More Ways to Save at Theme Parks Before Summer Ends

In the spring, we gave you 5 ways you can save at theme parks.  July and August is peak season for millions of visitors to enjoy the fun and fantasy of their favorite adventure theme parks, which means getting a deal in the summer can be challenging. A family of four can easily spend more than $1,000 just on the theme park tickets alone. And that’s not including parking passes, food, or souvenirs.

Let’s face it, once you step through the gates – it’s easy to get caught up in the experience and forget all about sticking to your budget plan. That doesn’t mean all is lost. Here are a few more ways you can save on some end of summer theme park fun:

Book tickets early online. Believe it or not, you can score discounts buying tickets in advance on the theme park’s official website or through authorized sellers like AAA or Costco. So do your research! One more tip: Never buy tickets on Craigslist or eBay. You don’t want to run the risk of falling victim to a scam and be turned away at the gate.

Bring a refillable water bottle. Staying hydrated is important, especially in the summer. Theme parks will give you a cup of water for free at any food service counter so you can refill for free. It’s a lot cheaper than quenching your thirst for about $5 per bottled water. That adds up!

Get the park app. You will get useful information on everything going on in the park from interactive maps and real-time ride wait times, to how to find the closest bathroom or which rides are closed. Knowing the lay of the land will help you get in the most fun for your dollar.

Follow the theme park on social media. Follow your theme parks on Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. You’ll not only get the latest insider scoop on attractions but also the knowledge of any special promotions they might be running before summer ends.

Plan your meals. No matter where you eat in the park, chances are it’s going to be overpriced. Check out the lunch menus, which can be anywhere from 15% to 20% cheaper than what you’d spend at dinner. But, keep in mind you’re there for the experience. Indulging in some good food instead of overpriced hot dogs or pizza could be worth it.

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

5 Staycation Ideas to Save Your Summer

Let’s face it, summer looks a lot different than it did when you were a kid. You used to spend the entire school year counting down the days until the carefree fun of summer vacation. But now that you’re a responsible adult with a grown-up job, summer mostly just means your daily work commute is hotter than usual.

OK, maybe the situation isn’t quite that bleak. But if you’re not careful, summer will come and go before you get a chance to enjoy it. Even if you can’t take a week off or spend a lot on vacation this year, it only takes a little creativity and last-minute planning to map out a staycation worth remembering. If you need a little spark of relaxation inspiration, these five suggestions may be just what you’re looking for:

Book a night at a fancy hotel in town. Yes, luxury has a price tag, but hey—it’s just for one night. Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to pamper yourself. And since you’re staying close to home, think about all the money you’re saving on gas and travel expenses! Want to make the most of your five-star staycation? Check in as early as possible and take advantage of every complementary service the hotel offers.

Take a tasting tour of your city. It’s easy to settle into a routine of dining at your favorite restaurants, so why not break out of that rut and spend an entire day expanding your palette? The beauty of this culinary adventure lies in its flexibility. You can plan your itinerary or play it loose and go wherever your taste buds take you. Start with an early breakfast and end with a late-night snack.

Spend all day in bed. How many times have you started the morning by cursing your alarm clock and wishing you could stay under the covers all day long? Here’s your chance to make those lazy dreams a reality. Stack your favorite books and magazines on the nightstand, queue up your Netflix watchlist, and keep your go-to takeout restaurants on speed dial. You’re about to take your day off to the next level.

Rent a convertible and take the scenic route. Sometimes you want to answer the call of the open road, but it’s hard to make travel exciting in the same car you drive to work every day. So, add a little fun to your staycation plans by renting a sports car (preferably a convertible) and cruising around for the day. If you have a specific destination in mind, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s even better. The magic is in the journey. Not sure where to find scenic routes near you? Download the Round app for expert recommendations.

Unplug and get off the grid. We saved this one for last because, depending on who you are, this suggestion can be exhilarating or terrifying. Since we’re talking about shutting off your mobile phone and unplugging from social media, we understand you may need to start slowly. Use a resource like AllTrails.com to find the nearest hiking or walking trails, and spend the day exploring the great outdoors. The fresh air, exercise, and lack of email will do wonders for your body and your mind.

Whether you pick one of these ideas, find a way to do them all, or come up with a fresh staycation of your own, the most important part is permitting yourself to have fun. Even if they’re only for 24 hours at a time, vacations (or staycations) offer benefits that can make every area of your life more enjoyable.

28 Ways to Avoid Spending Money this Summer

Summer is the most carefree season, but that doesn’t mean you have to relax your budget to enjoy it. There are plenty of free things to do this summer that allow you to make the most of warm weather. If you’re trying to determine how to avoid spending money over the next two months, read the following tips to have the best summer ever, while also sticking to a tight budget.

1. Trade Happy Hours for Backyard BBQs

Host a potluck BBQ at your place and get your friends and family together for some backyard fun. Make it a regular event by rotating hosts so one person doesn’t feel the burden of hosting all the time.

2. Choose a Photo Safari Over Shopping

Plan a photo safari in your town or a nearby city and hit the streets with your smartphone, selfie-ing your way through landmarks with your bestie.

3. Take a Day Trip to a Nearby Nature Area

Get your friends and family together for a day trip to a local nature spot. Whether it’s a mountain, lake, beach or nature trail, experiencing the outdoors for a day can be a really fun experience for all.

4. Enjoy Free Community Activities

The summer represents a great opportunity to enjoy free activities with your friends and community. Free outdoor concerts, art walks, fitness classes and kids’ crafts are all available for free at some point during the summer. Check your city, county or community’s online events calendar for free events and activities. Or, simply subscribe to our First Scoop blog – and receive Things to Do on a Budget in Monmouth and Ocean Counties each month delivered to your inbox.

5. Observe National Celebratory Days

There seems to be a national day of (ice cream, chocolate, donuts, etc) every single day throughout the year. While some are quirkier than others, many restaurants jump on the food-related ones to push their menu and offer free or discounted goodies.

6. Find Free Fitness Classes

Many studios offer a free day or week of yoga to new students, so you and a friend can get these passes and try different classes together without paying anything. Also, some retail stores like Lululemon will offer free yoga classes, and Athleta will offer free classes in yoga, Pilates, circuit training, community runs and more.

7. Enjoy a Free National Park Visit

Just 127 of the country’s 408 national parks typically charge an entrance fee, so find a free one and plan a visit. Admission is typically free at all parks on August 25th to observe the National Park Service’s birthday.

8. Get Free Restaurant Food

Sign up for restaurant e-clubs to get coupons for free appetizers, meals or desserts. When you sign up for Chili’s email club, you get free chips and choice of salsa, guacamole or queso when buying an adult entree. Many of these programs offer free food on your birthday, too.

9. Visit the Library

Your local library is a great resource for borrowing video rentals, video games, e-books and audio books free of charge. A digital platform called Hoopla makes this seamless, so check if your library has it.

10. Sign Up for a Free Movie Screening

You don’t have to be Hollywood royalty to screen a movie before its release date. Enter drawings at Fox Searchlight Pictures, Gofobo.com or SeeItFirst.net to get free tickets to previews.

11. Take Your Kids Bowling for Free

Use KidsBowlFree.com to find bowling centers offering free games for kids ages 15 and under throughout the summer.

12. Attend a Target Community Event

Target hosts no-cost community events throughout the country to give kids and their families a chance to explore cultural exhibitions, concerts and more. For example, Target offers free admission to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta every second Tuesday. Find what’s happening locally to you here.

13. Take Part in a Free Home Depot Workshop

Stores like Home Depot offer free activities, like complimentary weekly workshops for you and your kids – typically on Saturday mornings. Check your local Home Depot or visit their website to get their upcoming calendar.

14. Get Social Media Savvy

Many restaurants, hotels and even clothing retailers now offer free food to people who review, like, follow, check in, tweet, retweet, tag, post pictures and pin. Follow your favorites and start providing feedback or entering their page contests.

15. Check for Free Days at Local Cultural Centers

Take advantage of free days at local museums, zoos and botanical gardens while providing an education and cultural experience for the whole family. Information can usually be found on the institutions’ websites.

16. Request Free Samples From Brands

Most brands are happy to send new customers samples to test out. Just visit the brand’s website to put in a request.

17. Find Free Items on FreeCycle.org

Look for freebies in your community by searching Freecycle.org, where neighbors post free furniture, appliances, clothing, sporting goods and more. What’s one person no longer needs may be a treasure to you, so scope it out and take advantage of the free offers.

18. Host a Book Swap

Get rid of books collecting dust on your shelf by hosting a book swap where you can get new reading material for free. The average mass-market paperback novel costs about $8, so if you read five books this summer, you’ll save $40.

19. Bring Your Lunch

Americans eat lunch out an average of twice per week, spending about $10 each time. Pack your lunch all summer and save approximately $200.

20. Have a Board Game Tournament

Trade a night out on the town for a fun evening at home playing board games. Let each person choose a favorite game, creating a lineup that will keep your group occupied all night.

21. Stop Buying Coffee Out

A 16-ounce grande coffee at Starbucks will cost you around $5. Swap this every weekday habit for a cup of home brew and save $350 this summer. Yikes – it makes a huge difference when you see what buying coffee out every Monday through Friday for 14 weeks will cost you, right? That’s a lot of money!

22. Volunteer for a Local Organization

Giving back to a local organization close to your heart will make you feel rich without spending a dime. Use sites like VolunteerMatch.org to find a cause you’re passionate about.

23. Rearrange Your Furniture

Tired of your home décor but not sure how to avoid spending money to refresh it? Just move the furniture you already have around for a new look — without purchasing anything new.

24. Take Your Furry Friend to the Dog Park

At your local dog park, enjoy watching your best friend get some off-leash exercise. It doesn’t cost a thing to let your pooch run free and bond with other fellow canines.

25. Catch Up With Family and Friends

Catch up with family and friends you haven’t talked to in awhile. Invite those in your area to your home for coffee, or pick up the phone and give those long-distance loved ones a call.

26. Do Your Own Yard Work

Lawn services average $54 per week to cut your grass. Handle this chore yourself, you’ll save hundreds of dollars.

27. Stay Away From Places Where You’re Tempted to Spend

When trying to figure out how to spend less money, avoid certain places, such as the mall – that trigger your urge to spend impulsively. Don’t set yourself up to break your budget.

28. Turn Off the A/C

Air conditioning bills soar during heat waves. Turn your air conditioner off, open the windows and use fans to circulate air (when you can).

Article Source:  Laura Woods for gobankingrates.com

How to Get the Best Deals in July

Get ready to save this month! Not only does July ring in mid-year retail inventory deals and July 4thfun, but it also features Amazon Prime Day. Think Black Friday but in mid-July.

Here’s what to look out for this month:

Amazon Prime Day: Mark Monday, July 16th on your calendar. Expect Amazon device deals, so the timing is right for that Kindle or Echo you’ve had your eye on. Amazon is also expected to offer deals on Whole Foods grocery items, too. Download the Amazon app to sign up for alerts and create “Watch a Deal” lists of items you’re interested in so you don’t miss out. Ask Alexa to help in your search and you’ll be rewarded with exclusive early access to deals throughout the day. Before getting caught up in a Prime Day buying spree, do your research to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Christmas in July: Who says it’s too early to think about Christmas? Do some research and get your holiday décor and artificial tree at discounts of up to 75% off.

Paint: It’s too hot for anyone to think of home painting projects, right? That’s why you should look for deals this month on exterior paint and even some interior paints at your local home improvement store.

Swimsuits and summer clothing: After the July 4thsales, retailers are looking ahead to fall. So search for summer clearance items at online retailers, outlet stores, and department stores this month.

Indoor furniture: New inventory is generally slated for August, which means deep discounts on that sofa or bedroom set you’ve been dreaming of. But hold off on buying outdoor patio furniture – that won’t go on sale until mid-September.

Happy summer shopping (and saving)!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for financialfeed.com

 

5 Ways to Throw a 4th of July Blast on a Budget

Like the rockets responsible for the legendary red glare, 4th of July business is booming! According to a National Retail Federation report, Americans spent more than $7 billion on Independence Day celebrations last year. That figure is pretty steep — especially when you consider that America only spent $151 million (approximately $2.4 billion when adjusted for current inflation) on the Revolutionary War itself.

With our country’s birthday quickly approaching, you may be wondering whether it’s possible to show your star-spangled spirit without overspending on the festivities. We’re happy to report it’s entirely possible, especially if you follow these five tips:

1. Use DIY or dollar store decorations.
Thanks to Pinterest and your local dollar store, it’s easier than ever to stretch your decoration dollars. Before you spend your hard-earned money on red, white, and blue decorations from big box stores or trendy boutiques, see if you can give the holiday a personal touch with some simple DIY projects. If you don’t have enough time to get crafty, swing by the dollar store and load up your patriotic cart for less.

2. Host a BBQ potluck.
There’s nothing like celebrating the 4th with family, friends, and food. But just because you’re the one hosting the party, doesn’t mean you should foot the entire food bill. If you’re going to grill out, consider providing the main course (burgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc.) and asking your guests to bring their favorite fixings, dessert, and sides. While everyone gets to show off their individual tastes, you get to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash.

3. BYOB. If your gathering is going to include adult beverages, there are a few great reasons to adopt a BYOB policy. First, when everyone brings their own beverage, they’re sure to have something they enjoy. Second, unlike kid-friendly sodas and juice boxes, grown-up drinks can be pricey. Just like buying a round at the bar, providing beer or wine for all your cookout guests can put a serious dent in your budget.

4. Do not BYOF.
Not familiar with this abbreviation? BYOF stands for “Buy Your Own Fireworks.” And if you’ve ever experienced the sticker shock that happens in a fireworks store, you know exactly why purchasing your own explosives can be dangerous to your wallet (not to mention your health and safety). Check your local news outlets and social media accounts for information on community fireworks shows instead.

5. Plan for next year.
One of the best things about 4th of July festivities is that the theme is always the same. That means you can score some incredible deals on Independence Day trinkets and decorations by shopping on July 5th and beyond. Since most stores don’t want to hold holiday inventory for an entire year, they often offer drastic discounts that will let you pick up next year’s decorations for much less.

However you choose to commemorate our nation’s birthday, a little creativity and advanced planning can help you celebrate in style — and within your budget.

5 Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

Kids can be expensive. During the school year, everything from dance shoes to field trips, can feel like it costs an arm and a leg. Once school is out, your kids can sometimes be more expensive. If you’re looking to be frugal and still have fun, here are a few ways you can save and keep your kids busy this summer.

Throw backyard movie nights: Have a big TV or a projector? Add some cool yard lights and some blankets or patio furniture, and you’ll be ready to host every kid on the cul-de-sac. Or hold a family movie night outdoors, just yourselves.

Check out museums: Growing up, the word “museum” always seemed boring. But the museums they have now are far from dull! If your town doesn’t currently have one, here are some great options that may be within driving distance.

Cook something up: When the summer is heat is blazing, it’s always great to have things to do indoors. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to cook. Have them help prepare fun lunches and dinners, and one of these days you may be able to take a few shifts off from chef duty. Start with baking and you’ll be guaranteed to have some delicious treats around this summer.

Go to the park: Every town has a public park, and most of them have lots of things to do. There are also National Parks all over the country that can be educational and provide some exercise as well.

Head to the pool: A lot of neighborhoods have pools and if yours doesn’t, you probably know a friend or relative who does. Taking the kids swimming is a great way to allow your kids to burn off some energy, and also give you the chance to soak up some sun and relax.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com