Just because summer is here and you may be relaxing a bit, that doesn’t mean you should take a break from managing your summer dollars wisely.
In fact, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day can be a real budget-buster if you’re not careful with your money.
Luckily, there are some crafty ways to stretch your summer dollars and not feel broke all the time.
Here are 5 strategies for stretching your summer dollars no matter how much money you’re working with.
1. Put a ban on eating out for lunch
When the whether is nice outside, it’s tempting to want to go outdoors where you can enjoy the sunshine during your lunch hour. But for a lot of folks, heading away from your cubicle and out of your office building, often means grabbing a meal from a restaurant, deli, or nearby food truck.
Such daily spending on lunch can easily set you back $5 to $10 a day or more. To better preserve your cash, make a commitment to brown bagging it for lunch.
Instead, use that $25 to $50 a week to buy fresh food from the supermarket. You’ll not only have lunch for yourself for the work week, you’ll get breakfast and dinner as well – saving you a lot of money in overall food costs.
2. Slash your summer electric bill
My husband and I are constantly reminding our three kids to turn off lights when they leave a room. Not only does leaving lights on waste energy and resources, it also wastes money. Besides, in the summer, lots of rooms get natural sunlight.
So urge everyone in your household to pitch in this summer and save money by saving energy around the house on a daily basis. It’s not complicated and most steps don’t cost anything in terms of cash or effort.
Just turn off lights when you leave a room, unplugs all appliances when you’re not using them, and regulate your use of the air-conditioner at home. It also helps to turn your water heat down a couple degrees.
All of these easy, energy-saving steps will cut your electric bills by 25% or more.
3. Don’t let your car and gas prices drive you into the poorhouse
Gas prices are going up – as they seem to do every summer. But you can diminish your financial pain at the pump by taking some smart steps to lower your fuel costs.
Start by de-cluttering your car. Any excess weight you’re carrying around lowers your fuel efficiency. Ditto for having tires with low air pressure. Inflate your tires — it’s free to do at virtually any gas station — and you’ll boost fuel efficiency.
Find a “deal day” nearby your place of home or work where a gas station offers discounts. For instance, Wednesdays may be “10 cents off day.”
Lastly, don’t hesitate to buy “off brand” gas. A study from AAA showed that when compared with well-known companies like Chevron or ExxonMobil, “no name” gas stations had gas with the exact same fuel economy, emissions, performance and drivability.
4. Cut summer camp expenses
For those with kids, don’t shell out big bucks for summer camp before exploring three ways to save money on this expense.
First, make sure you claim your tax break for summer camp.
Most people don’t know it, but according to the IRS, if you send your kid(s) who are under 13 to day camp so that you can work, you could be entitled to a tax deduction of up to $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for two children. See IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, for more details.
Also, ask for scholarships to reduce your financial outlay for camp. Many camps offer scholarships – but only to those savvy enough to request them upfront.
Finally, inquire about sibling discounts or any other price breaks a camp may have. You won’t know until you ask, and special deals often aren’t well publicized.
5. Get those movie deals
Summer time is prime time for Hollywood to put out big blockbuster movies.
So you may be eager to seeing Will and Jaden Smith on the big screen in the new hit, After Earth. If so, great. Just don’t blow your cash unnecessarily on costly film tickets, over-priced movie-theater snacks and expensive drinks.
If you have a family, it’s best to purchase movie tickets in bulk. You can buy a four-pack of tickets from Costco, good for a variety of theaters, for just $34.99 and a 10-pack for $82.99. There’s no expiration date and no blackout dates. BulkTix.com also saves you roughly $3 off per ticket for seven different movie chains.
Also, whatever you do, try to avoid the concession stand and all those treats at the counter. They usually wind up doubling your cost of admission. Eat out before-hand, or take snacks with you where permitted.
And for all of you year-round movie buffs, here are 9 more ways to save money at the movies.