Essential Summer Expenses We Can’t Do Without

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.

Essential Summer Expenses

Sun Protection

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?



14 thoughts on “Essential Summer Expenses We Can’t Do Without

    • We’ll see about the pool. Part of me thinks we should splurge and pick up something we might possibly be able to swim in. Part of me says that $40 gives us something big enough to submerge ourselves if we lie down…as long as we aren’t all trying at the same time.

  1. Hm, we’re such old fuddy-duddies that we haven’t been doing anything special in the summers other than the odd bit of travel. This is the first summer we’re navigating with a toddler though so I suspect that’s going to change soon enough. I’m already thinking over what our options will be when school summers come around and we don’t have childcare!
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Just a little (link) love: Art! editionMy Profile

    • I do think kids help you slow down a little and connect with some of the simpler childhood joys, and summer is a good time to do that.
      The good thing about traditional school calendars is that there are a lot of children’s programs in the summer, and while some of them are pricy (sleepaway camps) others aren’t so much (Boys and Girls Club around here is something like $10 a day.) And that’s the bad thing about year-round school-fewer options, and most of them cost a bit more. On the other hand, year round school means our breaks are around 3 weeks long and we can take advantage of off-season travel and a greater variety of activities since we have autumn and winter breaks too.

  2. I’m with you with the water. We always make trips to the beach. We are heading to visit family in California this year and will enjoy some beach trips and surfing. We can’t enjoy summer without BBQs, watermelon and of course ice cream!

    Such a great time of year, but like the Holidays can make you you get caught up in spending if you are not to careful.
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    • Enjoy your trip! Sounds like a lot of fun. Most of my family lives in state, which is great for getting together but we don’t get to go a lot of fun places to visit family. Jon has some aunts in central Florida, though, so we’re hoping to take advantage of that one day before too long.

    • For us, warm weather can make it harder to stay home, even though we keep cool easily enough. Shorter days and cold weather make Netflix and the couch more appealing, but the long days make us more active.

  3. Definitely water! It’s HOT here today. We always take two week-long trips in the summer, typically one is a camping week and one is a more standard vacation. We tend to travel on a budget and do some hacking with credit cards to make things more affordable. I’ll never regret all of the adventures we’ve had over the years with our kids.
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    • Sounds like fun! I really enjoy our family trips too. We haven’t tried camping since Little Bit came along, although we’ve talked about it some.

  4. Great stuff, Emily. The sunscreen is a must! And it’s gotten so much better over the years. I can’t remember the last time I went in the ocean or a pool. I shy away since I’m very fair and already had a bout with basal cell. But I put sunscreen on when we go our for our daily walks.

    Summer must really be fun when you get to spend it with a child and see it through her eyes. My family went to a beach club for 13 years. I can still remember everything like it was yesterday – graduating from the baby pool to the grownup pool, the square dancing the old farts did, the Italian ices and pizza shop across the street.
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    • Sounds like a great beach club!
      Most seasons become more special when you have a kid, summer in particular, because you end up doing all of those things you stopped doing as an adult because you want your child to have those experiences. So you find yourself doing or getting things you enjoyed and discovering the experience in adulthood. It’s not the same but it’s often still very enjoyable.

  5. We decided to forgo a pool pass for now, but we may decide to splurge on an annual pool pass later this year. We’re going on vacation in July, so it didn’t seem worthwhile, but Kenny is a little fish, and some of the pools make it easy for me to supervise.

    I would love for Kenny to learn to swim without a lifevest this year.

    • I was so happy last summer when Little Bit learned to swim without her life vest. The Y classes for preschoolers were good enough to get her to the point she could float, dogpaddle and tread water reliably, but they didn’t seem to ever get to teaching the kids freestyle.

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