During the summer months, vacations, weekend trips and nights out can quickly overheat your checkbook and melt down your budget.
But fun doesnt have to break your budget this year. A few simple, smart-money moves can help you get the most out of your budget between now and Labor Day.
Shop smart and seize the opportunity when a business offers you a chance to save. Smart shopping, according to the Association for Consumer Research, means seeking out and using promotion-related information to spend less.
Today, I want to share several easy ways to quickly find discounts and save money.
Pay cash, get a discount
Discounts for paying cash can range from a few percentage points, the amount a merchant would spend on credit-card processing, for example, to significant savings.
All you have to do is ask whether its possible to save by paying in cash. As my mom said: It never hurts to ask. All they can do is say no.
So go ahead, ask. Plus, paying in cash is one of the most effective methods for adhering to your budget.
A variation on this is to ask for a discount when you buy something that has a slight dent, scratch or minor defect. Often the product is just as good as one that is defect-free, and your savings can be significant.
Connect and save
Social media is a great way to connect to friends and to savings. Facebook, the monster that seems to eat more and more of my free time, offers easy ways to save money: Facebook Deals and fan pages.
Recently, I searched Facebook Deals Durango, CO and found that Fuzziwigs is offering a 10 percent discount to people who claim its Facebook Deal. If you become a fan of your favorite businesses, youll find that many of them offer special deals, too.
Business owners take note: This is a great way to reward loyal customers and save money on traditional advertising.
Locally, buzztown.com is loaded with hot deals. Im seeing $2 pints, $5 burgers and many opportunities for fans to win gift certificates.
Away you go
Saving on travel requires a greater time investment, but that time can result in a big payoff.
You may be familiar with two of the best travel deal sites, hotwire.com and priceline.com. I have found fantastic bargains on both.
My family and I frequently stay in five-star hotels, which normally cost $300 to $400 per night, for just $100.
If you use Hotwire, know that you dont get to see the airline or your flight times before you buy, so you must be flexible.
Are you eager for a getaway and willing to be flexible? I just found Endless Vacation Rentals, www.evrentals.com. This business offers seven-night stays at rental condos and time-share resorts in 35 states and 25 countries for prices starting at $349, if you book 30 days in advance or less.
Smart shopping this summer doesnt have to be difficult or time consuming. Opportunities to save are out there for the taking, if you know where to look.
www.PersonalFinance Coaching.com. Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance.