Warmer days. Vacations. Kids home from school. Summer is a much-anticipated time of year.
However, it can also be a time of year that results in budget-busters. You might be surprised at how quickly you can get through your monthly budget during the summer. There’s just so much going on–and you want to do it all.
Before you spend a dollar this summer, though, take a look at these 10 things that might be whittling down your budget too fast.
Table of Contents:
1. Day Camp
If you need to get the kids out of the house, day camp can seem like the perfect answer. Until you see how much it costs. Day camps are increasingly expensive–in some cases, it can cost more for day camp than to keep them in regular childcare.
You might have alternatives to expensive day camps, however. Check with your local library or your city’s parks and recreation department. There may be low-cost or free programs available for children, providing them with something to do without breaking the bank.
The weather’s nice, so do you really have to drive everywhere? Depending on where you live, you might be able to save on gas and other car costs by keeping your vehicle in the garage and walking or taking public transit. Another solution is to drive to a central location and park your car, and then walk as much as possible. Or consider riding a bike! If you happen to live in a college town, these options are usually easily doable so why not take advantage of them?
3. Lack of Meal Planning
With summer underway, it can be tempting to give the meal planning a break. However, once you stop meal planning, you end up taking last-minute trips to the store, or eating out a lot. Summer can be very expensive when it comes to food if you aren’t planning ahead.
Make it a point to plan your meals during the summer. Look for foods that are easy to prepare and fun to eat. It’s a great time to grill, and there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables–many of which don’t have to be cooked.
4. Running the Air Conditioner All the Time
There are few things as inefficient as running the air conditioner all the time. When possible, use strategies that reduce how often the air conditioner is turned on. Consider opening the windows at night to let a breeze through. One strategy is to leave the windows open at night and then close them early in the morning. You might be able to go quite a while into the afternoon before you need to turn on the air conditioner–especially if your home is energy efficient. You can also run fans, which use less electricity than the air conditioner.
5. Buying New Clothes
New season, new clothes. Before you go shopping, though, it’s a good idea to shop your own closet first. You might be surprised to discover that you have plenty of clothes that are appropriate for summer already.
If you do want clothes, empty your closet first, getting rid of clothes you don’t wear any more. Additionally, you can shop consignment shops for gently used summer attire that’s much less expensive than buying new. Also, consider buying classic items that are less trendy and more likely to be evergreen from summer to summer. Don’t let warmer weather be an excuse to buy more new clothing than you need.
6. Going Out With Friends
Warmer weather tends to make us want to get out of the house more. However, increasing how much you go out with friends–especially if you go to bars, concerts, and restaurants–can start to add up quickly. Before you know it, your entertainment budget for the month is gone before the 15th.
Instead of going out, consider hosting backyard picnics and barbecues. Have potluck gatherings, with each attendee contributing something. Everyone can bring their own drinks and you can relax in the backyard without the need to spend a lot of money.
7. An Expensive Family Vacation
There’s nothing wrong with getting out of town on occasion. However, it becomes a problem if you don’t have the budget for an expensive trip. Rather than trying to make it work or putting it on a credit card, consider taking a smaller, less expensive trip.
Rather than flying somewhere, consider a road trip. A good road trip can be lots of fun, and you can camp along the way to save money on lodging. In fact, a few camping trips over the summer can be a lot of fun for everyone, and cost less than a major trip.
Consider ways you can take day excursions to nearby towns and nature sites. This will give you a bit of fun summer novelty without breaking the bank.
8. Going to the Movies
All those summer blockbusters are likely luring you from your home more than usual. Unfortunately, you can spend a lot of money at the movies. And it’s not just the show. Concessions are expensive, and movie theaters are starting to offer more than just popcorn.
Rather than going to the movies, consider having a fun movie night. Choose movies you haven’t seen for a while or binge a show you’ve been meaning to watch. Make your own popcorn at home, or buy cheap dollar candy. Make it different by moving your home movie theater to the deck, or by “camping” in the family room after you’ve watched the movie.
If you do go to the movies, though, consider eating before you go so you’re less tempted to buy food at the show, or to stop for fast food on the way home.
9. Buying New Summer Gear
Do you really need another tent? Does it make sense to buy a jet-ski?
Before you spend money on more summer gear, really think about it. If you already have camping gear, buying the latest version might not make sense. It costs more, and you only use it a few times a year.
The same is especially true for the bigger toys. You might think it’s fun to get a jet-ski or new kayak, but how often will you use it? And, after the summer season ends, where will you store it? In some cases, you might have to pay extra for a storage unit, meaning you pay for your summer fun all year long.
10. Failure to Plan Ahead
No matter what you do this summer, a failure to plan ahead and save up can be the biggest budget buster of all. If you know you’re going to send your child to sleepaway camp, start setting aside money for that purpose at the beginning of the year. The same goes for a vacation.
Related: 10 Online Budget Tools
Instead of trying to scramble to come up with the money in the moment (and likely needing to use debt to pay the cost), plan ahead. If you know you want to go on a certain vacation, make it a point to break down the budget well ahead of time and prepare. If you know you want a new summer wardrobe, spend less on clothes during other seasons and set that money aside.
Create a rough plan for the summer and estimate what you’ll need to make it happen. Then, you can be planning for the bigger budget year-round, and you won’t be caught by surprise.