'My Super Summer Savings Strategy': 7 People Share How They Keep Budgets in Check

'My Super Summer Savings Strategy': 7 People Share How They Keep Budgets in Check

There’s something about warm weather that makes frivolity fashionable and having a good time priority number one.

Outdoor concerts! Beach vacations! Dinners al fresco!

But take your summer spending and indulging too far, and you can put a serious dent in your budget.

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Case in point: The average family spends more than $4,500 on vacations, weeklong sleepaway camps could set you back $2,000, and average electricity bills for June through August can easily reach $400 or more in certain parts of the country.

Ouch.

But before you resign yourself to shelling out thousands on your summer fun, know this: You can enjoy the next few balmy months with your savings intact.

Take a hint from these seven people, whose simple yet savvy secrets carry them through the summer—without regrets.

Summer Savings Tip #1: Kick Off a ‘Coin Challenge’

“In my family we’re all about being resourceful. That’s why we celebrate summer with a scrappy coin-saving challenge. The rules are simple: Empty your loose change into a big jar every night.

All in all, we rack up about $100 between the beginning of May and early August—then brainstorm a fun activity to spend it on.

A couple summers ago we used our $85 in coin savings to take a day trip to the mountains, where we rode the historic, steam-powered Georgetown Loop Railroad.

This year we’re hoping to save $120 to put toward an overnight stay at Little America in Cheyenne, Wis., a nice hotel with a nine-hole golf course and swimming pool.”

—Eliza Cross, 56, sustainable living blogger, Denver

RELATED: 6 Affordable Family Vacations: Summer Trips with the Kids Edition

Summer Savings Tip #2: Make Money on Your Home

“My favorite savings trick is to use our home to make money, which we tried for the first time last year during a monthlong trip to Spain. We rented it out for $2,000—which was just enough to cover our accommodations for the entire vacation.

I got the idea back in April 2014, after talking with friends about the challenges of finding nice, affordable summer housing when visiting relatives. Come to find out, this is a pretty common issue, and as a result there are a lot of trustworthy, short-term renters interested in a place like ours.

We found our renter through a local email list, which worked out great. We'll definitely be trying this again—it's the perfect way to enjoy lengthy summer getaways without breaking the bank."

—Erica Zidel, 32, chief marketing officer, Boston

Summer Savings Tip #3: Soak Up Some Sun—by Freezing Your Gym Membership

“In the summer Chicago is the most amazing city. People love to be outside, biking or walking their dogs—it’s so different from the wintertime, when people have to bundle up in parkas and rush to get inside.

"Nanny Camp is a major money saver, considering day camps can run $2,000–$3,000. Instead of shelling out that cash, we gave our nanny a $200 bonus."

To take full advantage of the warmer weather, I’ve frozen my $99 gym membership from June to September for the past five years. Instead of taking spin or barre classes indoors, I either jog or participate in a free neighborhood yoga class in Lincoln Park.

There’s no fee for freezing my membership, so I get to bank the $400. I’ve yet to find an easier way to save so much cash!”

—Chelsea Dowling, 23, public relations professional, Chicago

RELATED: 8 Cheap Fitness Apps for Getting in Shape This Summer

Summer Savings Tip #4: Start a ‘Nanny Camp’

“A couple of years ago, I had a full-time nanny for my two preschool-age children, and was torn about paying for a two-week day camp for each of them on top of the nanny's salary.

I knew my kids would love it, but we already had full-time care, not to mention it was our nanny’s job to engage the kids. On the flip side I also knew how hot, exhausting and hard it could be to coordinate summer outings.

That’s when my idea for ‘nanny camp’ was born.

Together with other families whose kids and nannies we loved, I brainstormed a bunch of entertaining activities and created a Google doc. Then we agreed that each family’s nanny would be responsible for organizing an activity one day a week.

That summer our kids and their friends attended “sprinkler parties,” tended lemonade stands, hung out at the zoo, went on nature walks and more. It was a huge success!

Even better is that nanny camp is a major money saver, considering two-week day camps can easily run $2,000–$3,000. Instead of shelling out that cash, we gave our nanny a $200 summer bonus, plus a bigger weekly allowance for planning special day trips.”

—Katie Bugbee, 37, editor, Newton, Mass.

RELATE: How I Cut the Summer Camp Bill in Half

Summer Savings Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Hotel Discount

“I subscribe to the philosophy that there’s always a deal to be had, and everything’s negotiable—especially when it comes to travel.

So whenever I book a hotel, I do a lot of research and price comparisons to ensure I’m getting the best rate. Then I call up the hotel directly and ask if I can have a bigger discount on top of that.

Even I’m surprised how often this really works. I’ve scored as much as 10% off the total room price.

But here’s a little tip: If you’re requesting a discount face-to-face at the hotel counter, make sure you’re not in earshot of another traveler. I’ve found that they’re much more likely to give you a price break if they don’t think they’ll have to give it to the next guy.”

—Aarn Farmer, 42, coupon website founder, Arlington, Tex.

RELATED: 8 Money-Saving Summer Travel Secrets

Summer Savings Tip #6: Make a Long-Term Investment in 'Free' Entertainment

”My wife is a teacher, and enjoys summers off with our two kids, ages 10 and 12. I love that she gets to spend time with them, but I hated how much money they used to waste while fighting the boredom blues.

They’d go shopping, eat lunch out, buy movie tickets—and spend as much as $450 to $600 more per month than normal. As you can imagine, that started to really affect our family's bottom line.

But four summers ago we had a great idea that’s made all the difference: We bought a 27’ above-ground pool for the backyard.

"I prepare all our meals before 3 P.M., only do laundry during the cheapest time of day—either before 10 A.M. or late at night—and carefully manage our AC usage."

Sure, it cost us about $4,500, but it’s provided a ton of (mostly) free entertainment ever since. We spend about $300 a year on maintenance and chemical supplies, but we clean it ourselves. All in all, I’d estimate it saves us about $1,000 over the course of the summer months.

Now, every time I call home, my wife tells me they spent the whole day happily drifting around in the water on a raft with friends—not at the mall buying knickknacks they found on sale.”

—DJ Whiteside, 35, engineer, Flint, Mich.

Summer Savings Tip #7: Hack Your Energy Usage

“Summer in Arizona can be brutal for your budget. When my family first moved to a two-bedroom apartment here in June 2013, our electric bill was just shy of $300. That’s what prompted us to put some drastic measures in place to cut those costs.

The main change we made was signing up for a price plan with our electricity company called EZ-3. Basically, you pick a peak time frame—either 3–6 P.M. or 4–7 P.M.—where you deliberately limit your energy usage. In exchange for paring down your activity when costs are high, you’re billed less during off-peak times.

To get the most out of the plan, I prepare all our meals before 3 P.M., only do laundry during the cheapest time of day—either before 10 A.M. or late at night—and carefully manage our AC usage. I close all doors and windows by noon, and run the AC. until 3 P.M., which keeps the house cool until three hours later, when I turn it back on.

It may seem like a lot of work, but this strategy is totally worth it to us. In June 2014 we’d lowered our bill to $100—and I think I could push it down even more this year.”

—Abisola Osho, 32, stay-at-home mom, Chandler, Ariz.

RELATED: How an Energy Audit Saved Us $2,400 a Year

LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc., that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. Unless specifically identified as such, the individuals interviewed or quoted in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services, and the views expressed are their own. LearnVest Planning Services and any third parties listed, linked to or otherwise appearing in this message are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.

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