San Diego Financial Literacy Center

Seven Ways to Have a Fun Summer on a Budget

Schools are letting out across the country, and kids are looking forward to their favorite time of the year: summer vacation!!! Although the summer solstice is not until June 21, Memorial Day weekend often serves as the unofficial kickoff of summer.

Summer can also be a challenge for personal budgets. Summer usually sees an increase in the amount of money spent on entertainment and even utilities due to water usage and cooling expenses. There are steps you can take to help keep your water and cooling costs down, but any increase can lead to financial hardship. Here are seven tips to enjoy summer while putting less strain on the budget that you’ve been working so hard to maintain.

1. Staycation 

Do you have a tourist attraction nearby that others travel to see? Maybe you have points of interest you still have not explored. Maybe a national forest or wildlife reserve with some good hiking trails. Historic landmarks can be interesting, educational and often free or inexpensive. In San Diego, we have miles of beautiful beaches, all for free! Look through travel books or online to see what attractions bring people to your area.

2. A Day at the Museums

Many cities with museums have free days for local residents. Go online and research when the free days are in your area! Perhaps you will find a museum that interests you. You might find that some museum promotions run year-round, and you could try new ones throughout the year. Take the kids and discover everything from prehistoric fossils to satellites in space. Here in San Diego, residents can visit a different set of museums for free every Tuesday.

3. Take a Trip to the Local Library

You can find books on millions of topics or browse the Internet for free. The library has evolved with time and it’s not just books anymore. You can check out games, CDs and DVDs for free as well. If you find yourself in a massive heat wave, and you’re trying to keep cooling costs down at home, consider the library. Usually libraries have air conditioning at a comfortable level, and they often have special classes for children, from baby yoga to toddler story time. Kids love the library! Just don’t forget to pay any late fees, libraries can send unpaid debt to collections, affecting your credit score.

4. Let’s Go Swimming!
If you’re lucky enough to find a body of water you can cool off in, take advantage of it! Not everyone will have an accessible and safe water landmark nearby. If you’re near an ocean, river, lake or pond, spending a day keeping cool in the water is one less day the air conditioning will need to be cranked up. Take the kids and dogs and have a fun day out. Most of the time these places are free, so bring your own food and the whole family can have a fun day without having to break your budget.

5. Eat Outdoors
When it comes to dinner and summer, barbecues come to many people’s minds. Taking the cooking outside can be good for your budget, not just your taste buds. Grilling outside can reduce your cooling costs! The fact the stove will not have to run for hours will keep your home cooler. Try cooking the entire meal outdoors. Grill vegetables to go along with your favorite meats for a full meal.

A hot meal is not always what we’re looking for. If that’s the case, consider a fresh salad. Add lettuce and your favorite dressing to leftover chicken or steak from the previous night and dinner is ready!

6. Rough It

Speaking of barbecuing, what says summer more than camping? Depending on where you live making reservations at campgrounds can be easy and affordable. For camp sites near the coast or large bodies of water, spots fill up fast, so make your reservations in advance. Also, “look out for leaves of three and let them be.” Poison oak and ivy can be very annoying and spread quickly.

7. Get in Shape

It’s going to be hot this summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out and exercise. Biking, running, hiking or sports can all be done for very little to no money and think how good you will look and feel. Just be sure to stay hydrated!

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