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Yes, You Can Save Money This Summer (We Promise!). Here’s How

Lindsay Tigar  |  July 21, 2021

We spend more money in the summer. But this truly can be a summer of saving for you. Here’s our guide on how to resist the urge to spend.

As the world opens up more and more by the day, you may find yourself out-and-about more often. Perhaps much more often! After all, you’ve spent more than a year hibernating in your home, so any opportunity to meet with friends, grab a few drinks, or even browse in a boutique is exciting and refreshing. (Ah, the little things we missed so much these last few months!) But what’s not so nice is — ahem — peeking at your credit card bill statement after one of those little outings. 

Though it does take a bit more planning and resisting temptation, there are many ways to cut back on spending during the summer — the most social months of the year. We checked in with experts for tips on how to ensure the expensive summer season doesn’t derail our budgets for the rest of the year. (Because we all want plenty of cash to enjoy our fall + winter, too!) 

Why do people spend more money in the summer? 

Is your sweat from the triple-digit temperature — or the surprising final bill that slides across the table at the end of a fun Sunday brunch? While our expenses vary greatly from person to person, there are a few key trends in how we spend during the summer, says Joyce Marter, LCPC, a licensed psychotherapist and the author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life. We typically spend more on the following items and events: 

– Vacation and travel 

We spend more for travel and events surrounding Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Most people use these weekends to see friends and family or use their paid time off, so they spend on airfare, hotels, home rentals, gas, food and more. 

– Concerts, events and dining

Many cities offer more outdoor activities and events that come with the price of admission as well as pricey food and beverage costs. In the summer, there is also increased spending at restaurants. Also, some summer hobbies are expensive, such as pool memberships, golf outings, and so on.

– Increased expenses for parents of school aged children including childcare, camps and activities 

This also results in increased gas spent from driving kids around to their various activities and providing spending money to kids for when they are out and about with friends. And the cost of a month-long or summer long summer camp? Don’t even get us started. Overnight camps can easily set parents back up to $2,000 per week, according to the American Camp Association. 

Striving To Save: Compare your pre-pandemic spending to your pandemic spending 

It’s time to develop a budget that reflects a happy medium. What does that mean, exactly? Well, one of the reasons our pandemic credit card bills were likely much lower than our current ones is due to the fact we didn’t go anywhere. This meant the majority of our food purchases were likely groceries, and we never even touched our vacation budgets. But things are about to shift in a major way. That’s why Marter suggests finding a middle ground.

To do this, she recommends looking at your bank records, credit card statements or financial reports in the software of your choosing, such as Quickbooks, YNAB, or Mint.com. (Whatever you like best!) Then, identify three to five areas you spent less during the past year (dining out, entertainment, travel, etc.) Lastly: look for excess. 

“If your spending was high pre-pandemic, come up with a budget for these categories that is a happy medium between your pre-pandemic and pandemic spending,” she continues. “Do your best to stay within your budget, check how you are doing weekly or monthly, and set up some accountability with a friend, family member, therapist, or financial advisor.”

Go through your summer wishlist

After 18 months with very little excitement and adventure, you probably want in on all of it this summer. We get it, but your wallet might not. Instead of saying “yes” to each and every invite, make a wishlist and then prioritize, says Jessica Weaver, CFP, CDFA, CFS. To make it out, list what each of your ideas would cost, then write ‘need,’ ‘want,’ or ‘wish’ next to each. A need might be a new grill, for example, while a wish could be the biggest, baddest fanciest grill out there. 

“Make it a family exercise and invoke your children and spouse; this is a great teachable moment for your kids,” Weaver suggests. “Having a total budget will help you realize how much money you will be spending or not spending if you skip certain items. Now you have a summer money budget. Give each item a time frame so you can see when you will need that amount of money. Don’t be afraid to move some items to next summer if you need to. 

Maintain some of the DIY behaviors that you developed

With ample time on your hands last year, you may have developed some at-home and DIY routines that were beneficial. And perhaps, you don’t need to go back to ‘normal’ again. For example, Marter suggests: Did you quit the gym and find working out from home enjoyable? Don’t renew the gym membership. Or maybe you found that doing your own hair color or nails wasn’t a big deal, and was actually enjoyable. Instead of reverting back to old patterns of costly salon treatments, keep up your own great work! And maybe you found you enjoyed eating at home. It’s much better for our health when we can control the ingredients in what we eat, so perhaps you can look to cook at home as much as possible, and reserve eating out for special occasions. 

Be social, but do it methodically 

You love your friends and your family members. But they’re often the culprits of your overspending temptations. In other words: Much of what drives increased spending in the summer is our social calendars, says Lauren Anastasio, the CFP at SoFi. “There are beach weekends, outdoor happy hours, barbecues, and pool parties filling up our calendars,” she shares. However, whenever possible, try to create plans that revolve around low-cost activities so you can still be social but without a price tag. 

“Rather than agree to a dinner out or going to a concert, invite your friends or family members to join you for a BYO picnic in the park. By creating affordable events to fill up your calendar, you’ll scratch that socializing-itch, and it will make it easier to turn down some of the bigger ticket activities,” she explains.

Also, with that in mind, don’t forget about the community you’re part of, since many communities have free events during the summer. Think parades, flea markets, carnivals, firework displays, minor-league sporting events, and other community-oriented celebrations that will keep you busy, social, and outdoors at minimal cost, Anastasio says.

Don’t let your guard down.

Should you throw money at meaningful vacations and experiences that will make you happy? Absolutely, if you can afford it. But the summer shouldn’t be a time when you let your financial guard down says Danielle Holden, the family office advisor at Breakaway Bookkeeping + Advising. This means being mindful of your weekly, monthly and yearly budgets, and having a pulse on how you’re tracking towards your bigger goals. 

“If you choose to open a new store card to buy some vacation outfits or put that dinner with friends on a card, be smart about it. A lot of store cards have high-interest rates, so you’ll want to be paying those debts off first or even transferring them to zero interest cards,” she continues. “Equally for dinners out, a lot of rewards cards have double points or no interest time periods for select restaurants. So just be sure to monitor what kinds of rewards your credit cards are offering and spend strategically.”

Plan now for next summer 

If you haven’t booked this year’s vacation, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise with skyrocketing hotel and flight prices. However, you can always take a page out of an expert traveler’s book and jet-set during the off-season this fall. “Flights, hotels and other experiences tend to be most expensive in August,” explains Lauren Bringle, an accredited financial advisor with Self Financial. “If you have to travel during summer because that’s when the kids are off school, that’s one thing. But if you can travel during a shoulder season, typically after school’s back in session and before the holiday season starts, you could have a much nicer trip for a lot less.”

And, if you’re ready to commit to next summer’s vacation plans? You’ll save big. By booking a year in advance, you’ll find very affordable prices, and you can spend the next 12 months (or more) saving for all the adventures you have when you get there. It’s a win-win!

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