How to Have a Great Summer (Even if You Are Broke!)

I think one of the very best ways to have a really good summer when you are a bit short on funds is to really PLAN. Yes! Planning, planning, planning is key! I know. I can almost taste the collective sigh in the room, practically. You are feeling overwhelmed. You have work challenges, money worries, family priorities...

I totally get it, believe me...

But let's try and break this down a moment, shall we, with a few fun, fast and EASY ways to make your summer absolutely delicious, memorable (in a good way) and shining bright:

If You Are Single (And without kids)

  • Ask yourself: What the hell do I really want to do this summer? Relax? Connect with an old friend or two? Have a great adventure? Read a lot? Luxuriate somewhere else? Re-do my outdoor space? (whether that be a yard, patio or small balcony area?)
  • Identify the above, but, really do it. What do you need
  • After you have identified this, you need to figure out what your actual time frame and availability is, and what your actual budget is: Can you afford to purchase that plane ticket to see your best friend in Austin for a long weekend? (Any miles you can use?) Or, if you need a little luxury, will a staycation overnight at a nice hotel and a massage and room service do the trick? Can you afford to make some tweaks to your patio, balcony or yard? Really think about this, but don't take too long to do it, okay? ;)
  • If you want to go away-away-call that friend(s), and BOOK THAT TICKET. Just Do it! You have a free place to stay (I'm hoping) and your friend will know where to go and what to do once you arrive in their city. BOOK IT. NOW!
  • Same as above, but with your staycation. Call the hotel. Secure the room. Book that massage. Look forward to it-DONE!
  • You can also take a fun road trip to visit that friend(s), and save the cash for more important things (like a boozy brunch, or two!)

If Funds Are Really Low:

  • Take a day trip/cruise Chinatown or downtown to some cool spot you have never been to in your city.
  • PLAN a Summer Party or Picnic: If your place is too small, arrange for everyone to meet at a free neighborhood jazz fest or picnic spot. Bring a frisbee, and invite everyone to bring something special. If the party's at your place, this is a great time to spruce up for summer guests! 
  • On the above note, invite a pal or two to come and visit YOU for the weekend, with the caveat that money is a little tight, but agreeing to show them a good time! (You may even get wined and dined a little!)
  • Splurge on seeing a band or artist you love. There is NOTHING quite like a brilliant summer concert, and boy, does it bring back all the adolescent feels. Try this in lieu of the picnic with friends, and get everyone with the same musical taste on-board with you. OR- go to one of those shows that WILL bring it all back! Performers like Pat Benatar tour ALL the time! Take advantage of your nostalgia, and live it up this summer!
  • Build up your library, and READ! Go over your bookshelves, and make a list of what you really want in there. Make it a fun job to hunt down this summer. Sleuth out your fave, old used bookstore, or-if funds are super-duper tight-get a library card. (You can even download FREE digital titles to your Kindle!)
  • Try a monthly subscription to Filmstruck, and do the same as above, but with great films you have always wanted to see, but have not quite made the time to do so. Host your own mini- film festival with friends. You can provide the popcorn and snacks, and have them bring the booze or bevies. Or- do this solo, on a quiet weekend. 
  • Give yourself a deadline to finish something-anything, by August 31st. That short story, those last 5 lbs, painting that nightstand you got at The Salvation Army last summer...You get the picture. Nothing huge. Just that will give you a nice, little jolt of accomplishment and pride. 

If You Have Kids:

  • Hopefully, you have been planning with your partner or ex- how to handle the schedule, so it hasn't crept right up on you. If you have some alone time without your kids (they are at camp, with family or at your ex's) then see above. If not, figure out the budget you'd like to spend on outings or a trip. Next...Schedule a little family meeting. 
  • At the Family Meeting: Ask: What does everyone feel like doing? Listen. Then tell them what is do-able, within the context of your family's budget. 
  • With your keen ear, determine what the family is leaning toward: An amusement park? Beach vacation? Camping? What, what, what? Ask questions. Be impartial. Try not to allow any bickering at the table.
  • Then, when a few ideas have made themselves clear:
  • Offer three options. Let them debate and go crazy over them. Keep listening. Who really wants to do what? Can some things actually be combined? (Camping with a Six Flags nearby?)
  • When you have a decent, agreed-upon, affordable verdict-tell everyone, in no uncertain terms, that you are booking this thing, and it cannot be changed. 
  • Book that thing/things. Just do it! NOW! ;) 
  • Have the kids, if they are old enough, go through their things and tell you if they need any new clothes or supplies for the trip. Go get those things, or borrow them from friends and neighbors. 
  • Negotiate some chores, while you are at it. Why not? Have them hit the garage, since you are being such a great parent, and taking them on vacation.

If Funds are Super Low:

  • Look online for any free concerts or outdoor movies for kids. RSVP online, or make plans to attend. Take the kids to stock up on candy at Target or CVS, or wherever you get your fun snacks.  
  • Go to the movies during the day-or get everyone a MoviePass!  For $9.95 per person, you can see one movie EVERY day! It's TRUE! I have it, and use it religiously. (So, for twenty bucks a month, you and your kid are SET for summer movie time!)
  • Go to a park or out to lunch in an entirely different neighborhood. Drive into the country, or up the coast one weekend, just for the day. Poke around in the local galleries and little hometown museums. Little kids love to learn about their state, and can brag about it when they get back to school. It's a fun way to do something intellectual and relaxing, all at the very same time. 
  • Go to a few, great museums in one weekend. BofA has Museums on Us the first weekend of each month, and many large museums have "free" afternoons. (Besides, most kids 17-and-under are allowed free admission! Score.) Give them a few bucks to buy postcards in the Museum Gift Shop, to remember their favorite paintings. BONUS: Most museums also have free family classes and concerts-on-the-lawn during the summer. You can stay all afternoon, and bring a lunch in a sack or relax on a blanket. 
  • Maybe this is something to do for next summer-but, often, many sleep-away camps offer free or reduced fee scholarship programs. Do not be scared to apply for these. The other kids will truly never know, and camp is a life-changing experience for little ones. Plus, you will get a much-deserved break! 
  • Become the "magnet" house: Stock the fridge and pantry with inexpensive snacks and lemonade, or bake the snacks, even better! Tell the kids they can have friends over, within a limit. Especially if you work, and have older kids or teens home during the day, at least you will know where they are, and that they are safe. You can also give them a little allowance for doing chores, so they have some summer spending money, if you can swing it. 
  • Plan some hikes, trips to the beach or lake, and make them fun. Bring exciting snacks and lunches-even if it's the normally verboten fast food! Pack everything up nicely for them. Play little word games in the car. These are the experiences summer memories are truly made of! 

So you see? Your summer does not have to suck! Au contraire! Great summer memories are made when you let loose, relax, and hang out with the people you love most (or at least, like a lot!) If you really think about what you recall from your summers as a child, any nice memories probably didn't revolve around reliving the quality of hotel you were staying, what label you were wearing, or how expensive or fancy the meal or restaurant. Lighten up! Identify what you really want and need, and have fun. You deserve it, believe me. 

That is what summer is all about, baby...xo