Salvaging Summer in a Tough Economy

Household budgets are tighter and expensive vacations may not be possible for many families this year. That does not mean that your summer will be a bust! With some creative thinking and a positive attitude, you can turn this into a summer packed with cost effective activities and loads of fun filled memories for your scrapbook.

The greatest ingredient for salvaging your summer in tight times is an attitude of hopefulness and positive thinking. It is really hard to be creative and make fun things happen when your core belief is that things won’t work out well. By focusing on what you do not have or will not be able to afford, you will create that reality for yourself and your family…. and miss out on SO many opportunities right before you!

The first step to a cost effective, fun filled summer is to develop a family strategy. That strategy should have everyone’s input. Parent(s) should first assess the available funds. After clarifying the budget, parent(s) should invite the input of the rest of the family, informing them of key parameters. Examples of these parameters are: budget, the amount of distance the family can travel, hotels or tents, weekend or week day, or local day trips instead of traditional vacation.

If a vacation budget does not exist, create one by having a yard sale. Kids (and parents) that hate to part with items may be motivated to part with things in hopes of having a “fun fund” for the summer. Selling things at consignment shops can be another way to add to the “fun fund”. Encourage kids to have lemonade stands, mow lawns, help seniors weed, etc. to add to the fund while teaching them the value of hard work.

Once the budget and funds have been secured and the family has decided whether they are going to take local day trips or go out of town, there are numerous ways to make your money go far. Search out deals by surfing the web, magazines, coupon books and mailings for coupons. If you are going to travel away from home, take the time to find discounted hotels. Often staying during the week and not on weekends will result in lower hotel rates. Seek out hotels that offer free breakfast buffets and pack lunch meat and snacks in your cooler, then the family only needs to budget to eat out for dinner. Use coupons that allow a child to eat free with a paying adult. Order water with lemon instead of soda or beer; drinks really add to a bill’s total. Go to activities that cost money at non-peek hours when fees are discounted. Enjoy free activities, like throwing a football on the beach or flying a kite. Build a campfire and roast marshmallows.

For families that are choosing to take day trips, again check out coupons. Central Pennsylvania has numerous historical sites and tourist attractions that are easily accessible. Encourage the family to research historical sites ahead of time to enhance the anticipation of what will be seen. Pick a historical site and then before visiting it, find a movie centered on that site or historical event.

There are many ways to creatively enjoy time together as a family. Just remember to have a positive attitude, define a budget and stay within it, create a shared family plan and let the creative juices flow!

For example, before going to Gettysburg, watch “Gone with the Wind” or “Cold Mountain” to make the historical events more real. Pack a picnic and enjoy Gifford Pinchot Park for the day. Visit museums or factories; many people love to see how Harley Davidson motorcycles or pretzels are made. Enjoy the many beautiful hiking trails or kayak on the Susquehanna. Purchase super soaker water guns and have a water soaking gunfight with the kids, just make certain that the parents get the best water guns!

Karen Jaskot ACSW, LCSW, CAC Diplomate, was a former therapist at Franco Psychological Associates, PC.