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Summer savings guide

Summer Fun

With our current predicament of job uncertainty for both my husband and I, spending as little money as possible this summer has become even more important. This is the first summer since my little boys were small that we have all been home, too. That means more expenses than usual – food, excursions, utilities, etc. Here are the tips I have discovered so far for doing summer on the cheap:

Ahead of time:

Prepare for summer the summer before. Buy towels, hats, etc. at the end of the season so you have them for the coming year. When all the kids are in camp, we needed a lot of swimsuits and towels to avoid doing laundry every day! It helped to shop ahead.

Get some of your essentials at the dollar store. Sunglasses and water bottles are best to get at the dollar store because my boys lose them often. I don’t have to feel bad when this happens if I have only paid a $1! See my post on “Are “dollar stores” really a good deal?”

Watch throughout the spring and summer for sales on swimwear. Last year I got rash guards and swim trunks for a great price at the end of the season for my boys for this year. They actually still fit into their size from last year, but I am ready when they need a size up! Good online stores to check include The Children’s Place, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean.

Stock up on sunscreen before summer is here. Last year with all four of my boys in camp every day, we went through a ton of sunscreen. On top of that they broke out from many brands, even Aveeno, which you would expect not to be a problem. They have excema, which can make their skin break out more than usual. Luckily I found out about The Honest Company. I love their products! Their sunscreen is a great consistency, has no bad or perfume smell, and my boys don’t break out or scream in pain from it.

You can try a free sample pack (you pay only shipping). Then you can sign up to receive a bundle every month. The Essentials bundle includes five of their products. (They also have a Diaper & Wipes bundle and Health & Wellness bundle, too, with other choices of products.) I can’t afford to order a bundle every month, but get them a few times a year. You can choose how often you want them delivered. Every time I order, I get a sunscreen, so I am ready for summer!

Be on the watch for great deals on memberships to local attractions. These deals usually don’t occur during the summer. For the St. Louis Science Center’s 50th anniversary of their planetarium, they had a sale on memberships – $50 off! It has been our best purchase ever! See my post “Become a member!”

Early summer or (late spring):

Plan ahead for where you would like to go. The first week of summer that I was home, we had no official plans or schedule. We were making it up on the fly. This really made the days long and me stressed! Putting together my Summer Bucket List really helped because now I have done the research ahead of time and can either choose activities for the whole week or the night before. See my post “Summer Bucket List (aka Camp Mommy).”

Take advantage of the many free or cheap excursions in town. These include:

Watch for sales on crocs and sandals! We were fortunate to get new crocs (fake brand) a few weeks ago at “Five Below,” of all places!

Throughout:

Pack food wherever you go. Even if you won’t be there for long, pack at least a snack and water. This helps with cranky kids and avoiding high cost emergency food purchases.

Take advantage of your local library. We have been going to their great events all summer and check out books and movies each week while we are there. It is so nice to have the time to do this and with the summer reading programs, we all earn prizes for reading! We are enrolled in the county’s program and the local Jewish library’s. I have not updated my Summer Reading programs post, but see last year’s here.

Look out for ice cream coupons. We have found ice cream coupons in our coupon mailer that comes in our mailbox every week. Check local calendars, too. Here in St. Louis, we have a calendar called the Town Planner. It is mailed to families every year and has coupons tailored for your area. They also have coupons on their website. Another source for ice cream coupons is your local Valpak. These come in the mail in some areas and they also have a website, too. You might not always find coupons for the location you want, but sometimes the drive can be worth the savings! You might also earn ice cream coupons from your Summer Reading programs.

Forget about your thermostat timer. Keep your thermostat set as if you are not home and then adjust as you feel it is too hot in the house! See my post Saving money and energy on Shabbos.”

Use your birthday freebies. If your birthday falls in the summer, or if your kids’ do, be sure to sign up for those birthday freebies! See my posts:

Enjoy your summer and share your summer tips in the Comments section!

 

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New page: Family Fun Outside the Home

Down the barrelI have recently been posting about family activities to do in the summer. However, summertime is not the only time for excursions! We are fortunate that we have a lot of great websites and booklets of events in St. Louis. However, not every town has this and there are some national sources for outings that are not always publicized locally.

I have thus created a new page on my blog with links and ideas for all kinds of outings – year-round, holiday-related, and summer. I have tried to provide links to resources so that you can find what is available in your own town. I will add new ideas there as I find them and occasionally link back to related posts. I hope you will check it out!

Click on the heading “Family Fun Outside the Home” in the menu toolbar under the website name.

 
 

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Summer Reading Programs 2012 update

Three of the programs I mentioned in my previous post “Summer Reading 2012: Promote reading and earn prizes” have now been updated for 2012. Here are the details and links!

Barnes & Noble - When your child reads 8 books and brings in their completed reading log, they can earn a free book from a selection of books. Their website also includes fun activities, tips, and recommended books.

Pottery Barn Kids - For the PBK Summer Reading Challenge, children can choose from two different book lists depending on their reading level. When they have completed reading the books on their list, they can earn a free book at their nearest Pottery Barn location.

Half Price Books - This bookseller also hosts its own summer reading program, Feed Your Brain. After reading 300 or more minutes, kids can earn $5 Back-to-School Bucks to spend at their stores.

NOTE: H.E. Buddy has still not updated its website with 2012 information.

To see other Summer Reading Programs available this year, see my past posts:

 

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Now is the time to… (getting ready for summer)

Swimming PoolI can’t believe it, but we are almost at summertime. The school year has gone by so fast! There are several things you can do to get ready (if you haven’t already).

Make sure you have everything your kids need for camp:

  • Swimsuits – 3 per child is good so you don’t have to wash and dry suits every night
  • Enough towels – 2 per child is good
  • Sunscreen
  • Nametag on backpack
  • Sun or baseball hat
  • Clothing labels – if going away to camp
  • Sharpie permanent markers – for marking everything with your child’s name
  • Wet bags – We use the wet bags from our diaper days to hold the kids’ wet swimsuits and towels after swimming, so their backpacks don’t get soaked.
  • A soft lunchbag that fits easily in a backpack.
  • Water bottles – For summer I prefer to buy the dollar store kind (2 per child) because my son tends to lose his often!
  • Large Ziploc bags to store extra clothes in your child’s backpack. The bag helps protect them from any loose wet items in his or her backpack. It can also double as a wet bag for wet suits after swimming. However, I prefer the diaper wet bags because they are bigger and can store the towel as well.

Make sure your lawn mower is in good working order and you have plenty of gas (if it is gas-powered).

Also stock up on yard waste bags and stickers if your town requires them for pick-up of yard waste. (This is mainly an issue in the Fall when there are lots of leaves to dispose of.)

Check that your air conditioner is working well and that you have a fresh filter.

You may want to consider signing up for a yearly service contract from your local heating/air conditioning repair company. See my post “Service plans and warranties.”

Join a summer reading club (for your kids or yourself).

See my posts “Summer Reading Programs 2012: Promote reading and earn prizes” and “More Summer Reading programs 2012.”

Buy your end-of-the-year teacher gifts. Ideas include:

  • Notepads
  • Journals
  • Post-it pads or a pop-up post-it dispenser – Post-it has many cute designs.
  • Personalized notecards
  • Other cute office supplies
  • Picture frames or a small scrapbook or album
  • Food (such as dried fruits or nuts, chocolates, unique juices or waters).
  • Crafts are always a big hit, especially if your child made them! Family Fun magazine always has great ideas for teacher gifts kids can make.

For more ideas on inexpensive teacher gifts, see Kosher on a Budget’s posts:

NOTE: These deals are not available right now, but they give you ideas for gifts you can make inexpensively on Vistaprint and other similar sites. Subscribe to the websites’ email lists and check Kosher on a Budget for deals coming up.

Check your grill to make sure it is working well and buy any supplies you need.

  • Do you have an extra gas tank or a fresh bag or charcoal?
  • Do you have an extra bottle of lighter fluid or a chimney to use for lighting the grill (if using a charcoal grill)?
  • Do you need any new tools?

Enjoy your summer preparations!

If you have any other things you do to get ready for summer, share them below!

 

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More Summer Reading programs 2012

I found another one!

Book It! Summer Break Reading Challenge – From June 15 to August 15, kids who were in grades K-6 during the 2011-2012 school year and who read five books, will be eligible to enter this sweepstakes. The prize is a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” summer fun prize package. There will be 50 winners. The website also contains fun activities for kids, parent and teacher printables, online games, book information, and more.

Adult summer reading programs – Ask at your local library if they have an Adult Summer Reading program. I have seen many listed on individual library websites. You might be able to earn some prizes, too!

NOTE: To find a United States public library near you, check out the Public Libraries.com website.

Other posts on this topic:

Related articles:

To get cheap books besides going to the library:

 

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Summer reading programs 2012: Promote reading and earn prizes!

Summer time will be here before we know it. For the kids, it means days to fill with camp, swimming, fun outside, special cool treats, and more. As a parent, I know it is hard to find enough activities to keep my children busy and not spend a fortune. But one activity that is good any time of year is reading.

During the summer, your kids can earn rewards for reading by participating in one or several summer reading programs. These incentive programs are a great way to help bridge the summer gap in learning and retention and to help your kids earn some great prizes for doing an already rewarding activity.

For years, my kids have joined the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library’s Summer Reading Club. This is our local Jewish library. The librarian, Barb, and her devoted staff, host a kickoff and ending party complete with crafts, prizes, snacks, and storytelling. For keeping track of our reading, we have earned tickets to various amusements in town, free treats from the local bakery and deli, free ice cream, books, toys, and a variety of other prizes. We particularly like her program because even young children can participate and the log is easy to fill out.

Here are some suggestions for programs to participate in:

Local libraries – Find out if your municipality library has its own summer reading program. This makes it very convenient for redeeming logs for prizes. Our local library even hosts different events throughout the summer for kids and parents.

County or city library system – In St. Louis, the county has its own set of libraries that are separate from the municipality library from our town. This system has its own summer reading program. My son’s teacher, Cherie, had a representative come to their class to speak about their program and he is very excited. What a great idea! Scholastic Summer Challenge – Ask your child’s teacher about participating in this national reading incentive program. The teacher signs up their students and then students can log in on their own to record books read, etc. Parents can find tips, booklists, and logging tools on the website as well.

iVillage PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge – Starting June 18, families can get daily emails with literacy tips and activities. Participants will also get book suggestions, discounts, and free downloads of PBS KIDS shows. There will be daily chances to win $1,000 and other prizes.

TD Bank – For those of you who have a TD Bank near you, they also have a summer reading program. If your child reads 10 books, he or she can earn $10 to be deposited into a new or existing Young Savers account.

Sylvan Book Adventure – Children in grades K-8 can choose recommended books, take a quiz, and earn points redeemable for prizes. This program is FREE and you do not need to be enrolled at a Sylvan center.

UNCONFIRMED PROGRAMS FROM LAST YEAR:

Barnes & Noble – Last year B & N hosted a program in which kids could earn a free book after reading 8 books. I am not sure if they will be offering this program again this year as their website only has details from last year.

Half Price Books – This bookseller also hosted their own reading program last year.  Kids earned $5 Back-to-School Bucks to spend at their stores after reading 600 minutes. Details have not yet been released on their website. Check back later for more details.

H.E.Buddy – The H.E. Butt Grocery Company sponsors a Summer Reading program. Last year kids earned a free T-shirt for reading 10 books. Click on the section for Clubs and Contests for information. There are no dates on the program information, so I could not confirm if this program is still running.

Pottery Barn Kids – Last year Pottery Barn Kids also sponsored a reading program where kids could earn prizes for reading books from a recommended list of books. Their website does not yet have current information for this year. Check back soon at this link or ask at your local store for more details.

Be sure to also ask at your local libraries for a schedule of summer events and programs! Many include famous authors and family-friendly performances.

I will update this post as I find more current information. If you are aware of any other national programs, please let me know in the Comments section!

 

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