Summer is here and that means a few different things: battles with kids over sunscreen application, increased outdoor activities and a strained bank account. According to a 2018 study from LendEDU, the average adult American spends $2,229 during the summer, making it the second-most expensive season behind winter.
After being stuck inside your house for most of the colder months, it’s only natural to get excited about the outdoors and going on vacation. Unfortunately, leaving the comfort of your couch increases your expenses. Here are some tips to help you navigate the hotter months of the year without breaking a sweat.
Manage vacation expectations
One of the best ways to be able to afford a summer vacation is to work it into your yearly budget ahead of time. Steve Zakelj, a certified financial planner with Flatirons Wealth Management in Boulder, Colo. explained that a good vacation starts with planning.
“Start saving for it with $100, 500, $1,000 a month in the winter,” he said. “Set up a vacation account that gets an automatic deposit every month of the year. This way, you’re prepared for your summer trip and have a definitive budget you can use without guilt or long-term problems. Keep the monthly contributions going year-round so you’re already saving for next summer’s fun the moment you get back.”
Once you have your budget set, research places that are within your price range. If you love traveling overseas, try staying at budget-friendly, off the beaten path locations, like Sophia, Bulgaria. The average price of a hostel in Bulgaria’s capital is just $6.99 per night.
You can also keep your traveling costs low by thinking ahead. If you’re going to be out on the town a lot, there’s really no need to book an expensive hotel. If you are thinking the more activities the better, pick out ones that are affordable. “At your destination, look for free or cheap shows, events or festivals as opposed to venues that require the purchase of a pricey ticket,” explained Zakelj.
Another way to reduce vacation expenses is to stay put for a staycation. Plan local activities, hit up your favorite restaurant. Cutting out travel and accommodation expenses will allow you to funnel your money to some fun around town.
Get creative with child care
Having your kids home from school can make summer expensive, especially if you need to pay for child care. First, try asking other parents what their plans are — they may be privy to information about affordable camps or summer clubs you didn’t know existed. You may also find someone with a flexible schedule who can share child care duties with you. You take the kids one week, they take them the next and that frees up time for both of you to get stuff done without paying for day care or babysitters.
If you have relatives or your parents live nearby, see if it’s possible for your kids to visit for a week or two during the summer. Your loved ones get the benefit of seeing your kids, and you get the benefit of a free week of child care.
The YMCA is also a great source for affordable summer camps. This organization operates more than 1,850 day camps across the country. Search the YMCA site to find a camp near you.
When you do have the kids around, there are countless low-cost activities to keep them busy. “Enjoy the outdoors on the cheap,” suggested Zakelj. “Take hikes, go fishing, ride bikes, etc. After an initial expense, most of these activities can have very low ongoing expenses.”
Pause your subscriptions
According to a study by tech consulting firm Waterstone Management Group, the average adult American spends $237.33 per month on subscription services. Summer, with its long days and beautiful weather, presents a great time to cut back on these costs. Are you running outside more? Consider canceling or pausing your gym membership. Find yourself hanging out with friends more often than sitting at home binge-watching TV shows? Cancel your Netflix account until the fall.
Take some time and comb through your bank account statements to find the subscription charges. Then, go through each one to see if you actually use it and if it truly adds value to your life. If you the answer is “no” to any of the services, cut away.
Don’t overdo it on the air conditioning
As the days get hotter and hotter, keep in mind that one big budget buster is your power bill. The Department of Energy says that air conditioners cost American homeowners about $29 billion annually. If you keep the AC cranked day and night, that’s a lot of money down the drain.
Instead of cooling an empty house, invest in a programmable thermostat that you can keep 7 to 10 degrees hotter than the setting you keep it at when you’re home. Doing this will save you about 10% on your power bill annually. If your AC unit is outdated, it might make sense to purchase a new, high-efficiency unit. Before you take that plunge, do some research on smart ways to finance the purchase.
Beyond taking steps to reduce energy costs with your AC unit directly, you can install ceiling fans to help circulate air. Consider planting leafy plants outside of your home (especially near windows), as they’ll shade your home and help keep it cool.
Take advantage of BBQ weather
You can avoid overspending during the summer by cutting back on dining out. The average American household shells out $2,667 on food costs outside of the home. The weather is nice and the days are longer, so why not have friends over to your place instead of going to a restaurant? As Zakelj explained, even reducing smaller expenses will help you keep spending under wraps.
“If you eat out regularly, think about eating your dinner at home and just going out for ice cream afterward,” said Zakelj. “You still get the fun of a trip out but just buying dessert is much cheaper than paying for an entire meal. Or have friends over to the back patio for BBQ and beer instead of hitting restaurants with them.”
Be realistic about wedding season
One big reason for summer overspending is weddings. According to wedding marketplace The Knot, the average amount guests spend on an out-of-town wedding is a whopping $901, including travel, attire, accomodations and gifts.
If you have to attend, save some cash by searching for cheap lodging. Check sites like HotelTonight.com for deals on rooms, or consider splitting the cost of a house through Airbnb or Vrbo. If you’re traveling alone, see if there’s another single friend with whom you can split a room. If you opt for a hotel, try to stay at the one reserved by the bride and groom — it’s common for the couple to request a block of rooms for their guests, often at a rate lower than listed prices.
As for traveling to the wedding, if it’s within driving distance, see if anyone wants to carpool to save on gas costs. Look into Amtrak, as it often has deals when you travel with multiple companions. Some airlines, like Southwest and United Airlines, also offer group rates, but you’ll need at least 10 people to take advantage of them.
While we all like to look spiffy for big events, there’s no need to break the bank on your wedding attire. Need a tux? Rent one from a site like TheBlackTux.com, which lets you try one on for free. Looking for a dress? Try RentTheRunway.com, where you’ll get 20% off your first rental.
Also, keep in mind: You don’t have to attend a wedding simply because you were invited. If the cost is high, ask yourself if you’re really that close to the couple getting hitched. If you’re not, skip it and send a gift instead.
Speaking of gifts: The earlier you buy from the wedding registry, the better. There will be plenty of options available, giving you the chance to purchase something the couple wants that’s well within your budget. If there’s not something affordable on the registry, ask other guests if they want to purchase a larger item together.
Beware of summer sales
There are plenty of sales during the summer — from July 4 weekend to back-to-school — but that doesn’t mean you need to hit every one. Take an inventory of all the items you already have, like notebooks and pens from the previous school year, or kids swim apparel that will still fit next summer. Once you know what you have, you can make a list of what you actually need. Let that list be your guide to summer sales. If it’s on the list, look into the sale. If it’s not, move along. Having a concrete reminder of the things you need will help you avoid spontaneous purchases that can derail your long-term savings goals.