We look forward to the summer months all year long. Summer for many of us means vacations, road trips, concerts, and backyard barbeques. Without having a plan, these activities can really get out of hand when it comes to spending.
If you are like me, and are in the process of working your way out of debt, summer spending can result in a major setback. By developing a plan for summer activities you can not only have a great time but stay within your budget.
A vacation is usually the first thing we think of when the word “summer” is mentioned. Have a great time on your trip out of the country, in your state, or your very own backyard without breaking the bank.
Set Rules About Spending
It’s easy to blow your cash on overpriced souvenirs and trinkets while you’re on vacation. Decide before you go how much you can spend on gifts and other items, and then make sure you stick to that number while you’re away. Be sure to do the same for the kiddos. Have them bring a set amount for trinkets—when its gone its gone.
Do Your Research
Check out convention and visitors’ bureaus, which allow you to buy packages that include discounted admissions to popular attractions. Check out online forums such as these; devoted to fun family vacations, or ask your friends and co-workers for tips about where to visit.
If possible, avoid traveling during peak days and times (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays). You can save plenty of money by traveling mid-week or at night, for instance, when ticket prices are less expensive.
Ask for discounts.
At the very least, you might be able to negotiate an upgrade to your ticket, car rental or hotel room. And you may discover that your AAA card, AARP membership or other memberships—score you special offers, discounts, and deals.
Try A “Staycation”
Explore your town, a nearby city or even the wilds of your own backyard! Take advantage of inexpensive – and oftentimes free – options like: museums, farmers markets, outdoor concerts, film festivals, and community pools.
Being on the road often leads to increased spending; gas, snacks, drinks an the “essentials” always cost more when you are not prepared for them. Here are a few tips for saving money on the road.
- Consider alternative kinds of accommodation – If you can’t afford the expense of staying in a hotel, and camping isn’t your thing, try something new. Vacation rentals are often a cost-effective way for your whole family to get away, and you can sometimes rent an entire house for the cost of a hotel for you and the kids.
- Share your accommodation, or stay with relatives – Vacationing with friends or family can make the whole experience more fun, and could save you money on the cost of your trip.
- Stay off the beaten path – Avoid tourist destinations. Hotels in the middle of everything are usually more expensive, so look for places a little further out.
- Pack your lunches – Buy your food at supermarkets and dine picnic-style. Staying somewhere with cooking facilities can also help you cut the cost of dining out.
- Stock up before you leave home – Buy your film, batteries and sunscreen before you leave, vacation staples often cost double on the road.
Summer is a great season for having backyard barbeques, and the price of having a cookout can be much cheaper than going out to eat.
- Everyone makes something – For example, the host buys the food for the grill (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, steaks, veggies, etc.) Then, the guests bring various items; drinks, snacks/appetizers, salads, and desserts.
- Everyone pitches in – You can have everyone pitch in money for the food. Then, someone can buy the food and you can all cook everything together.
- Themed cookouts – These add an extra zap of fun to your average backyard barbeque. Consider a luau, 80’s theme, or a day at the beach. Themes may even help you plan out your menu.
These are just a few of the ways you can get away for a week, weekend, or lazy summer afternoon and still stick to your budget. If you do all the research well in advance, you’ll discover there are all kinds of things you can do to make even the shortest vacation truly memorable. And even if you examine your budget and discover you can’t afford to get away this year, there’s always the least expensive option of all—planning a vacation that takes you no further than your backyard.
Where are your summer plans taking you?