The thrifty days of summer

A few money-saving ideas for the family this season

Summers are the days for getting out in nature, maybe taking a vacation, spending time with family enjoying the warm weather … and maybe trying to save some money while you do so, before the back-to-school expenses hit you like a freight train.

Here are some money-saving ideas if you’re in my boat to help you and your family stay afloat.

Thrift if your gift

I’m a big fan of thrift stores. They keep items you no longer need, or don’t have time to sell, out of the landfill and you support local and possibly a good cause at the same time.

If you have more than zero children, a thrift store is a life saver.

I do like them looking sharp for school, but especially in summer, kids just needs clothes they can play in and not worry about destroying.

Trip to the beach? Get some second-hand towels you don’t have to worry about wrecking or accidentally leaving behind. Kids have grown out of their swim shorts? Thrift is the gift you give yourself.

Toys get worn out quickly or only used for a short period time, so for kids, I love buying them second hand toys and saving money, and donating ones they no longer play with as well.

Thrifts stores aren’t what they used to be anymore either. You won’t just find old, worn-out items or clothing from decades past, but new, trendy, boutique or brand name items for prices that make you feel like you are stealing them.

Start the car! (Remember that Ikea commercial?)

I’ll forgive you if you giggle gleefully on your way to your vehicle with your purchases.

It’s come to the point that if I buy something brand new, then make a trip to a thrift store just to find the same item in like-new condition for much less, that I’m kicking myself for not checking the thrift store first.

Plus, you get the thrill of “the find.” I’ve found many a marvelous item at a second-hand store – home decor, pet items, toys, and yes, clothing.

My wardrobe is a combination of second-hand finds and a select few bought-new items. By buying clothes at a thrift store, I’m able to assemble a wider range of styles and items that I otherwise wouldn’t.

I find there isn’t the stigma attached to thrift store shopping anymore like there used to be, either.

Public perception seems to have changed. You’re no longer considered “poor” if you thrift, but “smart” and resourceful.

In junior high, my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother asked if I wanted to keep some of his plaid shirts. To feel close to him, I wore those very manly, oversized shirts until they were threadbare.

I was asked by a couple of girls once if I shopped at Value Village. At the time, the teasing hurt, but now, if asked where I got an outfit, if it was second-hand, I’d unabashedly say so, like “Yeah guuuuurl, and you wouldn’t believe how little it cost and what else I found.”

There are some city stores that are overpriced, nearly the same as retail, but Ponoka has some real gems and I’ll return again and again.

Keep it simple

Not all activities have to be expensive or extravagant to be fun. The kids have just as much fun playing with a sprinkler and their sandbox at home, or a trip to the splash park as they would at an indoors water park.

We used to turn on the hose and bring out their plastic dinosaur toys and some buckets and play in the mud and water. All the neighbour kids joined in too.

They also had a great time running their own lemonade stand last summer while we held a garage sale — a little spending cash for them and for the adults too.

Crafts from the dollar store can also be some indoor fun on those rainy days.

Maybe I’m really just a master of managing expectations. Keep them low, and any little activity or trip seems exciting.

There’s nothing wrong with stay-cations or day-cations either. There’s a lot close by that’s less expensive than taking a full-blown trip somewhere.

Some ideas include the Lacombe Corn Maze, Ellis Bird Farm, going for a walk at J.J. Collet Natural Area, or taking a fishing pole down to the Battle River.

We’re only limited by our imagination.

Community resources

Reach out into the community to see what’s available. There are some wonderful, affordable and subsidized programs available in the summer months to help with expenses and let the kids have some summer adventures as well, such as the Youth Centre and Family and Community Support Services.

Parent Link and the library also have programs you may want to check out.

Alright, so I admit it, I’m not really a fountain of knowledge when it comes to money-saving tips — I mostly wanted to talk about thrift stores. Though if you’ve read this far, I guess it wasn’t so bad.

Enjoy your last few weeks of summer!

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