Summer breezes can make you feel fine, until their bills come along and blow the jasmine from your mind. According to the eighth annual Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, the average American spends $2,000 on a summer vacation.
That’s a pretty significant chunk of the average household budget, regardless of your income level. By the way, that’s just the average; many people spend much more. However, even if you don’t go away, it’s pretty easy to see how summer can wreck your finances when you stop and count the pennies.
These tips will help you enjoy summertime fun without autumnal remorse.
Look for Affordable Activities Near Home
If you have children, they’ll be out of school, which means you’re going to have to come up with something to keep them occupied during the day. Many people turn to summer camps, which are a great idea. However, they can be rather pricey.
One solution is to take a summer membership at a swim or tennis club. This gives the kids somewhere nice to go where they will be monitored and can enjoy being outdoors. Most community centers also have activities for kids in the summer at little or no cost.
Your local library has summer reading programs, usually with prizes for children who read a certain number of books. That’s also where you’ll find coupons and other ideas for family activities, such as free summer concerts, outdoor movies and the like.
Discount Passes Are Your Golden Ticket
Most museums, zoos, theme parks and water parks offer discount passes. Ostensibly offered for vacationing tourists, what’s to stop you from buying them for the city in which you live and having fun on a mini staycation? HR departments at larger employers often have discount passes to local attractions too.
Movie theaters usually have one day a week when tickets are five dollars or so, regardless of your age. What’s more, showings before 5 p.m. generally cost less every day. Kid-friendly movies on Saturday mornings are often incredibly low-priced with discounts on concessions and films.
Plan Vacations a Year (or More) Ahead
Last-minute vacations almost always end up on credit cards. You’ll get lower airline fares if you plan the trip a year in advance and you’ll find better deals on lodging. Best of all, you can save up for it and pay cash. That way, you can enjoy the trip without coming home to oversized bills.
Also, be careful to choose something you can comfortably afford. So, what if your kid’s friends are going skiing in Argentina? If you don’t have an Argentina budget, don’t let trying to “keep up with the Joneses” put you in hock.
One more thing: Leave your credit cards at home. It’s all too easy to fall into “What the heck, we’re on vacation, let’s splurge a little!” when you can whip out a piece of plastic and feel no immediate pain. Plan your budget in advance, take it with you in traveler’s checks and spend accordingly.
By the way, if going away on vacation is out of reach because you’re already suffering with a huge debt load, consider a solution such as debt consolidation to help get things back in order more quickly.
Watch Out for Entertainment Costs
Nothing’s cheaper than a backyard barbecue right? You’d be surprised how expensive they can get when you factor in food, drinks, charcoal, etc. It’s a much better idea to make them potlucks for which every family brings a dish to share. This spreads the cost over several households instead of centering it on one.
Weddings can drain a lot of cash out of your budget too. This is particularly true of destination weddings. If you’ve been invited to one, hopefully it’s a year in advance so you make it your planned summer vacation for the year. If it isn’t and the costs are out of reach for you, don’t let shame mess up your game. Send a gift along with your regrets and arrange to get together with the couple afterward for a viewing party, at which you’ll enjoy their wedding video.
These four tips can help prevent summer from wrecking your finances.
Got ideas we didn’t cover here?
List them in the comments section below.