Author: Dave Ramsey
You might be in the middle of saving your first $1,000 or paying off debt, yet you still need to pay for an out-of-town family reunion, child care, and new clothes for your 10-year-old who hit a growth spurt this year. Or maybe you’re looking for ways you can stretch the budget this month and still enjoy summer fun.
Whatever stage you’re at, we want you to enjoy your summer. Bring on the backyard barbecues and grilled veggies! But we don’t want summer fun to derail your money goals. So, here are a few tips to live this summer to the fullest while saving for your emergency fund.
1. Enjoy the great outdoors.
Do a quick search on state parks in your area. Chances are, there are a few parks an easy drive from you. Some parks might charge a small entry fee per carload, so do your research before you go. Pack a picnic lunch and your own snacks. Throw in a kite, a kickball, and a sketch pad for drawing birds, and you’re set for the entire day! Nothing beats the great outdoors!
2. Host a lemonade stand.
Now here’s a way to have fun, make money, and show your kids the value of hard work! Host a lemonade stand in your neighborhood, and let your kids manage it throughout the day! Plan out the details and gather your supplies a few days in advance. Make sure to teach your kids the value of giving, saving and spending the profits they earn. We’ll drink to that—lemonade, that is.
3. Research free local festivals.
Did someone say “strawberry festival”? Most towns have them, and if yours doesn’t, well, maybe it’s time to move. You can’t trust a town that doesn’t host a strawberry festival in June. Okay, we’re kidding. But we’re oh so serious about you checking out local craft fairs, music jamborees or farm festivals. Instead of spending money at an expensive theme park, organize a weekend where you visit several of these events.
4. Take advantage of your local library.
Your local library is a treasure trove of fun. Visit its website, and check out when they have story time, puppet shows and art classes. Many libraries have special programs for teens, as well as grade-school kids and toddlers.
Don’t forget that libraries also offer DVDs! Rent one for a low-cost family movie night. Also, that public library offers you something too. Did you know most libraries let cardholders check out audio books? Ask your library about their digital selection, and catch up on summer reads during your commute.
5. Organize a family garage sale.
A garage sale doesn’t normally scream fun, so turn it into a family affair. Get the kids to clean out their closets and rooms. Motivate them to sell some stuff by promising them the profits on the things they put into the sale. It can be a great bonding time, and you’ll end up with less junk around the house. Even better, if the garage sale goes well, everyone will have extra money in their pockets! Put your earnings toward your emergency fund.
6. Brown-bag it at work.
The average cost of lunch at a restaurant is around $10–$12. If you go out every day, you’ll spend more than $50 each week. That’s over $200 a month! Plan some brown-bag lunches with friends at work instead of going to a restaurant every day. Challenge yourself to stick to this all summer, and see how much money you save. Whatever you save from not eating out, throw it into your emergency fund. Who knows? You might even save so much that you’ll make it a habit for the long haul.
7. Bump up the temperature by a few degrees.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 78 F in order to stay comfortable and save money. Set your thermostat up 7–10 degrees when you’re at work, and you could save 10% on your AC bill!
Also, close the blinds and curtains to keep the heat out and cool air in. Check your windows and doors for leaks that let the cool air escape. If you find a few spots, just plug them up with a little caulk or weather stripping.
8. Cook outside.
You bought that grill for a reason, so use it. If you don’t have a grill, make a fire pit and roast some hot dogs (or veggie dogs)! Cooking outside keeps your house cool and the AC bill low. Throw in some yard games, and you’ll create memories for a lifetime—something money can’t buy.
We understand that life still happens while you’re saving money or paying off debt, and summer is a time when you could be tempted to overspend. But stay gazelle intense.
Don’t give up on building your $1,000 fund. You can save money and have fun with your family. You’ll just have to get creative.
Keep in mind: There will be a time in the future when you’re debt-free and able splurge on those theme park tickets. You’ll get there. But this summer, your goal is to stay on track!