Guest Post: Making Your Dollar Stretch: Save Money and Still Have Fun

Posted by on Jun 16, 2014

Author: Mary Kremer

 

Are you looking to save some money this summer but don’t want to cut out the family fun? Do you really want to make that dollar stretch? Here are some tips to help you lower your bills, get out of debt, and still have fun this summer.

 

Reevaluate Your Spending

 

If you really want to save money and become financially stable, it’s important to assess your current financial situation and make a plan. Look at your miscellaneous spending and ask yourself some questions like:

  • Where is most of my excess money going?

  • Do I eat out/go to the movies often? Can I cut that number down?

  • Am I spending too much money on retail therapy? How much money should I realistically set aside for clothing, etc.?

  • How many memberships do I have (online or otherwise)? Can I cut any out?

  • How much money is spent during travel? Could I carpool or use public transportation?

 

You don’t have to get rid of all the fun in order to be financially stable. You can certainly set aside money to be spend on clothes, memberships, and nights out on the town. The key is to remember that these needs are secondary. Many people spend about 3-5% of their total income a month on “fun.” You can adjust what fits your family. Just make sure your necessities come first.

 

Bonus Tip: One of the best ways to handle your fun money is withdraw a certain amount in cash and keep it in an envelope designated just for fun. This will help you keep track of how much money you have actually spent. When the envelope is empty, you’ve run out of fun money for the month.

 

Cut Down Where You Can

 

It’s pretty easy to cut down on your secondary expenses, but there are some simple ways to cut down on your primary expenses as well. This summer, take a few extra steps and cut down on your utilities to save money. Try:

 

  • Keeping the window shades drawn at high noon.

  • Closing off vents to unused rooms. It’ll take a load off your air conditioner.

  • Making sure your house is properly sealed. Check your windows and doors for caulking or weatherstripping that needs to be replaced. This will keep cool air from escaping and keep your bills down.

  • Running an overhead fan at night when it cools down, instead of using the AC.

  • Keeping your oven turned off. Eat cool meals or cook on a grill if you want something hot. It’ll be fun for the family and it will keep your house cooler.

 

Get Out of Debt

 

Is your family dealing with excessive debt? Focus on getting rid of it this summer. That debt is eating up your fun money!

 

Are you afraid of being eaten alive by a debt collector? Stewart Hart, of Gravitate Financial, had this advice to give to those in debt, “The best option is to explain what’s going on. Debt collectors are just trying to bridge the gap between you and the creditor and come up with the best solution to pay the money back that is owed to them. Working out payment plans or settling are the best ways for the debt to not affect the debtor’s credit and make a bad decision worse than it needs to be.”

 

Find Fun Alternatives

 

You don’t have to cut family fun to spend less money! In fact, some of the most memorable experiences your children will have will probably be on a family campout or simple activity together. To help you figure out some fun things to do, here are a few alternatives that cost little or no money:

 

  • Have a barbeque! That’s right, I mentioned this before, but it’s a recipe for fun in the summer. Just grab a few hotdogs and burgers, heat up the grill, and spend some time outside with the family. You can even cook s’mores over a grill by wrapping them up in aluminum foil.

  • Grab some water balloons and start a water fight in the backyard. When you get tired of chucking balloons at each other, string some up in a tree and make water pinatas.

  • Make your own slip and slide with a tarp and a hose. It’s as simple as that.

  • Plan a picnic and take your family on a hike.

  • Go for a bike ride or visit a nearby park.

  • Research local activities. In the summer, many cities host movies or concerts in the park for free. They’re a great evening for families and they don’t cost a thing.

  • If you’re looking for an inexpensive vacation, visit a national park. Entrance passes to most parks are very affordable, and many parks have certain days during the summer when the entrance fee is waived! Check out their sites for more details.

  • When you want to go out to eat, dine on coupons! Look for local deals and dine smart.

 

Make it a Family Business

 

Stay committed to your plans by involving everyone. When your youngest children ask why you won’t be going to the amusement park, explain the basics of budgeting and tell them you’ll be going on a fun hike instead. If you’re willing to face the music and stick to a plan, your family can become financially stable and still have fun along the way.