Fun, sun and saving a ton: Conserving cash this summer when you hit the beach

Summer's here (though in my home town of Chicago, winter just ended about a week ago). And with the warm weather, don't be surprised if you see all manner of brain-baked people wasting money and leaving their fiscal sense behind as if it went on vacation.

As beach-loving beings, we at WalletPop collected this list of 10 tips for saving summertime dough during your vacation or beach day trip. Join us as we take a dip into the cool, sunny waters of financial serenity. Ahhhhhhhhh.
1) SHOP DOLLAR STORES FOR BEACH TOYS. Between all the beach playthings we've seen lost, misplaced, impaled on sticks or cracked by overzealous play, it pays to shop dollar stores for the kiddie beach basics, including sand shapers, toss rings, beach balls and bucket-shovel combos. WalletPop's own Dollar Store diva Marlene Alexander has you covered.

2) PACK ENOUGH DRINKS AND BEACH FRIENDLY SNACKS FOR A DAY OUT. Some beaches won't allow coolers, but you can always load up a backpack with water or drinks and beach-friendly snacks such as fruit bars, pretzels and grapes. Trust us: You'll pay much more for food on the beach, and much more for drinks at a nearby bar or restaurant.

3) PLAN ONE MEAL OUT A DAY, NOT TWO. If you eat out for lunch and dinner every day, consider doing just one meal out to save money -- and make the experience more special. Lunches will always cost less than dinners, though lunch is the easier meal to skip if you have snacks with you.

4) PARK REMOTE IN A FREE SPACE AND WALK. It's an easy way to save on fees for garages and parking lots. Plus, you're going to be on the beach all day. You'll need the exercise.

5) AVOID IMPULSE BUYS ON BOARDWALKS. You do not need that fuzzy gremlin tourist pen for $5, and you probably have hoodies at home that you bought for much less than what tourist traps charge. Only go shopping if you spot a bona fide sale, or have a particular purchase/store in mind beforehand.

6) STOCK UP ON THE STAPLES OUTSIDE OF TOURIST COUNTRY. Food and gas, for starters, are more expensive in tourist country. Buy those items before you head in, and if your room has a fridge for stowing food, so much the better to save on eating out. Once there, opt for farm stands and fresh produce over convenience stores and small markets.

7) USE CASH AND DEBIT CARDS, NOT CREDIT. There's a temptation to spend freely on vacations, which can lead to high balances on credit cards. Once you do that, you could pay for the same vacation several times over.

8) DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CHECKLIST. If you leave your beach towels, sunscreen or bathing suits behind, you'll pay a lot more to replace them in the beach zone. And if you leave season passes for the beach behind, day passes could set you and your family back a bundle.

9) PROTECT AND GUARD YOUR BELONGINGS. The costliest mistake you can make is leaving your belongings open to theft or damage. Smart phones and PDAs hate sand and water, and a few grains of sand can ruin your digital camera. (It's happened to me.) Leave someone at your towel cluster at all times to keep an eye on wallets, pocketbooks, etc.

10) SCOUT YOUR NETWORK OF FRIENDS FOR PLACES TO STAY. If you're lucky enough to know friends who own a resort property, ask them about renting it out. Chances are they'll offer it at a discount, or even for free. (I've often found this to be the case.) Leave yourself an out if no discount is forthcoming: "Great Thanks a lot. Give me a day and I'll get back to you on it." Or: Consider sharing a rental with friends you can easily vacation with.
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