The days are long, and kids are off from school — which means cash might be running thin. July can be a good month to assess your financial situation. Whether you’re preparing for back-to-school or other expenses, or if you simply want to boost your savings, consider setting a goal to save $1,000 before August. Here are 20 ways to help you get there.
1. Look for Free Things to Do
Summer is about taking it easy, which also should apply to your pocketbook. Summer can seem endless to a kid and to a parent who’s looking for ways to entertain without breaking the bank. But even in the July heat, there are plenty of free kid-friendly activities to keep them from saying, “I’m bored.”
For example, many libraries offer free summer reading programs, story times and other activities. You can visit PublicLibraries.com to find one near you. Don’t forget about visiting your local park, where a hike doesn’t cost a thing.
2. Cancel Your Cable TV
You’ve likely realized your TV viewing habits have changed as the summer has gone on — after all, many season finales were in May. So you might consider cutting the cord with your cable company.
Although that alone might not save you $1,000 this month, doing so would cut this bill from your monthly expenses and provide savings for months to come. And who knows, you might realize you don’t even miss it, said Joe Eppy, president and chief visionary officer at The Eppy Group, a financial services company.
3. Say No to Back-to-School Shopping
If last year’s clothes still fit and electronics still work, consider skipping your usual back-to-school shopping trip. Your children might whine, but your wallet will thank you. Although back-to-school spending predictions aren’t out for this year yet, the National Retail Federation estimated the average family with children in grades K to 12 would spend $630.36 last school year.
Not having to spend money on a new wardrobe or iPad could mean minimal spending for the upcoming school year. Binders, notebooks and pencils will cost peanuts in comparison.
4. Challenge Yourself Not to Spend
Although July is full of summer end-of-season sales, resist purchasing items you don’t really need. This is a good challenge to take on when July deals are popping up everywhere.
Also, take a look at your bank and credit card statements over the last couple of months to see where you’ve spent your money, suggested accountant and personal finance coach Frederick Towles. “Identify two or three purchases that you regularly made that could be reduced or eliminated,” he said.
5. Shop Tax-Free Weekends
If shopping is a must, you can catch a break by shopping on an upcoming tax-free weekend. Although the majority of participating states offer this shopping incentive in August, there are three states with July dates, according to savings expert Lori Felix, owner of the site MoreWithLessToday.com.
- Georgia: July 30-31, 2016 — applies to school supplies under $20 per item, clothing under $100 per item and computers under $1,000.
- Tennessee: July 29-31, 2016 — applies to clothing and school supplies under $100 per item and computers under $1,500.
- Mississippi: July 29-30, 2016 — applies to clothing and footwear under $100 per item.
6. Save During Retailer Sales
If you do need to shop, and Nordstrom is where you frequently spend money, then consider holding out for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, when you can potentially shop for less.
“The high-end department store hosts an anniversary sale every July, and it’s one of the most anticipated sales of the year for Nordstrom shoppers,” said Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com.
The sale starts July 22 and runs through Aug. 7. If you’re a Nordstrom credit card holder, you’ll receive early access to the sale starting July 14.
7. Save on Outdoor Furniture
July can be a good time to start looking for discounts on outdoor entertaining pieces, from barbecue grills to patio furniture. Ideally, for this to help you meet your savings goal, you should budget for this purchase and find your item at a significant discount.
According to Perez, here are a few retailer sales to check out if you’re in the market for outdoor items:
- Big Lots: Up to 25 percent off outdoor clearance, through July 9.
- Pier 1 Imports: Up to 50 percent off all outdoor, through July 23.
- World Market: Up to 50 percent off all outdoor furniture through July 16, plus up to 50 percent off umbrella canopies and frames through July 10.
8. Sell Things You No Longer Use
Depending upon the belongings you no longer want or use, you might be able save $1,000 by selling them. A nice couch or bedroom set could sell for a few hundred dollars each. You can get an idea of pricing for these items by visiting Craigslist, or other similar websites for listing items. Some other places to consider listing your items are eBay, Facebook, local consignment stores and Amazon.
9. Buy Food That’s Cheaper in July
If you want to be a wise grocery shopper, you should know when the best deals are. July is a great month to stock up on hot dogs, ground beef, condiments, buns, chips, ice cream and the like, said Felix. You can expect promotions before and after the Fourth of July holiday, when there is an excess of these goodies.
To learn what produce to purchase this month based on where you live, check out the Sustainable Table’s Food Guide. For example, in California, July is a good time to buy apricots, blueberries, avocados and more.
10. Spend Less on Utilities
The summer heat can certainly take a toll on your utility bills and cause wear and tear to your air conditioner. Do yourself a favor and limit your usage. You’ll see proof of your July savings by next month.
Instead, if you have fans, use them. This can circulate the air and prevent the air conditioning unit from kicking on as often, according to Energy.gov. You might also want to open the windows at night to let in the cool night air. The U.S. Department of Energy also suggested grilling outside rather than using the stove or oven, which will eliminate overheating the house on very hot days.
11. Get a New Savings Account With a Higher Interest Rate
You can make the most of your savings by opening a savings account with a higher interest rate. For example, Ally Bank’s Online Savings Account offers a high 2.00% APY that compounds interest daily, with no monthly fee. Other high interest rate savings accounts to consider include American Express, with a competitive 1.90% APY, and Capital One 360, with a 1.00% APY.
Although you might not see the benefits right away, it’s helpful to establish a savings account that can earn you more money in the long run.
12. Sign Up for a Cash-Back Credit Card
The credit card you carry in your wallet might also determine how much you save before August. Although there’s no one single card that’s the right choice for everyone, some credit cards offer better rewards than others and might be worth considering. For this tactic to really work for you, it’s best to charge your usual purchases that you would’ve otherwise paid for using a debit card or cash, then pay the balance in full every month and get cash back without paying finance charges.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited might work well for people taking a summer road trip, as you get $150 back with $500 in purchases, plus 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on all purchases, according to U.S. News & World Report. So if you’re doing a lot of fill-ups on gas and miscellaneous spending, you might see that savings in no time.
Or consider the Citi Double Cash, which rewards you twice. You get 1 percent cash back on purchases, then an additional 1 percent back when you pay off the purchases.
13. Take Advantage of $1 Family-Friendly Movies
If you’re looking to escape the summer heat, head indoors to an air-conditioned movie theater for a $1 family movie. Regal Cinemas is offering Summer Movie Express with $1 admission. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Will Rogers Institute. Movies vary each week, but include “Minions,” “Despicable Me 2,” “The Peanuts Movie” and more.
14. Start a Side Gig
It might take a little side work to really add to your July savings. This could include taking on miscellaneous jobs you find on Craigslist to offering your services to a neighbor.
Another option is to freelance. This could be anything from writing content to being a virtual assistant. UpWork.com is one popular website that can connect workers with gigs. Basically, you can dictate the amount of work you want to take on, and save $1,000 in no time.
15. Freeze Your Gym Membership
Combine the great outdoors with nice weather, and you have the perfect mix for working out. “Because it is summertime, you can find creative ways to work out outside,” said Towles.
Gym memberships average more than $50 per month, according to a survey by Statistic Brain. Some gyms will allow you to freeze your membership and restart at a later date, said Towles. Freeing up this cash can certainly help you reach your July savings goals.
16. Sign the Kids Up for a Workshop
A number of national retailers have jumped on the summer activity bandwagon for kids. The best part: These activities are free, or close to it. For example, there’s Apple Camp, a free three-day camp for kids ages 8 to 12, where they can learn about coding, robotics, moviemaking and storytelling.
Michaels craft stores offer craft workshops for ages 3 and up for a small fee, usually less than $5. Home Depot and Lowe’s also offer kid workshops. Registration is required, so be sure to sign up.
17. Take the Kids to a Fair or Festival
Fairs and festivals can be great for staycations, or even when you’re on vacation with the family, according to Felix. There’s a website called FairsandFestivals.net, which lists all the summer fairs and festivals across the country.
These range from car shows, state and county fairs, food festivals, arts and crafts shows and farmers markets, said Felix. For example, Artscape 2016 in Baltimore, on July 14, is considered the country’s largest free art festival.
18. Take Your Vacation in the Nation’s Capital
If a family vacation is a must this summer, consider traveling to Washington, D.C., where you have incredible access to many free museums, historical sites and more, according to Washington.org.
There’s the National Mall, aka “America’s front yard,” where you can take in sights of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial. The National Zoo is also free, as are all Smithsonian museums.
19. Sign Up for Summer Freebies
Many businesses offer free events or admission for kids — with hopes you’ll be a return customer. For example, if you visit KidsBowlFree.com, you can register your kids for two free games of bowling, valid through the summer. This is only available at select bowling alleys, but you can find a location near you by visiting the website. Also, be sure to “like” the Facebook pages of your favorite businesses to find out about special events and promotions like this.
20. Have Your Teens Earn Extra Money
Teens can burn through your cash fast if you don’t carefully manage it. You can add to your July savings by insisting your child find summer work, and let yourself off the hook for supplying them with as much cash.
For teens who are interested in babysitting, Felix recommended Care.com. If your child is more tech savvy, maybe he or she can help a neighbor sell items on Craigslist or eBay for a small percentage or fee. There’s also pet sitting and house sitting for neighbors, too, while they’re away, she said. Have your kids make their services known, and see the requests pour in.
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