BBQ Money-Saving Tips + Checklist

Make your next BBQ a success with this check-list!

  1. Choose your venue! Will this be a backyard BBQ, a BBQ in the park or a beachside grilling session? If you’re holding your BBQ in a public space, be sure to reserve a grill ahead of time.
  2. Plan the guest list and maximize your available space. Watch for overcrowding–especially in a backyard!
  3. Send out the invites to get the ball rolling. Facebook invites make it easy and free.
  4. Buy the basic supplies: get cheap, bright, and patriotic paper plates, napkins, and cutlery.
  5. Plan your decor: will your BBQ be specifically patriotic, or will you go with a summer-theme? For a patriotic event, buy mini flags, star-spangled garlands, and plenty of other red, white, and blue goodies. For a summer-focused event, go for a tropical vibe with tiki torches, mini umbrellas, and other island-centered decor! Balloons and streamers are great for any event.
  6. Plan your main course. Make sure to have a couple of meat options–hamburgers, hotdogs, ribs, chicken are all great options!  Make sure to have vegetarian course as well. If you do choose to grill some veggies, make sure you grill them first, out of courtesy to the vegetarians.
  7. Have some fun with side dishes. While some chips or crackers and cheese will do just fine, side dishes are your time to shine. Showcase your killer potato salad or coleslaw, and help guests to remember your BBQ fare for years!
  8. Set up a condiment station with ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, pickles, and whatever else you think your guests might enjoy.
  9. Add a couple of ready made fruit platters and vegetable platters on the side.
  10. Stock the cooler! Fill your cooler with beer, soda and juice galore–but don’t forget the water bottles! If the weather cooperates, you’ll be needing those more than anything. Make some fresh lemonade to add a fun summer touch.
  11. Don’t forget the dessert! Simple brownies and chocolate chip cookies are sure to make everyone happy–but what dessert doesn’t make for happy party goers?
  12. Plan your server station: find a couple of tables, tablecloths, serving dishes, and serving spoons. Arrange your station so that guests can move in and out in an orderly fashion; buffet style does the trick.
  13. On the day of, slather up in some sunscreen, set up the stereo outdoors, and enjoy!

See our BBQ Pinterest Board for More!


Save on Air Conditioning

Stay cool this summer with these tips from!

Know How Many BTUs You Need Based on Room Area

Chances are you already know that BTU stands for British thermal unit, and the more BTUs an air conditioner cranks out, the stronger its cooling power. But here's the problem: Most American consumers aren't sure how to translate BTUs into the square footage of a room. (No disrespect to the Brits, but maybe we need an American thermal unit, where 1 AMU corresponds to 1 square foot?)

Lobbying for the AMU aside, you don't have to guess how much BTU power you'll need to cool your space. Instead, see the chart below, or check out this (similar) handy Energy Star website. It simply correlates the area you want to cool into BTUs per hour.

So for example, an air conditioner with a rating of 8,000 BTUs can cool a room that's 300 to 350 sq. ft., or one that measures about 18 ft. x 18 ft. Of course, you still have to measure your room, but we trust you can work a tape measure and apply this formula: Area equals length times width. For irregularly sized rooms, you can always estimate by breaking down the room into smaller geometric shapes, and calculating the size of those.

Most folks think bigger is always better, but it's not always so with AC. According to the Energy Starfolks, "Air conditioners remove both heat and humidity from the air. If the unit is too large, it will cool the room, before it has a chance to remove the humidity. The result will be a room that's not very comfortable to spend time in," and "That cool moist air will make the room feel damp and clammy." Damp and clammy isn't much better than sweltering.

Use a Ceiling Fan, Too

It's one thing to run an air conditioner in your room. But combine its power with a simple ceiling fan, and you can have the best of both worlds. Often costing less than a penny an hour to run, ceiling fans have an immediate impact on your domestic comfort once you buy and install them. They generally start at about $40 apiece. The nice thing about a ceiling fan is it can make you feel anywhere from 3 to 8 degrees cooler.

SEE ALSO: Your No-Sweat Guide to Buying a Fan

Calculate Your Yearly Costs Before You Buy

When you buy any air conditioner these days, it should come with one of those bright yellow Energy Guide stickers on the box that tells you exactly how much the unit will cost to run. Take this into account, as it's part of your total cost for both buying and operating the unit.

Get an Energy Star Model

If your unit is more than 9 years old, seriously consider replacing it. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, room air conditioners that are ENERGY STAR certified are typically 13% more energy-efficient than standard models. Depending on how long you hold onto that new unit, you could save $99 or more over its lifetime in energy costs alone — a de facto rebate just for upgrading to an Energy Star model.

The key number to look for is the energy efficiency ratio, or EER: The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit. So if you replace an old EER 5 unit with a new EER 10 unit, you can cut your cooling costs in half. You should also look for the "Energy Star" and "Energy Guide" labels when purchasing a window unit. An energy-efficient unit will cycle the compressor on and off so it doesn't operate continuously. And Energy Star central air units have higher EER ratings and use 8% less energy when compared to conventional new models.

Room air conditioners that are ENERGY STAR certified are typically 13% more energy-efficient than standard models.

Consider Central Air

If you're thinking about upgrading to central air, it's easy to beat yourself up for being an energy hog, or to get intimidated by the sticker price. Yes, it's true that central units will use a lot more power than, say, a single window unit on each floor of a 2-story dwelling. But if you have more than two rooms to cool, then your best bet is to go with a central unit, which also provides long-term resale value for a home. Well-designed central systems also win out in terms of being able to filter the air for allergens and pollutants, and for controlling humidity.

Again, keep in mind that window units aren't necessarily more energy efficient than central air units. A window unit that is too small to cool a room may run continuously, wasting energy. When shopping for a central air conditioning system, make sure the SEER number (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) is 15 or better. A less efficient system will cost you more to run.

Get a Programmable Thermostat

It's easy to think that buying a new air conditioner or two will solve all of your summer cooling problems. But your AC could use a little help. With central units, for example, a programmable timer or thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs by regulating the temperature when you're out of the house, and by turning on only when you return home.

Clean Out Your Air Filters Regularly

With window units, air filters get dirty, and fast. Clean your AC filter at least every month, as a dirty filter makes your AC work harder and use more electricity. Regardless of the type or age of the unit, you should change your filters after every 90 days of use.

Block Sunlight With Drapes

What's more, you'll use less energy cooling down a room by keeping direct sunlight out during the day. Sunlight can raise the room temperature by 10 to 20 degrees. The less heat that gets into your home, the less you have to pay to remove it. It just so happens that drapes block sunlight and heat better than blinds.

Do Some Careful Deal Shopping for Your AC

DealNews keeps an ever-updated list of air conditioning deals for you to peruse and compare. Of course, this time of year, AC sales are as plentiful as backyard barbecues. The worst thing to do is feel a heat wave hit you in the face, rush to the first store you can find, and buy the first unit you see. Do some comparison shopping, checking out multiple units for price, efficiency, reliability, and features.

The few minutes you spend comparing notes and using your shopping smarts will do more than show off how cool you are. It'll help you make a prudent choice that will keep your living space comfy all summer long, and for many summers to come.


Microsoft Summer Camps

Microsoft retail stores are hosting YouthSpark Summer Camps for kids ages 6 and older throughout the summer.

Choose from various workshops including Get Creative with 3D in Windows 10, Start Your Own Business, Minecraft: Hour of Code and more! The camps last up to two hours a day depending on the workshop you choose and are held Monday-Thursday at Microsoft Retail Stores throughout the country.


Free Apple Camp for Kids

Apple stores are hosting Apple Camp for kids ages 8-12 throughout this summer! This FREE camp lasts 1 1/2 hours per day on 3 separate days and is available at Apple Retail Stores throughout the country.

Space is limited and workshops fill up quickly so head on over here and sign your kids up now – just select your state and store and you will then be able to select the week you would like to sign up for (each child is limited to no more than one Apple Camp workshop). Note that a parent must stay with your child(ren) during Apple Camp.


14 Summer Reading Programs



Through September 5th, Barnes & Noble will be hosting a Summer Reading Program where kiddos can earn a completely FREE book in the following easy steps!

  1. Head over here and download the summer reading journal.
  2. Have your child read ANY 8 books this summer and record them in the journal.
  3. Head to your nearest Barnes & Noble and turn in the completed journal by September 5th, 2017. Find a location near you here.
  4. Choose a free book from the books listed on the back of the reading journal – limit one free book per child!



Whenever you sign up for the Barefoot Books Summer Reading Club, you’ll get FREE access to the members-only Summer Reading Clubhouse, where you’ll find the following…

  • A Members’ Only discount — 25% off your next purchase (code expires 5/31/2017)
  • An exclusive color-in membership certificate for your child
  • A kid-friendly reading log, so your child can track this summer’s adventures
  • Recommended books list, highlighting my favorite Books for Social-Emotional Learning, Diverse & Inclusive Books, Global Books and Books for a Greener Planet
  • The first official Club activity for your child to enjoy
  • And more — all for FREE!

All of this will be emailed for FREE to your inbox when you join their Summer Reading Club.



Chuck E. Cheese has a reading program (as well as other reward programs) where kids can earn 10 FREE Chuck E. Cheese tokens for reading every day for 2 weeks. This promotion is valid all year round. (A food purchase is required)



For the month of June AND July 2017 only, kids 14 and under can earn $5 Bookworm Bucks (i.e. store credit) to use on anything in the store whenever they’ve read 300+ minutes. Just download and use this reading log, add up your minutes and have a parent or guardian initial each week.

Then bring the reading log to your local Half Price Books to claim your Bookworm Bucks on or before August 31st, 2017. Each child can earn $5 Bookworm Bucks for the month of June AND $5 for July.



The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a FREE online reading program for children that runs now through September 8th, 2017. After registering, kiddos can read as many minutes as they can, log their minutes and then earn virtual prizes! Go here for more details and to see the book list.



To help increase reading time during the summer months, the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program has partnered with Candlewick Press to bring your kids summer reading activities. Just go here and click on the links to learn more about the books and download the activities. Also, be sure to follow them on Facebook for chances to win awesome prize packs this summer!



Starting June 1st through August 31st, LifeWay stores are launching their 2017 Summer Reading Quest with Bibleman. This program is geared toward grades 1 through 6, but all are welcome to join in the adventure. Just read six books over the course of the summer and memorize six Scripture verses.

Then turn in a completed summer reading journal by August 31st at your local LifeWay store to earn a FREE book (choose from 6 options) and a new FREE Bible or devotional!



If you have a TD Bank near you, kids in Kindergarten through 5th grade can earn $10 to be deposited into their new or existing TD Bank Young Saver Account when they read 10 books (will need form of ID for child opening new account). Starting June 1st through August 31st, participating kids need to:

  1. Read 10 books this summer
  2. Print out the Summer Reading Form
  3. Write down the names of the books they’ve read
  4. Take the form to the nearest TD Bank
  5. Watch $10 be deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account

NOTE – They have not updated the landing page or reading form yet but I did chat with a customer service rep and they are planning to update the information very soon so be sure to check back!



This summer, whenever you read any 4 books from the Books-A-Million Summer Reading Challenge selection in-stores and online, you’ll receive a FREE Maze Runner series water bottle! Note that you must present the completed reading journal in-stores to receive the water bottle, while supplies last.



SYNC is a FREE program for readers ages 13+ that gives away 2 FREE complete audiobook downloads every week each Summer. Through August 17th, each week SYNC features high interest titles, based on weekly themes, and the files are available from Thursday morning 7AM Eastern Time until the following Thursday morning at 7am Eastern time when the new audiobook titles become available.

The audiobook downloads are in MP3 format and delivered through the OverDrive app which can be easily downloaded for FREE. Go here for more information and to download your FREE audiobooks.



During the summer months, Showcase Cinemas offers Bookworm Wednesdays that entitles kids toFREE admission to a select children’s film when they present a book report at a participating Cinema de Lux, Showcase, or Multiplex Cinemas box office. Accompanying parents or guardians and children under six years of age receive FREE admission and do not need to submit a book report.


Every Tuesday at 11AM, attend FREE Story Time at your local Pottery Barn Kids with readings, activities and more. Plus, become a Pottery Barn Kids Club member and you’ll get a special surprise after attending five events (possibly a $10 off purchase coupon, free book, or other prize).



Sylvan’s reading program called Book Adventure encourages kids from grades K-8 to read books and then take online quizzes over the books to earn points. These points can then be redeemed for prizes from the Prize Library like books, magazine subscriptions, tattoos, candy, CD’s and more.

Parents and teachers will even have the opportunity to track their child’s/students work (just click on the “Teacher’s Lounge” OR “Parents Place”). Go here to get started searching for a book or check out this video or this page for more details and information.



If you live in Texas and are between the ages of 3-12, consider participating in the H‑E‑Buddy 2017 Summer Reading Program! Just read ten books by October 1st and record them on this reading log. Each time you log a book, have an adult initial by the title so you get credit for reading. Once the log is complete, mail the form to the address below, and you’ll be rewarded with a FREE T‑shirt.

H‑E‑Buddy 2017 Summer Reading Program
10530 Sentinel
San Antonio, TX 78217

Thanks TotallyTarget!