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School’s almost out for the year and your little ones are likely already adding to the summer activities list before you even have a chance to push the backpacks and lunch boxes to the back of the closet. With endless programs, events and even house projects, summer tends to get expensive but there are many alternatives to consider that won’t break the bank in this upcoming season.

Summer debt can add up

On average, 52% of families with children under age 18 spend more than they intend during summer. These families rack up about $1,960 in debt over the summer whereas families with adult children see an average of $563 in debt.

A top reason for the debt is that families want their kids to enjoy unique experiences throughout the short season. Costs such as family vacations, summer camp and youth programs and entertainment are among the top expenses of the season. While creating precious memories and unique experiences are important to many families, there are many affordable options to keep your spending more in-line.

Ways to make it an affordable summer

It’s easy to get sucked into the hype of this seemingly short-lived season but try to avoid letting your spending get out of control. Be proactive as summer approaches and make a plan for the weeks ahead. There are many ways you can cut down on spending to beat the heat this summer and create lasting memories.

Use these simple, practical money saving tips to enjoy the season and keep some extra money in the bank, too.

  • Plan ahead for summer activities, home projects and more. Include your children in these conversations to get their input and buy-in so they’ll be more likely to be on board with changing plans in the future, too.
  • Create a budget and set goals. Make a plan that helps you stick to affordable summer activities while saving money on the side, too. Set goals for how you’ll make use of these savings like building your emergency fund or saving for a warm-weather vacation in the middle of winter. Consider setting up a specific savings account—like a Name Your Savings account from Verve—to allocate money to individual accounts that work for your family and goals.
  • Limit indoor activities to cut costs on utilities like air conditioning, electricity and more. Try simple methods like drying clothes outdoors or opening windows to save on air conditioning costs. Are you ready to cut the cord and hit pause on your cable bill? There are significant savings to consider with utility costs as your family embarks on more outdoor activities during the summer months.
  • Check out annual passes to local parks, activities or venues. Oftentimes, an annual pass such as a regional zoo or local swimming pool can easily pay for itself within a few visits. Review upcoming calendars for special events as there may even be discounted or free admission days at select venues.

Budget-friendly summer activities with kids

  • Summer projects. Turn those passions into exciting summer projects that continue to spark creativity. There are countless indoor and outdoor opportunities to help nurture the inner Picasso in your kids, like driveway chalk drawing or indoor arts and crafts. If money is of interest, try building a lemonade stand to provide your kids with hands-on business skills. Consider letting them select a local charity where they can donate a portion of the proceeds as well. A double win—a project that’s both educational and charitable!
  • Visit area parks. Tap into area parks for their countless amenities this summer from nature trails to swimming ponds to planned park activities. Consider local parks in town or even nearby county parks which are likely less expensive than state or national parks. Try an outdoor scavenger hunt that helps build problem solving skills while you explore new areas. If you’re really adventurous, try geocaching with your family at local sites that participate in this national outdoor scavenger hunt.
  • Do good by volunteering. Identify local charities in town as a family and determine which programs are of interest. Select one or more and find time to give back in your community while building memories (and not breaking the bank!).
  • Keep entertainment and travel on the list—just make it realistic. Make plans to travel to nearby destinations, such as destinations within 30 or 60 minutes. Identify local hotspots you can explore such as farmers markets, gardens, zoos, free music events like the ones at Leach Amphitheater in summer or even low-cost festivals as there might be free admission days or discounts available.
  • Consider indoor alternatives for when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Visiting a local public library can be a great option to find affordable activities from reading to entertainment to scheduled arts and crafts activities that are free or have a minimal fee. Make a list of other indoor projects or ideas you can easily complete when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Beating the heat this upcoming summer doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. By planning ahead and utilizing practical money saving tips, a budget-friendly, memory-making summer with affordable activities can be a reality.

Check out our Family Finances blog posts for more tips on managing your family’s expenses.