Posted on 5/20/2013 12:25 EST
Cooking al fresco is one of the great delights of summer and cries out for cheap meats for grilling. Although you can cook just about anything over the coals, the centerpiece is usually a piece of meat.
Rib steak and T-bone are made for grilling but priced above many consumers' budget constraint. Cheaper cuts of beef, along with budget-friendly pork and poultry, are not only fine but potentially glorious. In a search for the best cheap meats for grilling we informally surveyed a random group of butchers and ardent outdoor cooks who pointed us to cuts that please the palate and reduce the cost of feeding a crowd.
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A grill aficionado who hails from South America, where grilling is very serious business, says the meat should be as plain as possible but accompanied by spicy and flavorful side dishes and dipping sauces. Many cheap meats for grilling are tough, though, and require a soak in a marinade. But don't view this as a deterrent because many pricier cuts of beef don't take to a grill preparation.
(What is a marinade? Answer: A liquid containing acid, such as vinegar or wine, and other flavorings of your choice that tenderizes the fibers of tough cuts of meat. Bathe the meat for several hours, preferably overnight, lift out and grill. Marinating favorites include London broil, flank steak, and skirt steak, all cheap meats that are excellent for grilling.)
Even if you can afford filet, cooking it over hot coals is like throwing away your money, one butcher says. The lack of fat ensures it will dry out and lose flavor before reaching medium-done. A better bet, he says, is sirloin. In fact, all the butchers we spoke with agree that sirloin is the best all-around cheap meat for grilling, and the more marbling in the meat, the better it tastes. Granted, sirloin is not the cheapest of cuts ($6-$7/lb in our upstate New York market), but as one butcher points out, there's no waste at all. Rub it down with salt, let it sit for a bit, and then throw it on very hot coals for about 10 minutes, total. To reduce your cash outlay, cut it into chunks and skewer it, interspersed with plenty of vegetables.
Two beef cuts that didn't make an appearance in our 2012 post (link) on cheap cuts for barbecuing popped up in this year's research. The first, suggested by a butcher in western Massachusetts, is flat iron steak. The cost is either equal to or slightly less than that of sirloin. It's very thin and looks a bit like flank steak but is quite tender and does not require marinating beforehand. The Grilling Companion also raves about this cut and suggests cooking it over medium-high coals for about seven minutes, total.
The other beef cut we're adding to the suggestion box, courtesy of a Virginia grill master, is London broil (about $4/lb in our local market). This is one of the cheap meats for grilling that can be tough and requires a marinade. London broil is relatively thick, so cutting it into thin slices post-grill delivers lots of bang for the buck. Chowhounders recommends grilling for seven minutes a side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of about 140 degrees (F). Let it rest, cut across the grain, and enjoy.
Buy a whole chicken rather than parts because you save nearly one dollar a pound ($1.49/lb versus $2.19/lb at a nearby market) -- and it takes just minutes to cut up. But if you must buy parts, avoid chicken breasts ($3.19/lb split and $3.49/lb boneless in our area). Why? A Brooklyn butcher
says they generally lack succulence and flavor. Thighs, which are cheaper ($1.99/lb) and tastier, are preferable. Our correspondent in southern California says chicken is a good cheap meat for grilling and is made more flavorful with a teriyaki or other marinade, which keeps the lighter meat from drying out altogether.
A New England grill devotee suggests buying a whole turkey if you will be feeding a crowd. Just cut it up and pretend it's a giant chicken, but brine it first to keep it moist. Another expert recommends an injection technique instead, and provides more information than you probably need about how to smoke a whole bird in your grill.
Pork is a super-cheap
meat for grilling and currently super hot. There is almost no part of the pig that doesn't make contemporary chefs drool. Pig roasts, during which the entire animal is roasted in a pit, are fashionable everywhere these days. It's unlikely that you'll be keeping a whole pig in your house, so the very cheap butt ($1.99/lb in our upstate New York market) or shoulder (often called Boston butt and priced at $1.29/lb) are worthy substitutes. Since you probably don't have a pit either, you can slow cook it on the grill (hewing close to the barbecue style) with the coals on one side and the meat on the other.
Several butchers we spoke with caution that pork tenderloin ($3.99/lb in the nearby market) is not a good choice for the grill because in the absence of a bone it dries out easily. On the other hand, there's no waste, and the extra money you're shelling out goes right into your mouth. One survey respondent prefers the tenderloin for this very reason (and for the relatively speedy cooking) and says applying a spice rub and letting it sit a while, then wrapping in bacon and basting copiously while grilling keeps the meat quite moist.
Corn, the un-meat.
When casting about for a side dish to accompany these cheap grilling meats, don't neglect corn, especially come July. A grill fest without corn on the cob just doesn't seem right. Most grill chefs suggest leaving a few layers of the husk (silk removed, as much as you can) and putting it right over the coals.
Posted on 5/20/2013 9:35 EST
This week's picks for top technology and entertainment deals are an Amazon Kindle Fire ereader tablet, a Logitech PC peripherals sale and an unlocked Google Nexus 4 smartphone.
1. Amazon Kindle Fire eReader Tablet 54% Off
2. Save up to 60% on Select Logitech PC Peripherals
3. Unlocked Google Nexus 4 Smartphone 47% Off
This new unlocked 16GB smartphone can be used with any GMS carrier worldwide. Shipping is free.
Unlocked Google Nexus 4 Smartphone
(eBay $424.99, 47% off from $799.99 - $375 savings)
Posted on 5/17/2013 14:17 EST
Mid-May is the perfect time to hunt for an apartment or a temp job. Learn to unlock the mysteries of price matching and use it to your advantage. Beach season is almost here so get ready with cheap beach gear and while away the hours with the ebook of your choice.
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For shoppers curious about price matching, trying to decipher the often cryptic fine print can be daunting. But don't be discouraged. We researched the policies of eight popular nationwide retailers and unveil the mysteries of how to price-match
New Blog Posts:
Real estate season is in full swing and like many, you may be on the prowl for a new abode. Learn tips and tricks for navigating what can be confusing terrain.
In a career-oriented
society such as ours, temp jobs are often frowned upon. But for many people they can actually be a boon. Found out how a temp position can work for you.
Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and so is the kickoff for beach season. We reveal our top cheap picks for basic beach necessities that should suit everyone under the sun.
Does price matching seem like a foreign concept? It shouldn't. Learn how to take advantage of competitive price matching policies to save time and score the best deal.
The big debate is raging: can readers really save with ebooks as opposed to the paper variety? We compare the pros and cons of each.
Posted on 5/17/2013 10:08 EST
Print books may not be dead yet, but ebooks are undoubtedly the future. They're space-saving, environmentally friendly, and often cheaper than their dead-tree counterparts. Ereaders and tablets are more affordable than ever. So, is it time for budget-conscious consumers to dump print and go all digital? Probably not.
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The price point for ebooks has been in flux. Apple, one of the largest ebook sellers, is headed to court in June over an alleged price-fixing scheme. A Justice Department lawsuit accuses Apple of conspiring with publishers to put pressure on Amazon and up the cost of a new ebook from a standard $9.99 to $12.99 or $14.99. Still, ebooks are often cheaper than their paper cousins. While the Kindle edition of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is going for $12.99, the bestselling hardcover costs $16.25 on Amazon. Overall the average price of a top-25 ebook has fallen in recent months, according to Digital Book World, and seems to be stabilizing around $8.
Many classics and pre-1923 titles that have moved into the public domain are available for free from major bookstores and websites that specialize in free ebooks, such as Project Gutenberg. Public libraries now offer ebooks that you can "borrow" for several weeks (plus, no late fees). Members of Amazon's Prime program have access to an ebook lending library and one free book a month.
At one time the question of ebooks vs. books was meaningless for frugal shoppers because ereaders were priced out of reach. No longer. Dedicated ereaders from the likes of Sony, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble cost as little as $70. Many book lovers now use tablets, which are more versatile but lack the specialized screens that make ereaders easy on the eyes. Cheap tablets have proliferated and now start at $159. Either way, if you buy a lot of books, it may not take long to make the upfront investment worthwhile.
Photo by Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock
Another factor to consider in the books vs. ebooks debate is that digital books can't be resold. While that's not a big deal for a romance novel, it can make a huge difference if the book in question is a college textbook. With textbooks often priced in the hundreds of dollars, students spend an estimated average of $1,200 a year on course materials, according to the College Board. Often there isn't much difference in the price of used books vs. ebooks. By way of example, we found a first-year chemistry textbook for $150 in a digital version while a used copy was available online for $160. It's almost a no-brainer for the non-chemistry major who won't need the text again: Drop $10 more and resell the book when the course is finished. For more information on digital textbooks, read Cheapism's guide to college textbook websites.
For books that are several years old, prices drop dramatically for both electronic and physical copies. Just as books can be found at garage sales and used-book stores or online for a few dollars, a number of ebooks sell for $1.99 on Amazon. With the difference amounting to only a dollar or two, the decision comes down to the reader's personal preferences. Keeping a digital library on your device (or in the cloud) and accessing a variety of titles from a small, light device can be convenient, but some still prefer the experience of turning pages.
The book business is certainly moving in a digital direction, but most people are hybrid readers, consuming some books digitally and others on paper. With no obvious cost savings either way, it makes sense to choose either side or straddle both realms -- at least for now.
Posted on 5/16/2013 8:08 EST
The best way to get a good deal is to shop around, right? But running from store to store can gobble up time and gas. That's where price matching comes in: Top retailers from Best Buy to Walmart have pledged to match competitors' prices, so you can get the best deals from around town with only one stop. Problem is, these guarantees are far from straightforward. Cheapism recently examined eight retailers' price-match policies and found scads of rules and exclusions. Here are seven things every bargain shopper should know about price matching.
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1. Most policies require the competitor to be a local store, but what qualifies as "local" may be up for debate. Retailers tend to leave it to store managers familiar with the area to decide what lies within the same market or within a "reasonable distance." Best Buy sets a specific radius of 25 miles, while JC Penney in Alaska will match the prices of any similar store in the entire state.
2. Some retailers match local competitors' websites, but many policies exclude online pricing. Only Target and Best Buy have agreed to match online prices at select retailers, including the likes of Amazon, even if there's no corresponding store nearby. Thanks to recent policy changes, shoppers can scan items at Target or Best Buy with the Amazon app on their phones to find out if they can get a better price without ordering online. One catch with online price matching is it doesn't extend to marketplace items listed by third-party sellers.
3. Each retailer has its own rules about what qualifies as proof that another store is offering a lower price. A print ad with the competitor's price clearly displayed is the only verification accepted everywhere. A photocopy, picture, or mobile version of the ad may not work. Walmart doesn't officially require any form of proof (an employee can call the other store to verify your claim), but shoppers suggest bringing in an ad to minimize the wait and hassle.
4. The item you're buying and the item offered for less at the other store must be identical in every way -- brand, style, color, condition, size, weight, and, perhaps most notably, model number. Retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy sell many high-priced appliances and electronics with store-specific model numbers, which rules them out for price matching.
5. Certain sales and promotions are excluded. You won't get a retailer to match another store's going-out-of-business or clearance-sale prices. Limited-time promotions, rebates, and offers of free products or gift cards with purchase are also unlikely to be eligible. One exception: Walmart will match buy-one-get-one-free offers as long as the ad lists the price of the item. In general, an ad must specify a price in order for a retailer to match it; just a percentage or dollar amount off isn't enough.
6. You may be able to request a price match for something you've already bought, depending on how long it's been. Many retailers offer price adjustments even after purchase. However, Best Buy and other stores award partial refunds only if a customer sees they've dropped their own prices, not if a lower price turns up elsewhere. Some policies include a specific time frame for price adjustment -- Target allows seven days, for example -- but often the decision is left to a store manager.
7. In general, price-matching policies are subject to employee interpretation, which can cut both ways. At JC Penney, Cheapism found that managers seem to have a lot of authority to match competitors' prices, so it may not hurt to stretch the limits of the store's policy. At Walmart, on the other hand, shoppers complain that employees deviate from corporate policy in denying customer requests. In either case, it helps to know the fine print going in. Cheapism's comparison of stores that price match highlights important features of each policy and offers some store-specific money-saving tips.
Posted on 5/15/2013 13:31 EST
Memorial Day weekend is the official start of beach season. And while May is a bit early to hit the sale racks in search of cheap beach gear, there are still bargains to be had. Here are some deals on basic beach necessities for everyone under the sun.
Flip Flops. It's time to ditch the shoes and don the sandals. Old Navy is offering its all-time favorite flip flops in a wide range of sizes and colors at the extraordinarily economical starting price of $3.94 a pair; grab two or more at $2.50 a pair. If you're in the market for a more stylish deviation of this cult classic, you'll find an abundance of reasonably priced varieties from which to choose.
Photo by InnaFelker/Shutterstock
Beach Basics. Sun bathe on the sand or dry off after a swim with a fun and festive beach towel, an absolute must-have piece of cheap beach gear. Colorful printed beach towels are available at Kmart, starting at $4.99 and topping out at less than $10. Walmart carries cartoon- and teeny-bopper-print beach towels for $9.97. Bed, Bath & Beyond makes an appearance in this category with brightly colored beach towels tagged at $8.99.
If your style calls for reclining on a beach chair rather than a towel, you've got some options. Kmart carries an adult-size chair for $11.47, with a kid's version going for $12.99. Target is also featuring a beach folding chair in an array of solids for just under $10 (available in-store only).
Playing in the sand is usually high on the summer agenda, which makes toys a necessary component of the cheap beach gear stash. Despite being a tad pricey at $19.99, this fishy six-toy bundle from Bed, Bath & Beyond comes in two versions, each with a decorative and functional bag. Toys R Us features an 11-piece unisex assortment that doubles as a gardening set for just $5.99. Another inexpensive toy set is the eight-piece Toysmith Beach Set in a Bag, available through Amazon for $11.76, with free shipping on orders exceeding $25. Don't forget about the local dollar store, an invaluable source for cheap beach gear such as foam noodles, beach balls, shovels, and sand buckets.
Photo by Kenishirotie/Shutterstock
(Our search for sun umbrellas revealed that this piece of beach gear isn't particularly cheap, so consider frequenting a beach that provides them.)
Protection from the Sun. The best form of sun protection is sunscreen. Target brand Up & Up includes cheap sunscreen with SPF 15, 30, and 50 in kid's spray, continuous spray, sport lotion, and sport spray, starting at 44 cents an ounce. The product garners somewhat polarized user reviews, but a leading consumer products magazine has twice named the in-house brand Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Continuous spray a best overall value. For facial protection, Walmart's Equate brand earns a positive response from users. One ounce of this clear zinc oxide SPF 50 sunscreen sells for $3.98 and includes ingredients such as aloe and vitamins A, C, and E.
While there's no substitute for sunscreen, it's not sufficient in and of itself. A supply of cheap summer gear is incomplete without something to protect your scalp and serve as secondary protection for your face. In other words, don't leave home without an inexpensive but stylish summer hat. Walmart's Saffy Wide Brim Straw Floppy Hat claims enthusiastic five-star reviews, sells for just $9, and comes in three colors -- black, white, and tan. If you prefer a narrower brim, Kmart has a rainbow-hued sun hat for $6.99 by Joe Boxer.
And remember to top off your safe-from-the-sun ensemble with a pair of budget sunglasses.
Posted on 5/14/2013 13:11 EST
It seems that every month the official job report tells a different story. First it's all bad, then we're slowly climbing out of the recession, then there's a retreat. For all the back and forth uncertainty, the simple fact is you need a steady income to sustain yourself, and your family.
For many people these days the temp agency is a surefire way to land a job, even if it's part-time or short-term. For employers facing ambiguous economic signals, temporary workers provide the necessary labor without the cost of benefits or the complicated process of letting someone go if work dries up.
If you're shying away from a temp job while continuing your search for a fulltime position, don't. Here's why you should consider pursuing both routes simultaneously.
1. They're working for you. Temp agencies, also known as staffing agencies, respond to the needs of their paying customers -- the companies that hire them. However, they get paid only when a candidate has been placed. Add your name to several temp agencies' databases and be politely persistent about keeping your resume at the top of the heap. You'll have a team of people working towards your gainful employment.
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2. It's a chance to test out different industries. Although companies may regard you as a temporary employee, they're also your temporary employer. This might be a negative if you're looking for stability, but if you're unsure what type of job you want, nothing beats the chance to jump from company to company and experience different environments and responsibilities. Many corporate training programs offer entry-level employees the chance to move between departments, so design your own rotation by lining up temp jobs in different industries. This strategy applies to recent graduates and anyone considering a new career.
3. It can lead to fulltime and repeat employment. Sometimes companies are interested in hiring someone new but want to test the candidate without the commitment or paperwork. These positions are called temp-to-hire. If you want your temp job to turn into a fulltime job you'll need to be a quick learner and a hard worker. Be sure to tell the staffing agency this is your goal so they can set you up with an appropriate company. Even if there aren't any temp-to-hire positions at the moment, taking short-term work is a chance to build your professional network.
If your assignment is with a company that needs extra seasonal help and you work hard, the company may call you directly with an offer next year. Once the staffing agency is out of the picture and not taking a commission, you may be able to negotiate a higher wage.
4. They're not just for unskilled workers. A temp job doesn't necessarily equate to unskilled work. A number of temp agencies actually specialize in placing skilled workers in companies that need extra manpower. For example, Accountemps, an offshoot of a much larger professional services firm, places people in accounting, finance, and bookkeeping positions. Other agencies specialize in placing computer programmers, paralegals, or skilled trades workers.
5. Benefits. One of the downsides of temp jobs and part-time work (and one reason many employers have cut work hours) is that you probably don't qualify for company benefits. That said, temp agencies often provide benefits packages for workers they have placed. Accountemps offers free training, group health, life, and disability insurance, a benefits and retirement program, and tuition reimbursement. Adecco, one of the largest temp agencies, also offers medical coverage, a 401(k), job training, and career counseling.
6. No empty spaces. It can be hard to explain prolonged periods of unemployment to a potential employer. Fill the gaps and keep your skills fresh by taking on a few temporary assignments. Supervisors from your temp job can also be references once your assignment is wrapped up.
Posted on 5/13/2013 12:49 EST
Renting an apartment can be daunting, not to mention anxiety-inducing. So start with the most fundamental apartment-hunting question: What should I be looking for?
Friends, family, and coworkers all have opinions. But the key to apartment hunting is finding a space that you like and feel safe in. Here are some practical tips to help you locate your home sweet home.
1. Set a price range. Browsing through Craigslist might be entertaining, but knowing what you can afford will save you lots of time and energy. More importantly, being realistic will stave off disappointment.
The first step in apartment hunting is determining how much your life costs each month (think entertainment, food, medical expenses, savings, clothes, fitness, etc.). Subtract that total from your monthly income and whatever remains can go towards rent. Remember to figure in an average cost for utilities (if they're not included) and amenities such as parking.
2. Consider what's most important to you. Everyone has a different list of requirements when apartment hunting. What matters to you?
- Onsite laundry
- Onsite maintenance and repairs
- Pest Control
- Storage space
- Stabilized rent
- Near public transportation
- Easy commute to work
- Good shopping
- Good school district
Compare the apartments you visit by making a list of pros and cons. If you're moving in with a roommate(s), ask about his/her must-haves and be willing to compromise.
3. Tour the neighborhood. Walk around for a day while apartment hunting to get a sense whether the area will feel like home. Go to a local coffee shop or family-owned store and ask about the neighborhood.
- Is it safe?
- Is it a family area or loaded with 20-somethings?
- Is it quiet or known for its nightlife?
- Is it close to services like dry cleaners and restaurants, or are the options limited?
Photo by Lisa S./Shutterstock
4. Learn the story behind your apartment. Serious apartment hunting requires that you ask potential landlords the tough questions. It's your right to know about the space before making a commitment.
How long has the apartment been on the market? The rental market is very competitive so a long vacancy might be a red flag. The same holds for a short-term tenant or one who was evicted. If the landlord tries to brush off your questions, that's another red flag.
Is the building/apartment up-to-date? Knowing when the complex was built may yield clues about maintenance problems. If the building has been around for a while, ask if major renovations have been performed (e.g., floors, ceilings, windows, plumbing). Ask if any major repairs are scheduled within the next year or if any need to be made before moving in.
Ask the age of the wiring and check the fuse box with your own eyes -- it's easy to tell the difference between an outdated box and a new one. Old wiring often struggles to keep up with all the modern electrical conveniences.
Ask if all of the appliances work properly and check them yourself (e.g., working burners on the stove, a cold fridge, good water pressure, toilet flushes properly).
Which utilities are included in the rent? Even if this information appeared in the ad, verify and clarify the terms. If heat and air-conditioning are not covered, inquire about the apartment's insulation.
Get the dirt from the building's residents. Maybe the building is a dream or maybe it's a nightmare, but you won't know unless you ask current tenants. Speaking to residents while apartment hunting has the potential to alter the course of your search. Do they enjoy living there? What's their opinion of the building, community, landlord, and management company? What are some major gripes?
Look for commonalities in the answers. Is the complaint something you could handle or overlook? For instance, if the landlord takes his sweet time addressing maintenance problems, would you be able to get by or would you be extremely irritated? There's often a world of difference between what the landlord claims to do and what he actually does.
5. Do your homework before signing the lease and take the time to read what you're signing. Read up on your state's housing laws even before apartment hunting begins. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website for local details.
Some landlords summarize each page of a lease, but ask to review the original on your own before signing, preferably away from the rental office. Familiarize yourself with the building's rules and fees to avoid surprises, and ask for clarification about anything you don't understand.
A critical rule in apartment hunting: Be assertive and ask.
Posted on 5/10/2013 14:37 EST
With Mother's Day upon us, Memorial Day weekend is just around the bend. Swimsuit season is ready to bust open, so be prepared with the proper swimming attire -- for her, him, and the kids. Get in shape by jogging in a pair of inexpensive running shoes and then plan a fun-filled family vacation at a national park. Meanwhile, take the gang to the movies.
Saucony Kinvara 3 Running Shoe
We found reliable running shoes for men and women with price tags under $100. Different types of running shoes and important features are highlighted and analyzed.
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Female swimwear can be pricey but we found five websites that specifically cater to bargain hunters. Find out which made the list and what other shoppers have to say.
The price of movie tickets seems to be on a relentless climb upward. Our tips for cutting costs at the movies can help you offset this trend.
With hot weather setting in, pools, lakes, and the ocean beckon. That means swimwear for the family. Learn about money-saving
deals for adults and children.
Summer is the ideal time to explore our national parks. Now you can save even more on this classic inexpensive family getaway.
Posted on 5/9/2013 13:37 EST
National park trips can make ideal summer vacations: They're relatively inexpensive, appropriate for all ages, and brimming with entertaining activities. Even with the high season fast approaching, there are ways you can save on travel to national parks. Here are six tips for exploring national parks on a budget:
Photo by karen roach/Shutterstock
1. Carpool. Not only will you save money on gas by piling family and friends into one car, you'll also save on entrance fees: Most national parks charge per vehicle, rather than per person, which can make a tight squeeze worth it. Within large parks, take advantage of free shuttles and try to avoid getting gas until you get back to civilization, where it's more plentiful and affordable.
2. Obtain a pass. If you're a frequent visitor of national parks, it might benefit you to purchase an annual pass from the National Park Service. For $80 a year you gain unlimited access to 2,000 recreation sites for everyone in your car, if the entrance fee is per vehicle, or for yourself and up to three other adults, if the entrance fee is per person. Children under 16 can already get in free. Take note of the entrance fees at the parks you plan to visit, however. Even some of the most expensive charge only $20 or $25 per vehicle, so you would have to visit at least four times throughout the year to make the pass worthwhile.
Members of the military and people with permanent disabilities can obtain free annual passes and seniors (62 and up) can purchase $10 lifetime passes. Again, these extend to everyone in your vehicle or up to three companions, depending on the entrance fee.
3. Plan around fee-free days. Park entrance fees are waived on designated days each year. In 2013 these include Aug. 25, the birthday of the National Park Service, and Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day. A good chunk of the national parks -- 268 out of 401 -- don't charge entrance fees at all, so consider those if you're on a tight budget.
Photo by PlusONE/Shutterstock
4. Camp or stay in a cabin. Planning to stay overnight? Camping is your cheapest bet, but campgrounds often fill to capacity during the summer. Try to reserve a spot ahead of time at Recreation.gov. Staying in a cabin on park grounds is another budget-friendly option. Motels outside national parks cater to frugal visitors who balk at the rates inside. Don't forget to ask about AAA, AARP, and military discounts.
5. Avoid tourist traps. Don't buy any essentials on park grounds, where they tend to be pricier. Pick up cheap sunscreen, bug spray, batteries, and other supplies before you go. Food is also more costly onsite and sometimes difficult to come by, so bring snacks, beverages, and even meals with you. Just be sure to follow park regulations for food storage, so no bears make off with your picnic basket.
6. Buy or rent used gear. If you rarely have the chance to hike or camp, don't spend a ton of money on new gear for your national park trip. Instead, head to secondhand store or scour the web (Amazon, eBay, etc.) for gently used items. Another tip: Go to Freecycle.org and find people in your neighborhood giving away unwanted outdoor gear for free. Don't see what you're looking for? Request what you need. You don't want to invest too much in an activity you don't do often.