Summer is a time for letting loose, if only for a bit: Generally, you’re going more places, doing more things and spending more money. This is true whether you’re a young adult at the start of your career and taking time off to go on adventures or a parent sending kids to camp to catch a break. But what that all means is that, if you like to go out and enjoy the beautiful and sunny weather — especially after the long British winters — summer can be hard on the budget. But it doesn’t have to be!
Here’s a list of our eight favourite summer activities that cut down the costs without cutting out the fun.
1. Buy Your Supplies Early
Swimwear. Beach towels. Goggles. Sand toys. Sporting goods. Sunblock. Don’t buy them when you need them — buy them when they’re cheaper!
Keep in mind, those are just six items on a long, long list of things people usually need in order to make the most out of their summer. It’s also the same list stores use to know what to charge the most for between June and the end of August. If you buy them as the need comes up, you’ll be stuck paying the highest prices of the year for each and every one.
If you can, buy these items in autumn, as retailers are clearing them off the shelves to make way for seasonal merchandise. You’ll get them for as much as half off compared to the summer pricing. If not, look to spring garage sales, thrift shops and internet discount sites to save as much as you can — just take note that products such as sunblock are perishable and become toxic if used past their advised date of use. That’s at least one product you should buy new every year, so stock up ahead of time!
Pro tip: While you’re at it, book any travel you know you’ll need as early as possible. Prices go up as June approaches, so get it taken care of by early spring if you can.
2. Go Deep at Your Local Library
Parents will find reading programmes (complete with free books!), classes and activities, books, videos, games to take home and even passes to local attractions and museums. Most libraries also have physical and online bulletin boards where other cheap summer activities advertise what they have to offer.
Adults can’t take advantage of every summer library programme, but there’s still plenty of budget-friendly entertainment to be had. Save even more by offering to carpool with other families — it doubles as collaborative childcare and gives your kids the chance to have fun even if it’s not on your parental schedule.
Pro Tip: While you’re at it, check in with the local school district. In many cities, the schools host inexpensive community recreation options while on break.
3. Fill Up Your Tires
Summer is the season of road trips, ranging from full-bore family holidays to driving up the coast for a day. Doing so means thinking about and covering all of the expenses associated with taking your show on the road and finding ways to save money while on holiday.
Some of these costs are pretty static, but you’d be surprised how much you can save by simply filling your tires to the proper air pressure. You can do this at any petrol station for the cost of less than a quid and save money with each mile rolling under those wheels — better air pressure in your tires is known to mean better mileage for your car.
This might be the most boring option on this list, but it’s real money in your pocket with every fill-up.
Pro Tip: While you’re at it, use travel discount sites to book cheaper hotel rooms for your road trip… or go for the even less expensive camping option. Either can save you £50 –£100 a night as compared to regular lodging prices.
4. Find Air-Conditioned Favourites
Spend the hottest hours of your summer days in inexpensive, air-conditioned spaces. A few you can find in most towns include:
- The library, as mentioned above
- Museums on low and free admission days
- Movie theaters, which often have cheap or free summer family matinees
- The city pool or recreation center
- Places with summer classes and similar activities
You can also hang out at the mall if you’re good at resisting the temptation to shop while you’re there.
While you’re at it, get familiar with your local shady parks, riverfronts, and other cool outdoor spaces where you can beat the heat without staying indoors.
5. Get Your Groupon On
Groupon, if you don’t already know it, is a website that works with local businesses to provide one-time great deals on activities of all sorts. That includes the kinds of summer activities you and/or kids want to do but feel are too pricey.
For your two or three big summer blowouts, Groupon should be your first stop during the research process. You can use it to first narrow down your options to those listing good deals on the site and then save big on the activity you choose.
Pro Tip: While you’re at it, coordinate big experiences with friends and family. Nearly all attractions and destinations offer discounts for larger groups. Have more fun with more company and save money at the same time.
The places you’ll go this summer are varied, but most of them share a common feature: They’re run by businesses looking to earn a profit. These businesses know that one of the quickest ways is to offer food onsite. That food is almost always sold at a premium.
Bring Your Own Picnic, or BYOP on as many of your summer excursions as you can manage. It can save you £10 or £20 per person on every outing. Bonus points for making it part of a systematic menu plan, so you save on the groceries too!
Pro Tip: While you’re at it, buy a water bottle for everybody in your group. Each night, fill it 1/4 of the way and put it in your freezer. Top it off in the morning for cool water all day long, and skip spending money on drinks.
7. Find Summer Recreation Deals
Summer is the slow season for a lot of local businesses, since many people choose to leave town for their fun. To beat that slump, many of these businesses will offer low-priced programs.
Other businesses enjoy brisk business while school’s out and offer lower prices because they can afford to — and also because it helps them compete against other options. Either way, you can find great deals on things from roller skating to karate lessons, dance classes to amusement parks with some research.
Some of these deals will be on Groupon, as mentioned earlier. For the rest, you can check your local paper or just call some of the places you’ve wanted to try out.
Pro Tip: While you’re at it, keep an eye on the deals at your local grocery store. Most run periodic super-sales on summer “essentials” like picnic supplies.
8. Learn to Love Your Grill
Four things you should know about your grilling in the summertime:
- Dinner time is usually when the summer day’s heat starts to settle down, making it a perfect time to be outside.
- If you cook on a grill, you’re not putting your A/C in direct competition with your stovetop, which will save you oodles of money by preserving energy.
- A backyard cookout with your friends is cheaper than a night at the pub or a trip to your kids’ favorite pizza spot.
Pro tip: While you’re at it, make a fire pit in the back yard to burn some of your landscaping debris.
Summer should be fun. Worrying about money all summer long isn’t. So put these options into action and get the best of both summer season worlds!