How about you? Have you had any fun adventures?
One thing I've noticed about having the kids home from school all day and the weather so nice is how easy it is to spend money: a trip to the pool, a night out for pizza, a movie here or a Big Gulp there. Frittering away at the budget until it's overspent is so easy to do when there's so much to do! So here's some ideas to help you keep your summer activities within budget.
1. Plan your activities
Planning really is key when you're trying to stick to a budget. While I love spontaneity (and we have a lot of it in our house), often those spontaneous things end up costing an arm and a leg. I've found that one way to minimize spontaneity without stifling it is to plan the activities where you spend money ahead of time. Set a limit for how many of those you will do this summer and let the kids help pick what they want to do (within a given budget). It's a great way to involve them and to teach them about money. When they get a little older, let them help save up for the activities that they want to do. Then to make life more interesting, throw in spontaneous, frugal activities from the list I shared last week. That way you get the best of both worlds; you stick to your budget and you get the thrill of a spontaneous adventure at the same time.
In our family this year I decided to try a new approach to planning our summer activities. Each day my kids have chores, reading and piano practicing to do. As an incentive to get these things done, we set up an activity to do each day. Most of these activities cost nothing - we use a lot of the activities on the summer activity list I shared last week. Today I want to share a way that I've found to organize the activities and have some consistency that your kids can look forward to.
- Make Something Monday - We make a craft, project, snack or treat.
- Library Trip Tuesday - We go to the library, check out books and sometimes go to story time.
- Wet, Wet, Wednesday - We run through the sprinklers, wash the cars or bikes, make bubbles or do another wet activity.
- Thinking Thursday - We do an activity that helps us learn - a science project, learn some words from another language, have a read-a-thon or another learning activity.
- Field Trip Friday - We go on a field trip somewhere - to the park, to the zoo, to the swimming pool or splash pad. Some cost money, some are free. We plan them ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect.
2. Plan your mealsFood costs is one of those things that seems to get higher as summertime approaches. BBQ season often means more costly meat purchases. Snow cone and ice cream vendors around every corner are tempting in the stifling heat. And of course the busy-ness means less time for food at home and more likelihood of eating out. One of the things that I've learned is that planning your meals ahead of time increases the chance that you will eat healthier food and spend less money. I love the idea of having a theme for each night of the week. Our kids look forward to Pizza night on Friday night where we make homemade pizza and watch a movie together. They love Thursdays when they get trade off in picking a meal for Mom to make (and them to help). I'll be honest and tell you their least favorite night is Leftover night on Wednesday, but they're good sports about it most of the time. On Saturday, Daddy gets to cook whatever he wants and that's always a fun surprise. The other days we alternate themes a bit: Comfort Food, Italian, Fish/Meatless, Breakfast, Mexican, Asian Food, etc. I plan meals two weeks at a time and because of this, I shop a lot less often (which also saves me money). I could go on and on about meal planning (and perhaps I will in another post). But for today I'll just say, plan your meals! It may take a bit of time up front, but it saves time and money in the long run.
3. Set a $ limit
We went to the carnival the other day and I found when we got there that I had only brought $10 cash. And of course everything was cash only. But it actually worked out great because when I ran out of money, the party was over and we went home. And we had a great time and found that we could stretch $10 quite a long way. By setting a spending limit for your activities, it not only helps you stick to your budget, but it also forces you to be creative and enjoy doing more than just things that cost money. It helps you enjoy the time together just being together.
I hope those ideas help you plan a great summer with your family and to stay in budget while you do! I'd love to hear about your ideas and tips for how your family keeps summer on a budget.