Summer is almost done! In Canada, specifically in Toronto, summer seems to be a beautiful fleeting experience that lasts but for a few weeks. Those who live in a country where summer is just one of four seasons, you know how hard we try to take advantage of those hot days. Or for those who have children, summer vacation means time for family vacations or activities before the school year begins again.
Whatever your reason, you try to make the most of summer, spending more time outdoors than usual. It may mean visits to parks, festivals, beaches, outdoor attractions and so much more. As a result we can really end up spending a lot of money during these hot days. As a young family of four, with children that have a love for adventure, the many family outings can really add up. So I’ve come up with 10 tips to help you save money while enjoying the summer time.
1) Budget & carry cash
A budget is so essential when you’re talking about saving money. So to start off your summer trips, figure out what each particular activity is going to cost and make a budget. Make the budget reasonable; not too tight so that you’re preventing fun from happening, and not too loose where the budget doesn’t serve the purpose of preventing you from overspending.
Figure out ticket costs, gas costs, parking fees, cost of food and everything else that you will have to pay for. Create a budget around those costs plus extra spending money. Once you have a good budget in place, walk with cash and spend using that cash. Credit and debit cards don’t give us a visual representation of the money we are spending. Using cash will give you an idea of how well you’re sticking to your budget and it will help you to spend wisely. I’ve also heard that our brain triggers a pain like emotion when we use cash versus plastic. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, it would help us stay on budget when we use cash.
2) Buy tickets online
Many attractions offer company discounts or online discounts. Before you buy your ticket in person, check online for these discounts and purchase the tickets online to save a few extra bucks. Sometimes there’s an added bonus of skipping line ups when you purchase your tickets online. If you can save money and time, why not buy your tickets online?
3) Bring your own water
It’s crazy what parks and various attractions charge for a bottle of water. A case of 24 bottles of water at the grocery store can cost about $2. Whereas I’ve been to attractions that have charged $3 for one bottle of water! That’s just insane. So to avoid these steep charges, which can add up depending on how many family members you have, take your own water bottles with you. You can carry reusable water bottles, as some attractions offer water fountains where you can refill. Whether you’re taking plastic water bottles or a reusable bottle, you can freeze the water the night before and defrost it during your trip which can help keep you cool on those hot days.
4) Bring your own snacks
While it can be too much to carry all your meals, it is usually easier to carry your own snacks. You can buy lunch or dinner at the attraction but the in between snacks are items you can easily carry yourselves. Pack fruits, chips, nuts and other things to nibble on that would otherwise cost you way too much. Also, by having snacks, it could help minimize how much you eat and spend on lunch/dinner at these attractions.
5) Use a deal site
Groupon and other similar deal sites always have deals on various activities. You can find a unique list of activities to do in your local area for a reduced price. I checked for my area and found activities such as a $30 Fantasy fair, $14 Harbour boat tour, $20 for a Safari in Niagara, $9 for an Aerospace museum and so much more. These deal sites allow you to try events you may never have thought of trying before, and doing so at a reduced rate.
6) Use school coupons
My son’s school always provides a big package at the end of the school year that contains coupons to various attractions. Some of the coupons give a percentage off while some cover the cost of your child’s admission. The coupons we received at the end of the 2016 school year includes; 50% off for up to 4 people attending “Medieval Times”, $8 admission per person to the zoo, discounted tickets to the “Ripley’s Aquarium”, 2 for 1 admission for the “Hockey hall of fame” and so much more. If your child receives school coupons, utilize them and save some money.
7) Take part in free activities
While taking part in events and attractions that carry a price tag, you should mix in some free activities to help make summer activities more affordable. This is where I find Google to be should a big help. Research free attractions within your area or that are accessible by car (this would not be totally free as you’d have to pay for gas/parking). Where we live, there is a park that’s about 15 minutes away that has a free zoo equipped with Llamas, Kangaroos, Peacocks, Emus and so much more. We spent a day there and we had such a nice time and didn’t have to spend a dime enjoying the attractions. Also, the city you live in often puts on free family activities, you just have to do the research to find out when the event takes place. By adding in free activities, you can ensure every free day is spent doing something fun and memorable.
8) Travel in a big group
When travelling in a big group, everyone can split costs and make your trip more affordable. If you’re taking a trip to the beach, you can share the cost of gas if you’re going far (we drove over 4 hours to visit a beautiful beach in Ontario). You can also share the cost of parking, food and amenities. If you have kids that are on the trip, going with a big group of people can allow for multiple supervision and some allotted one on one time. Also, if your group is big enough, you can get discounted tickets for various events and attractions.
9) Skip the souvenirs
If you’ve budgeted for souvenirs, then buy within your limits. However if you’re on a tight budget or would rather spend more on food, skip the souvenir shop. While souvenirs can be cute, they usually end up in the drawer of junk or hidden behind a bookshelf in your child’s room. In the moment, buying that funny shaped pencil for $8 seems worthwhile, but it’s not always necessary. Souvenirs are usually poorly made and ridiculously overpriced. So if you have not set aside money for them and want to avoid an impromptu buy that you will regret, avoid going in the souvenir shops, ignoring the cries of your inner child or your actual children too.
10) Save up
You can use the tips given above for the few weeks left in summer. You can also put these tips to use during random road trips or any vacations throughout the year really. However, when focusing on the increase in spending we go through during the summertime, it’s a good idea to save up for the next summer activities. Once this summer passes, you can put save up on a monthly, bi-weekly or weekly basis for next year. You can estimate an amount you think you would need for next summer and figure out what amount per budget fits your situation. The great thing about doing this is that every year you’ll get better and estimating your cost for the next summer, making saving, budgeting and spending for the summer pain free.
I hope these tips will help you save and have a more stress free summer. I know that there are times where spontaneous events pop up so keep that in mind when you’re saving for the summer, adding extra money for miscellaneous adventures. You know yourself, if you’re more prone to random events, set a ballpark amount and save for that. If you’re a planner like me, you’ll be able to get a better estimate after some research. Money should be a tool that allows us to make the most of our time. If we’re purposeful with our spending, money can help us create those fond summer memories.