Summer is settling in and, just like that, kids are home from school, calendars are filling up with activities and — whether we’re aware of it or not — our costs of living are ticking upwards.
A study by LendU found that summer is the second-most expensive season (winter leads the pack), with consumers spending an average of $2,229 during the summer months, up from $1,952 in the spring and $2,064 in the fall. What causes the surge in spending?
“This is a big one, as most everyone will encounter larger bills during the summer regardless of their living situation,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “Hot temperatures have many people using fans or AC units more, which of course will drive the amount of your bill up.
“However, if you have kids on summer vacation, you may find bills creeping up due to their hobbies as well. Whether they’re spending all day in front of the TV or on the computer playing games, the fact is that them being home when the house would otherwise be empty means more power is being used with lights, appliances and entertainment systems.”
So the electrical bill is likely to increase, but there are some simple ways to keep costs down.
“Blackout curtains should help to keep the temperature regulated inside,” Ramhold said. “You can also try imposing limits on using the AC during the day to keep costs low, as well as creating rules about how long they can spend watching TV or playing games so that they’re not mindlessly doing these things and driving the bill even higher.
“If you have the ability, you may also want to consider letting clothes line-dry rather than using the dryer, which can cut down on your electricity (and keep the house cooler) during the summer as well.”
“This is another that often goes up because the kids are home from school but also because people will be more likely to water their lawns and other plants during the summer,” Ramhold said. “It could be as simple as kids using more water throughout the day that causes the bill to climb, or it could be because they’re engaging in water play outside — whether that’s through the sprinkler, getting in some good old-fashioned fun on a Slip N Slide or having water balloon fights to beat the heat.”
The cost of water is not cheap (in fact, it’s up 43% over the past decade, according to Bluefield Research). To fight rising costs, Ramhold suggests watering your plants on a particular schedule to minimize water usage, “and if the kids want to play, pull double duty: let them play in the sprinkler while your plants are being watered.”
“The kids are out of school, but you have to work, which means the cost of child care is something you have to factor in, especially if you don’t have to worry about it during the school year,” Ramhold said.
“Rather than enrolling them in daycare for the season, consider asking friends and family to care for your child at least a couple of times a week. If they’re willing to do it for free, or in exchange for you (baking) them a sweet treat or (cooking) them dinner to repay the favor, you’ll be able to save on daycare costs — even if they can’t do it all the time.”
“With kids out of school, they’ll likely be on their phones more often than not,” Ramhold said.
“If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, this may end up costing you if they’re away from Wi-Fi. Consider upgrading to an unlimited plan just for the summer, or requiring them to pay back any overages they incur due to data usage. Thankfully the days of 50 cents per text message are long gone.”
“Who doesn’t love a good happy hour deal? This is one my friends and I love to do to cut down the cost of a night out,” said Chloe Elise, a certified financial coach and the CEO of the global financial literacy company Deeper Than Money.
“Reverse the order of your plans. Instead of the typical ‘pregame’ (drinking at home before a night out), go to drinks during happy hour and then come home to ‘pregame’ afterwards. You’ll avoid premium prices for cocktails but still have a ton of fun on a nice summer night.”
“One area where I see people spending more in the summer is activities and adventures,” said Annie Hanson, a financial coach and the owner of Mindfully Money. “People seem to assume that they have to spend money in order to have fun. They’ll plan trips to pools, amusement parks, zoos, festivals and fairs. Once there, they pay extra for activities and eat overpriced food. But fun does not have to cost a lot of money.”
Rather than automatically splurging on fun but pricey events, put on your explorer hat and dig around a bit.
“Search for free activities,” Hanson said. “A Google search of free activities in your area will turn up a list of options. People who fill their time with things that are free often find that they have less time and interest in the more expensive activities.”
You also should choose the experiences that are most important to you.
“You don’t have to give up every activity that costs money,” Hanson said. “Pick those that will provide you (and your family) with the most enjoyment and cut out the ones that you don’t care about as much.”
“Summer is a time when people tend to host more gatherings, so it’s easy for grocery bills to climb when buying enough to feed a crowd,” Ramhold said. “Additionally, if the kids are going to be home all day, they’re likely going to want to snack, so you may find yourself having to purchase more items since they won’t be eating anything at school.”
There’s so much you can do to cut costs on groceries, including coupon clipping (digital and physical), buying in bulk, meal planning, cooking for the week ahead and finding the cheapest grocery store near you. And, if you plan on hosting a summer get-together, make it a potluck.
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