13 Ways to Save on Summer Fun

13 ways to save on summer fun

So, school is out, and summer is officially here. If you are anything like me, summer tends to really ignite your sense of wanderlust.  Parents not used to having their kids at home all the time also start to get a little desperate looking for ways to keep the kids occupied. Don’t let these things break the bank. There are some really inexpensive ways to get out and have fun this summer.

 

  1. Check out your local library. Pick up some fun, free summer reading and see what activities they have planned for your kids.
  2. Visit your local park.
  3. Pack a picnic lunch and take the family on a day hike.
  4. Try geocaching around your town.
  5. Make popsicles in your favorite flavors.
  6. Rather than going out for ice cream, make your own ice cream or frozen yogurt bar at home.
  7. Help your kids create their own version of the Olympic Games (and get ready for the Olympic festivities in August while you do it).
  8. Practice your photography skills.
  9. Try something new. Have you been wanting to learn a new language, how to use some software, or how to cook a particular dish? Start learning this summer.
  10. Take a free online class.
  11. Plan a movie marathon with your friends or family.
  12. Instead of going out to a bar, create a new summer signature drink and invite your friends over to try it.
  13. Volunteer your time. Find some way to give back to your church, homeless shelter, food pantry, school, or pet shelter.

 

Do you have a fun, free (or nearly free) plan for the summer? For more ideas, click on over to my Summer Savings Roundup Pinterest board!

My Four Favorite Budgeting Apps (and they are free!)

four favorite budgeting apps

 

As a finance professor, people ask me a lot of questions. One of the most common questions is about ways to make budgeting easier or if “there is an app for that.” There are two difficult parts to the budgeting process. The first part is sitting down to actually make a budget. The second part is knowing where you are in your budget and sticking to it. For me, this is by far the more challenging task because it takes time to record your expenses. I’m always looking for an app to help make my life more efficient, so I have actually tried a lot of budgeting apps over the years. Today I’ve decided to share four of my current favorites.

 

mint money budget app
Mint: Money Manager, Budget, and Personal Finance is a free app that provides a complete money management toolbox for users. You can connect all of your bank, credit card, and investment apps to your personal Mint account and let the app do the rest. Mint will keep track of your spending and income and even make suggestions for how you can improve your budget. If you want an app that will literally track and do everything for you, Mint is the way to go. Personally, I don’t want to use this app for security reasons. I don’t like the idea of tying all of my financial accounts into this one place. If you don’t mind, however, you won’t find anything better than this.

 

daily budget original money budget app
Daily Budget Original is a free app that provides you will a daily budget after you enter your monthly income and fixed expenses. Since it does not connect to your bank account, there is some work on your part. Each time you make a purchase, you’ll need to enter that into the app so that it can deduct that dollar amount from your daily allowance. However, the app is simple and easy to use.

 

mvelopes money budgeting app
Mvelopes is a nice, free app if you are fond of the envelope method of budgeting. You can set up the categories, or envelopes, of your monthly expenses as needed. These are fully customizable, so you can have just a few, broad categories or envelopes for individual expenses like cable, coffee, cell phone, gym membership, etc. Mvelopes will also connect to all of your financial accounts (like Mint) and automatically deduct your expenses. Again, this has the benefit of taking the work out of the equation for you, but be careful about keeping your accounts and identity secured.

 

wellspent money budgeting app
WellSpent is another free app also based on the envelope method of budgeting. Unlike Mvelopes, however, WellSpent does not connect to any of your financial accounts. So, you’ll have to be diligent about entering all of your daily expenses. Once you get into a habit of entering expenses as you go or at a certain time of the day (take a minute to do it while eating lunch or at the end of each day), you’ll find this is an incredibly useful budgeting app. You have the flexibility to add as many envelope categories as you want and track your spending in each category in real-time.

  
Do you use an app for budgeting? If so, do you use one of these or something else? If you do not use a budgeting app, which of these sounds the best to you?

tax deductions

Three Brilliant Tax Deductions

tax deductions

 

We’re about a month out from Tax Day, which means I have about 3 weeks before I have to touch any of those papers. Just kidding (sort of). It is about that time when I start to think that having another kid sounds like a good idea (more tax deductions!) or that I need to get a social security number for my dog. Here are my top three brilliantly clever tax deductions that you need to claim where at all possible.

 

  1. Fitness. You go to the doctor and he tells you that you really should join a gym or get some more exercise.  Guess what?  With his note, you can deduct those costs as medical expenses. Gym membership, exercise equipment, running shoes, and cute yoga pants from Lululemon. Pretty much everyone in American needs more exercise, so I am thinking this should be a no-brainer.
  2. A swimming pool.  The cost of building and maintaining a swimming pool is tax deductible if you have a medical condition that can be alleviated by swimming.  You just need a doctor to agree that swimming is part of your medical treatment.  Now seriously, swimming is great, low-impact exercise. It’s great for stress relief and reducing anxiety. Take your tax deduction!
  3. Dogs.  It turns out there are some special circumstances where you actually can deduct pet expenses.  If you are relocating for a new job and deducting those moving expenses, you can include the expense associated with moving your pets.  Plus, if you are a business owner and have a dog that you use to protect your property, you may be able to deduct some of the dog’s expenses. The expense of a service dog can also be a tax deduction. I’m claiming my Yorkie as an emotional support animal because he helps my mental health and anxiety associated with teaching college students. I knew I’d find a way to claim him without a social security card.

Do you know anyone who takes these tax deductions? Can you believe how easy it sounds to take advantage of these things if you know about them?