Personal Finance

Don’t let summer be a financial bummer

Remember when you couldn’t wait for summer to get here? Now that we’re one week in, many of the moms I know already can’t wait for it to be over!

Why? Well, one big reason — summer can be expensive.

The feeling seems to especially true for those with younger kids, whether these moms are working in or outside the home. Suddenly, you’ve got to figure out how to keep children entertained for seven or eight additional hours each weekday, and let’s not forget about the busy weekends, too.

If you’re a working mom, the childcare expense can be significant. Maybe not so much if daycare is already part of your budget, but what about when they’re too old for it?

Paying a sitter by the hour can add up to a lot more than the priciest daycare center.

I’m not there yet (Jack is only two), but I’ve noted lots of creative solutions when the time comes. One is having a trustworthy and qualified high school junior, senior or recent grad watch baby-sit for you in your house. I know several women who posted the job on an area high school or community bulletin board — with a fee they could afford — and had more girls apply than they could interview. More than a couple moms have shared a sitter, paying a little more but saving a bundle.

Whether it’s you or someone else watching the kids, there’s still the question of what to do day after a long summer day. There are only so many hours they can take at the pool or in front of a television or movie screen.

Talk to your kids and work together to come up with a plan. It’s a great way to impart financial responsibility (and they won’t be able to complain about not wanting to do something if they picked out the activity). Give them a budget and ask them how they

would like to spend that limited amount of money. Season passes at the Kansas City Zoo? Worlds/Oceans of Fun? Science City? Legoland and SeaLife Aquarium http:// How many movie matinees will that dollar figure cover? Same goes for summer camps. Establish a budget and have them calculate and choose.

Of course, plenty of fun can be had for little or no cost. Think about options like a local park, maybe the nearest lake with a swimming beach, Kaleidoscope, the Fed’s Money Museum or a number of free attractions in our great city.

Here’s a great idea I have seen in action: Make a “Fun Jar.” Print a list of great KC activities on colored paper, cut them out by cost, and put them in a jar. When a free day arises, your kids can pick a specific color from the jar based on budget:

1) On green paper (GO, because it’s free!) are all the great free things to do in KC: fly a kite, go on a picnic, run through a sprinkler in the backyard, etc.

2) Those on yellow paper mean proceed with caution, because they cost a little: Deanna Rose, bowling, matinees, etc.

3) On red are the more expensive items, such as Worlds/Oceans of Fun, Great Wolf Lodge, Legoland, SeaLife Aquarium, etc.

Even with daycare or a daily babysitter, there will be days/weeks your center is closed or your sitter is on vacation. Ideally, this is when you plan your own vacation, in order to save on paying for childcare you don’t need. And try to enjoy every minute with the kids, whether you have them home all summer or only on select days, in order to create memories you will all cherish for a lifetime. Camping out in the backyard or having an indoor picnic with favorite foods cost little, but create lasting memories!

So, yes, summer months are expensive, but aren’t they all? Like any other months, the key to not blowing your budget is to have one in the first place. Plan the fun according to what works for your finances. Keep them under control and maybe you’ll wish summer would last a little longer!