Budgeting for Summer Activities

Space camp, surf camp, math camp—the possibilities boggle the mind….and empty the wallet.

Between summer camps, family vacations, and every day “necessities” like a new summer outfit or ice cream for all, summer plans can add up and put strain on the family budget.

“Summer’s a lot like the holidays when we see a jump in consumer spending,” says Mark Cole, executive vice president and chief operating officer for CredAbility, a national nonprofit credit counseling and education agency based in Atlanta. “People naturally want to treat themselves and their families and have some fun, and they should as long as it doesn’t set them back financially.”

CredAbility offers tips for families to ensure summer fun while keeping to a financial plan.

  • Set aside a manageable amount of “summer fun” cash each week. Consider allotting an amount to each child in the family. When it runs out, it runs out. The same goes for your older children, especially if they don’t have a summer job. Starting a family “tip jar” for loose change can also help build up those summer fun reserves.
  • Involve your kids in establishing a weekly or monthly budget and what they can earn through chores and then use toward getting things they want. This is a good habit for your children to get accustomed to, and the earlier you start, the better.
  • Refrain from using your credit card. It’s easy to get out the credit card when you don’t have cash on hand. Consider putting it away for the summer. And be on the lookout for credit card promotional offers over the summer. While incentives such as earning points for travel and more are enticing, it might not be the right time to open up another credit card right now. Keep paying balances in full over these next few months, too.
  • Seek out fun and cost-saving alternatives. Swap DVDs with other families or check out some books from the library, get your children involved in volunteer projects, find free family events that include treats for kids. Seek out deals on dining and fun experiences through sites such as Groupon and Living Social.
  • Plan ahead. It’s a simple concept or reminder that can go a long way toward saving—sthe more you plan ahead, from dinners to fun experiences and excursions, the less risk you have of letting too many spontaneous and cost-related events pop up. Planning meals for the week, for example, can reduce the temptation of getting fast food or ordering pizza. Also consider dropping junk food and sodas for the summer—you save and boost your health at the same time.

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