How to have a fun summer when your finances are tight

With layoffs, bank closings and inflation, financial strains remain high for many Americans heading into summer. In an autumn of 2022 study conducted by the Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association, 83% of adults said inflation is a source of stress, and 56% said they and/or their family had to make different choices in the past month because they didn’t have enough money. .

Making tough money choices is stressful, and sacrificing “wants” to afford “needs” can be frustrating. But if you’re questioning the financial impact of your summer plans, or if they’ve suddenly become unaffordable, there are still ways to have fun, save money and put yourself in a better place for next year.

Pivot to a positive mindset

In the face of canceled summer plans, Rob Bertman, a family budgeting expert and certified financial planner in Missouri, suggests shifting your mindset from disappointment to opportunity. Use this time to talk about financial decisions with your partner or children.

“I think it’s always good for kids to see their parents trying to learn and improve,” he says.

With kids, Bertman says to avoid language like “we can’t afford it” or “it’s too expensive” because that can lead to a scarcity mindset. Instead, he suggests reframing the difficult choice as such benefits the family long-term.

The key to this change in attitude is not to lose sight of your priorities. What you’re after, in the end, is making memories with the people you love. While the holidays seem ripe for those frame-worthy moments, sometimes the things that matter most happen in your own backyard.

Reduce the cost of activities

Summer is prime time for free events, but you’ll need to do some work to find cheap events in your area. Even so, having things to look forward to on your calendar can be a great emotional boost.

Membership to a zoo, park, aquarium, or museum could pay off in multiple visits throughout the summer. Plus, it’s a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the weather — or escape the heat, depending on where you live.

If a subscription is too expensive, you may have a workaround in your wallet. For example, Bank of America credit cardholders are eligible for the Museums on Us program, which offers free general admission to more than 225 cultural centers across the country on the first full weekend of each month..

AAA members can get discounted tickets to concerts, movies, sporting events and amusement parks. And don’t forget your local library. Some offer free “experience vouchers” to gardens, museums, zoos and parks.

Once you choose an activity, cut costs by bringing your own food. You’ll save money on that last-minute meal or overpriced snack. When dining out, look for places where you can BYOB, as alcoholic beverages can sometimes double the bill.

If you still want to travel, consider somewhere close or split the cost with family or friends. “The easiest thing to do is treat your town or city as if you were a tourist,” says Bertman. Drop a pin or draw a circle around your city and find destinations to explore, he suggests.

A $3,000 vacation rental could suddenly become affordable if you pay just $1,500. Grandparents might enjoy joining in to make family memories—and you might even get a date night.

Get ready for next summer

  • Automate your summer savings. If having a full summer schedule is not negotiable, it might be time to prioritize this in your budget. Automatic transfer of a fixed amount of money in a separate savings account every paycheck can help you build funds so you’ll have them set aside by next summer. According to Bertman, months with fewer holidays and birthdays are also great for boosting extra savings.
  • Be flexible. Life is unpredictable. Protect your plans by booking hotels with free cancellation policies or flights with refundable tickets to avoid fees or lost deposits. Travel insurance is another option, and some plans cover your bookings and medical expenses.
  • Check expenses weekly. Bertman recommends doing weekly five-minute spending reviews to see where the money is going. Eventually it will become a habit, but let go of judgment and guilt. “Once families get into the rhythm of doing that,” he says, “they figure out how to really reduce their spending without sacrificing their lifestyle.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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Amanda Barroso writes for NerdWallet. Email:

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