As the summer days wear on, I always keenly anticipate celebrating our nation’s birthday. The red, white and blue will be featured on T-shirts and in store ads and literally parade down our streets.
We’ll watch fireworks explode in the sky and grill hot dogs and wave small flags and sparklers (but not at the same time because, whoa, fire hazard). I love the celebrations of our communities in late June and early July. Whether we’re gathering with friends or visiting a street fair, sitting on the sidewalk and catching candy as firetrucks and floats pass by or listening to a patriotic concert, nostalgia warms my heart.
For me, it’s easy to get carried away during seasons of celebration. I must have that lemonade shake-up. The headband bespeckled with bobbing, glittering red and blue stars is just too difficult to resist. From table décor to seasonal clothing items, my resistance weakens each time I enter the grocery store. Everything is so cute and, oh, the memories we could make with our family if we just had the right accessories.
After more than one occasion of my feeble endurance giving way (the struggle is real), I began to focus in on ways to celebrate in the ways I loved without overspending. After all, just because you live on a budget it doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. The Fourth of July became a brighter and more delightful celebration when I reigned in my purchases and focused on what truly mattered.
If I’m honest, I stumbled upon this tip accidentally when throwing my husband a graduation party. His alma mater’s colors prominently featured red, and I realized that rather buying disposable bowls and table décor, I could purchase solid red items that could be used again and again. The color red appears in nearly every holiday celebration (think Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and you guessed it –- Fourth of July) and coordinates with many children’s characters used for birthday party themes.
Decorating with food can also be a hit. From strawberries and blueberries to cookies and more, your table can pop with patriotic color and your guests’ bellies will be filled, too.
I really do adore the mystery of the exploding shining lights plastered across the sky. Nothing caps a perfect summer day like an evening pyrotechnic display.
However, I can think of few other activities where you literally purchase items to set on fire. Thought of another way, you’re blatantly burning your money. Now, I’m not going to be the Uncle Scrooge to your Uncle Sam. However, set a cash budget and don’t be drawn in by the firework tent or pop-up store deals. It’s easy to get hooked on a “Buy 1, Get 5 Free” sale and come out with hundreds of dollars of explosives.
Instead, look for a local free display and let the professionals dazzle you with bright colors in the night sky, timed to music.
Headed to a street fair or a festival? Let me let you in on a little secret. It will smell amazing! There will be elephant ears and ice cream cones and barbecue that makes my stomach growl just thinking about it.
Do yourself a favor and eat before you go. If you plan to grab a snack or a special treat, then take cash only to keep you on budget. Set the expectations well for both yourself and your kids before you leave the house.
Avoid dollar section items
Even though I love the stars and stripes on sunglasses and hair ties and plastic bunting and socks and hats and (you get the point), I have often found that these items are discarded quickly on July 5. If you have a passion for such items, too, rein in your desire to buy it all. Settle on one or two items that look like they might last for more than a year rather than purchasing items that will be tossed in the trash by the start of school.
I love a good party and will always want to celebrate a fabulous 4th. However, even more I want a bank account in the black instead of a festive shade of red.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org