Summertime, and the living is easy. Easy, but summer expenses can add up quickly. Before you know it, that discretionary part of your budget has been blown up with all kinds of seasonal spending you’d forgotten to make room for in your budget.
Sure, the clothes are cheaper, and if you have gas heat your gas bills are minimal, but it’s not unusual to find yourself tempted into extra spending when the weather warms up.
Maybe it’s the legacy of our schooldays: Summer means vacation, and vacation means indulgence. Even though the days of 10 week vacations are done for most of us, we still get the urge to enjoy ourselves in the spirit of the season. Plus, most of us at least get a few days off due to holiday weekends, and it’s tempting to hit the road for beaches, lakes, or mountains.
Maybe it’s the extra sunshine: The days are longer, making it easier to get out and about. Restaurants open up their outdoor seating, there are a ton of extra outdoor events like concerts, and there are a lot of summer festivals and summer-only attractions to fill up the long evenings.
The good news is that a lot of summer expenses can be avoided. Aside from those extra electrons you’re burning with your AC on full blast, a lot of summer spending is discretionary (and depending where you live, maybe not even that.) Summer offers lots of temptation, but you don’t have to give in.
But some things are worth spending on, and I thought I’d list some of those discretionary summer expenses that we just can’t do without if we’re going to take advantage of the opportunities for enjoyment that summer offers.
Water, Water Everywhere
When Little Bit was born, Jon and I vowed that she could do whatever she wanted to do, but that there would be three life skills that she absolutely must develop. She had to learn to read (Check! Her Kindergarten teacher confirms she’s reading like a champ.) She had to learn to cook (We’re working on it! She makes a mean guacamole and helps me with dinner regularly.) And she had to learn how to swim.
Swimming, the sport that can save your life. Swimming, an exercise you can do throughout your life, even if your mobility is restricted. Swimming, a great way to cool off on a summer’s day and a heck of a lot of fun. Yep, she needs to learn to swim.
We’ve been working on swimming for a couple of years, and I expect we’ll continue this summer. Little Bit has no problem with being in the water, and can propel herself, swim underwater and tread water. Now it’s time for her to learn her strokes, and I see some more formal lessons in her future.
We no longer have a membership to our local Y, but we can still get her swim lessons there for only a few dollars more than the member’s price. There is the city Parks and Rec department too, which offers inexpensive lessons as well as very nice pools we can enjoy on a pay per visit basis.
We also pick up a backyard pool each year.
I’d love to say that our backyard pools lasted longer They don’t, due to a combination of a back yard severely lacking in level ground and a child who confuses the pool side with a trampoline. However, central North Carolina gets hot and muggy, and if I want my child to spend time outside in the summer I better let her get wet. We like a decent sized pool that the adults can relax in as well.
In more forward thinking years we’re able to pick up a pool in late summer for the next year. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that this year so we’ll be picking one up as Little Bit’s birthday present in the next week.
We’ve already enjoyed our annual beach trip, and had a blast playing in the waves and looking for shells. Due to Little Bit’s school schedule, we were able to take advantage of off-season rates by going in May and saved money by renting a cottage with a full kitchen. We may also make some road trips to one of our local lakes. As vacations go, these are not particularly expensive.
Since we’re going to spend a lot of time in the water, we’re going to spend a lot of time in the sun.
I was a fairskinned kid in a time when you thought you were getting too much sun protection if your Mom used the SPF 8 Coppertone instead of the Hawaiian Tropic oil, and I loved the sun and water. Needless to say, there were times I got way too much sun, and would be forced to stay inside for a few days or to wear a t-shirt over my bathing suit to swim. It was heavy, saggy, and uncomfortable, and I’m not sure how much extra protection it offered anyway. I left my childhood with a love of the sun and water, but I definitely wish I’d taken better care of my skin during my youth.
Our ideas of summer tans have evolved, and we try to keep our sun exposure to reasonable levels. Though we still spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun, we now make sure to get a good coating of sunscreen before heading outside.
Along with better sunscreen kid’s swimwear has evolved to protect kids skin, and it’s easy to find a rash guard or wet shirt to fit most kids. Since Little Bit first started climbing into a backyard pool, I’ve been getting her at least one or two rash guards a year (and using SPF 50) because I want to protect her skin for life. Wearing a rash guard isn’t always her first choice, and I’ll let her get away without one earlier in the morning or in the late afternoon. In the noonday sun, though, it’s as non-negotiable as SPF 50.
So far, I’ve had really good luck finding cute and comfortable 2 piece swimsuits at Target that come with a rash guard. They’re a little more expensive (about $8 more than comparable suits without a rash guard), but less than buying one of the shirts by itself. Spending an additional $8 for better sun protection is a great investment in my daughter’s health.
Thanks to Jon’s influence, we also see hats as a summer necessity, although fortunately they don’t have to be replaced each year. Jon realized a while ago that every time he saw a group of older men, like Pearl Harbor survivors, they all wore hats. He’s convinced that keeping our noggins covered is a good idea.
Along with baseball caps, we each have brimmed khaki boonie hats that provide more comprehensive coverage. and wear them pretty often to keep the sun off our faces.
Every season has its treats. In the fall, it’s Pumpkin Lattes and apples. At Christmas, it’s cookies and eggnog. At Easter, we love our jellybeans and Cadbury Cream Eggs.
And in summer, it’s ice cream. And berries. And watermelon. And popsicles. And margaritas. And on and on.
Fortunately, we can save on ice cream by indulging mostly at home. There always seems to be something good on sale, and so we keep a half gallon or two in the freezer most of the time. We also pick up those super cheap ice pops, the long tubes in plastic sleeves that purport to taste like cherry and grape but mostly taste like frozen sugar water. Because, yeah, essential childhood treat.
It helps too that our favorite healthy foods can be picked up inexpensively during summer. Strawberries, blueberries and peaches all make good desserts (especially on ice cream!) or snacks, and we can lunch on tomato sandwiches or salads.
Summer is the time to hit up your favorite produce stand and take advantage of delicious in season local produce for reasonable prices, but even the stuff at your local supermarket tends to be better, fresher and cheaper if you stick to what’s in season.
Summer Expenses, Summer Joys
Summertime is fun, but most of us do pick up a few extra summer expenses to make the most of the season.
And we should. Summer is bursting with life. Summer reminds us that life is fleeting and made to be enjoyed. We don’t have to spend a lot of money to slow down and appreciate a lazy afternoon in the sun, or to cherish the taste of a perfectly ripe berry. Summer is a time when we let our hair down, let our guard down, and enjoy a backyard barbeque with friends and family.
Slow Down. Have a great summer. And remember that some things are worth spending on.
What are your essential summer expenses that you won’t do without?