Summer is finally here—vacation mode inbound! And while the sun, sand, and surf ‘n’ turf sound like the perfect summer getaway, prices at the pump and grocery stores might have you feeling like it’s financially unattainable. Add in traveling, entertainment, and energy costs and you’re dropping cash like it’s nobody’s business.
But don’t panic. Just because you’ve got that sinking feeling that life is getting more expensive, doesn’t mean you can’t have an epic summer. Check out these tips to enjoy the season while staying financially fit.
Why does summer affect your finances?
Throughout the rest of the year, your kids are in school, vacations are less frequent, and you certainly aren’t blasting the air conditioning in your home and car. But with the arrival of summer comes a triple threat to your finances. Next thing you know, you’re doing some shopping for a new summer outfit, shelling out cash to beat the heat at the local water park, and meeting up with friends for burgers on the water. When you’re in relaxation mode, you may be tempted to spend a little more here and there. And while none of these activities on their own feel like they’re breaking the bank, you’d be surprised how quickly they add up over time. Preparing and planning for summer spending is key.
How should you prepare?
To come up with the best summer saving strategies, you’ll need to get some baseline information. To start:
Assess your financial situation
Before you get too deep into summer, take the time to give yourself a financial checkup. Knowing where you stand now is the best way to figure out how to enjoy your summer in a practical and affordable way. Check your credit score, dust off the old budget planner, and make a list of your debts, expenses, and monthly income.
If you find you’re spending more than you earn, look for areas you can cut back. For example, while it’s warmer outside, consider unsubscribing to streaming services or cable, ditching the drive-thru, and working out at home instead of paying for a costly gym membership. If cutting costs isn’t enough to make ends meet, pick up a part-time summer gig, like ride-sharing, to earn some extra income while staying connected and active in the community.
Another important number to temperature-check this summer is your net worth. How much debt do you have versus how much you’re saving? How are your investments like your home faring? Looking at this as a whole is a great way to truly understand your financial situation without getting bogged down in the details. If you’d like to increase your overall worth, start by paying down debt before committing money toward any “fun” expenses.
Create a summer budget
Impromptu anything is your budget’s worst enemy. Unfortunately, summer is often riddled with these less-than-desirable expenses (like a dozen weddings you have to attend and purchase gifts for.) The best way to track your spending and hold yourself accountable is by writing down your purchases so you can mindfully cut back when you need to.
Don’t forget to review and adjust your budget regularly, particularly if you’re looking to make a major financial commitment in the future like buying a house or paying off your student loans. This is also an important practice to make a habit of if your income ebbs and flows.
If you’re planning to go on vacation, make a separate budget for the trip. Attach a dollar amount to your hotel stay, food costs, entertainment, rental car, and any other expenses you expect to incur while away. Having a set amount dedicated to the trip is the best way to keep summer excitement from turning into overspending.
Your budget should include some flexibility. Otherwise, the increased cost of warm weather, including changes in your utility bills, fuel prices, and activities for your family, might catch you unaware.
One of the best ways to defer these costs is by focusing on making your home more energy-efficient. Using the air conditioning consistently may make your space feel just right, but with the recent surge in natural gas prices, it’s not the most financially friendly cooling method. Instead, consider blocking out the sun with window covers or blinds, turning your thermostat up a few degrees, upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, or investing in renewable energy sources like home solar panels. Though this may feel pricey upfront, the long-term benefits make it worth considering. You can also keep your A/C vents clear, clean out your fridge so the blower doesn’t have to work so hard to chill your food, switch to LED lightbulbs, and wash your laundry in cold water.
How can you have summer fun without breaking the bank?
When you have more free time, it’s easy to spend money on activities. Traveling, amusement parks, eating out, concerts, and camping trips are all fun summer events. Add in some awesome weather and the kids being home from school and you could be facing a financial crisis.
Though we’ve given you some tips to prepare for the season, you may still be feeling like it’s summer and you want to enjoy it no matter the consequences. We get it — no one wants to spend all their time analyzing their every financial move, pining over budgets, or crunching numbers. It’s still important to be aware of your spending habits though, and choosing the right activities is the key to balancing summer fun with expenses. Here are some great ways to enjoy summer days without breaking the bank:
Choose to staycation
You don’t have to travel far to have fun! If you’re looking to enjoy a “vacation” without footing the bill, consider a staycation. What you do on your staycation will depend on your budget. It can be free, like pitching a tent in the backyard, hiking, and kayaking, or you could decide to spend a little and attend a minor league sporting event.
The point of a staycation is to make it feel as much like a getaway as possible, so set some fun “ground rules” for yourself. Whether that’s no cooking, no cleaning, or no worrying, make sure you’re taking this time to relax.
Find vacation discounts
If you decide to go on a mini-vacation to break up the fun at home, keep your eyes peeled for deals. Hotels, airlines, and hot tourist destinations will have you spending major money, so do your homework first. Search sites like Travelocity to find savings. Then, think beyond hotels as your place to stay. Airbnb and campgrounds are trendy alternatives that could be cheaper too.
Bring back the classic house party
Nothing says summer like grilling, cornhole, and friends and family. So why not bring back house parties to spark some at-home fun? Just be aware that crowds can become unaffordable if you aren’t careful. Plus, the cost of purchasing a grill, fuel, fresh burgers, and drinks can add up quickly. But don’t be discouraged — there are some ways to save here. Consider making the event a potluck, ask guests to bring a dish to pass, or make a grocery list to keep yourself from buying products that may be fun, but you don’t need.
Enjoy free, local activities
Most communities host activities in the summer like concerts in the park, group bike rides, festivals or fairs, and family days at the pool. These events are a great way for you and your family to have some low-cost (or free) fun. Make sure to check out your local newspaper or community Facebook page for information on their activities.
Get creative in the kitchen
Summer is for happy hours and trying new things with friends. And while indulging within your budget is great, when you get caught up several times a week, it can get out of hand fast. To help curve the craving of going out, start DIY-ing your summer favorites. Iced coffee, infused water, and sun-brewed iced tea are easy to do on the cheap. Think of what you tend to spend the most on in summer, and try to make it yourself. Pinterest and TikTok are great resources for new ideas as well.
Creating a memorable summer is possible without letting your finances get in the way. The biggest thing to remember is you don’t want to incur seasonal debt. No one wants to be paying off summer at Christmas. But with a little planning and some research, you can create a realistic budget, decide what is affordable, and enjoy the season stress-free.