As the weather heats up, so does consumer spending. Americans not only dish out more money on travel and entertainment from June to August than other times of year, but the relaxed, laid-back vibe of the season entices people to track their spending less, leading to careless credit card swiping.
With the average American spending nearly $2,000 on a summer vacation in 2017, as reported by the eighth annual Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, it’s clear that travel takes a big bite out of a household budget. However, it’s not just exotic escapes and weekend getaways that can translate to steep debt. Everyday spending can spiral out of control in the summer months, too.
While it’s important to enjoy the warm weather and spend quality time with loved ones away from the office, there’s no reason to blow your budget to have fun. Read on for seven ways to debt-proof your summer and dodge a dwindling bank account come fall.
Create a seasonal spending plan. During the warmer months, you may be lured into splurging on cocktails with friends or escaping to the beach on the weekends. While you don’t need to compromise on enjoying seasonal pleasures and pastimes, it’s essential to budget for these added expenses.
You need to consider your summer activities and budget accordingly, while simultaneously reducing other unfixed expenses to avoid going into debt, says Jamila Souffrant, certified financial educator instructor and founder of JourneytoLaunch.com, a personal finance blog.
Consumers also tend to go into debt when they begin losing track of where their money is going, so it’s important to take an inventory of your finances and monitor spending more closely. Apps and budget-tracking sites like Mint and BudgetPulse catalogue your finances across various categories, helping you spot potential overspending before any debt begins to accumulate.
Enjoy free activities. It’s easy to fill up your calendar with expensive activities, but with a little research, you can enjoy the warm weather at little to no cost. Sandy Smith, founder of the personal finance blog YesIamCheap.com, recommends taking advantage of free activities and reading programs at your local library and checking community listings for complimentary events, which might include outdoor concerts and movies in the park. Even retailers such as the Home Depot offer free activities, including workshops for kids one Saturday each month, Smith says.
Catherine Alford, a family finance expert at CatherineAlford.com, recommends searching libraries for coupons and even complimentary passes to local attractions that residents can check out for free admission. And keep in mind, taking your family for a hike, bike ride or going for a picnic in the park are other great ways to enjoy the outdoors without emptying your savings account.
Trim camp costs. Summer camp is often a primary part of a family’s child care plan, but the high costs can cause many parents to exceed their budget. According to the American Camp Association, the average day camp runs $304 a week, while specialty camps, such as those focused on sports or science, cost a premium of up to a $1,000 per week. Many local city parks and organizations offer cost-effective public-run camps, some of which provide sliding-scale fees based on income or may even offer tuition assistance. For parents who feel pressured to send their children to a more expensive camp, experts says you can save by splitting time between both.
“Consider a more affordable camp for the majority of the summer and incorporate just one or two weeks of a premium or specialty camp,” Alford says. To lower costs, she decided to send her children to a less expensive camp at a local gym for most of the summer with one week at a pricier kid’s empowerment camp. “By mixing it up and not feeling like I have to send them to the best or most expensive camp all summer long, I will avoid going into unnecessary debt and I have no doubt my kids will have a wonderful summer,” she says.
Take advantage of discount passes. Whether you’re looking to give your children an enriching experience by taking them to a museum, zoo or aquarium, or you’ve opted for a little more adventure at a theme park or water park, be smart about when you go and how you buy passes. Many museums, zoos and botanical gardens offer free or reduced-priced admission on certain days of the week, Smith says. And don’t forget to check for savings through your employer.
When it comes to going to the movies, trim costs by considering a matinee or midweek screening, where you can receive up to 50 percent off tickets along with deals on concessions. Many box offices also host summertime programs for families, offering $1 movie screenings of kid-friendly flicks. Check out Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse and Regal Cinema’s Summer Movie Express for dates and locations.
Be mindful of wedding costs. A recent Credit Karma/Qualtrics survey found that wedding guests ages 18 to 34 have spend $770, on average, to attend a wedding. And with June to September marking the peak season to tie the knot, weddings can create a financial burden for attendees in the summer months.
“Summer weddings will destroy your budget,” says David Rae, Los Angeles-based certified financial planner with DRM Wealth Management. This is why he says it’s crucial to plan ahead by considering all the potential costs of attending. For those who require travel and booking accommodations, Rae recommends checking rates at nearby hotels if the wedding block of rooms is out of your price range. Otherwise, renting a home with other family or friends is another way to reduce travel expenses. When it comes to the gift, Rae suggests shopping through online portals to find savings or using coupons for items on the registry. If you’ve been invited to several weddings, determine which ones are most important and best fit into your budget.
Entertain on the cheap. Hosting a backyard barbecue may seem like a budget-friendly idea, but costs can add up quickly, depending on your guest list and party format. To save on your hosting expenses, ask guests to chip in. Ask friends and family to bring a dish to share, something to grill or a favorite beverage.
Slash travel spending. According to the 2017 LearnVest Money Habits and Confessions Survey, 74 percent of people say they’ve gone into debt to pay for a vacation, charging $1,108 on average. While taking a trip with your family is a great way to build long-lasting memories, there are ways to bond with your loved ones without going into debt. Instead of a pricey getaway, consider a staycation filled with exploration, arts and crafts, camping in the backyard and summer music and arts festivals. Otherwise, be flexible when planning your trip and look for destinations offering discounts. Also consider traveling when flight prices are cheaper to save a bundle, even if that means cutting your trip short to fly home on a Saturday versus a Sunday.