Summer is a tricky time for many of us. Expenses seem to multiply during this time of year. In fact, American Express estimates that that we spend an average of $1,145 per person on travel alone during the summer.
That doesn’t include costs for things like day camp and sleepaway camp for the kids, air conditioning costs, and the costs of family get togethers.
Summer comes with a double challenge, though. For many families, summer isn’t just about spending more; it’s also a time that many families find themselves earning less. Independent contractors (like me) often lay off the work a bit to have more time for family. Others might take longer unpaid vacations. There are also various professions that naturally work less in the summer.
You don’t have to break the bank to have fun this summer. Here’s how to save money this summer while still have a great time:
Plan Ahead for Summer Expenses
As with all things personal finance, you need to plan ahead if you know you will spend more during the summer. This is especially true if you plan to take a summer vacation.
Start early, and spread the cost of your summer vacation. You can save money this summer if you have been setting aside money little by little. It’s much easier to do that than to rack up the debt and pay for it (plus interest) later.
It’s a bit unconventional, but I actually carry a small balance on my credit card during the summer. I usually cut back a little bit on work, and my husband, an adjunct professor, only has half the workload during the summer. While we have a good emergency fund, and normally have a cash cushion, it seems like a lot of work to move things around for a few hundred bucks. So, for convenience, we usually carry a credit card balance for two or three months to ease cash flow. Then, once summer is over and my husband is paid for more classes again, we pay it off.
This only works, though, if you pay attention to your finances, and you don’t use it as an excuse to spend.
Save Money This Summer
Of course, planning ahead goes hand-in-hand with avoiding bank-breaking expenses. Panelist Peter, at Bible Money Matters, has the definitive guide when it comes to have a fun summer without breaking your budget. You would not believe all the cool, low-cost thing Peter found to do during the summer. From great staycation ideas to freebies to do around town, there’s plenty to do that’s low-cost — or even free.
You can also save money on a regular vacation if you plan ahead and look for ways to save. As Tom is fond of pointing out, the Internet can be your best friend if you want to save money this summer. You can look for deals on everything from airfare to hotels to amusement parks. It’s even possible to look for deals on attractions in your local area.
And don’t forget the kids activities. It’s tempting to spend a lot of money on summer camps and other activities. However, there isn’t a need to. There are inexpensive summer activities for the kids, and no need to break the bank over their summer entertainment. Check out your local library, city recreation department, and even local stores (craft stores and home improvement stores) for information on inexpensive and free projects for kids.
Don’t Try to Keep Up with the Joneses
One of the hardest things about summer, though, is trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s hard to save money this summer when you obsess about the great vacation your neighbors are taking, or worrying about whose kid is going to a four-week camp.
Instead, you need to step back and be realistic about the situation. You can have a great summer on your own terms if you plan it out. There is no reason to get hung up on what everyone else is doing. Figure out what you want to do as a family, and then make a fun experience for you — regardless of what the neighbors are doing.
What are you doing for summer fun this year? How do you plan to save money this summer?