Summertime, and the Living is Frugal

by Katy on June 3, 2012 · 32 comments

I love summertime. I love being able to slip off the mantle of being a nagging mom.

“What do you have for homework? Do you have any tests to study for? How did you do on that quiz? Time to get up from school. Time to get for school! TIME TO GET UP FOR SCHOOL!”

Ahh . . .

Of course, all that wonderful free time can add up to a financial nightmare. Daycare for those who work, art camps, sports camps, computer camps, church camps, princess camps. (Okay, I made that one up, but I’m sure Disney has made sure there is such a thing.) And let’s not forget all the restaurant meals and takeout that result from being out and about all the time.

I somehow always forget how pricey the summer months can be. Although we are far from over-schedulers, there are always forgotten expenses that make me want to scream into a pillow.

My 14 and 16-year-old sons are at once both cheap to care for and staggeringly expensive. Neither of them expect to be handed money to go to first-run movies or the mall, but both of them are participating in research-based class trips to Japan this year. And despite fundraising and great support from the Japanese school organizations, the total cost for the three trips adds up to around $8000. (My older son will dip into his own savings from lifeguarding as spending money, which helps.)


So summer this year will be an exercise in creative frugality. My younger son is already involved in martial arts and club soccer, which will continue. But there will be no financial splurges, but that’s okay. There is a lot of free and almost free stuff to do in Portland. Bike rides, hikes, outdoor movies, plays and library events to name a few.

My husband has a week of approved vacation the week before school starts, and we’re going to have to be financially deliberate about any travel plans.

But I can handle the financial challenges of summer, as long as I get to sleep in. And sleep in I will.

Ahh . . .

How about you, does summertime throw your financial habits out of whack? Do you have any fantastic cheap tricks to share? Please share your tips in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Poor to Rich a Day at a Time June 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I homeschool so nothing changes there, and for the most part May is our expensive month with birthdays, mothers day, arrival of gardening season etc. We love summer though and find many frugal things for summer with typical outdoor barbecues, horseshoes, gardening, free outdoor concerts, river picnics and hiking, fishing, rustic camping, nature walks, museums and the like. It is our busy time of year but really no more expensive than other times of the year for us, May being the exception.


Karen June 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I don’t even want to talk about it. Nate’s daycare is $850/month and that will be less than the price tag for camps for Hannah. Cha-ching. No way around it really. With us both working and the average camp running $200/week, it is what it is. I so cannot wait to stop paying for daycare!


Katy June 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm




Poor to Rich a Day at a Time June 4, 2012 at 5:50 am

I second that!


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary June 4, 2012 at 6:24 am

Karen, I really feel your pain. And while it’s true that daycare for little kids is super expensive, summer camp costs actually go UP as the kids get older. Don’t even get me started on the costs of sleep-away camp!

I have found that the camps run by our town are significantly less expensive than other camps. To be honest, the town camps are not interesting enough for my kids for the whole summer. Instead, I’ve let each kid pick a few weeks of specialized (expensive) camp such as lacrosse camp at a local college or arts camp at a nearby private school. The rest of the summer they go to town camp.

This year my 16-year-old has his first summer job (lifeguarding) at a local lake. HALELUJAH!


Mama Minou June 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Seems like our water bills go WAY up in the summer (love our garden though!) and utilities end up being even more than in the wintertime peak heating months.

This year’s big expense is a family trip to France. WHoo -hoo! It’s fairly frugal (except, of course, the plane tickets) because we will be staying with family the whole time and not have much in the way of expenses, but there will be gifts to purchase and bills at home for insurance and orthodontia and such to keep up with too. Last summer while my husband and boys were in France for 3 months , I managed to save enough via simple living solo to put an extra 3 months worth of payments on the mortgage. That just doesn’t work with teen boys around.


Alison June 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm

My 3 kids are elementary school age. We usually heavily rely on the library for fun in the summer. We check out books and movies. We participate in the movies in the park (which my kids love) and any other fun things they have to offer (like reading programs etc.). We also use the public pool about once a week. It only sets us back $1.50 per person, but certainly worth it. Finally, I set my kids up to do “home-school” for an hour each day. We use the books and worksheets that the teachers send home at the end of the school year and do a little M-F. Finally, we try to set up play dates with friends on a regular basis to get out of the house without spending any money.

We are moving across the country in two weeks; however, we have already investigated the local library, swimming pools/lakes, and Vacation Bible School. We are military and will already know 4 other families there, which makes it a smooth transition for us. I think that planning ahead is key to keeping summer costs down.


Megg June 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

We used the library like crazy when I was a kid! I loved it because it was air conditioned and our house wasn’t! (I grew up in Massachusetts so it wasn’t necessary and my dad was cheap!)


Alison June 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I grew up in Maine, and my mom always took us to the mall when it was hot!


Diane June 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

AC is needed full time in the Texas summer heat, so electric bills will be high. But, there is so much free or low cost fun in Austin that entertainment costs will be very low. I think it all averages out for me.


Bauunny June 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I am hoping for a frugal summer…..just planted a garden and will finish off the flower gardens once annuals and perennials begin to go on sale. I LOVE not having to make lunches. Big car repair bill recently so frugal is required…..but still cheaper than a car payment. I am saving for an October trip to Amsterdam so that will be my focus (that and college savings)


Theresa Maile June 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Our children are grown now but we camped every summer when they were growing up. We stocked up all year on food and drinks that were on sale, so we could usually have one rib and one steak night while camping. We fished, swam, hiked, carved soap (only Ivory soap is soft enough to carve), and took 100’s of fun pictures. The most expensive part was buying ice everyday to keep our food and drinks cold. To this day our kids know how to organize and pack for anything.


Megg June 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Since I don’t have kids to entertain, summer is pretty much like the rest of the year for us! We’ve recently discovered brewery tours with fellow friends who love beer too! They’re awesome because they’re usually really cheap (we have gone on 1 free one and 1 that cost $1!) and you get a glass (in this case there was 1 16 oz. pint glass and 1 tasting glass) plus free beer samples! It’s most excellent and very entertaining. I have NO idea if you drink, but there are tons in Portland, apparently. We’re thinking about taking a trip down this summer with these friends (it’s only 3 hours from us and we’d stay in a Motel 8 or something like that)!


Linda in Indiana June 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I try to remember to plan ahead when heading out in the summer with a small cooler with bottled water or drinks and if I am going to be gone during lunch, I pack a lunch. This summer, as the past several summers, we have our grandson one or two days per week to help save the daughter on daycare and a break for the grandson. (Not to mention, it is a wonderful treat for us to get to spend time with him.) We like to garden and that saves tons of money. We like to go to the state parks and buy and annual pass and that is much cheaper than paying admission each time. We also use the library a lot…books, videos, tapes. We also enjoy potlucks and the kids all like that very much. We have a farm pond which is stocked and a shelterhouse and firepit. So, it is a popular spot for a cheapo way to hang out on a hot day and fish and have a weiner roast. The grandson and I are planning on letting him do some cooking. He is 10 and has been interested in learning more each summer. He is learning to lots in the kitchen on his own and frugal ways to cook also. He is interested in gardening and is learning how things grow and how to preserve the things that come from the garden. We (hubby and I) are planning a getaway –but with two other couples and we will share a kitchen and bring our things to cook and that will save a bundle as well as sharing the rent. I guess we do what we did when we were raising our children—mostly learning while working but building fun into it as well as heading our periodically for some change of pace and an occasional treat—gotta have that ice cream cone once in awhile!!1


Linda from Mass June 4, 2012 at 3:09 am

It is fabulous that you are teaching your grandchildren so much about your frugal ways! My girls have learned so much for their grandparents (not to mention what I have learned).


Dusti June 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

oohh! I thought of you today as I wad poring over my Parks &Rec Free for All paper today. Free concerts, movies, swimming, and playground programs! Yay! (we didn’t live in PDX last spring). My in-laws live in Alabama and they like to come up to see the kids while they’re out for the summer. Their visits can go either way. They don’t have to be entertained but I like to keep my kids busy. Trying to find activities that my kids and in-laws enjoy can get spendy. Our biggest expense is groceries. They help out but I still end up going over because they eat a lot of processed foods that my kids end up wanting. I usually give in because I don’t want to spend the whole visit fighting over food. They know when the visit’s over that’s the end of the junk. But, I digress…
I agree with the above comment that planning ahead is key. Especially since all 4 of my kids have summer birthdays. I hope everyone wants to go to LOTS of (free) concerts!


Practical Parsimony June 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm

My three children are all right around 40 +/-.
Of course, my children have children of their own now. But, I bought a pass to the public pool, making swimming cheap. However, the two oldest were on the swim team, so that cost lots, not to mention the swim meets, suits, goggles and such. They went to the library and checked out books and HAD to read during the summer.

Dance for the two younger ones ended in the summer and there was baseball and all the fees for the league and equipment. Both older children played everything. They took tennis lessons every summer. They continued rink skating and owned their own skates. They thought they could eat dinner/junk from stands. That did not happen since Mama would bring bananas, milk, and cookies! Maybe I would pay for a Coke!

I sent them to every Vacation Bible School in town. They loved it. We went to every event that was free and had entertainment–even buck dancing concerts. The older could walk to a public park and play basketball. His friends in the neighborhood stayed at our house lots–always in the yard or basement.

Sleep late? Sort of, but I would have paid money to sleep to 8 am. They arose early in the summer as opposed to having to be nagged out of bed during the school year.


Tina June 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Yes, indeed it does. I am thinking of setting a budget of $20 per week for “fun”. I am kind of curious to see what they choose to do… and I figure it is pretty frugal 🙂

I am trying to make a list of ideas we can pull from of free/cheap ideas 🙂


Sherry June 3, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I was just making a chart for each day of the week and the available activities and their hours. So far I have library events, open swim at the community pool, the art museum (we have a membership) and the zoo (we have a membership there, too). Memberships can be a pretty cheap way to go if you know you’ll go frequently.


Jennifer B. June 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm

The library for us; there is a summer reading program for all ages in Sacramento (I can win an iPad), and lots of programs. Home Depot has a free project on the first Saturday of the month for kiddos. Barnes & Noble has a reading program for kids where they get a free book after turning in a list of eight books they’ve read (you just have to resist buying while you’re there!). We have lots of parks in the area, some with spray misters, and bike paths galore. We’ll also get some camping in while visiting campuses for my daughter. I also hope to get to a farmers’ market in nearby Davis that has music in the park during the middle of the week.


Indigo June 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The summer is always tough on me because as a teacher I’m a 10 month employee so no pay checks in June, July, or August. I have to wait until the END of September for another paycheck. I make money here and there but it is still tight. I will be doing some serious work on the house as well.

There is till tons of fun to be had. Friends over for bbq by the fire pit, there is a large lake nearby for swimming and rafting, plenty of hiking trails for me and the dogs, sketching and painting, and I’ll be visiting friends in other states and my brother in Florida. I get to take in some new scenery, enjoy fine company, and pitch in on groceries rather than dine out all the time, sleep on the couch or spare bed rather than rent a hotel room, and return the favor when they come to visit me.


Samantha June 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Summer is frugal time for us! No driving to school, no blasting the heat because it’s -40 outside. We can grow our own veggies, get our CSA deliveries, live off of homemade popsicles and watermelon while running through the sprinkler. Take advantage of our fitness center pass and go to the pool. I have no problem spending next to nothing in the summer. The winter it’s hard because it’s cold and snowing and there aren’t many free indoor activities. Now come August when it’s back to school shopping and my boys need new school uniforms, that will be pricey!


Shannon June 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Summer is usually pretty inexpensive for us. I think because we are far less tempted to go out for dinner since there are so many other things to do, like have picnics and cookouts, and inviting friends over for potluck. I stopped doing a lot of camps for my boys—finishing baseball season and scout camp (paid for by the popcorm sale!) will keep us busy enough. For fun we typically use the library, hike, camp, and I’ll spring for maybe some bowling and few trips to the pool. We dumped our membership because we didn’t use it enough. We kept our membership to the zoo, so I expect we will visit frequently. Our big summer splurge was a bundle of art supplies(with the magic Michael’s coupon, of course) which we tend to spend a lot of time with since I try to regulate tv. I think the biggest daner-zone for me in summer is fairs and festivals. If I go in without a plan and a budget I kind of lose my way!


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land June 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I figured out a way to get my son motivated in the morning. I told his bus driver if he’s not out, just leave without him–no waiting. George missed the bus once, so we walked to school. It was a very long walk (especially for me, since I had to walk both ways, uphill, of course). Since then, though, he knew what it meant to miss the bus. I still will tell him that he needs to hurry because otherwise he’ll need to walk, but at least I don’t have to cajole.


Erin June 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I actually get by on the cheap during the summer. Every Christmas, my husband buys our family passes to Coney Island Park here in Cincinnati. At $80 a piece, it’s actually quite a bargain as this covers the pool, the rides, and parking (which is $8 a day normally). A day pass to the park is $21.95! So with those passes in hand, the kids and I just pack a picnic every day and spend our days pool side or on the rides. Luckily, you can still take your own food and beverages inside as long as you use a soft-sided cooler and no glass. The park is only 7 minutes by car from our house, so we don’t use much gas either. Otherwise, we depend a great deal on the public library for entertainment on rainy days (which are not nearly as numerous here as in Portland!). With this schedule, the kids need three swimsuits each, a pair of sandals, and a few shorts outfits that I pick up at the thrift store. Summer is far cheaper for me than the school year is. But I am fortunate enough to have a job that I have summers off so there are no child-care costs like many of you have.


Angela June 3, 2012 at 6:28 pm

WOW. Your post makes me very happy that I homeschool!! I’m a mom of 5 – ages 3 up to 16. We aren’t involved in organized sports. We go to the library a lot, we all love to read!They jump on the trampoline and play basketball or football with the neighbor kids here at the house and we live on the gulf coast so they can play in the water. No pricey trips and lots of activity for $o!!! 😉


Linda from Mass June 4, 2012 at 3:25 am

This summer we plan to spend time by the pool, working (not cheap because we have the pool). I love my pool but it is definately not a frugal choice. We will go to the library, watch DVDs on rainy days, shop thrift stores and regular stores for bargains for my college bound daughter. My college bound daughter will be planning tennis at college, so she will be playing this summer in a league. This is not very expensive, that is why she plays in the league vs lessons. My younger daughter will be doing cheering camp, and playing soccer (actually quite cheap).

We are taking a family vacation to a Myrle Beach condo. We got the condo for only $275 for the week because we got it at a fund raiser. We will be making meals and enjoying the beach.

We will not be going out to eat that much. With college expenses coming, we will be working and saving.


jennifer June 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

My kids are still pretty little (6 &7) so we can do a lot of free things that they enjoy. We do a lot of hikes, fishing, playing in the sprinkler (well water so no extra cost!) local playgrounds and spray parks and of course the library. We have to be extra frugal in the summer as my part time job slows down to barely breathing, which I don’t mind as I’d rather spend time with the kids, but it does make a little pinch in the budget.


Lili@creativesavv June 4, 2012 at 7:00 am

Yes, summer fun can be expensive. June is family fun fundraising month in our house. We take in the cans for cash, have a yard sale, scale back on the budget in other areas, all to save a few coins for our summer fun.


Meredith @ Slightly Scattered June 4, 2012 at 7:32 am

We’re on the last few paychecks before I’m an official SAHM, so we’re literally “practicing” frugality this summer. I made the budget out as if I weren’t working, and we’re living on it and pretending that my checks aren’t coming in! We cut our power usage by 7kWH/day from last year, and 1kWH/day from April despite the increased heat in May, so my attempts to use less power is working.
I’m cooking a LOT more than usual since I’m meal planning for a month at a time, and that’s freeing up more time for my older son to play outside with our neighbor friends.
He’s at daycamp$105-$130/week depending on field trips, so that’s painful, but not as bad as having a bored 6-year-old running around my office!


Anne Weber-Falk June 4, 2012 at 10:09 am

Arts in the Park, summer concerts in the park, many local historic stuff will have free days or fests. The beach, board games on the porch, pot luck picnics with family and friends. Yard games like yard darts, frisbee, ladder golf, horseshoes. How’s that to name a few!


Anne Weber-Falk June 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

Oh! and lets not forget camping! That is cheap and can be done any days of the week for about as long as you would like.


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