Financially Productive Summer

Summer vacation is a quintessentially American innovation. Nowhere else in the world do kids have months on end free from school or any other responsibility. On one hand, it’s great to spend more time with them. On the other, how do you keep them entertained without breaking the bank?

Fortunately, there are a few ways to have the kind of summer break that builds memories without building debt. You can use these months to teach your children valuable lessons about financial responsibility, spend quality time together as a family, and save (or make!) a little money along the way. Try activities like these 5 for a fun, financially responsible summer! 

1) Have a yard sale! 

If there’s one lesson to impart to children about saving, it’s that less is more. It can be hard to impart that lesson with toys from birthdays and Christmases past crowding the closet, collecting dust. Encourage them to find one or two things per day that they could contribute to a yard sale, then have it at the end of the month.

Involve your kids in as many aspects of the plan as possible. Ask them to help you advertise on Craigslist and other social media. Have them tell their friends or their friends’ parents about it. Show them how to do research to price items, and have them work the cash box. All of these are valuable skills that can help them with summer jobs in the future!

When the sale is done, have a conversation about what you can do with the money. It could go toward a family vacation, or into a savings account or college fund. Let them contribute ideas for fun things the family can do with the yard sale proceeds. This can be a chance to teach kids about budgeting while encouraging them not to hold on to things that don’t bring them joy. 

2) Start a (very) small business! 

One way children learn the value of hard work is to earn a wage for doing a job. Paying your kids an allowance to do a job is one way to do that, but certainly not the only one. Getting your kids to help with a very small business is a great way to let them see the rewards of hard work while making a little money on the side.

Business services will vary, but demand for many services is higher in the summer. Businesses need window washers. Elderly neighbors may need help with weeding, mowing, planting, or other landscaping projects. Many people clean house in the summer and list old furniture for sale, which can be rehabilitated and resold for a profit. Any of these small projects would make a fun way to spend some time together this summer.

The business doesn’t need to make a lot of money to be valuable. In addition to quality time, your children can gain an appreciation for the hard work that goes into making a successful business. This could be a great addition to a college application essay or a resume for a first job. 

3) Fix up the house! 

There are tons of great, simple projects that you can tackle as a family to improve the efficiency of your home. Some of the easiest, like installing a new front door, can be done in an afternoon and improve the aesthetic appeal and insulation of your house. These are great projects to tackle as a family.

Any repair or upgrade that you’ve been putting off can be a great summer project. Kids can earn a wage for their labor, or they can work in exchange for some privilege, like going to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Doing this kind of work can help them understand how much hard work goes into home ownership.

These little improvements can add up to significant savings. You’ll start feeling the benefits in lower electricity bills in the summer, and continue to feel them all year round. When you sell your house, these improvements will reflect in the higher value of your home. 

4) Plant a garden! 

Believe it or not, planting a garden is one of the most cost-effective things families can do together. For every dollar you spend in green bean seeds, you’ll get up to $75 back in fresh produce! You can pickle, dry, preserve or can the extras and sell them to friends and neighbors for an even better return!

There are many ways to squeeze additional savings out of a garden. Instead of costly fertilizers, you can compost kitchen waste. You can find reclaimed wood, especially from pallets and shipping containers, to make raised beds. Save seeds from produce, and water with rain collectors.

Planting a garden doesn’t just save money. It can also be a way to encourage your family to eat more vegetables. Tending and caring for a patch of vegetables can be a great way to build responsibility and have fun outdoors this summer! 

5) Plan a stay-cation! 

The average cost of a family vacation is creeping up. For a family of 4, a week of vacation, excluding travel, costs $1,700! Even if you’re taking a road trip in a reasonably efficient family vehicle, that could easily amount to $2,000 or more.

The best parts of a vacation are the shared experiences, and there’s no need to go too far to get those. Find a local festival or cultural event, and plan a vacation in your home town! Check out local historical sites and museums, eat out at nice restaurants, and come home to your own beds at night.

What’s more, a stay-cation can show your kids the rich culture of their surroundings. Use your stay-cation as a time to visit sites of personal interest, like where you and your partner met, or where their great grandparents went to school. They’ll appreciate the deeper knowledge of where they come from, and you can appreciate the togetherness… and the savings! 

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Kids’ Summer Fun on a Budget

Keeping the kids entertained while on summer break can be an expensive endeavor. Registrations for summer camps, day care and recreation programs are only the tip of the iceberg. You also need to consider transportation costs to and from these programs that you don’t normally attend during the school year.


But summer break doesn’t have to break your budget. You can still afford to take some quality family time-and you can do it all on a dime. Here are some great ideas to keep your children entertained while you are at work, and some fun family activities, all of which we consider cheap or free!
  1. Have a camp out in your yard.If you can’t take time off work this summer, take advantage of the great weather and go camping in your own backyard. Put away the electronics and enjoy nature with the convenience of your own bathroom being just a few feet away.
  2. Enjoy free movies. Many movie theaters today host free movies on weekday mornings. Ask your local theater for a schedule and get there early. Seats fill quickly!
  3. Go to a movie or concert in the park. Local resorts, ballparks, and recreation departments offer movies and concerts featuring local musicians. Check the local or neighborhood sections of your newspaper for more information. (Parkville has a free concert series in May and June)
  4. Be a tourist in your hometown.Get to know your town a little bit more by visiting the local (free!) museums and other attractions. You might be surprised by what you find.
  5. Have a family boot camp. Exercise isn’t just good for your body, it’s good for your soul too. Agree on an exercise as a family-whether it’s karate, yoga, or strength training-and find instructional videos on YouTube. Participating as a family can help build self-esteem and make your family closer.
  6. Send the kids to church camp.Many churches offer free or cheap day camps for working parents. Even if you don’t attend the church, this is a great opportunity to broaden your children’s horizons and introduce them to different ways of thinking in addition to giving them an opportunity to meet new friends.
  7. Trade kids for a craft day.Work out an arrangement with another parent or two. Each household sponsors a craft day once a week for a month. One week, all the children visit your house and complete a craft you developed. The next week, it’s another parent’s turn.
  8. Visit the library. Free to residents, the library offers numerous programs to help keep kids busy. And even if you don’t find a program that interests your child or your family, you just might find a few books you’ll like!
  9. Redeem report card rewards.Bowling alleys, pizza joints, movie theaters and more offer free or discounted admissions for students who earned a high grade point average on their report card. Do some research and then redeem those rewards!
  10. Make your own water park. If you have grass available to you, set up sprinklers, fill up some squirt bottles and water balloons, lay out the camping tarp, and get the hose ready. Let your kids of all ages loose on a homemade water day.
Summer doesn’t have to take a lot out of your pocketbook. It just takes a little bit of creativity and a little effort to find activities that the whole family can enjoy, while mom and dad enjoy a little budget relief. Have a great summer!