Summer’s Expenses

by Katy on June 17, 2011 · 13 comments

My lifeguard, before he growed up into a young man.

As much as I celebrate the summer months, they can be surprisingly expensive. Kid camps, vacations, driving around town and general out-and-about-ness can take a chunk out of a girl’s womyn’s budget. My family watches our pennies, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t sign the kids up for swim classes, soccer camps, (which we always get a discount for by hosting the British coaches) and too many meals eaten away from home.

However, this year, my older son will be working as a lifeguard, (making money for hanging out at the pool instead of paying for the privilege) we’re not going to do any soccer camps, (the kids kind of aged out of them) and we already have a decent vacation fund accruing interest in a savings account.  On the other hand, my younger son will continue with his martial arts classes, as well as his private Japanese tutoring (a requirement for his school program) and we’ll still gas the car up more than I care to admit.

But recognizing the priciness of summer doesn’t mean that there aren’t fantastic free options available as well. For example:

The Summer Reading Program —  Most libraries sponsor free programs that offer rewards such as small toys, books and gift certificates. Think this is just for the wee kiddos? Our library offers a teen program with vouchers for Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, Bowling and more.

Swim Passes — A summer swim pass can get a bit pricey, but we’ve found that Portland Parks and Recreation offers a discounted pass if you wait until July 1st. And since June tends to still be cold and rainy, (hence the term “Junuary”) this is no sacrifice. We also have memorized the cheap sessions, which are $1 entries on Tuesdays and free on Wednesdays from 2:40 – 4:10. Check with your pool to see if they offer something similar.

Kids Bowl Free — This is a national program that offers two free games of bowling per day all summer long for kids. The shoe rentals are extra, and parents have to pay, but it’s still a great option to have hidden up your sleeve.

Hiking/Biking/Exploring — No one can charge you for getting out into the sunshine and fresh air.

Second Run Movies — I know Portland is spoiled with the variety of second run theaters that pepper our neighborhoods. But skip that brand new blockbuster and slip into the air-conditioned splendor that a $1 movie affords you. Just make sure to steer clear of the snack bar.

Libraries, Libraries, Libraries — This may seem like a repeat, but libraries are a treasure trove of free activity. Internet access, classes, live music and even, gasp . . . books! I have very fond memories of afternoons spent in the air-conditioned oasis of the Lincoln, Nebraska libraries during the summer I spent (sweltering) there in 1980. I was not a huge reader, but if meant it I could chill out for a few hours, then a reader I would be.

Creative Play — A free refrigerator box from the appliance store can become a beloved fort, a box of dress ups and art supplies can fill an entire day. Relax about the mess your house will become and enjoy the moment.

My summer plans? I plan on letting the kids (and myself) sleep in as much as possible and maybe sneak in a couple short vacations. Perhaps even try to get my house listed on and enjoy staying at a nice beach house with an actual view. Mainly though, I’ll probably be holed up in my refrigerator box fort reading a library book and eating up the leftovers.

What do you do to keep the expenses of summer from ruining your budget? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan June 18, 2011 at 3:28 am

In my house for the summer, I have planned:
Doing manga art with my son. We have sketched the canvases already and have acrylic painting waiting! (The paints and canvases were Christmas presents from his old childminder so FREE!)
Baking…we make it a goal to do baking once a week…
Cooking…I plan to spend more time teaching my son how to cook as well as bake.
Walks out, weather permitting!
Guitar playing for my son…he has a new music book and therefore is inspired.
Drawing…my son has a book with 634 things to draw in it. His goal is to do two sketches a day…whether the novelty were wear off on this remains to be seen.
Vists to the local pool…we can walk there and entry is relativity cheap so not free but cheap
Model truck building with the man…my son and partner can spend afternoons building things together. My partner collects rc trucks and he plans to restore some of them with Ewan this summer.
Rebuilding a bmx bike…my partner is bringing up his old bmx bike for Ewan on Monday and they plan to spruce it up together and replace old components.
Bike rides!
Skateboarding at local park!
Maybe the biggest expense, all being well is a trip to visit friends in Holland (air fare and spends required only)


Bellen June 18, 2011 at 4:52 am

Take advantage of any or all the free programs offered at the local AC’d mall – includes music (all kinds), clowns, magic, dog shows, exotic animals (from a local rescue group)

Going to the local state park after 6pm – no entrance or parking fees – for a swim and picnic dinner.

Library for everything it offers but especially for magazine reading – we don’t subscribe to anything

Yard sales – to find new games or pieces for old board games, dress up clothes, craft items esp for items to make as gifts like friendship bracelets adorned with “jewels” or “charms” (taken from old jewelry

Walks – in early morning to see the birds and animal tracks, after dinner to relax and soothe us

Bike riding – either around the neighborhood or a short drive away to a new neighborhood – never know what you’ll see

Camping – in the backyard or the local state park. Nothing like a campfire and S’mores

Our own reading program – rewards of something the library doesn’t provide. It may be ice cream from the Dairy Queen or a day trip for something we’ve read about

Museums – most have a free day and any museum has something to hold a child’s attention if you ask for help

Gardening – altho we do year round, letting the kids have their own garden, to raise what they want is important. They like radishes – quick, not so much waiting on the corn and watermelons

I like to keep up with the ‘education/school’ side of summer or any vacation: cooking & sewing teach math and hand-eye coordination; planning day trips teaches geography; treasure hunts teach reading and following directions; the walks teach bird recognition from the song and the sight;

I also keep a fishbowl with about 2 dozen slips of paper with a variety of necessary jobs to be done. Every other day or so one slip gets pulled. Cleaning the bathroom is not popular, but washing the car is.
Can’t have everything be ‘special and fun’ sometimes it just has to be practical.


Stephanie June 18, 2011 at 8:12 am

This summer, we are:
-Signed up for summer reading at the library. The kids got their first prize yesterday which inluded to FREE kids meals to local eatery. Score!
-Swimming. The gym we belong to has FOUR pools. And we have lots of awesome friends who have one too. No need to pay anywhere else.
-Being as active as possible in my Mom’s group. Home playdates, trips to museums and attractions at a discounted group rates, playing at the park, and hanging our with awesome people on the cheap or free.
-For our quickie vacay, we are headed to the beach. We are cooking most of the food and are camping instead of trying to book a cheap motel. The campsite costs us about 40 bucks a night and is less than a mile from the beach so can bike or walk. I’ve been socking away 10 dollars here, 10 dollars there to build up the gas money fund!


Lizzie June 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

Select Regal movie theaters are showing G and PG-rated movies at 10 am every Tuesday and Wednesday, from June 21 through the end of August, for only $1. In Portland, it’s Lloyd Mall 8 (inside the mall).
Click here for the schedule
It’s laid out in a confusing way, I think one column represents Tuesday and one is Wednesday, but it’s not 100% clear. Hey, the movies are $1 – not much risk (as long as you can avoid the concession counter!).


Katy June 18, 2011 at 10:11 am

They’ve done that for years, and it was always FREE before. I used to the take the kids when they were preschool age. I remember falling asleep while watching “Milo and Otis” at one of these screenings. I was worried that my little one would wander off, so I put him in my lap.



Marianne June 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

I signed my nieces and nephew up for the kids bowl free for whenever they come to visit this summer. I was given the option to buy a $25 adult pass that covers 4 adults each time the kids bowl this summer. Also with that i got a $25 restaurant gift card for free. 🙂


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary June 18, 2011 at 11:18 am

Well actually, the expenses of the summer DO make a big dent in my budget. As someone who works full time, I have a need for child care in the summer which is much more expensive (due to the longer hours) than what I pay during the school year. But I don’t mind, I think my kids really get a lot out of their camp experiences, and they also get plenty of down time.

And this summer’s expenses are extra high. This year, you see, I’m getting married! And although we are having a small, casual, and fairly frugal wedding, it still is not free. But I can promise you, in this case I do not mind the expense AT ALL. 🙂


Tina (Tightwad Mom) June 18, 2011 at 11:24 am

My main goal this summer is to get myself up early and run or walk. My goal is to lose 30 pounds by the time the cold autumn weather arrives. I want to fit into my jeans by fall. I’m to cheap to go buy bigger jeans! : )


Kate in NY June 19, 2011 at 3:06 am

My 8 year old is signed up for swim team and town camp – $400 for 7 weeks of full-time fun. Can’t beat that.

And then we have my 12, 13 and 15 year olds. Not too many jobs around this summer (all the high school and college students have grabbed those), too old for town camp . . . I want to let them relax and sleep in and generally take charge of their own summers as much as possible. But I also want them to read, help me around the house and garden, get daily exercise, start studying for the PSAT’s (in the case of the eldest), learn Mandarin Chinese (OK, that might be going too far).
Left to their own devices, however, I foresee a summer of 24-hour computer/tv marathons.

So this is kind of off-topic from Katy’s original question, but I would love to know how those of you wise non-consumerists with older kids find a balance – how you help your teens and tweens have productive summers without turning into a bitter, screeching nag. And, most importantly,without resorting to a trip to the mall . . .


Mama Minou June 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I love all these ideas! This following is not an idea for taming expenses, just one for a free (or almost) fun summer activity. How about a neighborhood get-together? Kids often enjoy taking part in the planning in various ways such as making fliers, distributing invitations, helping cook, decorate, choose music, come up with games for littler ones, etc. If you already know your neighbors, it’s super fun. If you don’t, it’s a good opportunity to get to know them better. Last year we had a big Summer Solstice party in my neighborhood that involved a seedling swap for gardeners and an optional Talent Show for anyone who wanted to participate (there were dances, songs, poetry recitation, juggling, stand-up comedy…). It was great!


monique damus June 20, 2011 at 5:03 am

We don’t have a tv, but we do have a couple of boys who like to watch the odd movie on a Saturday night(and sometimes their movies are really odd!). We rarely go out to the theater, and borrow all of our movies from the library during the winter. In the summer however, a local radio station has a twice monthly “Movies on the beach” event where they put a movie up on an inflatable screen and this fun is completely free! This has become quite an event for us and I make sure to advertise to all our friends when we plan to go, so that my kids are never sure which of their pals might be there that night. I pop some corn and make some lemonade and they get such a kick out of that free outing ! First one is this coming Friday and they have started the count-down already!


Shannon June 20, 2011 at 6:40 am

We decided not to do camps this summer, more because I woke up and realized how young my kids still are! I want to actually spend the summer WITH them, not carting them around. We do have a Y membership and ours has a pool, so we’re swimming a lot. Also we have memberships at the zoo and the local science museum. Both my boys take music year round, so we’re spending more time practicing. We’re riding our bikes daily. We’re learning about a different culture or country every week at home, and doing lots of crafts. We’re hitting the local library every time we have to go into town. And one boy is playing soccer once a week. It is so much more fun to be experiencing summer together than splitting up and going our separate ways! That said, I did sign them up for VBS mid summer…it will be good for them to get back into the groove of school before they go back (and it’s just $12 a kid!) And we’re doing several short family camping trips to our state parks…$20 a night plus gas to get there is not too bad. And even with all that, boredom still sets in. I take a leaf from my own mom’s playbook: “go outside and play!” lol


snowsage June 20, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Katy–Thanks for the shout out to libraries. This summer the children’sreading program (pretty much nation wide) theme is “One World, Many Stories.” So you can vacation at the library and travel the world. The adult theme, for those libraries participating, is “Novel Destinations.” Sometimes there are prizes and goodies for teens and adults who sign up also.


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