Summer is finally here! After a long 2020 where we cancelled vacations and many of our standard entertainment options were non-existent, the summer of 2021 has arrived! When I think about summer, some of my favorite experiences come to mind including vacations, golfing, barbeques, biking, concerts, boating, and spending nights around the fire. Mostly, I think about spending quality time with family and friends. Creating lasting memories and of course fun stories along the way. Whether you enjoy getting away, exploring new areas, or seeking fun experiences, summer is full of opportunity! Unfortunately, there is generally a financial cost associated with all this fun.
This year, inflation and pent up consumer demand are pushing the cost of summer activities higher, putting the squeeze on budgets. Especially if there are kids involved, so here are ten tips to make the most of summer, while not letting your budget go up in flames. Think of these tips as sunscreen for your budget!
Ten tips to enjoy summer and keep your budget from getting burned
1. Create a summer budget
The first tip is to create a summer budget. This may seem obvious, but actually sitting down and doing it is important. If you need a refresher on how to budget, we wrote a blog all about budgeting! Review your available cash flow and plan your summer spending keeping in mind your long-term goals. Be realistic about how much money is available for summer fun. Once you have created a summer budget, stick to it!
2. Online coupon finders
When planning your next trip or shopping online for summer items, try using a free online coupon finder like “Honey”. Honey is a free browser extension that searches for coupon codes when shopping online. If it locates a coupon, it automatically enters the coupon code for you at checkout. Some financial institutions also offer a similar option as well.
3. Get your kids involved
When planning activities, get your kiddos involved! Rather than making all the decisions, it could be fun to offer your kids options. Let them know what each activity will cost and what the overall budget is for activities. This gives kids the opportunity to take ownership in part of the family vacation, while teaching them about financial decisions and budgeting at the same time.
4. Avoid traveling during peak times
Taking a summer trip early or late in the season helps avoid the busiest travel times when transportation, lodging, and entertainment are most expensive. You may also notice another benefit – less overcrowding!
5. Pay up front
Research shows we are happier when we pay for an experience in advance. While payment plans are sometimes necessary, continuing to pay for a vacation months after the trip is probably not the kind of lasting memory you want. If you are able, pay for your trip up front, so you can get down to enjoying yourself while you are there.
6. Save on snacks
One way to save a little money when road tripping or traveling is to plan ahead and buy drinks and snacks before your trip. Pack a healthy supply of your family’s favorite treats. Avoid paying for the same overpriced items at the gas station, travel center, or airport.
7. Cook your own meals
These days with Airbnb and Vrbo, it is not hard to find lodging with a full kitchen or a grill that you can use. Food is a major expense on vacation. Making your own meals is less expensive and often healthier. It is a win-win! Sometimes the best part of vacation is getting to try new restaurants and foods in a new place, so maybe you compromise and make breakfast and lunch while still going out for a nice dinner somewhere.
8. Skip the overpriced theme parks
Trips to popular theme parks and amusement parks add up quick! Skip the overpriced and overcrowded theme parks and opt for a trip in nature this year. Plan a road trip or camping trip with the family and check out some of the amazing National Parks and experiences available for free or at a much lower cost. You can get a National Parks Pass with access to over 2000 national recreation areas for a considerably lower annual cost.
9. Search online for local activities
Take advantage of all your city has to offer! Search for “free events” in your area. For central Iowa, Catch DSM is a great resource and Des Moines Girl creates a weekly guide to small businesses and events going on in the Des Moines area. You can find loads of information on free summer concert series, festivals, farmers markets, outdoor movement classes, and movies in the park with a simple internet search.
10. Invite your friends over
If you have a patio, deck, backyard, or common area, invite your friends over! Take advantage of the warm weather and host a barbecue or drinks on the patio or deck. Going out to eat can get expensive, especially if you are having a few drinks too. Save some dough and talk about rotating hosting responsibilities with your friend group!
Use these tips to enjoy all summer has to offer while squeezing the most out of your budget. If you need help with your summer budget, hourly financial planning, or your permanent vacation (retirement planning), we our team of Des Moines Financial Advisors are here for you. Contact us to schedule an appointment. Have a great summer and safe travels!