Fourth of July is not only a celebration of our nation's independence - it's also a great way to escape for a long weekend and relax with family and friends. By doing a little homework before the weekend rolls around, you can kick back and enjoy the holiday without putting a dent in your finances. Here are some ways to make this Fourth of July more budget-friendly:
1. Save on travel. If you're traveling for the holiday, you can trim some of those costs. Drivers can use money-saving mobile apps like GasBuddy. You can enter the ZIP code where you plan on filling up to find the cheapest gas prices in that area. The app can also use GPS to provide gas stations near your location with the latest prices. This can prove effective, as the most convenient gas stations - those located near interstates - are often the most expensive. If you're flying, use a travel aggregator like BookingBuddy.com to track your flight before you buy.
2. Save on food. If you're hosting a cookout, consider buying the food in bulk at a discount warehouse such as Sam's Club or Costco. These stores require memberships, but it generally pays for itself after a few trips. If it's just your family, consider waiting until a few days before the fourth, as many grocers slash prices on holiday-related foods then. Check your Sunday paper for coupons to multiply the savings. Stay away from pre-cut cheese, veggie trays and other prepared items; spending a little extra time in the kitchen can cut food costs.
Consider making your cookout a potluck. Attendees can bring their favorite dishes, and you can save a lot of money in the process.
3. Save on fireworks. Going to a fireworks show is fun, but so is blasting some off in your neighborhood. To save on safe, consumer-approved fireworks, consider buying them on July 4, when prices will be marked down. Savvy shoppers also buy fireworks for next year's celebrations starting July 5.
4. Save on alcohol. First and foremost, be sure you and your guests drink in moderation. For ways to save, consider purchasing alcohol at discount stores and beverage distributors. If that's not an option and you're hosting a large party, consider buying a pony keg, which typically pours 80 12-ounce glasses of beer. If you'd rather serve bottled beer, try a mid-range domestic brand, and let invitees know beforehand what's being served so they can bring their own imported beer if that's what they prefer. For wine, purchase by the case and ask for a discount. (Some liquor stores offer unadvertised deals when buying in bulk.)
5. Save on decorations and party favors. Since most of decorations and party favors are going to be discarded once the party's over, there's no need to spend a lot of money on them. Your local dollar store likely sells cups, plates, cutlery, flags and more celebratory goods, so you can outfit your party in style on a budget.
Final thoughts. Regardless of what you do on the Fourth of July, make sure you stay safe. Outdoor grilling, fireworks and alcohol have the potential to be a harmful combination. Therefore, do your research, save where you can and take safety precautions this Independence Day.
David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers, a financial website that gives tips for ways you can save this summer - including saving on gas prices at the pump.