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Summer is upon us. Restaurants, stores, entertainment venues, travel and more are beginning their return to “normal” following the pandemic. With so many exciting summer possibilities ahead, finding ways to enjoy the season while successfully managing your finances might seem daunting or impossible. Luckily, with just a little planning you can find creative ways to save money and make the most out of your summer without breaking the bank. Consider these six tips to avoid overspending and limit taking on extra debt this summer:

  1. Create a seasonal budget.

Warmer weather always brings with it the temptation to splurge on things like drinks at a local live music event, a weekend getaway to the lake or frosty refreshing treats. Just like any other time of year, you don’t have to forego these pleasures altogether. Instead create a budget to account for the things you want to do. Look at your monthly income and lay out your monthly expenses (recurring bills, loan payments, groceries, etc.). Then, create a realistic line item for these “treat yourself” moments. If you decide that your budget only allows for an overnight trip to the lake instead of a long weekend, or that you can only afford to indulge your sweet tooth with ice cream twice a month, stick to it—a budget only works if you follow it.

  1. Off with the lights.

If you ever had a parent turn off your bedroom light and shout, “Open the blinds–money doesn’t grow on trees!,” it might be time to start taking that advice. Turning off lights when you leave a room not only reduces the amount of money you’re spending on electricity each month, but it can also help keep the room cooler, reducing air conditioning costs. With the sun rising earlier and staying out later in the summer months, take advantage of the (free!) natural sunlight. Pro tip: close blinds when windows are receiving direct sunlight, to limit the amount of heat entering your home.

  1. Out with the old, in with the cash.

The new season signals a change in wardrobe, a shift in hobbies and outdoor activities and an overall transition to the warmer way of life. This brings a great opportunity to take stock of what you have, what you actually use and what you no longer need. Did your kids outgrow their summer clothes from last year? Did you receive new patio furniture for Christmas and need a new home for the old furniture? Do you need to get rid of the stack of books you read during quarantine? Put together a garage sale or sell things online to get cash for items you no longer need. The cash in your pocket beats a closet full of outgrown clothes and spy novels!

  1. Take advantage of free entertainment options.

From live music and movie nights in the park to adventurous hiking trails, free admission days at zoos or museums, or borrowing books from your neighborhood library, free entertainment options are abundant—you just have to look for them. Visit local community websites, message boards and social media accounts or groups to keep tabs on what opportunities are coming up in your community. Popping some microwave popcorn and heading to the park for a free movie night is not only more cost-effective than the theater, it’s often a more memorable experience, too! And if you’re looking for free family activities to do at home, get creative with things like scavenger hunts, dance parties or board game tournaments.

  1. Staycation instead of vacation.

Sure, nothing beats lounging at the beach or poolside far away from your home while resort staff cooks your meals and makes your bed. But the budget doesn’t always allow for that. However, with a little creativity and the willingness to try something new, a staycation can be just as relaxing and rewarding.

Instead of sitting by the resort pool, get a day pass to your local pool or visit a nearby lake to soak up some sun and play on the water. Miss having your meals prepared by a chef while you sip a refreshing beverage? Let each member of your family choose a unique dish that you’ve never tried before. Turn on some island-inspired tunes, whip up some tropical smoothies and enjoy the night learning to cook a new meal with your family.

Lastly, the best part of a “vacation” is actually vacating the responsibilities and stress of everyday life. Put together a DIY spa night for the whole family, equipped with rejuvenating face masks, refreshing drinks, soothing oils or bath salts and maybe even a few slices of cucumbers to put over your eyes to make it official. It’s not the exotic getaway you may have been hoping for, but it might be just the within-budget “stay” you need.

  1. Cook more, restaurant less.

Staycation aside, cooking more meals at home is a great way to spend less money in general. While eating local and supporting small businesses is more important now than ever, deciding to cook more meals and eat out less can save you a significant amount of money.

The average American spends $3,008 a year eating out. Get the family together to create a “summer meals on a budget” monthly calendar, deciding on a good mix of easy-to-make recipes and cheap unique meals to add a little excitement to the month ahead. Include recipes from different cultures and traditions to bring that exotic flare you get at restaurants. Select meals that force you to use a variety of cooking techniques—grilling, smoking, baking, frying and beyond—to avoid falling into a cooking rut. And while you’re putting in the effort to save money on meals, shop deals and research coupons to save money on groceries.

Want more tips for managing your finances? Check out our blog posts to learn more about establishing a solid budget or building your savings.