Don't Let July 4 Blow up Your Budget

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — One of the biggest blowout celebrations of the summer fast approaching, retailers are expecting a banner of a sales boost -- especially with the July 4 Friday providing a true long weekend.

According to the figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spent $227 million on fireworks alone for the 4th of July holiday in 2012. Last year, according,

That doesn't take into consideration all of those hamburgers, hot dogs and gallons of potato salad served in backyards across the country for the holiday. Last year, according to a Visa survey, Americans planned to spend $300 on the holiday. But with food prices skyrocketing and gas prices inching up, this year could prove even costlier.

If you don't do some planning, July 4 can definitely blow up your budget, but you can still throw a bang of a bash without spending a lot of money.

Here are some tips on saving some money on your July 4 celebration:

Look for the Sales This Week: If you haven't already started planning your July 4 menu, do it this week around the sales you find in your local paper or coupons from online. "But don't stop there: stock up," says Dawn Wickwire, with TheGroceryGame.com. "Leading up to the Fourth of July, you'll find the very lowest prices on everything from meats, vegetables, condiments, salad dressings and more that will get you through the summer with great BBQs."

Use Gift Cards: Do you have old gift cards to restaurants that haven't been used yet? If you don't think you're going to use them, go ahead and "cater" some of the food for your party using your gift card. Jeremy Levi, director of marketing for CardCash.com, also recommends purchasing gift cards for a discount to use for your holiday meal.

Do Your Homework: If you live near a state line border, you might be in luck in purchasing your fireworks, says Ashley Jordan, a financial coach for SavingMoneyInYourTwenties.com. "Research other state's fireworks prices," she says. "Some states offer fireworks for much cheaper. If you are within driving distance, it might be worth the trip."

Potluck: Jordan also advises to ask your family and friends who are coming to your BBQ to bring a potluck dish, saving you on providing all of the food. Even for the host who will be providing the meats, the July 4 is a good time to grill less expensive traditional picnic fare such as hot dogs. Also with beef prices at their highest per-pound cost in 30 years, opt to grill chicken breasts or chicken cutlets to keep costs down.

BYOB: It's also practical to ask your guests to bring their own beverages, especially if they prefer pricier sodas or alcohol. Tell them to bring a cooler full of their favorite drink and a chair for lawn or deck sitting. "We usually tell our guests we will provide lemonade, water and tea, but they should bring any other beverages they wish to drink," says Andi Wrenn of Love and Money Counseling.

BYOFW: Wrenn suggests another way to save some money on the fireworks is to watch a community display at night, or ask all of the guests to bring some fireworks or sparklers to share.

Go Old-School: How do you keep the kids from running out of smoke balls and firecrackers by noon and being bored? "Many family and friends enjoy participating in games," says Wrenn. "Such as potato sack races, three-legged races, watermelon seed spitting contests and hula hoop contests. These types of games can be things people look forward to each year."

Teach Kids What it Means: How many families have actually read the Declaration of Independence together? "The most moving and memorable part of An American Celebration, the annual July 4 event at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth New Hampshire, is the Naturalization Ceremony that welcomes 100 or more new citizens every year," says Stephanie Seacord, director of marketing for the Strawbery Banke Museum. "Later in the day the Governor reads the Declaration of Independence aloud." Seacord suggests that parents can help teach children about our nation's history by either reading the Declaration together at home or finding a story or movie that would be entertaining as well as educational for the kids. This is a great idea, especially if the weather is not cooperating with outside plans.

--Written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell for MainStreet

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