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How to Balance Your Budget When School’s Out for The Summer

School’s out, the sun is shining, and your children are looking forward to the summer. Yet the household budget that you created in January seems more difficult to stick to now that the kids are home.

It’s true, budgets may stretch to the breaking point trying to accommodate extra kid-related expenses as the summer wears on and boredom sets in. Use these tips to avoid budget busters for the summer weeks that school’s out.

Plan Ahead

Build summer season expenses into your annual budget when planning it each year. After all, it’s a lot easier to pay for eight weeks of summer camp when you arrange to save money from every paycheque to a “camp savings account” than it is to come up with hundreds of extra dollars for June and July.

The same goes for summer expenses that occur when kids hang out at home instead of attending camp. Extra snacks, day trips, special events, and even sports activities to keep your kids busy can be built into your budget every week of the year as part of an Entertainment Fund. In addition, the enhanced UCCB means parents will have a few extra dollars to work with each month.

Start planning long before summer starts.

Find Free and Cheap Activities In Your Neighborhood

Who says you can’t have fun for free? A great time may be as close as the nearest library or park. Many public libraries offer free weekly activities for kids during the summer, often including crafts and reading times. Get a library card and sign out books and DVDs for free, and ask if there’s a summer reading program for kids to track the books they’re reading and enter a draw for a prize. Check out your local library’s schedule (many are now online) for additional summer activities. Your local newspaper and city website are also good places to find free and cheap activities in your area.

Make Your Own Free Fun at Home

If you’re having a tough time finding fun, free activities for school-aged kids to do at home during the summer, take a look online for hundreds of crafts, games, and other free or inexpensive ways to keep kids busy when school’s out. For example, Canadian Living Magazine has a great post on 50 Free Things to Do This Summer, and CBC Canada’s Parent’s Page is chock-full of activity ideas for kids of all ages.
The key is to keep them from being bored and whiny, which can lead to budget-busting behavior like unscheduled, expensive day trips and/or fast food treats.

Send Them to Grandma’s
Or Aunt Patty’s or somewhere else. Even though they may be driving you nuts by week four of summer vacation, some friend or family member somewhere may be happy to spend the day, weekend, or entire week with them. And that time away also means less stress on your grocery and entertainment budget.

Encourage Them to Pay For It
Sometimes kids simply refuse to give up pleading for certain activities, events, or day trips, even if you tell them “it’s just not in the budget.” As long as that’s your only reason to avoid the activity (it’s expensive, but not illegal, immoral, or dangerous to their health), suggest they earn the money to pay for it.

Mowing the neighbours’ yards, picking up dog waste, washing windows, even an old-fashioned lemonade stand on a busy pedestrian street could help your child earn enough for a ticket to a summer fair, waterpark, theme park, or other activity that isn’t part of your summer budget.

Summer vacation should be a time to rest, relax, and enjoy your family. With a little planning and creative thinking, you and your kids should be able to make it through to September without breaking your budget to pay for expensive summer trips and treats.