From the Desk of Mr. Broke on Purpose
The summer can be a much-needed break for kids and adults alike since we’ve been Broke on Purpose® I can’t remember the last time we had any big plans for the summer, but who doesn’t love the long afternoons, savory barbecues and that classic song “Summertime” by Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff? My guess is nobody. This time of year can be ideal to go on vacation or just relax and recharge. One thing to keep in mind when planning and partaking in summer fun is your budget. Yes, that word again. Although you might go on vacation, your budget doesn’t. Your budget can easily be busted by a spontaneous weekend getaway or an unscripted cookout. The resolve to stick to your budget in the summer months is very important, and even more so for families. In this post, we are going to outline a few areas to be mindful about when planning your summer budgets.
Budget Item: Utilities
It’s easy to overlook increases in utility costs during the summer months. Let’s face it; it can be a mindless task to turn on the A/C. If your hot, turn on the A/C..it’s just that simple. But your budget may not feel the same way.
For example, let’s say a household has two children that will remain home for most of the day if not enrolled in daily activities. These additional hours their home now that they’re not in school will be filled with TV or computer use, not to mention additional hours of A/C since the house has to be cooled while people are home. This utility increase can also be felt in additional water consumption, assuming 1-2 additional loads of laundry will be done.
A few ways to avoid some of these spikes are to stick to a cooling schedule. If you are lucky enough to have a programmable thermostat, be sure to adjust the program to accommodate the summer heat. The use of fans to cool specific areas vs. the A/C to cool the entire house is a major tool against the utilities increase. There is no need to cool the entire home if most of the action takes place in a den or family room. Plus the added circulation from fans helps with cooling. We always see our bills spike during the summer. Last summer we had electric bills topping over $300. This had Melody going crazy because we couldn’t figure out why it was so. Turns out our energy provider was price gouging for the summer. Thanks to Melody’s budget micromanaging we were able to catch it and switch back to the local provider.
Budget Item: Groceries
Using the same family and example from above, increases in food costs can go the same way as utilities. Now that children are home for more hours, more food will be consumed. Now you have to think about breakfast, lunch, including snacks throughout the day. One smart way to combat budget spikes for food would be to plan out lunch and snack options ahead of time and schedule times to eat just as if kids were in school. It’s a great plan for deterring the mindless eating or the “I’m hungry” cries even. We’ve found that buying in bulk saves us a lot of money, as well as shopping at local farmers markets. There are even deals where a family can go in together with other families to purchase produce in bulk. I’m talking bushels of stuff. It’s a great way to save if your family eats a lot of vegetables. Unfortunately for us we can never find enough people who want to partake in that type of program. Now if your kids plan to eat sandwiches and chips most of the time, things like lunch meat and condiments can be purchased in bulk from retailers like Costco or BJ’s. BJ’s also accepts manufacturer coupons which will save you some additional money.
Budget Item: Entertainment
Your summer entertainment budget can easily be overlooked, thus causing it to explode and spiral out of control. Major summer blockbuster movies are nestled in between May and September, the prime time when families are available to go. No one wants to miss a great movie so, there is a little-added pressure to make sure you see it. Outings to the movies for a family of 4 can easily climb over $60, and another $12 if the movie is 3D.
A family can combat these prices by going to see the matinee showing and taking advantage of any promotions theaters may be running during the summer months, or the free movies in the park that most cities have. There are also places to purchase reduced price tickets, like Sams Club and BJ’s, that can put a dent in the cost. One major way to keep your entertainment cost down is to forgo the trip to the concession stand. It may feel like it’s impossible to walk past the freshly popped popcorn without buying a tub, but if you can skip this indulgence you’ll save upwards of $8. There is also nothing wrong with the bag handbag trick. We’ve brought entire meals from Chickfila into theaters before! It’s what we call Dinner and a Movie!
Last second and impromptu trips to the beach or theme parks always seem to pop up. If you have the reserve in your budget, by all means, take the trip and enjoy yourself! If the trip can’t be covered by what is in your budget, that trip may have to be skipped. A parent never wants their kids to feel left out or limited by what they can do, so most parents find a way. It can be easy to slide your credit card today and worry about it later, but it’s situations like this, that get people into trouble. As summer of fun can easily undo a year worth of sacrifice and discipline. It’s essential to remember why you are living Broke On Purpose®. The idea of your overall goal can strengthen you to remain diligent on your path.
How are you planning to keep your budget in check this summer? Share your tips in the comments below for others!