This is a guest post by Caroline
Summer! The kids are out of school, the weather is fantastic, so it’s time to…stay home. Sure, it would be nice to head down to Disney World, or even take an exciting European vacation. But the fact is, while some financial professionals continue to say the economy is recovering, not everyone is feeling better yet. And even if you’re doing okay financially, you might feel it’s better not to blow thousands of dollars on just a few days’ worth of vacation when you could stash it away for the next rainy day. You’re not alone.
A lot of people are forgoing the traditional destination vacation in favor of a staycation. Not familiar with the term? Rather than hopping a plane, or taking a road trip, you and your family stay home and entertain yourselves to save money. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to just plop themselves down in front of the TV and spend the summer bored to death. You can still have a great summer at home. Here’s how.
Get a Grill
It’s time to let go of the little tabletop hibachi you bought when you first moved out on your own, and upgrade to a grownup grill because it’s just not summer without a cookout. A grill is one of those things you should spend a little more on up front because it will last. Buying a cheaper grill every year or two when the old one wears out just doesn’t make financial sense. Spend more now to save more later. Buy a gas grill instead of a charcoal grill, and you’ll save even more over time.
There’s another way to save money, too—use a coupon code. Nearly every retailer offers such codes, allowing you to save a percentage or a fixed dollar amount on your purchase. For example, Wal-Mart carries all kinds of summer essentials, including grills. Wal-mart coupon codes will help you save on the grill, plus patio furniture, pool accessories, even summer clothes. Take the discount, get a bigger grill, and cook more than two hamburgers at a time. Your hungry family will thank you.
Have a Potluck Cookout
Now that you have your nice, new grill, you’ll want to break it in. Even with a family of four, it can be a waste of resources to fire up the grill for just a few burgers or hot dogs. You need to make it worthwhile. That’s easy to do—just invite some friends over. But here’s the thing. You don’t have to play the complete host.
Make it a potluck cookout, and ask each friend to bring something—a salad, the buns, chips, sodas, whatever—so that no one person is bearing the majority of the expense. You can even ask your friends to pitch in for the meat you grill since that will tend to be the most expensive food item at a cookout. Keep it inexpensive and simple by sticking to burgers, dogs, chicken legs, and maybe veggie skewers for any vegetarians in the group. Save the steaks for a night when it’s just you and your family so no one feels obligated to spend a lot on the potluck meal.
Host a Backyard Movie Night
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, going to see a movie at the theater practically requires selling a limb these days. And of course, summer is when all the great blockbusters come out, when the kids are home, begging to get out of the house. Thanks, Hollywood. You won’t be able to get hold of any first-run films, but you can put on a classic movie showing in your own backyard.
All you need is a large white sheet, a way to secure it, and a projector that can be hooked up to a computer or DVD player. Voilà! Outdoor theater! If you don’t have a projector, rent one, or borrow one from a friend. Just be sure to invite that friend if you ever want to use the projector again. If you prefer, you can also rent an outdoor screen. You may also want to invite your neighbors, or at least give them a heads up that your yard may be a little noisy for a couple of hours. If you’re really ambitious, you can connect the DVD player to a stereo system, and create an even better movie-watching experience. Ask your friends to bring popcorn and drinks, and you’re all set.
Going away on vacation is nice, but remember that it also brings a lot of stress—packing, making arrangements for pet boarding, airline delays, security issues, keeping track of valuables, and sleeping in a strange bed. Top all that off with the expense and you’ll agree a staycation can be the smarter, more fun way to go.
Caroline Ruddy is a freelance writer finally pursuing her dream of being published. She loves being able to share money-saving tips through her writing.
Are you interested in guest posting on Family Friendly Frugality? Please email me heather @ familyfriendlyfrugality.com. I’m looking for anything in the family friendly/frugal niche, but specifically how-to’s, DIY posts and RECIPES! Must be original content not posted elsewhere.