Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer on a big family's small budget

Summertime enthusiasm can easily get me beat when it comes to my bank account. A little too cavalier in my interest to do and see and experience all the fun things can result in a money hangover that often plagues me with guilt. And no more money. I think I read something Buddist-y about how we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over because we haven't yet learned the lesson. If the lesson isn't, "save money" then perhaps I can flip it on its head and learn to "enjoy what is available" and not suffer while pining for the rest. In an interest to avoid this happening (again), I thought for my own sake I'd take some time to reflect on the summer activities I enjoy that don't cost anything or very little. 

Whether we are home enjoying summer's lazy vibes or on a vacation or day trip, I like to find something for us to do that is both free and outdoors. Beaches, hikes, waterfront, parks in cool places all fit the bill, cost nothing, exhaust my children, and can take as much or little time as we please. I pack the snacks or picnic lunch (nobody's happy with a hungry belly) and set them loose. I love doing these types of outings with friends or Rich, because now (alleluia!) the kids are old enough to play with each other without my interference or help for, like hours. It is glorious.

Speaking of picnics, I have to remember really hard not to forget that we don't have a magical money fairy, even when it comes to food prep. Yes, it would be nice to skirt my responsibilities in lieu of more pool time, but meals need to be made to feed the six of us three times a day. Eating out, ordering in, or going for treats are out of the question most of the time. (Then, the occasional ice cream cone or chip truck supper are, like, big-time mega treats we all totally savour). If we are going to any activity, I pack our snacks because we can rarely justify buying them. We make seasonal fare like iced tea, barbecue ribs, popsicles, and cold salads that can take a bit of time but, in the end, they are healthy and cheap. Score. 

Summer and reading are synonymous in my world, but can I afford to buy a new book every time I finish one? Can pigs fly? Thank goodness for our library, a mere five-minute walk from my house. And neighbours who lend me their fave reads. And big ups to my aunties who write me very nice letters. They also make for fabulous summer reading that I tuck away into my favourite summertime cookbooks to revisit each year.

Another valuable tool in my frugal-by-necessity toolbox is my increasing confidence to say "no." Believe me, I would love to join you on your road trip to the fair, the animal refuge, the water park and the museum. When each of those activities is at least $60 for my family (most of them are now too old for "3 and under are free"), I have to think long and hard about if it's the right call to say yes or no. It's hard in the moment, but once I have said no and explained why, people are usually understanding, the stress is off my shoulders, and I know that we can find other things that will make my girls smile just as big. (Sometimes, we do, and we make it special. I just budget first and then avoid empty-wallet-hangover.)

In my quest to be a grown woman, I realize that many of the issues that cause me worry or concern are usually self-perpetuated. Missing out on expensive activities only bother me if I let them. Not having matching, new outfits for family pictures will only bother me if that's important to me. The difference between wants and needs is easily skewed, but I am training my eye to discern the line. The best antidote I've found to the "want-sies" is to reflect on what is available to me, and how wonderful those things are. No dollars are worth the late-night bubble-blowing sessions, bare feet running over the grass. Our family time in the pool, impromptu dinners with friends, day trips to new beaches and old favourites, these are the summer experiences I cherish. 



  1. I love this. LOVE THIS! I'm going to re-read it often...

    "what's available". Love. Yup.

  2. The best hangover cure that works that works for me is Detoxicated hangover supplements. You take 2 before and 2 after drinking and wake up feeling rested and refreshed.


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