Summer is a lovely time of year for almost everyone – the sun shines, we can go outdoors without coats and we may even be fortunate enough to have a holiday booked! But summer doesn’t come without its drawbacks: it can be a very expensive few months for a lot of people. With extra social plans, trips away and potentially costly day care for your children, it’s no wonder your finances may take a hit. If you have only a small disposable income, summertime can also be stressful, bringing about anxiety and worry that many associate with their finances.

However, just because it tends to be an expensive time of year, you don’t have to miss out on all the fun, and you definitely don’t need to ruin your finances. It is possible to enjoy summer on a budget, and we’ve put together a few ways to have cheaper days out, whether you live in a bustling city or a quiet village, so you can continue to save through the warmer months and manage your money effectively.

Days out this summer

If you have children, you may want to read our guide to spending less over the school holidays. While it’s always helpful to know about different ways to spend less, it’s also nice to get some inspiration for entertaining the children through their six weeks of summer without spending a fortune. Childcare over the holidays is always expensive, and sometimes can even cost more than what you might earn doing a days’ work – this is why some parents choose not to work over the summer or to take part-time positions instead.

Even if you don’t have children, spending money every weekend adds up quickly and you can find yourself dipping into savings or cutting back on essential costs just to avoid missing out on summer plans. Plus, if you experience a few emergency payments or some cashflow shortfall, it can make it even harder to keep your finances on track. While it’s not unusual to use unsecured loans for emergency expenses, you don’t really want to be borrowing money for leisure purposes.

Free Activities in the City

If you live in a city, it’s often easy to find cheap or even free things to do. From free museums to street entertainment, it’s never difficult to have an afternoon of fun without spending a penny. Consider enjoying the day by walking through a part of your city that’s known for its culture or entertainment and see how much time you can spend watching talented street performers – we’re sure your children will love it!

Many cities also have beautiful green spaces that can be accessed for free. Find your local one and take a frisbee or a football – most kids can spend hours playing in the sun with nothing but a ball, or even just their imagination. Make a day of it by inviting their friends and parents and organise a picnic whereby you each bring something along to further spread the costs of your day. Perhaps someone can be on sandwiches, another on drinks, another on cakes etc.

Museums can often be overlooked too, however in London, there are so many free museums you could probably visit one or two a week for the whole of the school holidays and still have some leftover. Most museums are set up to be interesting for children as well as adults, with interactive activities and special exhibits so they’re not only educational but fun too.

If you don’t have kids but you’re sticking to a budget, there’s plenty of cheap fun to be had. Museums and parks aren’t just for children and if you have a railcard or 2-for-1 vouchers, heading to the city for the day will become a whole lot cheaper so you can still save on a budget.

Free Fun in your Village

If you don’t live in or near a city, however, it can be harder to find things to do. Of course, you can still enjoy the free museums that cities have to offer and if you don’t travel at peak times, train fares aren’t too expensive. But there are plenty of things to do in villages and small towns that don’t cost an arm and a leg either.

Summer fetes are popular among villages – many often host more than one throughout the summer – as well as school fairs and scout fetes. These are usually free to attend, or require just a small donation of £1 or £2, and then you can visit the stalls, have a hot dog, and catch up with friends without spending more than a tenner. Your kids will meet up with their friends and while away the time themselves. If you live near a cluster of villages, you could find yourself having quite a few cheap days out over the summer.

There are also plenty of parks, historic sites and even outdoor plays that take place throughout the summer months which can all be enjoyed for minimal costs. It’s worth signing up to your village’s group on social media or a newsletter if they have one so you can find out all the things taking place in or around where you live throughout the year. There are sometimes free or cheap playgroups for your children to attend which might give you the few hours break you need as well!

Sharing is Caring

You should also talk to other parents and consider sharing the caring responsibilities throughout the summer. Perhaps some parents don’t work, or they work from home which means they can look after your children for a few days throughout the holidays while you work (or rest!), and you can return the favour by doing the same on your days off. Exercise all your options and talk to your friends – you are likely to all be in the same position.

How important is budgeting during summer?

Budgeting is key to having a cost-efficient summer, so try to allocate a bit of your disposable income to social events or days out. This should help you avoid veering off budget entirely so you’re not struggling between paydays. The trick is to spread out the plans that impact your budget, so your finances aren’t taking a big hit all at once, and then intersperse free or cheaper activities, so you don’t waste the time in between by dreaming of the next day out. It’s also worth setting some money aside in the run-up to the summer holidays in case of any short term financial difficulty. This way, you know you won’t need to think about repaying online loans or credit cards and can instead focus on having fun.

If you can budget for recreational activities, you’ll find it easier to stick to your budget and you’ll probably enjoy managing your money more because you won’t be constantly trying to restrict yourself. It can often be easier to save money by allowing yourself to spend a little bit every now and then – this can prevent binging and overspending.

Summer doesn’t have to be expensive if you pace yourself and plan in advance. Often, a free day out is just as enjoyable as an experience you’ve paid for, so they’re not to be overlooked. If you’re worried about friends or family inviting you for things you can’t afford, organise a cheaper alternative first or just explain your situation and they’ll likely understand. Summer is a time to be enjoyed – after all, we don’t get the sun for long in the UK!