Complicated money-saving strategies just don't work for today's busy moms. Saving money, especially during the lazy-crazy days of summer, needs to come from simple steps that can easily become habits without too much thought or effort.
But, thanks to these fifty tips, creating special summer memories doesn't have to break the bank or leave you stranded at home all summer. In fact, you might be surprised how much you can save while still enjoying summer to the fullest.
1. Leave your car behind as much as possible. Add baskets and racks to bikes and be sure to give them a seasonal tune-up. If you go long distances, bring along a tire repair kit.
2. Visit websites before you go anywhere to check for discount coupons. Competition between destinations can yield sweet savings.
3. Grow your own cutting garden. Fill an entire bed from end to end with varieties like daisies, lilies, gladiolas, sunflowers, and zinnias.
4. Scour the house for plugged in appliances you simply do not use in the summer. Unplug what you can.
5. Make sun tea. Buy bulk quantities of black tea bags, remove the tags from ten-twelve bags, and leave the jar in the sun until water turns amber. Add mint and lemon to a glass of ice or create your own tasty variations.
6. You don't want to find out your AC doesn't work on the hottest day of the year and incur a rush repair. So check your AC for needed maintenance and replace filters in early summer.
7. Homemade granola from oats, nuts, and dried fruits purchased in the bulk food section is a delicious way to start the day. Don't forget the honey and peanut butter.
8. Teach kids that the best things in life are not always new. Shop garage sales, flea markets, and local thrift shops for summer clothes and shoes.
9. Decrease oven use in general. And when you must cook or bake, get a jump on it in the cool morning hours.
10. Build a raised garden bed to keep out weeds and pests and plant a whole summer's worth of salad plants. Pace plants to harvest on an ongoing basis.
11. Check neighboring towns for free music performances and festivals. Meet up with friends each week for low-key afternoon or evening of fun.
12. Stock snacks weekly to keep them fresh for healthy appetites. Instead of lots of pre-packaged items, fill large jars with low-fat, crunchy snacks each week. Float cut veggies in a big tub of water in the fridge for easy access.
13. Encourage lying about by hanging a hammock, scattering lounge chairs throughout the yard, and leaving a stack of blankets by the back door.
14. Visit the library each week for a steady supply of reading materials and educational media. Remember, the library is often cool on extremely hot days.
15. Have cooler; will picnic! Make sure you own a sturdy cooler on wheels with a drip tap at the bottom. Buy re-usable ice packs. Clean and dry out after every use. Or fill with ice and bring along a whole days' worth of hydration rather than paying for expensive sugary drinks.
16. Have a full-family yard sale. Don't forget to check attics and basements for things you will likely never want or use again. Let kids sort, price, and sell for a couple of days in exchange for a percent of the profits. Or spend the money you make on a carnival or state fair.
17. Lower the heat setting on your dryer. Hang partially dry sheets and towels out to dry in the sun.
18. Use your slow cooker in the summer and make your own BBQ sauce, baked beans, or ratatouille.
19. Check out lake and ocean beaches within an hour's driving distance. Leave early and stay all day to maximize the fun without adding the hotel stay.
20. When the big summer movie that you all want to see comes out, eat lunch at home first and then go enjoy the matinee.
21. Use summer downtime to teach your kids about money. Teach kids resourceful lessons about money by encouraging entrepreneurism and lemonade stands. Have them make their own piggy banks. Open up savings accounts for each. Set goals for earning and saving, and offer fun rewards for meeting them.
22. Tree swings cost a lot less than swing sets, and create lifelong memories. Here's a great selection: http://treeswings.org/.
23. Fire up the grill to keep the kitchen cool. Purchase meat in bulk, divide, marinade in freezer bags and stock the freezer. To save on gas, grill a few items for the week over the weekends. Don't forget shish-ka-bob spears, foil, and grill baskets for grilling veggies. Rehear in the microwave for the same just-grilled flavor.
24. Make note on your calendar of free days at museum and nature center to battle summer boredom.
25. Spruce up furniture you find at yard sales and flea markets with a couple of coats of paint. Let it dry outside.
26. Make your own salad dressings, BBQ sauces, and dipping sauces using fresh herbs from the edges of your raised garden bed.
27. Attend a parade. Bring a picnic and homemade lemonade.
28. Cut your own lawn or teach your older kids how to cut it. Make raking a family affair.
29. Save on air conditioning. Open upstairs windows before bed. Turn fans on low for the night. Close windows before the sun gets high in the sky. Close curtains on the sunny sides of the house as the day goes on.
30. Go to bed early, wake up with the larks, and go for a long day hike. Pack oranges and granola bars.
31. Keep firework purchases to sparklers and attend free public fireworks display instead.
32. Set aside yard-maintenance mornings every other Saturday for an hour or two of weed pulling and planting before the temperature spikes.
33. Can't afford camp? Create your own. Choose a theme for the day or the week. Let older kids be the counselors to younger children in the neighborhood.
34. Enjoy plenty of fresh, local berries, at their best prices of the year. Rinse. Then dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels. Refrigerate in a vented container lined with more paper towels.
35. Scope out free, local water parks. Arrive early to beat the rush on the hottest days.
36. Take siestas during the hottest time of the day. It's a great way to give siblings a break from each other.
37. Buy less lunchmeat and make more fresh egg, tuna, and meat salads. Try serving them on pocket bread, naan or burritos with lots of veggies.
38. Share music as a family. Instead of buying whole albums, let each child download five or six songs to make their own summer mix. Pick up inexpensive, used CDs to download for pocket change.
39. Cancel your cable TV for the summer. You might not miss it.
40. Kids love to contribute. Offer to pay your kids for jobs that would otherwise cost you more. Take advantage of their skills like car washing, garage cleaning, furniture painting, window washing, and digital photo sorting.
41. Check and see if your state has a tax-free shopping weekend you want to take advantage of http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales_holiday.html.
42. Have a movie night with popcorn popped the old-fashioned way at pennies per serving. Check out films at the library or rent them at your local Red Box.
43. If you don't have a community pool, YMCA, or school pool, locate the closest options and head there on the hottest days. Don't forget to check for free swim times.
44. Give each child five bucks to spend at the farmer's market. Eat breakfast at home before you go. Then enjoy free samples at the market for dessert.
45. Camp in the back yard. Use whatever camping gear you have on hand or borrow anything else you need from friends and neighbors. Have fun!
46. Invest in a few inexpensive sprinkler heads. During the hottest weeks of summer, turn on the sprinkler at set times every afternoon. Encourage kids to invite their friends over for a quick dash about, squirt fight, and bubble-blowing contest.
47. Make shoe pots out of old shoes and boots for whimsical porch and patio decor. Fill with lightweight potting soil and add annuals, ground cover or succulents—or a combination of all three.
48. Invite birds and butterflies into your yard by planting sweet smelling flowers like cosmos, phlox, and zinnias. Purchase seed in bulk to last the whole summer and fill feeders from the thrift store.
49. Let children paint favorite words on wooden boards and rocks with smooth surfaces. Set these around the yard for inspiration.
50. Keep a bag of swim towels and bathing suits, binoculars, and hand-held pruners in the car, so you will be ready to get wet, bird watch, or collect an impromptu bouquet at a moment's notice.
Happy summer savings, everyone!
Christina Katz never needed much money to create summer memories as a kid, but has noticed that everything costs a lot more when you are a parent. Her latest book is The Writer's Workout.