or chocolate snowballs in Raleigh.  That is a real shame, but a bonus reason for making them at home!

An ice cream sundae bar at home or milkshakes in your blender can be a fun family activity and less expensive than the ice cream shoppe.  We also stock up on Fla-vor-Ice and popsicles for neighborhood treats!

4.  Enjoy free activities for kids in your area.

Bowling.  Find a free bowling summer program in your state here.  If you are in the Raleigh area, Buffaloe Lanes offers a summertime bowling program.  Kids bowl one game free each day and there are also daily bonus freebies, including free shoe rental for kid card holders on Mondays.

Movies.  Many movie theaters offer free kids (or deeply discounted) movies during the summer.  The Regal Movie dollar movies can be found here.  Marquee Cinemas offer free summer movies at various locations in the US.

Concerts.  Free outdoor concerts are pretty popular in the spring and summer time.  Search your city park and recreation guide, newspaper, and google to find concerts in your area.  Pack dinner and enjoy the music and outdoors.

Reading.  There are a great number of reading programs to keep kids reading all summer long.  Check your local library for their summer offerings.  You can check out the Barnes and Noble reading program this summer.  There is a Scholastic Reading program, Book-It Pizza Hut program, and a Books A Million program.  Lots of freebies to earn by reading!

5image1.  Pack your Meals!  There is ample opportunity to eat meals outdoors in the summer.  Perhaps at the local pool, a playground, or even in the car while on the go.

Years ago we purchased the Easy Lunch Boxes (pictured right) and they have helped us avoid un-necessary dining out.  They are plastic, but you can purchase similar ones in steel.  The ones we use are not air tight, so I do have to spend some extra time putting sandwiches in baggies before putting them in the container.   They have been a quick, efficient way to pack lunch or dinner for our crew.

 

6. Plan for Summer Spending.  As you set up your monthly budget, plan to have more in your recreation fund and dining out fund during the summer.  If you plan for it, then you can enjoy summer treats without breaking the bank!

You should also plan to cover your electric and water bills throughout the year, taking into account the fluctuating seasons.  This is easy to do.  Add up the total you spent in the last 12 months for each category and divide it by 12.  Budget this amount EVERY month to maintain consistency so the extreme temperatures and sprinkler use don’t throw you off.

(Need help starting a budget, find a few basics here)

7.  Reusable Water Bottles.  Not only will they make your wallet happy, but Earth will thank you!  Water bottles are used in this house almost daily in the summer.  Our favorite bottle is the basic Camelbak, but only one kid has this special bottle so far.  The rest are various freebies (gotta love those orthodontists and dentists) or Old Navy sale items.  You can find water bottles just about anywhere.

They aren’t just for the day at the pool or that lake either!  We grab them even when we are going out for a summer time treat because kids often get thirsty and I hate bothering the employees for a courtesy cup of water.  So make it a habit to fill up water bottles every morning!

8.  Showers at the pool.  Keep shampoo in the pool bag.  Sanity saver.  Time saver.  Money saver.  You probably pay for that pool membership or visit, so make use of their water!  This one is an all around win.  Those lovely outdoor showers at the pool can be such fun for the kids.  Toss them all in there and scrub the chlorine out of their hair.  As the girls have gotten older, they prefer to do this anyway.

A little planning goes a long way when it comes to saving money while having fun! What do you do to save money in the summer?

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Homelife, Money Saving

Five Basic Budgeting Tips

Friends often suggest that I should write a book on budgeting.

I laugh at the suggestion.

I laugh because I am far from an expert on budgeting.  And there are plenty of experts.

But the fact is that I have learned a lot as the financial manager for a single-income family of six.  Some lessons are specific to our household alone, but there are plenty of general thoughts I can share with anyone hoping to get their finances and debts under control.

There are a million ways to budget and think about money.  Here are just some five basic budgeting tips to get you started.

5 basic budgeting tips for keeping to a budget. Continue Reading