With summer right around the corner, I am SO excited to spend most of our days outside, getting inasmuch sunshine as my super fair skin can handle, and making memories with my family!
In the summer, I find that we spend way more money than needed because of all the fun events and things we want to do and this year, I vow to stick on my budget! We are coming out of a season of financial hardship and for the past few months, haven’t really had any space in the budget for luxuries and events.
Due to that, I’ve had to get super creative in finding and creating fun that our whole family can enjoy. So I sat down and said that no matter what we will have a fun summer, not break the bank, and find things that they all enjoy! I came up with a simple summer activity planning system that will keep the kids busy, you from going crazy, and your wallet happy!
Step #1 Identify your time pockets
Depending on your household, your kids may or may not have a schedule for the summer. Some families send their kids to camps, some prefer to keep their schedule more open and some take a lot of trips or homeschool events.
For us, none of our kids will be attending camp regularly (though my stepson has the occasional basketball drill on the calendar) and we’ve decided to keep a more open schedule. This helps a lot because currently, baby naps rule our life! I am a HUGE proponent of good sleep practices and try my best to make sure that the baby and the toddler get their sleep!
Their nap schedule also helps identify when we will be doing things and what days we have more free time. There are days when we will want to do a fun day trip and naps will happen in the car but, for the most part (and my sanity) we’ll try to be home for nap. Since I also work from home, that nap time is crucial for working so I plan to keep it as much as I can.
Identify for yourself what your typical day will look like this summer. How structured is your time? Do you have to do a lot of driving to activities? Will kids have time at camp or be home all day? How many activities do you want to plan each week?
Once you have that time picked out you can look at a typical day and see where you might want to add in an activity. For us, we have about a 2 hour window right now in the morning where all of the kids are up and we’re ready to be out and about so that is when I will plan something fun or an errand. Otherwise, we keep the day open. The kids are encouraged to play with their toys, read and do other crafts, and play outside. We’re also fortunate because we have a pool so that keeps the 11 year old pretty happy! I’m hoping this year goes better with the toddler in the pool because last summer she hated it!
Step #2 Determine your summer bucket list
Once you see your week at a glance, you’ll be able to see how many day trips, overnight trips, or just fun activities you can fit in. I’m not huge on planning every little bit of the day out but I do like routine and I like a plan in advance. I’ll encourage the kids to just do their things most days but I will plan out a few fun things or playdates just so we can get out of the house and have fun together.
If you’re trying to stay on a budget, you won’t be able to always do every single thing on your and your kids’ lists. There may be a limit to how many trips you take and places you go. So many of the fun places out there cost a fortune and when you add parking and food you’ve spent almost $100 for a few hours, and in my mind that is not worth it! I also suggest picking a ‘summer fun’ budget for eack week. This will give you the freedom to do things while making decisions that fit your budget.
Sit down with your family and come up with a list of things that they’d love to do this summer. Is there a place they really want to go? Can you determine one big weekend (or longer) trip you want to take? What do they want the day to look like?
This is much easier if you have older kids because my toddler really has not idea what we’re planning but, if you can invest the older kids in the summer plans they may be more excited to do things or less bummed out if you can’t visit all of the places that they heard their friends talking about.
Step #3 Plan Ways to Enjoy Summer Activities on a Budget
There are actually a lot of fun things you can do with your family that doesn’t cost a ton. You just have to do a little research, some planning, and being creative and you can all have an excellent summer. I know sometimes we look at other moms and see their pictures and get envious because we’d love to take our kids to a lot of the same places but maybe it’s just not in the budget. We need to get rid of that mindset and realize that you can all have an amazing summer without always doing things that cost a lot.
Join local groups and community pages
You can go to Facebook to search local groups and community page and will be able to see a bunch of events going on. The other day in my area I randomly found a post about a free carnival for the kids. It wasn’t huge at all and we only stayed an hour but it was a free, fun activity and got us out of the house.
You can save these events as you see them on Facebook or, I like to write them directly into my planner so that I didn't forget about them or have to look somewhere else to plan activities for the week.
Local colleges are also a great place to look for activities and events because they are always posting things that might be open to the public. The library is another great stop. Ours has movies outside for free, fun day time activities for the little kids, and it’s always a great place to just go spend a few hours.
You can also check out the newspaper to see community events or things happening in the area. I just saw an ad the other day that some Regal CInemas offer $1 movies on Wednesdays and it’s the perfect time to try out taking the toddler to the movies!
Find Out Policies In Advance
Check out a place’s website before you go and see all of their policies. You might be able to bring in your own lunch, find a special place to park for cheaper, or a cool special free event one day.
We live super close to Sesame Place and last summer went a few times a week. I knew from their website that I could bring in all my own food so when we were there we never even went into the food places so the kids wouldn't even know to ask and we’d just have our snacks that we brought in. Most places will let you do so and it never hurts to ask or check. It just takes a little extra planning to do it.
Look for discounts
I am a HUGE couponer so obviously before we go anywhere I scour the internet for coupons. They often aren’t too hard to find if you just search google! You can also find discount codes on apps, in other Facebook groups and in some stores just sitting right on the counter! Our local library also has free tickets for local zoos and parks and all you have to do is call and pick them up!
If you know you might be going to a place a lot, like we did with Sesame Place, it may not hurt to get a season pass. Ours paid for itself in 3 trips and, like I said we went 2x a week! You could also maybe get passes to split with another family or meet up at someone’s house before going and split the cost of parking.
Also make sure you check out local YMCAS for what activities you can get with a membership or kid’s gyms that have discounts for open play! And before you get tickets to anything, check out discount sites like Groupon to see what events they have going on!
Step #4 Have fun at home
There are also a ton of activities that you can do right in your backyard without spending any money at all (or maybe a few bucks at the Dollar Store!) So on those days when you don’t want to leave the house, spend money at all, or have a ‘home summer camp’, just have the kids go outside or do something fun together!
Check out this list of activities that you could do that are free and cheap and super fun!
Family Walks & Bike Rides
Make a Time Capsule
Take a park tour
Find cheap museums
Baking Day (bring to a neighbor)
Make a summer scrapbook
Parks and Splash Pads
Find free classes (college campuses)
Utilize the library
Pick a Summer Read Aloud
When you’re planning out your summer activities, don’t let the stress of spending money get in the way of making fun memories! Use this system and ideas to get the ball rolling and just enjoy the memories!
And don’t feel like you have to plan out every minute. I know we want our kids to have a fun time but there is something magical that happens when we let them get bored and use their imaginations!
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