There are many things families can do to save money throughout the year, but the summer months can hold their own unique set of challenges. Families with young, school aged children face increased child care or having to rearrange their schedules to accommodate. For many who are on the free or reduced lunch program, the sudden increase in the food bill can also create sticker shock.
Many families want to travel or have some form of family entertainment. While summer can be an exciting, fun-filled time of year – it can also be a strain on most budgets. Here is our summer savings guide to help you stretch your dollars further without sacrificing summer fun.
Around the House
Air conditioning can be very expensive to run full time. There are ways to keep the house cooler and rely on the AC less. Invest in light blocking curtains for any south facing windows or those that get the most sunlight. Close them on very warm days and keep a ceiling fan running. Use blinds or shades on the other windows.
When you’re away from home set the thermostat at 78. You don’t want it to get so warm that your AC has to run hard to catch up, but keeping it just a bit warmer than what is comfortable while you’re away will reduce your bill by 10% or more.
Run ceiling fans or a box fan to help air conditioning circulate more effectively and you’ll be comfortable with the thermostat at a higher setting.
Clean your AC filter monthly and replace it yearly to reduce your costs by up to 15%. Dirty filters force the unit to work harder.
If you have a grill cook outside when possible. This keeps the home cooler and saves on the electricity bill. Cookouts can be fun for the whole family.
Change your laundry habits during the summer months. Dry your clothes on the line or wait until after dark when it’s coolest to run your dryer.
In many communities, free or low cost lunches may still be available during the summer for those in need. In our town, the local churches band together to provide a free weekday sack lunch throughout summer break.
The National School Lunch Program also provides a summer service in many low income areas called the seamless summer option. You can learn more about this program and inquire here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/opportunity-schools
Consider growing some of your own food when possible. Even a small container garden with a few plants can produce enough to make a noticeable difference and it’s a great way to get kids involved in learning about where their food comes from. Fresh produce is quite expensive in grocery stores, so growing your own or shopping at weekend farmers markets can help with this.
Purchase bulk ingredients and focus on make ahead items that keep well. Crock pot meals are a great way to have meals ready when you get home. Many recipes for healthy snacks and meal bars also save well. Once a Month Meals is a great website to teach about cooking ahead in bulk. You can also team up with some other moms and take one day to fully prepare up to a month’s worth of meals in one day. Learn more here: https://onceamonthmeals.com/blog/recipe-roundups/101-summer-freezer-meals/
Out of the House
Meet with some parents of your child’s friends and work out times to exchange babysitting periodically throughout the summer. This may not be an answer to full time care, but can allow you and other parents to have a little break now and then for “date nights” or other childfree activities when needed.
If you are friendly with your neighbors with school aged children, cooperative child care might be a full time option for at least part of the summer. Arrange a schedule so that family A cares for all the kids for the first 2 weeks, family B for the next 2 weeks and so on.
PTO or vacation days can be strategically planned to help with cooperative child care or you can coordinate with your spouse to have as much time off as possible.
Do you have certain job tasks that can be completed from home? Talk to your employer about potential work at home options. This may not be viable every day, but even a few days here and there can help so long as your children are old enough to understand that you have to work and are only available for true needs.
Look into church based or home daycare options for the best rates for childcare over the summer. In many communities, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club also offer more affordable summer options.
Low income assistance is available in many areas for families who earn 200% or less of the poverty level income. This may cover full or partial childcare costs.
Do you have extended family in other areas? Sending your children to visit their grandparents or favorite aunt for a week is a great way to give them a vacation and save on your childcare costs for a week or two.
Join community Facebook groups for your local area. Many small businesses and organizations offer very affordable kids activities during the week that are more affordable than daycare or summer camp. Most can’t afford high price advertising, so community groups are a great way to spread information on kids activities.
Enjoy library days and let your children pick out books or movies. They get out of the house and have something other than screens to look at.
Band together with neighbors or another group of parents and pool resources or have “play dates” or gatherings throughout the summer. Swimming, art parties, and picnics at the park are all inexpensive group activities.
Vacation or Family Time
Check groupon for great deals on fun activities for the whole family.
Visit local tourist attractions like museums, state or national parks, or nature preserves.
Have picnics and go hiking to get physical activity.
Check your local area for a public swimming pool. Most have reasonable rates during non-peak hours or a season pass may be a more affordable option.
Consider a camping trip. We have a favorite campground about an hour away that is very clean and rarely crowded. We sit at the picnic table and play cards and have a fire at night. No screens allowed. It gives a much needed mental break to everyone involved and only costs $15 for the space plus the cost of gas money.
Preparing for the Next School Year
Summer is the season of yard sales, swap meets and flea markets. Consider shopping these to find gently used kids clothing for the year ahead. *hint* You can also host one to earn a bit of cash and free yourself from unneeded items and clutter.
Yard sales are a great opportunity to find affordable items for dorm rooms for those with kids entering college.
Many churches have rummage sales in the summer where you can discover a variety of affordable items in one location. Look for games, books, art supplies and other items to keep your kids occupied when summer boredom creeps in.
Summer can be so much fun and with a bit of research and preparation, it doesn’t have to be a budget buster. We hope this handy guide will help you make the most of the summer months ahead.