Category Archives: Tips

Tips for a Fun and Frugal Fourth of July Party

The following is a post from staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting in the fun stuff along the way.

If you are anything like me, you like to hang out with friends or family without spending a ton of money. With July 4th around the corner, I was thinking of some ideas for frugal fun. Believe it or not, you can have a great 4th of July party without hurting the family’s finances if you use these simple tips.

Fourth of July – Potluck

You can save yourself and your friends a ton if you all contribute to a potluck. Each party attendee simply brings a dish to the gathering. My friends and I send out a group and email and respond to the whole group with what we are planning to contribute. That helps to avoid having too many duplicate dishes. It also leads to having a bunch of yummy options without people spending more than $5-$20 per party.

Fourth of July – Skip the Grocery Store

Many people, including me, have resorted to going to their local grocery store at the last minute to buy food and party items. With an hour of advanced preparation, you can hit a discount warehouse for supplies and whip up a quick dish at home. My husband and I buy our supplies in bulk from Sam’s Club. I also have several quick recipes that work for any potluck – cookies, brownies, bbq chicken, fruit salad, or even fresh-from-a-tube French bread all take less than 30 minutes of work and are appreciated by everyone.

Fourth of July – Host your Own Fireworks Display

Instead of wasting gas to travel downtown or to a remote location, you can have a fireworks celebration in your own backyard. If you live in a no-fireworks zone, you can pick up a few packs of sparklers and have your own little tribute at home. If you live in an open fireworks zone like us, you can mooch off your neighbors by watching all of their fireworks popping off over your house.

In our case, we just sit in our front yard and watch the neighbors’ displays since there are several families with children who seem to spend a ton every year to impress them. I think they appreciate my clapping too!

Fourth of July – Keep the Action Outside

Create a bunch of fun activities, events, and games that everyone can play outdoors. A lot of energy is wasted during holiday weekend with people constantly coming in and out of the house. Keeping the action outdoors will allow you to keep the use of televisions, air conditioning, and electronic games to a minimum.

My friends and I hang outdoors with a kiddie pool, a Frisbee, a Bocci ball set, a barbecue grill, or Cowboy Golf. Our family has been known to play volleyball in their pool or drink around the outdoor tables while snacking away on potluck foods.

What other tips can you think of for a frugal and fun Fourth of July?

5 Cheap Entertainment Ideas

The following is a post from staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting in the fun stuff along the way.

Everybody loves to have a good time. The problem is that some entertainment can be very expensive, so you may not have the budget for it just yet. Fortunately, there are still some entertainment options that are affordable for everyone. Here are 5 cheap entertainment ideas for anybody.

Rent a Movie

Going to the movie theater can be pretty expensive. My husband and I live in a pretty affordable area, and we can still easily spend $20 on two tickets all by themselves! This is why RedBox is such a friend for the budget conscious consumer. We can rent a flick for just $1 plus tax for each night.

If you want a larger variety and watch movies regularly, Netflix is also a cheap entertainment idea since it offers a huge selection of DVDs and streaming movies all starting at around $8-$10 a month!

Play a Board Game

When was the last time that you and your family broke out an old fashioned board game? How about a new age jewel? A good board game can be an exciting activity for the whole family. If you break open that package of Monopoly or Ticket to Ride (one of my Euro-Game favorites), you can have hours of fun repeatedly for a one-time $10-$40 expense depending on the game.

My husband and I have been board gaming with friends at least once a month for the last 4 years and have never gotten tired of it. That is saying a lot for someone with my attention span.

Go to the Park

Visiting the local park can be a fun outing for the entire family. Many parks offer swimming, fishing, feeding the ducks, or nice walking paths.  Even a cheap picnic is great for a good time! The kids can participate in sports or play on the playground while adults can simply enjoy a nice conversation or even a Frisbee tournament. The best part is that many parks are totally free and you can determine your own budget.

Attend a Minor League Sporting Event

Professional sporting events can cost a fortune. A professional football, basketball, or baseball game can easily set a family of four back a couple of hundred bucks. On the other hand, a minor league event is usually a lot more affordable. My husband and I really enjoyed the minor league baseball game we went to years ago (the Zephyrs). I liked the fact that even the concession stand was cheaper!

Go to the Zoo

I love the zoo. I have seen the coolest animals and have hung out with some great people at more than 10 zoos in my life. My favorite visit ever is when my friend gave us a private tour of the zoo she worked at! Most zoo admittances cost less than a movie theater ticket and you can stay for the entire day! Zoos often have free admission days for the entire family when they are promoting a free exhibit or inexpensive memberships for people who plan to visit frequently.

There are probably a billion other cheap entertainment ideas out there. What comes to mind for you?

Tips to Save Money on Your Summer Vacation

The following is a post from staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting for the fun stuff along the way.

Our summer vacation is right around the corner and we are looking for the best deal. In fact, I am refusing to buy our tickets before I find a great deal. If you follow these five tips, you will enjoy your vacation even more knowing that you didn’t overpay for your trip.

Fly on Wednesdays

You may not have known that you can save money on air travel by flying during the week. If you want to save money on your vacation, avoid flying on Fridays and Sundays since they are the two busiest days of the week to fly. The cheapest day of the week to fly is Wednesday and I’ve also found great deals on Tuesdays. Flying during the week will save you a ton.

Contact the Hotel Directly

You should never pay full price when booking any hotel room. Sites like Hotels.com, Travelocity, Priceline, and Hotwire.com offer great specials that will save you a ton of money on your hotel stay. You can also visit a company’s website to see if any specials or deals are being run while you are in town. It may sound old fashioned, but you can also save money by calling a hotel directly and asking for their best rate. I found an $18 special rate at the Four Queens in Las Vegas 3 years ago simply by taking a look at their website at the right time.

Sign up for Membership and Loyalty Programs

Your credit card company and local credit union may have free programs that can save you 10 to 20 percent off of your car rental. Membership companies like AAA and AARP usually can get you some discounts too. You can even get additional savings by signing up for loyalty programs at car rental company websites.

Travel Light

There was a time that you could take all of the luggage that you wanted onto a plane for no additional cost. Obviously, times have changed. Many airlines are charging $25 to check one bag and $35 or more for each additional bag. You could easily wind up paying a couple hundred dollars for your family’s luggage. If you want to save money, be sure to pack light. Even consider checking for airlines with nicer luggage policies like Southwest Airlines.

Take a Vacation During the Offseason

Travel is a lot more expensive during the months of July and August because school is out. You can save a lot of money on your vacation by taking it during the offseason. You can travel to some of the nicest places in the world at a HUGE discount if you do it during the fall or spring months. My husband and I cannot take advantage of this particular advice since he is a school librarian, but I hope all of you can!

What other vacation/travel tips can you think of? Have I missed any really great ones?