Summer is lots of fun, but by the end of the season the bills start to add up. Vacations, camps, amusement parks, and summer toys can make a big dent in your family’s budget. And just when you’re feeling the crunch, it’s time to pony up for back-to-school supplies and clothes!
With that in mind, here are some easy ways to save some dough as summer winds down.
1. Compare flyers
All those flyers you’ve been tossing from your mailbox or tucked in your community newspaper straight into the recycling? Take a few minutes to browse them. Even if you’re not much of a sale or coupon hunter, you never know what basics or even big-ticket items might be discounted at stores you’ll be in anyway.
Many large retailers price-match (check out the blog MrsJanuary.com for a list of Canadian stores that take part), so if you find an item on sale and you have the flyer to prove it, your favourite retailer may match or even beat the price from a store you never venture into.
You don’t have to go to Extreme Couponing lengths in every checkout line, but you can save some easy money on a few items.
2. Evaluate your Internet service
When is the last time you’ve had a good look at your Internet bill? My family recently discovered we were overpaying for months because our provider now offers a new package with a better modem and more usage…for less money.
We discovered this when we analyzed our bundled services bill carefully. Don’t let the supposed savings in bundles lull you into paying more. Figure out what you’re paying for, which means ascertaining (1) your download speed, (2) how much data your plan is capped at, and (3) how much of it you actually use. Chances are, there’s a less expensive option, so investigate.
We’re saving $3 now a month—a pittance, but web pages load much faster, and we can stream more video without getting dinged for exceeding our data cap.
3. Clean your own car (inside and out)
It’s a treat to go to the car wash and have your car’s interior detailed and scrubbed at the auto-spa, but that’s quite a few dollars you can keep in your own pocket if you do it yourself in the remnants of the summer’s hot weather.
Enlist the help of your kids: exterior car washing is always a good excuse for a water war; just make sure the job at hand actually gets done! And older kids can clean out their own spots and vacuum the crumbs from their booster seats.
Cotton swabs will help get the gunk out of the crevices, and non-toxic cleaners and polishes will have the inside smelling fresh and looking sparkling. Put newly shampooed floor mats outside on a sunny, warm late-summer day so they dry quickly.
Here’s Popular Mechanics full-blown guide to a cleaning car interior.
4. Delay some back-to-school shopping
Pencils are pencils whether you purchase them before Labour Day or in late October. Kids relish a pencil case full of fresh school supplies like yummy-smelling erasers or funky pens, so you’ll want to stock some of those, but you don’t have to buy everything in one fell swoop.
Many supplies and even clothing will go on clearance later in the fall, so hold off if you can.
When it comes to clothes, you can save some money by waiting to see what still fits them and what needs replacing during the school year instead of going overboard beforehand.
5. Start a sandwich night
Save money, time and your precious energy by devoting one dinner a week to easy homemade sandwiches.
If your kids need some convincing, try serve the fillings separately for fun smorgasbord-style dining. Offer slices of buttered fresh baguette or toasted pitas brushed with olive oil, cubes of cheese, plus cold cuts and vegetables sliced up with a mustard-honey dip on the side (just mix equal parts regular mustard and liquid honey).
Hummus, egg and tuna salad can be served in ramekins with a small spoon to spread on bread, too. Thinly sliced apple and halved grapes are kid-friendly sandwich additions as well.
6. Save money on food and rides at family outings
Decide where you can save money before you get in the car to amusement parks or on day trips. All-day kids’ passes aren’t always worth the money; it’s sometimes cost-efficient to buy strips of tickets instead.
Soft drinks and juices are typically hugely marked up, so bring along re-useable water containers if the park permits them. And don’t be embarrassed to ask for a cup of tap water when you purchase food. Water isn’t just free: it’s a healthy choice.
On day trips and longer road trips, hit up supermarkets for sandwiches, cold drinks, and even hot food that you can eat outdoors. At fairs, establish a realistic food budget per person and stick to it so that you’re not tempted to buy overpriced treats.
7. Hoard Loonies or Toonies
It’s always good to show kids a visual and practical representation of saving money. Set aside a mason or glass jar, and decide whether you’ll save all your one-dollar or two-dollar coins for the next six weeks.
Get in the habit of checking your wallet or pocket change every day or two to search for these specific coins. (They’ll be happy to remind you of this task: kids love dealing with coins.) Then let little ones carry off the money to deposit it into your cash jar.
8. Swap beauty products
If you’re a beauty product addict or you’re simply stuck in a rut using pricey stuff, you surely have the credit card bills to prove it. This is the information age, so before you replace your must-have cosmetic-of-choice, do a deep dive online to see if there’s a just-as-good replacement.
Two examples: The inexpensive brand E.L.F.’s High Definition face powder, just $8 in Canada and available in stores such as Target has been favourably compared on Buzzfeed’s beauty site to a high-end brand that costs $32.
The popular Canadian beauty blog Beautygeeks asserts that Maybelline’s Dream Wonder Fluid Touch Foundation ($15) packs the same dry-oil technology as the luxurious instant hit Giorgio Armani Maestro foundation (Google it and you’ll see hordes of beauty editors praising it to the heavens), which retails at $68.
© Kimberly Reinick – Fotolia.com
Helen Racanelli is a Help! We’ve Got Kids contributing writer. You can follow Helen on Twitter @helenrac.