What’s one of the best parts of summer,…
4 ways to stay financially fit this summer
Are you ready for summer? We’re guessing you’re nodding your head and maybe shouting “oh yeah” at your phone or computer. Are your finances ready for summer? We’re guessing this answer may be a little less enthusiastic than your last one.
We understand. Summer is traditionally the season of fun. Daylight Saving Time means the sunshine lasts longer and that equals more time outside for you, your family and your friends. Then there are vacations, backyard cookouts and other summer activities.
Why ruin all the fun to talk about finances? Because summer could also be known as the season of overspending. We’ve been there too.
That’s why we want to help you get ready now so you can stay financially fit all summer long. And yes, that involves making a plan. Don’t worry, it’ll be easy breezy.
Oh, and you’re going to find out anyway, but budgeting is part of this plan. Yeah, we know we sound like a broken record, but a budget really is a powerful tool for taking charge of your finances.
If you already have a budget, give yourself a high-five from us. It might need a few updates for summer, but we’ll take you through those.
Don’t have a budget? Don’t sweat it. You can make a simple one in about an hour. We’ll even include a link to our how-to budget article at the end of this one.
Let’s get to that financially fit summer plan, shall we? Here are the four parts:
get your budget summer ready
Why does your budget need an update for summer? Here are some possible reasons:
your summer utilities may be higher
Warmer weather means your air conditioner will probably be running more. Water costs can go up too if you’re washing your car more or watering outdoor plants and flowers.
gas costs more in the summer
You’ll pay more at the pump than you do in winter. You may be also using your car more if you have kids or you’re taking trips.
Summer is when many people use their vacation. If you plan to take a trip, estimate how much your transportation, lodging and meals will cost and add a savings amount to your budget.
weddings or family reunions
Special events like these don’t happen every year, but if you have one to attend, add it to your budget and start saving now.
activities for kids
Do your kids play summer sports or go to a day camp? Don’t forget to include them in your budget. Try to think of other activities they may not do during the school year and add them too.
changes in debts
Did you pay off a loan or credit account? Adjust your budget so the old payment amount goes toward another goal. Did you take out a loan for a car or home? Include that in your budget.
Is your income affected during the summer? Make that change on your budget now so you have a realistic idea of what your monthly income will be this summer.
After the first month of using your updated budget, compare your actual expenses and savings amounts against what you had budgeted. If you have money left over or go over budget, don’t give up. Instead, come back and take another look at the reasons above. You may just need to make a few small adjustments to help you get back on track and stay there for the rest of the summer.
Now, let’s talk about how to make plans for summer fun that can also help your budget work even harder.
our exclusive hack for summer fun and savings
We figured out a cool way to help you flex your summer budget. It’s called the Fingerhut Fun and Saving Calendar. You can use it to plan your whole summer with two types of weekends. At the end of this article, there will be a link for you to download and print this exclusive calendar.
The first type of weekend will probably be your favorite. They’re the ones where you make plans for fun activities that might cost money. More about those in a minute.
For the second weekend type, you’ll take a break from spending. Yep, on those weekends you’ll avoid spending any money on Saturday and Sunday. But try to think of it as saying “yes” to saving money instead of saying “no” to spending it.
To make it easy, we’re saying summer is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That means you have a total of 14 weeks of summer to plan:
7 weekends of fun and 7 spending break weekends.
planning your 7 weekends of fun
What are all the fun weekend activities you want to do this summer? Make a list. If you have a partner or a family, let them help you with the ideas.
Next, figure out where they should go on your calendar and block off those weekends.
If you already have a vacation planned, be sure to include it on your calendar. We think it’s a good idea to alternate your fun and spending break weekends. If that’s not possible, try not to have a couple of the same type back-to -back.
now, let’s talk about those 7 spending break weekends
Once you have your 7 weekends of fun planned, go ahead and block off the other 7 weekends for spending breaks.
When you have a spending break weekend coming up, plan your meals so you can hit the grocery store early. Don’t forget to gas up your car too.
Yes, you can still pay your rent, mortgage or any other bills you have due but try to do that by Friday. Who wants to think about bills over the weekend? Not us.
Oh, and one more thing about spending break weekends. You can absolutely have fun on these weekends, you’re just avoiding activities that involve spending money.
Speaking of fun, check out the next section for budget-friendly activities including lots of free options.
What’s one of the best parts of summer? There are so many fun, free or cheap activities available. Plus, because the weather is warmer and the days last longer, you can pack more fun into a day than you could in the winter… at least without all that shivering.
Here are some of our favorite budget-friendly summer activities:
1. catch an outdoor concert
This is a great way to explore different types of music too.
2. local attractions
Your local museum or theme park may offer free days or times during the summer.
3. pick-a-movie night
Take turns letting each member of the family pick what movie to watch at home.
4. explore local parks
These may have walking trails, playground equipment for kids or outdoor sports areas.
5. go on a picnic
Check local parks to see if you need to reserve a picnic table or take a blanket and find your own spot.
6. arts and crafts fairs
Looking at the different creations may inspire you or your kids to try your own projects at home.
7. go for a walk, hike or bike ride
Wear appropriate shoes for the activity and strap on a helmet if biking.
8. visit your local community center
Many have a pool or recreation center for adults and kids; some may even have free summer programs for kids.
9. pretend you’re a tourist
Do an online search for local attractions and venues. Plan your own walking tour of a historic area. There are so many free options available in your own back yard.
10. game night
Search “family game night ideas” to find something the whole family can play, play board games or make up your own games. P.S. This activity is a great excuse to turn off the TV.
11. farmers market
It’s fun to walk around and see the different types of fruits, vegetables and other foods. You can also stock up on ingredients for summer meals.
12. outdoor movies at local venues
Pack snacks (yes, popcorn) and watch an old classic or a newish release. Is there anything better than seeing a movie on the big screen? We don’t think so.
13. slime party for kids
Kids love slime even though most parents (like us) think it’s gross. Search for slime recipes online. You may already have all the ingredients in your cabinet.
14. visit the library
They offer so many freebies, from books and DVDs to summer programs like story time and crafting for the kids.
15. set up a scavenger hunt
This is great for keeping kids (and adults) busy indoors or out. Search online for ideas or check out our blog article.
16. make a time capsule
Kids will love helping with the project now and then opening it in the future. You can find instructions in our blog article.
17. plan a garage sale
This is a good way to declutter your house and make money to put toward one of your planned fun weekends, toward a vacation or in savings.
18. take an online class
There are lots of free classes available online, from baking and crafts to learning a new language or hobby.
19. learn to DIY
Local hardware stores or the big home improvement centers often offer free classes.
Check your local newspaper or free weekly magazine for other fun ideas or try searching “’city name’ free summer activities” online.
One last thing, be sure to check your local or state COVID-19 guidelines before attending any event.
You now have a bunch of fun ideas for free or low-cost summer activities. How could we top that? How about some tips to help you save even more money this summer? They’re up next.
14 summer savings tips
Here are some quick tips that could save you some money this summer.
1. set your AC thermostat higher
When the difference between indoor and outdoor temps is smaller, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.1
2. turn off the lights
Longer days mean more sunlight, so keep your indoor lights off until you need them.
3. use fans to help with cooling
Floor or ceiling fans can help circulate air through your house. Set ceiling fans to turn counterclockwise so they push cool air down.2
4. fire up the grill
Using your oven or stove heats the house and triggers the AC. Plus, don’t you think grilled food just tastes better?
5. change AC filters
Clean filters will help your AC run more efficiently.
6. use your curtains or blinds
Blocking the sun can keep your house cooler and use your AC less.
7. freeze your gym membership
Your gym may let you put your membership and monthly payments on hold. If so, replace your exercise routine with one you can do outside.
Note: Check with your doctor before starting or changing any exercise routine.
8. save gasoline
Running the AC can reduce your car’s fuel economy. Group your trips together or drive in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside.3
9. travel smart
Search in advance for the best deals. Pack your own snacks and drinks to avoid paying high prices at convenience stores, airports or hotels.
10. stock your freezer
Look for weekly sales on grill-friendly meats like chicken or ground beef.
11. hit the farmers markets
You can get great deals on all types of foods here, especially vegetables that are in season.
12. look for cable TV alternatives
Consider streaming services and use a low-cost antenna for local channels.
13. dry clothes on a rack or clothesline
The heat from your indoor dryer can trigger the AC just like your stove or oven.
14. enroll in a dependent care flexible spending account
If your employer offers one, you can save pre-tax money for expenses like childcare, summer day camp or babysitting. It can also reduce the income and payroll taxes you pay.4
Now that you’ve got a plan to help you stay financially fit this summer, it’s time to get out there and enjoy it. Remember to use sunscreen, drink lots of water and take tons of pictures.
links to helpful Now You Can articles
download the printable calendar here