Right behind the winter holidays, summer tends to be the most expensive season of the year, thanks mainly to vacation spending. It makes sense—a simple trip to an amusement park can quickly add up to far more than you planned on spending. So what can you and your family do to cool down your summer spending and turn up the heat on saving for the future? Here are eight ideas to help you manage your summer budget.
1. Go on a “Nearcation.”
Like many of you, I often feel the need to get away. I love what I do, but there’s something special about being able to take time with my family and remove ourselves from the distractions of our day-to-day lives. But that doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.
Outdoorsy, an RV rental company, suggests saving money on summer trips by taking a “nearcation” rather than a regular vacation. This may mean, for instance, heading to a lake within a short driving distance rather than packing up for a 3,000-mile trip to the beach. Amid soaring gas prices, this vacation strategy might save you hundreds of dollars when it comes to filling up the tank.
2. Shop Around.
If you do decide to book a vacation away from home, it may help to do some comparison shopping for hotel rooms, airfare, and rental cars.
The Scott’s Cheap Flights website recommends starting your search with so-called aggregator websites like Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Kayak. Next, check airline, hotel, and rental car websites, which sometimes offer better deals than aggregator sites do. Sometimes it pays to go straight to the source, and if you run into problems, it can often be helpful to have made your reservation directly rather than through a third party.
Speaking of going straight to the source, you might try contacting hotels directly to negotiate a deal. This strategy only works if you reach out directly rather than booking online or going through a centralized call center. If you’ve got iron nerves, you could also try making a last-minute booking, which may save money when booking a hotel room.
According to research by NerdWallet, “Even high-end, five-star hotels offer better savings when they’re booked last-minute. A five-star hotel with a rate of $386 can be had for $302 when booked last-minute, a savings of 21.6 percent.”
3. Hunt for Discounts.
Regardless of whether you’re talking about airfare or gas, you may be able to score a discount based on your employer or membership in a variety of organizations. AAA, AARP, Costco, hotels, airlines, and rental car companies are all organizations that may offer discounts. You also might be able to take advantage of discounts from one of your credit card issuers.
4. Eat In, Not Out.
Whether you’re hanging out at home this summer or heading off to an amusement park hundreds of miles away, consider fixing food wherever you’re staying rather than dining out.
“There’s almost no way around it—eating out will almost always cost more than cooking a meal at home,” the SoFi lending platform notes. “While the average cost of eating out varies dramatically depending on the restaurant you go to, most restaurants charge about a 300% mark-up on the items they serve. When you eat out, you’re paying less for the food and more for the service, convenience, and ambiance.”
To help ensure your food budget doesn’t eat up too much of your vacation budget, book a room with a kitchen or kitchenette if you’re staying at a hotel. Even if you don’t go this route, I’ve found that making a quick trip to a nearby grocery store on a busy day of traveling or seeing sights can be helpful in keeping myself and my family well-fed without resorting to restaurants or fast food.
5. Visit Free Attractions.
Speaking as someone with children, this may be an especially great option for parents. Paying for tickets to tourist attractions can add up quickly, especially if the whole family is traveling. Why not look for free attractions to visit to shave some money off your summer budget?
The Peanuts or Pretzels travel blog and the Wise Bread financial blog offer these suggestions:
- Go to a park. Many parks don’t charge entry fees, and beautiful, historically significant places can be free to visit and rich with sentiment.
- Head to a museum that provides free admission or visit a landmark you’ve never seen, such as the Lone Sailor Statue at Pearl Harbor.
- Hang out at the beach. Typically, admission to beaches comes at no cost.
- Take a free walking tour. You can also sometimes find free audio tours online, which allow you to explore an area at your own pace.
- Listen to live music at a free-to-enter venue.
6. Watch the Thermostat.
If you plan to spend a lot of time at home this summer, keep an eye on your thermostat.
According to CNET, you can save 10% a year on your air-conditioning bills by setting the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees higher for eight hours a day. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests shooting for an indoor temperature of 78 degrees when you’re home.
The Balance, a personal finance website, even recommends shutting off your air conditioning at certain points in the day.
“This tip doesn’t mean you have to suffer through sweltering heat, but you should be aware of the weather so that you can maximize efficiency and save money by using the AC only when needed,” The Balance points out. “For example, if it is going to be a cool night, turn off the air before heading to bed and open a few windows.”
If you don’t already have one, consider installing a programmable thermostat to help trim AC costs.
7. Host a Garage Sale.
Summer is a perfect time to clear out your garage, basement, or attic and sell the items you and your family are willing to part with. Not only will this clean up your home, but it can help clean up your finances. The average haul for a garage sale is $500 to $1,000. You could buy more than two dozen 1-oz. Silver American Eagle coins for $1,000!
If you have children, this is also a great time to clean out some of those old toys and clothes that no longer fit and use the garage sale as a way to find new homes for these items among your community.
8. Check Out Your Local Library.
Library cards aren’t relics of the past. They’re great tickets to plenty of little-known (and free) benefits. Enjoy some quality time at the local library, where you can gain free access to books, streaming audio and video services, online courses, activities, and much more. One library in Madison, Ohio, even offers its cardholders free event planning supplies, like bakeware, pasta makers, and chocolate fountains.
Financial literacy is a lifelong journey, and budgeting is an essential skill for building generational wealth. Maintain a learning mindset and explore U.S. Money Reserve’s Resource Library, full of free videos, ebooks, and more.