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Image: Grocery shopping
Brian Snyder  /  Reuters file
Hot dogs, burgers and buns don’t cost too terribly much money, and you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to serve up a menu that’s much more complicated than that.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 7/2/2008 8:50:22 AM ET 2008-07-02T12:50:22

The economy is floundering, gas prices are skyrocketing, food prices are climbing — and a major holiday is approaching.

Does all the gloomy financial news mean you can’t have fun this Fourth of July?

By all means, no! The following tips can help you enjoy your day off without spending too much money.

1. Keep the guest list small. Planning to have a barbecue? One simple way to keep your costs in check is to avoid inviting too many people. A smaller gathering might be more fun anyway because it will give everyone more of a chance to talk.

2. Keep the food simple. Hot dogs, burgers and buns don’t cost too terribly much money, and you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to serve up a menu that’s much more complicated than that. Salads, side dishes and desserts can be kept simple, as well. You could even opt for the pot-luck approach and ask your guests to bring those items along.

3. Buy in bulk. When shopping for your gathering, you could save good money by purchasing items in bulk at a warehouse store — so long as you have ample freezer space to store extras and leftovers.

4. Save on drinks. While you’re warehouse shopping, wheel your cart toward the store’s beverage section. You’re likely to find great deals on beer, wine, sodas and bottled water, and you’ll spend far less than you would at the regular ol’ grocery store.

5. Borrow items you need. Short on punch bowls, dishes, tables, chairs, glasses or other party staples? Rather than rushing out and buying a whole bunch of stuff that could clutter your home, ask one or two of your guests to let you borrow those items for that evening.

6. Avoid unnecessary – and potentially expensive – pet problems. In a fit of fear during a fireworks show, your cat or dog could become destructive or have accidents on your carpets and furniture. Your pet also could escape and get seriously injured, possibly by a moving car. To avoid this, keep your pets indoors and turn up the TV to distract them from the loud noises outside. If your pet is very high-strung, consider keeping him or her inside a crate during the fireworks, or possibly even providing an anti-anxiety medicine prescribed by your veterinarian. Video: The best products for July 4

7. Take in a free show. To spend even less money this year, you could forego the barbecue idea and head out to a free fireworks show being offered in your area. Just be sure to factor in the costs of gas, parking, food and other refreshments to make sure that free show won’t cost you much more than expected.

8. Stay safe. Here’s another way to save money this year: Don’t bother to spend money on potentially dangerous – and in some cases, illegal – fireworks. Even if the fireworks themselves don’t set you back too much, an unexpected trip to the emergency room could cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And of course, it goes without saying that drinking and driving should be avoided not just on holidays but every day of the year.

9. Save at least some money on gasoline. Planning to take a little – or a long – road trip this Fourth of July weekend? Remember that driving your vehicle 55 mph instead of 65 mph can improve your mileage by about 15 percent. You’ll also get better mileage if you avoid quick starts and sudden braking whenever you can, and if you keep your tires properly inflated to the maximum recommended pressure.

10. Just say no to credit-card debt. Whether you choose to celebrate at home or head out of town for a three-day weekend this Fourth of July, be sure to shun credit-card debt that could keep haunting you for months to come. If at all humanly possible, pay your credit-card balances off in full and on time each month to avoid paying any money in interest or fees.

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