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Creative budget ideas for the best summer ever

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While summer break brings relief from the stress of homework and weekday activities that cause families to operate at a frantic pace Monday through Friday, this season is also fraught with financial stress. The costs of vacations, kids’ camps, and daycare can take a toll on single parents and stretch the best of budgets quite thin until the school bells toll again (with sweet relief!) come September.

The ideal plan is to build a year-round summer savings to use starting in June for the additional expenses that go hand-in-hand with the summer months. But even if you did not get a chance to plan ahead, you can still bank on having the best summer ever. With some creative changes, the next few months do not have to bust your single parent budget.

Use the extra time to find discounts and deals. One benefit to the arrival of summer is extra time, if not from less work hours, from the sheer fact alone that neither child nor mother or father needs to deal with hours of homework each night. Use this extra time wisely to clip coupons for products you will actually use, look for freebies, and find online discounts for amusement parks, restaurants, and entertainment. Follow The Freebie Blogger at http://thefreebieblogger.com/ for daily deals and free products.

Pack your own lunch. Most amusement and ball parks allow you to bring your own lunch and snacks. For summer outings, establish a routine similar to the school year of packing your lunch the night before or in the morning. This simple effort can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of the summer. If you must eat out for lunch, stop by a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club where you can pick up hot dogs and a drink, a large slice of pizza, a churro, or a frozen latte for about $1.50 each as opposed to paying three times as much in the park.

Forgo expensive summer camps. Look for community kid’s programs that are less pricey than specialized summer camps. Even better, start a babysitting co-op with other moms or ask for childcare help from grandparents and extended family. Schedule your vacation time during the summer to save the cost of childcare during that week or two. If possible, see if you can work from home for a few hours or days here and there to save on the cost of summer childcare.

Put your kids to work. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on those household projects you have been too busy to complete such as cleaning out the garage, organizing the closets, scrubbing the oven, or vacuuming behind the fridge. Even little ones can help with age-appropriate tasks. Providing an opportunity for your kids to earn some extra money by doing work around the house is still less costly than hiring a cleaning service and will teach them important life skills.

Take advantage of free summer fun. Local music concerts, outdoor movies, and farmer’s markets are a great way to provide some cool family entertainment on hot days and nights. The best part is they will not cost you a dime, especially if you plan ahead and bring your own popcorn and soda. Bike riding in the park, trips to the beach or the local lake, and visits to the library or bookstore are other inexpensive ways to spend the long summer days.

Think fun and frugal when planning your vacation. If you think you cannot afford a vacation, get innovative. Everyone needs some time off to play during the summer, and a vacation does not have to rack up your credit card bills. Go camping with other single parents and their kids or embark on a road trip where you stay with out-of-town friends or family along the way. In big cities, you can stay in hostels for $50 a night or less. Check out http://www.hostels.com/ for pricing and reservations.

Create priceless moments to savor. By summer’s end, you and your children will remember the night you turned off all the lights and had a bonfire in your backyard fire pit while you roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, let them get you soaking wet in the front yard with the hose, or sat on the porch to watch the sunset and then the glittering stars come out. A little creativity and a playful spirit will create a lot of good times for the next several months—and memories to last even after summer is gone.

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