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  • 10 Cheap, Fun Family Summer Vacations

    By Tahirah Blanding,

    Related: Top travel sites to score deals
    Related: Best cheap airlines comparison

    Summer is prime time for a family get-away. If you're concerned about costs, now's the moment to start planning a fun summer vacation that fits your budget. Whether your family enjoys the great outdoors or prefers the air-conditioned indoors, we've got you covered with a list of 10 cheap summer family vacations.

    More from Cheapism:
    Top hotel chains under $100 a night
    Which airlines charge the lowest baggage fees?
    Best budget car rental companies

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  • Easing the Financial Cost of a Death in the Family

    By Elizabeth Sheer,

    Whether sudden or expected, the death of a loved one is emotionally wrenching. At a time when logical thinking is most compromised, you have make decisions and arrangements. It's easy to spend way more than you have to, even if only to honor the departed. Having a friend or relative serve as a sounding board before choosing among the alternatives can help lessen the financial strain.

    Funeral. Funeral expenses tend towards exorbitant. The median cost in 2012 was $7,045, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), but the final bill can easily reach $20,000. Some people make their wishes known before they die, but a surviving family member often is left to make decisions about the type of funeral, and whether to bury or cremate.

    Related: Places where seniors don't pay full price

    Even in an emotionally fraught state, you can arrange a funeral for far less than the median cost. One way is to request a direct burial.

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  • 4 Best Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Under $2

    By Louis DeNicola,

    For those who haven't heard, the classic incandescent light bulb -- a staple for more than a century -- has officially been phased out. It fails to meet new efficiency standards put in place over the past couple of years, first for 100-watt bulbs and culminating with 40- and 60-watt bulbs at the start of 2014. Now U.S. companies cannot manufacture or import any traditional incandescent light bulbs. Consumers are left with a choice of energy-efficient alternatives, all of which cost more up front. In some corners, this has engendered outrage (and an impulse to stockpile remaining inventory). Others have cheered the move as a small step toward reducing the country's energy consumption.

    Related: Save money with energy-efficient products

    There are some exceptions to the new rules, such as three-way bulbs. Modernized halogen incandescents meet the requirements but have higher price tags than their predecessors. Meanwhile, two more efficient types

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  • How to Be in Your Best Friend's Wedding Without Breaking the Bank

    By Elizabeth Sheer,

    Getting married is a major social event that involves family and friends. Pre-wedding celebrations abound, from the engagement party to the shower to wine and cake tastings. Post-wedding festivities are increasingly in vogue, not to mention destination bachelor/bachelorette parties. While all this adds up to lots more fun, non-stop events also add up to lots more expense.

    Relax. Friends and family can keep wedding-related costs under control with a touch of effort and advance planning.

    Related: Best wedding planning websites and apps

    As far as weddings go, the recession is so totally over. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding hovers around $30,000. Members of the wedding party and regular guests are also shelling out. The cost for bridesmaids hit nearly $1,700 way back in 2011, with travel to the shower, bachelorette party, and wedding accounting for 53 percent of the total. A more recent survey by American Express found

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  • Resorts Too Pricey? Take a Volunteer Vacation for Less

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Images of sandy beaches, warm weather, and a cool drink may come to mind when thinking about that next vacation. How about helping to rescue animals, picking olives, or building a house instead? Sure, these volunteer projects seem an awful lot like work, but you'll be contributing to a worthy cause while getting away from your day job. Indeed, sometimes a "working vacation" can be more rewarding than a week at an all-inclusive resort.

    Volunteer to Help Others. One common type of working vacation is a volunteer trip. Folks interested in indefinite travel experiences, or at least a several month commitment, may be familiar with WWOOFing. The World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms arranges for meager room and board in exchange for work on a farm. Opportunities abound as far afield as Iceland, Poland, Uruguay, and Tanzania.

    Related: 6 ways to save money on summer trips to national parks

    For shorter periods, a volunteer vacation may involve

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  • Advice from the Minimum Wage Front Lines

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Mysti Reutlinger has been through tough times. Although now in the process of starting her own business in the Cheyenne, Wyoming area -- the third in six years and the result of two prior successes -- she raised two children while working a minimum wage job. She and the children lived with the bare minimum, no cellphone or cable TV, and occasionally relied on an understanding landlord come rent time.

    There are millions of people like Ms. Reutlinger who struggle to make ends meet on meager pay. Today, a full-time worker earning the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour grosses approximately $14,500 a year. As Ms. Reutlinger can attest, that doesn't go very far. Getting by demands a good hunk of creativity and resourcefulness. Here is her advice from the minimum wage front lines:

    Related: Where can kids eat for free?

    "Don't be afraid to ask." Although many government assistance programs are mired in political controversy, they can be essential

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  • What to Buy in April

    By Raechel Conover,

    It's officially spring and retailers are preparing for warm weather and hotter sales. In April you'll find deals on everything from laptops to travel, as well as some left-over March deals on winter items. Although the selection will be even slimmer on last season's goods, prices may be deeply discounted.

    Used Cars and Car Accessories/Parts. April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions to sell car accessories. If your vehicle needs a tune-up, this is a service to buy in April. It's also a good time to add discount tires to your shopping list. Used car dealers stock up on inventory in April in anticipation of warm weather and spring car sales. So beat the crowds for a better selection of used cars and hunt around for dealers willing to negotiate.

    Related: 10 cheap family summer vacations

    Tax Day Freebies. Forget about paying for it -- tax day (April 15) is a good day to find freebies.

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  • Where to Find Selfie-Worthy Prom Attire on a Budget

    By Elizabeth Sheer,

    Last year the average cost of attending a prom exceeded $1,100, according to Visa, Inc. Not surprisingly, the biggest expense is the dress. For girls determined to have a red carpet moment, the price tag could easily hit $400. Guys don't get off cheaply, either -- tux rentals commonly run $170-$200 for a basic get-up. But don't panic. With a little savvy, some ingenuity, and a few coupons, the cost of prom attire can be held below $150.

    Related: Best cheap diet plans

    Although prices vary by location and the selection may be iffy, the best places to start searching for cheap prom attire are vintage and consignment shops. Also try eBay for vintage duds, where both dresses and tuxes from the '50's through the '80's are likely to fetch prices in the double-digit range. And remember, dirt-cheap prom wear means funds left over for alterations.

    Dresses and Gowns. Generally speaking, a long gown costs more than a snazzy short dress while

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  • Kroger Vs. Walmart Vs. Aldi: Which is the Cheapest Grocery Store?

    By Raechel Conover,

    If the thought of extreme couponing drives you crazy but grocery prices wipe out your budget, maybe it's time to try a different type of store. A three-way comparison by examined retailers with three different models for selling groceries: Kroger, a traditional grocery store and umbrella brand for chains across the U.S.; Walmart, a big-box multinational that tallies more than half its sales from groceries; and Aldi, a German-owned discount grocery chain with a foothold in 32 U.S. states. We found that Aldi, with its bare-bones approach and emphasis on store brands, is easily the cheapest grocery store overall.

    Related: 10 Cheap Family Summer Vacations

    Cheapism visited one location for each store in the Columbus, Ohio, area and priced 37 products from a variety of departments. We chose identical items (brand and size) whenever possible and like items otherwise. Aldi does not carry well-known brands but stocks in-house labels, so

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  • College Tours: How Students Can Visit for Free

    By Louis DeNicola,

    As high school students prepare to spend the next several years and thousands of dollars earning an undergraduate degree, finding the right college is critical. The atmosphere on campus, the diversity of the student body, and the local surroundings all weigh on the decision. But it's hard to judge these things from a distance, which is why pre-application campus visits are so important. The costs of doing so, however, add up quickly.

    Fortunately, there are ways qualified students can visit a campus for free or at minimal cost. One option, open to every student, is a well-planned road trip to nearby colleges and universities. This is an efficient and money-saving approach that minimizes the cost of transportation, food, and lodging.

    Related: 7 steps to landing a college scholarship

    But jaunts to schools beyond driving range can be prohibitive, especially for families on a tight budget. Students in this situation can look to a number of

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