This is a guest post submitted by Amy.
Here in the northeast, it was a long, cold winter, and early spring wasn’t much better. Thankfully, it has finally warmed up, the trees have leaves, and the gardens are coming back to life. I love spring and summer, but they bring unique financial challenges.
Income – The biggest financial challenge for our family is that my job is only during the school year, so I don’t have a regular paycheck during the summer. There are many other families like ours, where one (or even both) earners are not paid over the summer. Some of these families are lucky enough to have their paychecks spread over all twelve months, even though they’re off for some of them. Be sure to ask your employer is this is a possibility, if you’re off several months of the year.
Because this isn’t a possibility for me, and because I’m focused on paying down debt, I’m making a conscious effort to bring in several hundred dollars of income each month via side hustles, as well as my small direct sales business. My side hustles include taking surveys online, selling unused household items, and taking my daughter’s clothes that no longer fit to a local consignment store. Other options include work-from-home jobs, babysitting, yard work, tutoring, and more.
Meals – My family loves to grill, but grilling typically means meat and/or fish, both of which can be pricey. To keep costs under control, closely track prices at your local stores, and stock up when they’re at their lowest. (Hint: Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day sales are great times to stock up on meat, condiments, and other grilling supplies.) If you belong to a warehouse club, buying in bulk may be the cheapest option. Gardening is a great way to save on fresh vegetables, herbs, and more. Try succession gardening, or planting different foods that will grow throughout the season and allow you to maximize your harvest. Have a bumper crop of zucchini? Trade with a neighbor or friend who’s got more tomatoes than he or she can use.
Activities – Whether you work over the summer or not, or your kids are in camp or not, there will be lots of free time. There are countless great things to do in the warm weather, and it’s easy to be tempted to participate in paid activities. The best way to keep from over-spending on amusement parks, county fairs, and other pricey activities is to put together a list of free or inexpensive things to do, instead. Parks, playgrounds, and libraries are great options. Some playgrounds have sprinklers, so kids can enjoy a cool-down, without pool entry fees. Meet up with friends for playground playdates, or pack a lunch and have a picnic.
For activities that cost a bit, look for ways to economize. Coupons in local publications may offer two-for-one admission, there may be discounts available on low-traffic days in the middle of the week, and advanced purchase online may be cheaper than purchasing tickets at the entry point. And for places you know you’ll visit many times, consider buying a discounted pass, if you have room in your budget. For example, we have an annual membership to our local children’s museum, which cost $80. Admission to the museum is $6 per person, so the membership paid for itself after seven visits.
Treats – Ice cream, snow cones, and lemonade – oh my! As with anything else, the key to saving on treats is planning ahead. Make sure to carry lots of snacks with you at all times, especially things that can withstand the heat, like granola bars (no chocolate chips!), sealed, single-serve applesauce, and crackers, popcorn, and chips in reusable bags. Freeze water bottles and juice boxes, so you have cold drinks when you’re out. Use juice to make ice pops to keep in the freezer at home, and stock up on ice cream when it’s on sale, so you can avoid the temptation of going out for it.
What about your family? What challenges does your budget face during the summer? What strategies have you developed to keep costs down and still enjoy the summer?
About the Author
Amy, aka Debtgal, lives in the northeast with her husband, four year old daughter, and two geriatric cats. She’s working on paying off their substantial credit card debt, and becoming more intentional with their finances and her life, in general. You can read about her debt repayment and frugal living at http://debtgal.com/.
Don't know how to make a budget?
No problem! This simple and easy-to-use guide is perfect for beginners! It'll walk you through step-by-step in creating a budget for the very first time.