If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that our Minnesota winter was long. Really long. Like we had snow on May 15 and I just shut my heat off about a week ago.
We don’t get a lot of time to enjoy the warm weather outdoors, so our family sits down each year and maps out what things we’d like to do. We always have some outdoor projects to tackle, like gardening. And we want to get in some swimming, fishing, biking, and hiking.
We also want to make sure our three boys stay busy in ways that engage them both physically and mentally.
All of these goals could easily break our budget if we’re not careful. So here’s the process we follow to make sure that doesn’t happen:
We set goals.
Each spring we talk about what projects we can realistically accomplish in the summer and how we’ll make them happen. We envision what kind of summer we’ll have – i.e. do we want to have a lot of structure, or do we want a more relaxed schedule? We talk about the memories we want to create as a family through a vacation, mini road trips, and just time spent around the house.
We set a budget.
Once we know what kind of summer we want to have, we set a budget for it. We know that our three boys need a bit of structure to their days and they also have a need to be social (we live in the woods where we don’t have a lot of kids nearby). We’ve budgeted for them to go to some day camps over the summer. If you think something like a day camp is out of your reach, check to see if the camps offer discounts for early registration, scholarships for those who income qualify, or if you can barter a service. A friend of mine used to barter her art skills for dance lessons for her daughter. She would design the sets and her daughter got to dance. Perhaps you can swap photography or marketing skills or assist with coaching.
We make a list of free and frugal stuff to do.
We make a list of things we like to do that we can refer to whenever we hear the cries of “I’m bored.” There are all kinds of fun free things you can do – visit the local library, participate in kids summer reading programs, attend a free community band concert, create some science fun, swim, bike, fish, create some art with sidewalk chalk paint. We even do some games that require little or no supplies. Some museums offer free days each month, and places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Michaels, the Lego Store, and Pottery Barn Kids offer free projects throughout the year. Look around your community for fun family activities.
We make a calendar.
There’s not much point in making goals for your summer, if you don’t put some target dates on your calendar. We start by filling in all of our commitments – activities the kids are signed up for, work commitments, family gatherings, and appointments – on the calendar. Then we find some time for our family vacation. We also set aside days for gardening and outdoor projects to get done. We plan time for a garage sale and back to school shopping, and of course, we try to set aside days for doing absolutely nothing.
Our family has been planning out our summer every May for the past few years and it has been a tremendous help in reducing our stress and helping us stay within our budget. We find that with just a little bit of planning, we’re able to make the most of the little summer we have and make memories that last for a long time.
Your turn: Do you make a formal plan for your summer?