10 Hacks Everyone Should Know Before Hitting the Beach


While I’ve never been in the ocean, I’ve spent time almost every summer of my life at the beach, enjoying the long sandy shoreline along Lake Michigan.

Over the years, I’ve developed an arsenal of strategies to maximize the fun of these trips, while minimizing potential inconvenience. However, even I found some new tips and tricks while writing this article.

Whether you’re heading to the ocean, the Great Lakes or a local watering hole, here are 12 beach hacks to consider trying this year.

1. Use a Fitted Sheet Instead of a Beach Towel

You need to have a couple of things to increase your odds that this will work correctly. The first is four heavy objects to act as anchors. The second is no kids.

Lay the fitted sheet upside down on the sand. Put your four anchors in the corners and pull the sheet up and taut. When you’re done, you should have four short walls around you to prevent blowing sand from invading your space.

Kids will quickly turn this area into a sandbox, so I would skip the aggravation and save this hack for when they’re older or you’re on an adult-only outing.

2. Put Your Key on a Cork

I wish we had known about this hack before we had to search the bottom of a lake for the keys that fell out of my husband’s swim trunks pocket.

Make an extra key to your vehicle, attach it to a wine cork and then you can lock your other keys in the car or leave them at home. If the car key falls out in the water, the cork will help prevent it from sinking and also make it easier to find.

Yes, there’s a chance it could float away if you don’t notice it right away — but hey, no hack is perfect.

3. Let Baby Powder Whisk the Sand Away

Nothing is more challenging than wiping off wet sand, right? Apparently, if you sprinkle on some baby powder, it will absorb the moisture and make it easier to leave the sand at the beach rather than hauling it home with you.

I can’t vouch for this one personally, but if you’ve tried it, tell us how it works by leaving a comment below.

4. Store Your Phone in a Plastic Baggie

If you feel like you need to bring your phone to the beach, keep it sealed in a plastic baggie to protect it from the sand and water. You may find you’re able to use the touchscreen without even taking it out of the bag.

5. Keep a Balloon Handy to Clear Your Ears

When my ears need to be cleared at the beach, I typically hold my nose while trying to blow out of it. I’m sure that would look strange to anyone who didn’t know what I was doing, so if you’d rather use a different way to clear your ears, bring along a couple of balloons.

Trying to blow up a balloon is an easy — and possibly not-so-goofy looking — way to clear your ears. It might also be an easier concept for little ones to grasp.

6. Put on Your Cheap Sunglasses

It’s not unlikely that you may leave something behind on a beach trip or that someone will step on or sit on something and break it. You certainly don’t want that something to be your expensive sunglasses.

If you don’t need a prescription, you can head to the dollar store and buy a cheap pair. It’ll get the job done and won’t break your heart if the sunglasses get lost or stolen.

7. Hit the Dollar Store For All Your Beach Needs

Actually, get whatever you can from the dollar store.

Kids’ beach toys are particularly prone to getting lost or lifted by another kid at the beach. Sure, a dollar store bucket is cheap and flimsy, but it only needs to last a few hours at the beach for a day trip. If you have to buy another one for the next trip, don’t worry: It won’t break your budget.

8. Eat a Big Breakfast to Avoid Sandy Snacks

Every time I take a cooler to the beach, I regret it. It’s a pain to drag or carry over the sand. Then the food gets sandy.

Nowadays, I make sure we eat a big meal before heading out for the day. I might pack some drinks and a light snack — granola bars or packets of fruit snacks — but I never bother with sandwiches or something more substantial.

If you’ll be at the beach all day, consider leaving your cooler in the car and heading to the parking lot for a midday meal. No need to be eating at the water’s edge, in my opinion.

9. Flip Your Steering Wheel When Parking

A hot steering wheel can make the first few miles of the drive home painful. Minimize the problem by turning your steering wheel all the way around when you park. Then, the bottom of the wheel will take the brunt of the heat, and the top will be cooler when you flip it around to leave.

10. Make Your Own Cooler Ice Packs

If you do decide to bring a cooler with drinks or snacks, consider making your own ice packs. To do this, simply fill sealable gallon plastic bags with water and freeze them. When the ice melts, or when you’re ready to go, dump out the water and remaining ice and use the bags to store suits or other damp items until you get home.

Do you have secrets for savoring the beach? Share them by commenting below.

[Editor’s Note: If you find yourself in credit card debt as a result of your beach getaways, you may want to consider using a tool that can help you figure out how long it may take you to pay it off, like this credit card payoff calculator. You may also want to check your credit scores regularly to see how your debts could be affecting you. You can get two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

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7 Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy This Summer


The kids are on vacation from school, and you’re taking time off work. That’s what summer is all about.

But doesn’t the dog also deserve a little warm-weather R&R?

Of course! Summer is a great time to let your puppy have a little extra fun in the sun.

Just remember to do it safely. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) reminds you:

Hot weather can make anyone feel uncomfortable, and your dog is no exception.

The AKC offers tips for keeping your dog safe this summer, including keeping them hydrated, getting them microchipped, updating their vaccinations, and talking to your vet about flea, tick and heart-worm prevention. (And if you plan to travel with your dog this summer, you may want to read about how much it costs to fly your pet on every major U.S. airline.)

The following are seven ideas for keeping your pooch happy — and healthy — during the “dog days of summer.”

1. Take Your Dog to the Beach

Just like people, most dogs love to splash around on a hot summer day. So, let your pup dip their paws in the sand. PetFriendlyTravel.com has a list of puppy-friendly beaches throughout the U.S. you may consider visiting. (If you decide to travel to one of these beaches, you may want to consider using one of the best travel credit cards in America to help pay for your trip. Just remember, high credit card balances can hurt your credit.)

If you don’t live near the ocean or a lake, consider turning on the sprinklers for your own at-home water fun.

2. Build a Dog Obstacle Course

In many parts of the country, people and pooches spend the colder months cooped up indoors, so it’s no wonder you’d want to spend every possible moment outside in summer. Build a dog obstacle course, and you and your pup can get a little exercise in the fresh air. You can find tips for building a course on a budget on sites like Cesar’s Way, and the DIY Network has more detailed instructions for a three-part agility course featuring a climbing wall, teeter-totter and weave sticks.

3. Whip Up Some ‘Pupsicles’

After all that running around, your pup is probably ready for a “pop.” There are many different types of frozen dog treats you can make that can help keep your best friend cool after a hot summer day of fun.

Modern Dog magazine has recipes for everything from frozen fruit to chicken-broth pops.

4. Dine Out With Your Dog

A frozen treat is fine, but doesn’t your furry family member deserve to be with you as you hit the town?

You can find dog-friendly restaurants on sites like BringFido.com. DogFriendly.com also has a guide to pooch-perfect eateries in the U.S. and Canada. Bone appétit!

5. Head Off to Summer Camp

Many states have summer camps especially geared toward having fun with your best furry friend. Examples include:

  • Camp Dogwood: Illinois, Wisconsin
  • Camp Unleashed: Massachusetts, Georgia
  • Happy Tails Daycamp for Dogs: Michigan
  • Maian Meadows Dog Camp: Washington

Can’t find a dog camp in your state? Then perhaps you can take your pup camping. You can check out sites like BringFido.com to help you locate a dog-friendly campground.

6. Hit a Hiking Trail

Hiking can be one of the best and most enjoyable forms of summer exercise. That’s as true for dogs as it is for people. Just about everybody is close enough to a hiking trail where you can spend hours of free and healthful fun with your four-legged best pal.

Just make sure to keep your dog hydrated and to clean up after them. And, after your hike, be sure to check your pet for pests like ticks that might have hitched a ride.

7. Jog with Your Dog

You look forward to your daily run, and your canine companion will too. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to burn extra energy and calories. If your pooch seems disinterested or a little unwieldy at first, don’t give up. According to Health.com:

Even if you think your dog is too hyper or too poorly behaved to jog alongside you, he may just need some training and some time to get used to it.

What is your favorite way to have summer fun with your dog? Let us know in the comments.

[Editor’s Note: Whatever you do with your pup this summer, remember that careful budgeting can help you avoid letting your dog’s activities harm your finances or put you in credit card debt. You can see how what you spend on your pet is impacting your credit by taking a look at two of your free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.]

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12 Cheap Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer


Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, it’s likely that summertime gets tough. When kids are home all day, or at least out of the routine of school, they get bored easily. Boredom often leads to whining or other forms of mischief.

So what if you’re looking to keep your kids busy, but don’t want to spend loads of money on a trip to the local zoo twice a week? Here are some cheap options to maintain your sanity, I mean, keep your kids busy for the summer.

1. Let Them Be Bored

Step One in surviving summer as a parent is to let your kids be bored. As kids these days experience ever more scheduled lives, they’re left less and less often to their own devices. So, of course, as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they need to learn to play on their own and be creative. In fact, experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity!

So number one on your list is also the easiest option: give your kids down time. Provide them with space and time to come up with things to do, and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

2. Institute a Chore Chart

You might as well keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, now is the time to teach them responsibility with a chore chart. This could include unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game a notch with commission-based paid chores. Just make a list or chart of chores kids can get paid for, including the chores’ monetary value. When kids check a chore off the list to your satisfaction, they get paid.

Sure, you’ve got to invest some money in this one. But it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them start managing their own money.

3. Visit the Local Library

These days, most local libraries run summer reading programs. These can incentivize even non-readers to pick up a book this summer. Just make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and be sure to let kids pick appropriate books that they find interesting (even if you don’t see the attraction). This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and reading all those books whiles away hours of the summer.

4. Create a Craft Station

Got creative kids? Consolidate all of your crafting materials into one place, and let them go to town. Warning: this will get messy!

You don’t have to go buy a bunch of brand-name craft kits, either. Start collecting things like used printer paper, old crayons, toilet paper rolls, and nature items. Keep these, along with basic supplies like craft paper, scissors, and glue, in the craft area. Let kids go to town on their own, or use social media sites like Pinterest for inspiration on projects they can create.

5. Check Out Your Local Parks & Recreation Department

Just need the kids out of the house for a day or several this summer? Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a tight budget. But, often times, local parks and recreation departments run day camps that are much cheaper, and allow kids to get outdoors and burn off some energy.

Even if your local department doesn’t run camps where they’ll actually take your kids for the day, chances are they’re hosting some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.

6. Plant a Garden

Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant corn if you’ve got room, as it’s easy to grow in many U.S. climates. Or talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables, or flowers that are particularly easy to grow in your area.

Be sure to give the kids some autonomy over this project, to really let them get involved. They should be able to help choose the plants and the layout. But they should also be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance. This is a great skill building activity that can also keep kids busy all summer long.

7. Get to Know Free Activities in Your Area

The internet is rife with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area, and get familiar with what’s out there. Often times, these blogs will keep calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap ones, throughout the summer.

8. Create an Activity Bucket

Often times, there’s plenty to do around your house, but the kids aren’t great at sussing out the next best idea. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks, and stick them in a jar or bucket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen.

This could include things like making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the back yard, creating a sprinkler out of an old two liter bottle, or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using only materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.

9. Explore New Local Parks

Make it a goal to go to one new park each week this summer. If you’re in a medium to large metropolitan area, there are probably loads of neighborhood parks you’ve never even heard of. And you might discover a few new favorites. Just set aside one afternoon each week, pack a picnic lunch, and try out a new park.

10. Create a Summer Memory Board

Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks from each park you visit. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine all these memory-sparking items and photos onto a summer memory board.

All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board. Looking at the board may help spark new activity ideas for your kids, and it’ll be a great memento to have at the end of the summer.

11. Pick Up Some Board Games

Board games for kids have come a long way since Candy Land. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork, and basic strategy skills. You’ll need to invest some money up front in these board games, but you can get most kids’ games for $20 or less. And if your kids end up loving them, it’s an investment you won’t regret!

12. Start a Small Business

If you want to keep your kids really busy this summer, get them thinking about how to earn, save, and invest money. Young kids can plan for a garage sale late in the summer, spending the summer sorting through clothes and toys they no longer need. Bigger kids can mow lawns or pull weeds for the neighbors, or act as mother’s helpers, taking care of little kids while mom is still around.

Just be sure to start your young entrepreneur off right with a checking account and savings tool. A regular savings account or piggy bank may work, but you could also start teaching your kids the basics of investing with an IRA

[Editor’s Note: You also want to be sure to keep track of your own finances over the summer. High levels of debt related to summer spending could hurt your credit score. You can see where you currently stand by viewing your two free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.]

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