How to Create a Summer Budget

Two women sitting side by side on a bench outside of a cafe store eating ice cream and waffles together. They are enjoying the sunshine, laughing and talking together.

The sunshine, warm weather and longer days of summer might inspire you to get out and have some fun. That could mean planning a trip, coordinating a staycation or exploring more outdoor activities. But the summer months can put a strain on your budget if you aren't prepared. From traveling to enrolling your kids in camp, expenses can add up quickly this time of year. If you're looking to have fun this summer without derailing your financial goals, follow these five steps.

1. List Out Your Obligations

Begin by listing out expenses that are unique to the summer months. These are temporary costs that aren't in your regular spending plan. Seeing them in black and white can help you prep your budget. They may include:

  • An increase in your electricity bill due to running your air conditioner more
  • A spike in food spending, especially if you have kids home from school
  • More frequent gas fill-ups from being out and about more often
  • The cost of summer camps or child care for kids
  • Summer weddings, family reunions or parties

Next, estimate how much each of these obligations will cost you. Do you have enough wiggle room in your budget to cover them? If not, you may need to pull money from your savings to bridge the gap—and avoid taking on new debt. Another option is to reduce your expenses to free up the necessary cash (more on this shortly).

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2. Account for Your Wants

Now think about the things you'd really like to do this summer. They may not be essential, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve room in your budget. Think along the lines of:

  • Vacations, including day trips
  • Tickets for nearby theme parks, zoos or aquariums
  • Passes for your local pool, rec center or state parks
  • Summer clothes and accessories
  • Home projects that are ideal for warm weather, like replacing your deck or updating your landscaping

Summer is also a good time to think about vehicle maintenance, especially if you're planning any road trips. That might require you to get your car serviced and make some repairs, which can put a dent in your budget.

3. Find Ways to Save

See if you can reduce your essential summer spending. Below are some good jumping-off points:

  • Start meal planning. Build your meals around in-season, local items that are on sale. Shopping at multiple stores, including big-box stores, can help you save even more. The goal is to map out budget-friendly meals and eat out less often.
  • Consider child care swaps. The cost of child care and summer camps can be steep. If you need help occupying your kids over the summer while you work, reach out to other parents who are in the same boat. You could arrange child care swaps where you babysit each other's kids while the other one works.
  • Contact your energy provider. If your electricity bill tends to spike in the summer, see if your energy provider offers fixed year-round pricing. It might help you save money in the long run.
  • Reconsider your gym membership. Instead of paying to use gym equipment, you could jump on your local trails or invest in home workout gear—or you might take up swimming if you're already paying for a summer pool pass.
  • Temporarily pause your subscription services. Start with subscriptions and streaming services you don't use much. You can modify your plans or temporarily pause them for the summer.

4. Look for Budget-Friendly Activities

Here are some simple ways to have summer fun without breaking the bank:

  • Opt for road trips over flying.
  • If you have to book a flight, be flexible with your travel dates and compare prices and carriers.
  • Use credit card rewards to save on hotels, flights, car rentals and more. You can also use cash back for anything you like, not just summer travel.
  • See what summer events are planned in your community. That might include affordable (or free) outdoor concerts, festivals, markets, conventions and more.
  • See if your library offers free museum passes or other perks for cardholders.
  • Plan a neighborhood block party.
  • Hit up your nearest drive-in movie theater for a date night or family outing.
  • Plan a staycation with an affordable Airbnb or Vrbo.

5. Start Saving for Next Summer

This may not be at the top of your to-do list, but your future self will probably thank you. Having cash on hand for summer expenses can make it much easier to meet all your obligations. It can also take the stress out of vacation planning and allow you to splurge a little more during the summer months.

Start by estimating your total costs, then dividing that number by 12. You can add this amount to your regular monthly budget. For example, let's say you'd love to have $3,000 saved by next summer. That works out to $250 per month if you start saving now. Putting your money in a high-yield savings account or certificate of deposit (CD) can help you earn even more.

The Bottom Line

During the summer, you may run into temporary expenses that could derail your budget. Planning ahead is the best way to keep your finances going strong. That involves clarifying your expenses and finding ways to save. When done right, it's possible to have a fun summer without accumulating new debt or disrupting your budget too much.

No matter what time of year it is, maintaining strong credit is always important. It can help you qualify for the best rates and terms, which could help you keep more money in your pocket to use on summer expenses or other obligations. Experian allows you to monitor your credit for free to know where you stand.