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The whirlwind of barbecues, weekend getaways, and outdoor festivals takes its toll on a modest budget. Between gobbling down the best food and sampling the latest craft brews, all of those last-minute tickets and hotel rooms add up, leaving you with empty pockets and a whole lot of the year left to enjoy.

The temptation to overspend in the dog days of summer and the last warm days of fall is nearly irresistible. Let’s not even touch on the cost of the holidays. Time flies and these far-off holidays will be here sooner than you realize.

It doesn’t help that a budget is synonymous with boring in your mind — especially when you think the only way to stop spending cash is by locking yourself inside the house, totally removed from friends who have turned spending money into a true art form.

That’s certainly one way to stop spending but isolating yourself from friends, family, and the sun can make you go a little stir crazy. Thankfully it’s not the only way. This is the year of the staycation! You don’t have to fly half way around the world or drop a fortune on a bar tab to get the most of your summer. Keep reading to learn how to stay money-free during the end of the season.

1. Go to the library

Your local branch isn’t just a place to steal free Wi-Fi and people-watch as the town’s strangest folk lurk in the stacks. Or, you know, take out books, CDs, and DVDs. It’s also a hub for the community. Most branches offer free events for the neighborhood, including lectures, book clubs, and activities for kids.

You may be surprised by the amount of things the library has planned, so check out your local branch and talk to your librarian about what’s on.

2. Explore local parks

There’s no better time to explore the great outdoors than the end of summer and early fall. National Geographic created a list of the top 10 most visited national parks back in February, and it’s a great place to start if you aren’t sure of what this great nation has to offer.

If you aren’t located anywhere near those, start researching local trails and parks. Your new librarian friend may be able to help! ...continue reading

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prepare your taxesWith 2018 just around the corner, tax season will be here before you know it. While April 15 is a dreadful day for many Americans, it doesn't have to be that way if you think ahead and prepare your taxes now.

Here are eight ways to prepare your taxes now for next year.

Ask Questions

Do you plan on filing taxes on your own or paying a professional to do it? Do you owe taxes for this year or past years? Have you gotten married or had a child? These are all questions that should be asked to help you prepare your taxes now.

If you are an independent contractor or self-employed, there are a few more questions you should ask yourself as far as your business is concerned as well. Do you have any employees? Did you put mileage on your car because of your business? These are just a few of the questions to ask to make sure you are getting ahead of the game.

Know How You Will File

Are you single, married, or filing jointly? Do you have any dependents? Knowing how you will file can make filing a lot easier when the time comes. You will know how much to withhold from your paychecks based on your allowances.

You'll also roughly know how many deductions you qualify for based on members in your household. ...continue reading

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schoolSummer seems to have passed by quickly, and now it seems like parents and their children are already preparing for a new school year.

While the average parent will spend $673.57 per child for items needed, it doesn’t have to be so expensive. There are lots of ways to prepare for back to school on a budget.

Check Your Inventory

First things first, check your inventory. You may find supplies, clothes that your kids can fit into now, and more. As you are going through the supplies you have, keep a running checklist of things you may need or that come to mind. If you have a list of items needed from your child’s school, you can just add on to this list.

Checking your inventory helps you prepare for back to school on a budget by helping you avoid buying extra things you may not even need. Why buy an extra pack of crayons if you already have three?

Set Your Budget

Once you’ve gone through your inventory, the next step is to actually set a budget for your back to school shopping. Every family’s financial situation is different, but you should at least aim to only spend what you have in cash to spend.

If that means only $100 for each child, that’s OK. With these tips, you should be able to prepare for back to school on a budget, even if your budget is smaller.

Shop Sales and Clearance Racks

Now that you have your list and your budget set, you can get to shopping. The easiest way for preparing back to school on a budget is to buy what you can on sale or clearance. Many stores have back to school sales, so make sure you read their flyers or online options before shopping at one place.

If you find deals at multiple stores, don’t be afraid to make a few stops. You are trying to get the best price and stay within budget. If there are items on your list that you can’t find on sale or clearance, there are other options to consider as well, like thrift stores and shopping online. ...continue reading