Summer is knocking at the door and with limitless diversions like outdoor concerts, weekend trips, summer vacations, activities for the kids … it can put a dent into even the most carefully planned budget.
As the days lengthen, stay proactive with budget planning. Here are 5 strategies to help you kick-start the season.
1. Make a Summer Budget
American Express reported last June that 198 million Americans planned a summer getaway, which was up 13% over the previous year. Also, of those, more opted for a longer 2-week vacation. 81% of Americans planned and saved money specifically for summer travel.
Take a hard look at your expenses. Cut what isn’t necessary now so there will be extra money when it counts during the summer. Barely used subscriptions, memberships, unnecessary expenditures — it’s a perfect time to unload recurring expenses of little or underused activities.
Budget experts advise limiting entertainment or “Lifestyle Choices,” to 10-30% of earned income. “Lifestyle choices” which would include internet, phone plans, entertainment, gym fees, hobbies, dining out, etc. Only you know how much is really there to allocate. Get your calculator out and add it up. Your summer fun is depending on it.
2. Plan Summer Vacations
Planning is half the budget battle when it comes to summer vacations. Experts say to plan early and book travel now before seasonal fares skyrocket.
- Research costs, there are some great travel calculators out there to help plan expenses. It’s important to have a realistic idea of what it’s going to cost.
- Budget a 10-15% travel overage for emergencies and surprises.
- Miles — An excellent resource for summer travel and saving money on family vacations. A great strategy for reducing the cost of summer travel is to tap into points and rewards from loyalty programs such as airline miles. American Express travelers using rewards jumped 53% in four years. I have several friends who pay for their entire family’s airfare to Europe and Asia using accumulated travel miles throughout the year. For lodging, use your AAA membership which will get you an extra 10-20% discount on a lot of hotels and even some attractions.
3. Explore Family Summer Activities
While summer camps can run into the thousands, there are less expensive alternatives. Look for summer community recreation programs in your city that fit your child’s interests. They are often much cheaper, offer both full day and half-day activities, and will expose your kids to new skills. My son has always loved sports. Summer was his time to explore them all. When they are older, often sports become year-round, leaving them little time to participate in a variety of activities. The same is true in music and science.
Groupon has been our summer friend. Look for deals where you live. Last summer we rented a surrey on Alki Beach in Seattle. If it hadn’t been for a special Groupon rate, it probably wouldn’t have made the summer list. It was a lot of fun and a source of entertainment for my son even now as he remembers his mom trying to keep up with him and his dad. (Which I didn’t do so well).
Finally, look for free days or free entertainment within your community. Many zoos and movie theaters and bowling alleys will offer “free” days, usually weekdays, every month.
Check out websites for local ideas for entertainment in your community. Thrillist.com has a resource list for most cities. Here is the page for Seattle. Libraries also will host free events throughout the summer. One of my favorite summer activity is when local symphony orchestras or ballet theaters play “Summer in the Parks” concerts.
4. Take Advantage of Seasonal Sales
There are lots of sales during the summer season. Watch the circulars regularly and buy during those promotions. Look for apps like the ones we’ve listed below that will help you save. It takes a bit of planning, but if you combine coupons and promotional savings, it could net huge savings. Check out our month-by-month savings calendar.
Our grandparents were really good at frugality. They re-purposed everything. They fixed things that broke. They kept their house cool by closing the blinds instead of relying only on air-conditioning, they grew gardens, summer evening activities were going to town to “people watch,” sitting on the porch reconnecting with neighbors and friends, star gazing, a rousing game of baseball was always a great source of entertainment.
We’re not our grandparents and life is different… kids are different… but summer should reflect some of that frugality. We should be energy conscious, we should be resource conscious, we should make memories sitting on the porch, taking a family hike, picnicking, making ice cream. Perhaps freeze that gym membership, instead opting for family exercise outside. Open the windows to cool the house in the morning, shutter them in the heat of the afternoon. Instead of that quick drive-up window, plan easy summer menus, plant some seeds and watch them grow. Use your resources wisely.
What are some ways you save for summer? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.