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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 7 years ago

Don't let summer be a money bummer

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How to rein in summer spending
by: Judy MacKenzie

The first few weeks of summer have kids cheering, getting together and starting summer camps. But for many families, it also means more money going out the door.

Daytime trips to the movies or the mall, buying lunch and ice cream, paying for those summer camps and, of course, your summer family vacation can all add up and put strain on the family budget. According to a recent Gallup poll on consumer spending, Americans averaged $73 in daily discretionary spending in May – an elevated figure that’s been holding steady in recent months.

Summer is a lot like the holidays when we see a jump in consumer spending. 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 is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit credit counseling and education agencies, helping thousands of consumers with services such as improved money management and budgeting, credit and housing counseling, and more. 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 and practice 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 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 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 savings. The 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.

Judy MacKenzie is the grants manager for CredAbility. CredAbility offers consumers 24/7 services by phone at 800-251-2227 and online at www.CredAbility.org

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