Summer is my favorite season of the year! It is full of adventures at the beach, hiking, playing golf, grilling, and camping. Oh, and if you’re in your 20s, don’t forget about all the weddings you will get invited to or asked to be in. Summer is time to let loose a little more, get outside, and be more active.
It’s also a time where it becomes really easy to spend more money than you really want to. That’s right, those extra activities aren’t free! Now I’m not saying to skip out on all the awesome, fun adventures. Definitely have fun, hang out with friends, and make some great memories. I am saying however, that you don’t need to break your budget to have fun this summer!
I want to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your summer, and stay out of the red.
Map Out Your Summer Ahead of Time
March and April seem to be the months that I start making plans for summer vacation. Since I’m a teacher, I still get to dream of and enjoy a true summer vacation 🙂 I’m a huge baseball fan, so I try to get to at least one game every summer, two if I’m lucky. I feel like my wife and I talk about taking a camping trip every year, either together, or with friends, or heck, maybe both!
It is a lot easier to travel and visit friends and family who live a few hours away, so we make sure to include those mini trips into our calendar. Plus, my family usually spends a week camping in our neck of the woods around the 4th of July, so that throws off our normal schedule of meal prepping. The warm weather seems to beg us to buy brats or steak to throw on the grill and have a few beers while we host some friends on our back deck.
And that isn’t even close to all of it! Your summer schedule can fill up so fast, with an overabundance of events, dinners, adventures, and traveling. If you don’t sit down to map out your summer, you could end up spending money like a football player who just signed a $20 million dollar contract, which I can only imagine is like crazy! Don’t let summer get out of hand, take control now!
You may have picked up on this by now, but Jenna and I are really intentional when it comes to our money. Therefore, we don’t just plan out our summer adventures ahead of time, we also plan out how much our adventures will cost. In my dream world, I would love to go to a Minnesota Twins game a couple times a month, go on a long road trip to the east or west coast, and spend a few nights a week grilling out with friends.
But the realistic part of my brain, and also my practical minded wife, kick in and remind me that it would be crazy expensive to always do whatever we want each summer. Yes, we might have fun, but we would also be cringing on the inside knowing that we are spending a lot of money, moving us further away from our goals.
Make a List and Estimate Your Costs
When you start to make a list of your summer plans, estimate the costs of each adventure. It helps put into perspective how much money you will need to save up ahead of time. We like to make lists, or at least my very organized wife does. On our list we write down all of our plans, and then we write the best guess price next to it. It really helps us visualize the value in terms of cost and enjoyment. Another nice benefit of actually making a list is it helps you prioritize what you actually want to do, and can afford to do. Which conveniently leads me to my next point.
Prioritize Your Plans
If you can afford all of your summer plans and that is truly how you want to spend your money, I say go for it. Do it all! Traveling, camping, and visiting friends is always a blast if you don’t have to stress about money. Carpe that Diem! But if that’s not possible, the list you make will help you figure out which plans are important and what is actually feasible with your budget. It also helps you see if you even have enough free weekends to get everything done, and not feel burned out.
When I see a price next to an event, I can more easily weigh the cost against the experience. Is it really worth it to spend $250 on a weekend out of town to watch a Twins game, eat out downtown, and stay in a hotel? Or is it more worth it to spend that $250 on a week long camping trip? Or going to see the Opera or a concert? There are so many ways to spend money and time during the summer. Choose what is most important to your family, and start booking weekends to make it happen.
Save Money Ahead of Time
I have always been a saver when it comes to money. Even when I was a kid, I would hoard Christmas and birthday money for years before spending it. I didn’t always know what I was saving it for, but it seemed like a better idea to keep it tucked away than to spend it on candy and pop. Maybe that is why I love planning ahead and saving for things I really want. It helps remind me every month of what I want to do and gives me something to look forward to. Saving also helps me determine if I really want something, or if it is just an impulse.
For example, if I see a shirt I like at Target, I like to carry it around the store while I do the rest of my shopping. While I am carrying it, I can continue to analyze if I really want it or if I’ll actually wear it. When I get done shopping, if I still feel like it’s something I want, and I have cash for it, I buy it. If not, then I put it back. Saving for summer plans can work the same way. If you spend a few months saving, you might decide that you don’t really want to charter a sailboat for a week after all.
I also feel like it is more satisfying when I know I have been working hard to plan and save money. I like to reflect on the journey it took me to be where I am, and it feels good to know I met my goal. I appreciate the journey as much as the reward.
Find Free and Cheap Dates and Adventures
For the past four years, we have been extremely frugal with our money and in the process found a bunch of dates and mini adventures that are free or very cheap! In fact, sometimes the cheap dates were more fun and memorable than when we splurged. One of our favorite dates that we repeat every summer is “Act like a tourist day.”
We live on Lake Superior where tourism rules during the summer. There are all kinds of fun activities around town especially driven by the tourism industry. On act like a tourist day, we choose a handful of these mini adventures and do them with full enthusiasm, including taking all of the typical tourist pictures.
Last year we spent $10 on a ship tour, wandered through the gift shop, explored art galleries, walked along the lake, and skipped rocks into the lake. One year we even talked in accents the entire time and built up a backstory in case anyone asked where we were from. For the record, I claimed to be from Ireland and Jenna was from London and we met while I studied a semester at the University in London. We explained the trip to Duluth as our honeymoon to America. It was an absolute blast!
Our city also has a free movie in the park every Friday in the summer, and one time we even brought our own computer down to the park with speakers, a blanket, and pillows to watch a movie. We always enjoy a good trail hike, packing a picnic, and spending quality time with each other. If you are creative enough and willing to be goofy and silly, there are loads of things to do really cheaply right in your own backyard!
Wrapping It Up
Summer is awesome. Period. But to get the most fun without stretching your budget too far, make a plan and prioritize what is most important to you. Save up and have a blast without the stress. And don’t forget about the free stuff around town. There is always free stuff!
Let Me Know in the Comments
What are your favorite summer activities? Any free or cheap date ideas or getaways?