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3 surprising ways to save money this summer

This week's best financial advice

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:

Sun, surf, and FSAs

Don't forget about your flexible spending account before you head to the beach this summer, said Kimberly Lankford at Kiplinger​. Yes, you can actually tap tax-free money from your FSA to pay for many summertime essentials, like sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, first-aid kits, reading glasses, and other over-the-counter items. "You can also use the money for prescription sunglasses, prescription glasses, and contact lenses." Many FSAs have debit cards you can use to buy eligible items, or you can buy the items and submit the receipts for reimbursement later. Ask your administrator about your particular FSA's procedures. You can also use money from a health savings account, "but that's usually not as good an idea because HSAs don't have use-it-or-lose-it rules."

Saving on summer child care

Don't lock yourself into another summer of expensive child care "just yet," said Trent Hamm at US News. A mix of child-care strategies can give your kids a fun, varied summer and save the family money. One possibility is to arrange rotating care with other busy parents in the neighborhood, with each family spending a week or two "operating a free 'day care' for the children in the group." Staggering vacation time with a partner is another option and can often save a month's worth of expenses. Sending the kids to visit relatives for a week or so at a time is also a tried-and-true strategy. And while summer camps can be pricey, "they're often not all that much more expensive than a week of typical child care" and can fill in any blank spots on the schedule.

Navigating holiday car sales

Car dealerships are rolling out the summer holiday deals, "but are those sales for real?" asked Anna Bahney at CNN. Yes, "but not all deals are equal and not every vehicle is included." Do your homework on rebates and incentives before you head to the dealership, so you'll know what a regular deal looks like before going in for an advertised holiday sale. Industry sources like Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book are a good way to track rebates and incentives offered by manufacturers. "After you look at the automaker's deals, check out any additional specials local dealers have." Vehicles "that are being phased out or replaced with new models" are more likely to be discounted. And remember, "even if you take advantage of time-sensitive deals, you can still negotiate the price lower."

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