Frugal Friday: Memorial Day Party on a Budget

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If there’s one thing that all of us here at Veitengruber Law all have in common, it’s finding ways to save money. Often this comes in the form of us working to help a client: apply for a loan modification, get a fresh start with bankruptcy, negotiate outstanding debts and learn how to budget so that their financial future looks bright.

When it comes time for us to leave the office each evening, we then turn our attention to our personal lives, and part of that involves how to best keep our own finances in order. We are constantly on the lookout for money-saving life hacks, which we love sharing with our clients and blog readers.

As we approach the end of May, many people have started planning for Memorial Day parties. A day to remember and memorialize those who died while serving our country in the armed forces, Memorial Day has also become the unofficial start to summer. Although summer doesn’t technically begin for several weeks, the last weekend in May now sees a plethora of pool openings, family gatherings, cookouts and beach trips.

This year, if you’ve been nominated to throw a Memorial Day party at your house (voluntarily or not) – why not see just how frugal you can be while hosting an unforgettable party at the same time? Try implementing some of these party hacks to see just how little of your own cash you have to part with this year:

Avoid the “party store.” Buying pre-made party supplies and decor adds up fa$t. Making your own patriotic decorations and party favors is not only a great way to lower your party costs; it can be a lot of fun, too! Check out this site for some really cool money-saving patriotic decoration ideas.

Prepare your own food. It is undoubtedly a lot more convenient to fill up a shopping cart at the warehouse store with pre-packaged food – from burgers and buns to snacks and desserts. Just like the “party store,” however, you’ll pay a premium for that convenience. Instead of forking over hundreds of dollars at BJs or Sam’s Club, roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

In addition to putting your own culinary skills to good use, enlist the other party attendees to each bring a food item with them. This will enable you to focus only on the main dish(es) yourself, while your friends can bring sides, snacks and desserts. Consider making it into a challenge to see who can bring the tastiest goodies.

Make it a BYOB shindig. You may be thinking: “But I already asked them to bring a food dish. Now they have to bring their own drinks, too???” Well, sort of. As the host, you should have the basic bar necessities on hand (if you plan to serve alcoholic drinks). If you don’t already have them stocked, consider a visit to the liquor store for an affordable bottle of: vodka, gin, scotch and rum. Add in a few mixers and you’ll be able to stock your home bar for around 50 bucks.

Alternatively, you could come up with one signature drink for the party that fits in with a patriotic theme, and serve only that drink. For example, a drink called the firecracker settles into layers of red, white and blue. Let party-goers know that if they want to drink wine or beer, they can bring their favorite bottle(s) along. This alone will save you a significant amount of money.

BE the entertainment. The merriment of any good Memorial Day (or any summertime) cookout should center around good conversation with friends and loved ones. If you’re looking for something a little more organized – toss out some brain teasers or get several card games going. Alternatively, crank up the volume and turn your picnic into an instant dance party (talent not required).

One of the keys to living a life free from debt is to plan ahead for special events just like this. Waiting until the last minute will give you little choice but to swipe your credit card more times than you’ll want to admit in order to acquire the party supplies you need.

Proper planning, budgeting, and getting help when you need it (in this case, asking your friends to contribute food and drinks) will keep the cost of a party from getting out of hand. Aside from a slight headache from too many firecrackers or wine, you won’t have any regrets the morning after you throw a penny-pinching Patriotic party.

Image credit: JD Hancock
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Living on a Budget: Frugal or Free Summertime Activities

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Whether you’re single, coupled or a family with young kids, living on a budget during the summer may seem daunting. There are so many tempting ways to spend money while the weather’s warm and sunny, and the kids (if you have any) are out of school complaining of instant boredom.

If you’re having trouble planning affordable, fun, family-friendly activities for the quickly approaching warm-weather months – read on to find some ideas that should definitely get you started. Each suggestion will be marked as either ‘Frugal’ or ‘Free’ with notations on what costs you should expect to incur (if any).

Beach day – Living in New Jersey makes it significantly easier to stay cool during the dog days of summer without paying for an expensive pool in your back yard or investing in a costly public pool membership every year. Close proximity to the beach means you can enjoy the ocean and all that the Jersey shore has to offer without even paying for a hotel room. Pack your meals, snacks and plenty of cold drinks to avoid buying expensive boardwalk food. Throughout the summer, many shore towns also put on special free events like craft shows, music festivals, air shows, movies on the beach, fireworks and more! [Frugal: You’ll need money for gas to get you there and back, and you may end up spending a little money on the boardwalk or at any of the shore’s special summer events.]

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Take a hike – It surprises many people to learn that New Jersey is actually chock-full of beautiful hiking trails. Check out NJHiking.com to find an interesting trail system near you. Bring along a picnic lunch, and don’t forget your camera! New Jersey is beautiful! [Free]

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Backyard camping – This summer activity is great for families, couples, and just about everyone who loves enjoying the outdoors without paying for said enjoyment. If you don’t already have a camping tent, try borrowing one from a friend or making your own! The fun to be had is nearly endless: chasing fireflies, making s’mores, telling (ghost) stories, making shadow puppets with a flashlight, and simply listening to the sounds of nature as you giggle yourselves to sleep. This can also be a great romantic change of pace for couples who are watching their pennies. [Frugal: You may need to buy materials to build a tent (very affordable), and supplies for S’mores, of course!]

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Get thee to a library – Hustling out of the heat and through the library door to be greeted by cool, book-scented air is something that should be included on everyone’s To-Do list every summer. Get your kids (and yourself) temporarily away from screens and into a good page-turner. [Free, assuming you return your books on time.]

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Get crafty! [Frugal: Requires a one-time investment in craft supplies; however, many crafts can be made using recycled items like: empty soda bottles, milk cartons, tin cans, old magazines, toilet paper rolls, bottle caps, candy wrappers and more!

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Plant a vegetable garden – Not only is this a very affordable project, you’ll get a huge return on your (very small) investment! [Frugal: You’ll need to buy seeds and maybe a few gardening tools, but you may be able to borrow tools from a friend or neighbor.]

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Enjoying the summer on a budget can be done. Don’t let the warm weather steer you away from your budget. Of course, it’s ok to spend a little money once in awhile, but in general, appreciate what life offers up naturally. You (and your bank account) will be better off for having made it through a frugal summer, and you may enjoy it so much that you’ll do it again next year!