Summer 2022 on a budget: how to balance fun and finances this summer, according to an expert
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Summer 2022 on a budget: how to balance fun and finances this summer, according to an expert

Money tight but still want to have fun in the sun? Here’s how to do it all, according to a budgeting expert. 

I’m usually a very measured person when it comes to money. I budget and check my bank account regularly. I make coffee at home to avoid a Pret stop on my way into the office.

However, when it comes to the summer, all logic or thought flies out the window in lieu of a good time and I find myself saying yes to everything. A spontaneous day out? I’m game. Rooftop brunch? Book away. Another bottle of rosé? Sure.

But particularly in a cost of living crisis, amid record inflation and soaring household bills, all this fun in the sun comes at a growing cost.

It’s understandable that we’re worried about navigating summer plans when money is tighter than usual, and it’s inevitable that decisions will have to be made and some plans will go unfulfilled. 

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Despite what some commentators suggest, cutting out everything we love – from Netflix subscriptions to green juices – isn’t going to solve our financial woes alone.

Going on holiday once a year or splurging on a nice dinner isn’t the reason we can’t buy a house or that most of us have less than £500 of savings in our account. In fact, these ‘treats’ are often the things that bring us joy and add the most value to our lives, even if they temporarily dent our bank balances.

So how do we find a way to enjoy summer without leaving a lasting financial impact? According to money and budget expert Natalia Lachim from Discount Code, it all lies in the art of balance.

How to balance fun and finances this summer

Make a budget (and stick to it)

While it may not seem like the most fun chore to do during your first real summer of freedom in recent years, Lachim says that making a budget (and, more importantly, sticking to it) is the best way to keep on top of your finances.

“Whether or not you have numerous plans, a budget helps you keep track of where your money is coming and going and whether you can afford last-minute plans that tend to pop up throughout summer,” she tells Stylist. Making a budget doesn’t need to take long, but it will go a long way towards keeping you financially stable through the summer and beyond. 

To make a budget you will need to:

⦁ Work out your total income each month – including wages, benefits and any side hustle money

⦁ Make a list of all your monthly bills, such as rent or mortgage payments, council tax, utilities and petrol costs

⦁ Write a list of your non-negotiable living costs. This includes food, toiletries and other essentials that you must buy each month

⦁ Don’t forget to include any disposable income costs, such as impromptu cinema trips or takeaways

Ideally, once you add up the final figures, this total should be less than your monthly income. If it isn’t, then you will need to consider ways to either cut your spending or increase your income. 

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Learn to plan and prioritise

Once you’ve got down the basics of budgeting, start every month by looking at your calendar: what you have to do and where the bulk of your money is likely to go. If you know you have a friend’s birthday dinner, post-work drinks and family lunch in the same week, that may be a sign to explore some more budget-friendly options, like a hike, swim or night in.

It’s not about religiously tracking every single penny and guilting yourself into staying at home. It’s about giving yourself the breathing room to make informed decisions or lean into spontaneous plans without the anxiety that might otherwise go with it.

Summer plans don’t have to be expensive to be enjoyed.
Summer plans don’t have to be expensive to be enjoyed.

Think free-ly

“Having a summer to remember does not need to cost the earth,” Lachim suggests. “Many summer activities can be done entirely for free. Instead of travelling and being a tourist in a new city, why not consider being a tourist in more of a local sense?”

Google searches for “museums near me” are currently seeing 289% increase across the UK and most local museums and historic places are free to enter, or at least cost very little.

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Book last minute

Whether it is a holiday abroad or a theatre performance in the city, you may think it is cheaper to book further in advance.

However, Lachim suggests that while this generally can be the case for things like public transport, some attractions can cost a lot less if you book either the week leading up to the day or, on some occasions, on the day itself.

“Many tourist attractions and especially theatre shows will offer on-the-day discounts to help fill seats – although most popular shows do sell out far in advance so be wary of relying on this,” she explains. “Even holidays abroad can be booked on the week leading up to the day you wish to travel and sometimes can be cheaper on the day.”

Woman walking through forest
Hiking is fun – and free.

Don’t be afraid to reclaim the joy of cheap dates

Remember when lockdown had us all meeting in parks and downing tinnies on picnic blankets? While suitable for social distancing, a return to park drinks, coffee walks and outdoor meets can also make for a perfectly fun night at the fraction of the cost of a bar or restaurant.

And just because it’s an affordable option, it doesn’t mean it has to feel cheap.

Grab a friend and your favourite bottle of supermarket wine and head to the nearest outdoor space for a sunset sip. You’ll have the added bonus of a bit of privacy and more personal one-on-one time without the interruptions of a busy club.

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Hospitality starts at home

When it comes to summertime, the last thing most of us want to do is stay in. Sometimes we just want to feel a bit fancy, and that’s more than OK, but if your budget won’t stretch to a full night out, give a second thought to not going out at all. An at-home charcuterie board, cheese and wine night, movie night, board game marathon or painting session is easily arranged and can save you plenty of money without having to leave.

You can still make it different and splurge a bit on scented candles, a projector or high-quality ingredients to make it feel more luxe than your average evening, but the savings on transport and other costs will be worth it.

All that being said, money-saving hacks are no magic bullet. Even the Money Saving Expert himself, Martin Lewis, declared that he was running out of advice for people to save money.

What we need is government action, increased support packages and a solid plan to guide us through the difficult next few months. But until then, you’ll find me navigating the balance myself: having the best time I can, all the while being mindful of my money.

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