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Save and Swap


Families need to budget carefully to pay their expenses and save for the future. Planning ahead is incredibly important. But there are also creative ways to keep costs down in your daily life. Try swapping expensive purchases and experiences for these cheaper—sometimes even free—options. Often, you can save funds without losing any of the fun. Which of these savings swaps have you and your family tried? —By Kathryn Tuggle



Have you ever thought about how much it costs to own and use a car? If you haven’t, you should know that these costs add up. Depending on the type of car and how much you use it, gas can cost more than $2,000 per year. And auto insurance costs even more on top of that.

THE SWAP It’s free to walk or to ride a bike. You save on the cost of gas and you help the environment any time you skip a car ride. Plus, walking and biking keep you active and healthy. Here’s a bonus tip for people who live in cities with public transportation: Not only are buses, trains, and trolleys far less expensive than taxi rides, they’re more environmentally friendly, too.



If you read four books a month, and each book costs $10, you would spend $480 in a year. And some books cost much more than $10.

THE SWAP You can visit your school library to borrow books for free, and most neighborhoods have a public library, too. If you don’t have a public library card, an adult can help you apply for one. And remember, libraries aren’t just for books. They often loan out movies, games, and music, and host free events for the community.



According to a recent survey, the average cost of a meal at a restaurant is more than $20 per person. And the average price for a ticket at a movie theater is more than $9 per person. That’s before we get to treats! Have you ever noticed how expensive the snacks and drinks are at a movie theater? Sometimes, a bag of popcorn plus a soda can cost more than the ticket.

THE SWAP Keep costs down by having dinner and watching a movie at home. Cooking can bring the cost of a meal down to $4 per serving, on average. Many movies are available on TV. Additionally, it can be fun to cook with your family, pop some popcorn, and enjoy it all in your pajamas on the couch.



According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent more than $1,800 on apparel in 2017. How can people cut costs without compromising style?

THE SWAP Thrift stores and bargain shops have a mix of new and used items. Finding what you want can be like a treasure hunt. Most discounts range from 50% to 80% off the retail price, and at some stores, you can find items for just a couple of dollars. You can usually afford to buy more items at a thrift store than you could at a mall, and you’ll help the environment by giving used items new life.



People often spend a lot of money buying gifts for holidays, and not just for the big ones at the end of the year. Cards and gifts for other occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and birthdays, can also be expensive.

THE SWAP Making presents for friends and family is a great way to save, and your gift will be one of a kind. The love and time you put into it are more valuable to the recipient than the money you spent.

Click here for the Grade 5-6 Teacher’s Guide.

Extra! Click here to read a related article from TIME for Kids.