Everybody loves the summertime vibe with relaxed schedules and vacation getaways. What’s more, students are graduating, and friends are getting married. Aren’t we all in a vacation mood? For sure, but remember that that the costs for activities and fun can add up and sink your savings goals in the process. The good news is that with a little planning, you and your family can enjoy all that summer has to offer, without busting your budget.
Consider these nine summer spending tips:
- Visit During the Off Season.
If you couldn’t swing a Thanksgiving getaway in Arizona or Christmas in the tropics, summer may be your time to visit those fun places. These destinations tend to draw big crowds in winter, and then slow down in the hotter summer months. Depending upon the location, and if you can beat the heat, you can snag some great deals during the off-season. Remember that “off season” may start as early as the first week of August–not a bad time to vacation at all. Discounts can run up to 50% off, so you can rent that beach house you wanted with a pool for less money, as long as it works with you and your kids’ schedules and school time.
- Try Camping.
Camping may not be for everyone, and even if you stock up on all of the newest gear, it can still be expensive. But if you decide to go for it, remember that many outdoor retailers rent all the basic equipment you’ll need for a campground getaway; you can also check out thrift stores for gently used items. Some even offer free workshops to show you the ropes of pitching a tent and using a cook stove. Take up fishing and save even more on meals while you enjoy the great outdoors. (Don’t forget the cleaning tools—or bug spray, for that matter.)
- Reconsider Cash Gifts.
Cash is a one-size-fits-all gift for new grads, but it may not be very personal for your relationship to the grad. And, if you’ve got lots of students to remember, cash gifts could easily zero-out your checking account. If it fits, consider giving each of the students in your life a book that’s been influential in your life, and personalize it with a special message. A book that teaches the basics of budgeting, saving and investing would be a great way to get the new grad off on the right foot financially.
- Make it a Potluck.
Backyard barbeques are a summer event, but when you’re footing the bill for everybody’s burgers, sides, drinks and desserts, the tab can run a little high. Next time you play host, ask each of your guests to bring something. Don’t feel bad—that’s what good friends are for! Most people love to pitch in on a party, and even non-cooks can help by bringing things like soft drinks, ice, and disposable dinnerware.
- Give a Family Heirloom.
If you’ll be attending the wedding of a family member, think about putting together a cookbook of family recipes or photo album of treasured photos. This would be great for a bridal or baby shower. But if not, perhaps it’s time to pass on these treasured recipes, or even a family heirloom, such as a piece of jewelry or another item from the family treasure box.
- Be First on the Registry.
If you’re invited to a wedding and you’re not related to the happy couple, their online registry will let you know what gifts they’d really like to receive. But don’t wait until the last minute to shop. The day before the wedding, the only “unclaimed” items on a registry are likely to be super-expensive items that only the rich uncle can afford.
- Have Fun with Less Money. With more relaxed schedules and the kids out of school, the summer months can be a fun and less hectic time. But they can also be the days of: “I’m bored!” and “There’s nothing to do!” Not to mention the costs of day care, summer camps and vacations can really super-soak your wallet. We sometimes forget to look outside the camp-box and enjoy local cultural and historical outings. Ideas for budget-friendly, boredom-busting summer activities abound.
- Find Summer Freebies. Summer is prime time for street festivals, outdoor concerts, craft fairs and other free community events. Bring your own snacks and water bottles for a truly low-cost experience.
- Save Money at the Gas Pump. We are all shocked these days when we fill up the car with gas. With prices nearly double the cost from a few years ago, who wouldn’t want to save a few bucks to reduce the sticker shock?
Here are some bonus tips closer to home to save money on electric costs during the warm months of summer:
- Adjust the air conditioning. You don’t have to suffer through sweltering heat, but you should be aware of the weather so that you can maximize efficiency and save money. If you have a programmable thermostat, use it! You can control the temperature up or down based on the times you are at home, sleeping, etc. And that will equal savings for you!
- Cook outside. Consider taking meal plans to the barbecue grill outside so that you can keep your cool inside. A bonus: cooking out turns a plain dinner into a fun picnic. Plus you can use the extended daylight hours to enjoy the outdoors.
- Replace your air conditioner filters. This regular maintenance can be easy to overlook, but a dirty filter can increase your cooling costs. Dirty filters restrict the airflow and the efficiency of the air conditioner, which translates into more run time and higher cooling costs. Filters are cheap, so replace them regularly.
Resources: The Balance; US News.com