Summer is a fun time, but it's also a pricey one.
On average, Americans plan to spend about $2,240 in the summer according to a 2022 survey, making it the second most expensive season.1 Bankrate's 2019 Summer Vacation Survey found that a single vacation can cost almost $2,000, and the National Retail Federation reports that back-to-school costs can be upwards of $1,650.
Add in summer vacation, summertime childcare costs, camps, tutoring, home improvements, higher utilities and entertainment like dinners out or online shopping, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed.
Fear not, because there are simple ways you can learn how to budget and retrain your brain to save money, even during the summer months.
Tips to stick to a budget during the summer
1. Set limits in advance
Sit down and revisit the budget your family created in January, or use this time to create a budget for the first time. Take a look at your cash flow and make intentional decisions about where you want to spend and where you may want to cut back.
2. Be smart about scheduling
You can save on your next trip by taking vacation during the last week of August.
Data from Tripadvisor suggests you'll spend 23% less if you travel after the early summer rush. Additionally, it's smart to look for a hotel room with a kitchenette so you can save by eating in instead of dining out at expensive restaurants.
3. Use cash, not credit
Leave your credit cards behind on day trips and outings when possible. Keeping cash in your wallet will encourage you to prioritize spending only on the most important items.
4. Track your spending
You can't change what you don't measure. Start a spreadsheet and log your expenses. This will make you more aware of your summer spending habits and highlight where there's room for improvement.
5. Shop sales
Summer is a great time to get deals on big purchases like appliances, personal electronics, outdoor furniture and mattresses. Keep your eye out for discounts and stock up on essentials during July 4th, Labor Day and back-to-school sales.
6. Don't skimp on savings
No matter your stage of life, you need an emergency fund to handle unexpected expenses. Give yourself peace of mind by automating a bank withdrawal to your savings account each month.
7. Eliminate expenses
Audit your bank statements. Cancel subscriptions or memberships you're not using. Consider cutting the cord and going cable-free.
8. Focus on free activities
Attend festivals, craft fairs and outdoor concerts in your area. Check out your local library for free kids programming and entertainment. Your local YMCA or parks and recreation center may also offer no-cost online options.
9. Make smart swaps
Stretch your family budget by cooking meals at home instead of going out. Start an herb or vegetable garden. Buy generic brands at the grocery store.
10. Earn extra cash
Host a garage sale or bring items to a consignment shop. You can also pick up a side hustle, such as running errands or house sitting for neighbors, to earn additional income.
11. Use your flexible spending account (FSA)
Your FSA, which may be available through your employer, can be used to pay for qualified medical and dental expenses. The money in your FSA typically must be used by the end of year, so make sure you use it before you lose it.
12. Be smart about childcare expenses
Get creative about paying for childcare on a budget. Coordinate with other parents to alternate weeks taking care of one another's children. You can also partner with another family to split the costs of a nanny. The sitter market is flooded with experienced (or less experienced) college-age or high school-age students enjoying their summer break if you need help now and again. Also check in with your local rec center. Many rec centers, parks departments, museums, colleges, and other publicly funded institutions offer inexpensive and even FREE summer camps and enrichment programs for children during the summer months. Private summer camp options can be exorbitantly priced, so don't miss out on these more affordable enrichment opportunities.
13. Ask for an energy audit
Save money on your utility bill by having a technician assess your home. They'll inspect for drafts, seal air leaks and provide recommendations to make your home more energy-efficient. You can find a professional auditor through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star website.
Making your money go further doesn't have to be a huge sacrifice. There are simple and creative ways to stretch each paycheck. Want to learn more? Explore 10 ways to stretch your family budget.1. Mass Mutual Consumer Spending and Saving Index