Personal Finance

The summer (buck)et list

Oh, the plans we make at the start of summer that never seem to get done. Here we are in mid-July, and if you want to check everything off your list before the kids head back to school, the time to make it happen is melting away faster than a Bomb Pop on an August afternoon.

This week I share a few low-cost ideas, as well as ways to get your budget in order to afford that final summer fling.

What about a camping trip? While it may cost a little more for a weekend camping trip, the memories are priceless. All you need is a place to pitch a tent, build a fire (safely and legally) and unplug from smartphones and Xbox. There are more state and county parks within 75 miles of Kansas City than I can list. Most are on lakes and offer campsites for less than $20 per night, swimming beaches, bike trails and boat rentals.

And if the thought of going away to camp stresses you out, just pitch a tent in the backyard; this campsite location is free. Then if it rains or the kids get cranky, you can just head into the house!

If sleeping under the stars isn’t your thing but you still want a getaway, think about a daytrip destination.

What about stepping back in time with the Mennonites in Jamesport, Mo. This is one of the neatest small towns you’ll ever see. Or you can spend a day browsing the antique stores in Weston or strolling the grounds at Powell Gardens

. On the Kansas side, why not take your kids to the state capitol building in Topeka (free tours), or get lost in the beauty of the Overland Park Arboretum

? All are about a quarter tank of gas away.

There are so many things to do around our city that won’t cost you a dime.

. But if your summer doesn’t feel complete without a “real” trip out of town, remember your monthly budget should never take a vacation. It’s all too easy to pull out the plastic and splurge on something maybe you can’t — or shouldn’t — afford.

Life is all about choices. If you need a weekend at a fancy Lake of the Ozarks resort, or a flight to somewhere out of the ordinary, think about what you can sacrifice to make it happen.

If that condo rental or airfare seems out of reach, consider the “extras” you can do without for a few months in order to compensate. Maybe a few more nights at home this fall, with pizza and a DVD instead of going out, are what it takes to check an item off your summer bucket list. All you need is some simple planning and budgeting long before the start of summer and you and your budget will be all set once the temperatures start to climb.

Whatever you do, time is running short. Just know that it’s not how much you spend, but how much you get out of every dollar spent.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click