Opinion

5 Budget Planning Tips to Enjoy Summer Guilt-Free

Written by Ann Hebert, CPA

Ella Fitzgerald sang: “Summertime, and the living is easy…” Or is it? According to the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)’s 2019 Summer Spending Survey, nearly one in three surveyed find summer spending stressful, especially when it comes to unexpected expenses. And nearly half of respondents plan to spend more on food and travel this summer, with an average spend of just over $3,000 for a summer holiday.

With this said, here are five tips for enjoying summer guilt-free with a planned budget:

Save for your holiday throughout the year–bring your lunch to work

The first suggestion we are going to delve into is bringing your lunch to work. Seriously? I know, that doesn’t seem to be something the millennial generation is into. Millennials show a marked love for convenience and food delivery apps, and it comes at a significant cost. This trend is even starting to affect teenagers, who are ordering lunch to school using food delivery apps! As the CBC article rightly states: “eat out, order in, a bagel here, a coffee, there, it all adds up.” According to mymoneycoach.ca, if you brought your lunch to work instead of spending $7/day on lunch (I have trouble staying under $10 at my workplace’s food court when I go there), you would save close to $1800/year. I crunched those numbers, and they don’t include the cost of the food you would otherwise buy, but given that the average restaurant runs at a food cost of around 30%, you will still net savings of around $1200/year. Skip that second latte/day and you’ve paid for your summer vacation.

Other DIY ideas for reducing your lunch costs

If that’s too cold turkey for you, try using a meal kit service; it’s easier than cooking from scratch, less expensive than eating out, and may mean that you cut down on leftovers and don’t waste as much food, which is a serious issue in Canada. Looking for ideas to get started on this journey? The latest Food & Drink Magazine (Summer 2019 edition) – free at your local LCBO or online! – has a great article beginning on p.82 on how to turn this weekend’s cookout with friends into extra weekday meals. I’m not preaching here, as I speak from experience; I made the choice years ago to bring my lunch to work every day for both health reasons and to avoid the temptation and cost of eating out every day, and can say that after a while, it’s not a burden, it just becomes part of what you do every day; I choose to spend the time making lunch so that I can spend my money elsewhere, such as on travel.

Cut the per-person cost of your summer vacation

Turning to that summer vacation spending, where is that $3,000+ going? You could rent a nice place it cottage country for that kind of money. If that’s your plan, maybe find a few friends to join you and share the rental and food cost, significantly reducing the cost per person of your vacation.

Staycation vs. vacation and what’s most important to YOU

Alternatively, summer is a great time to be in the city. The weather is great, and there are all kinds of no or low-cost activities to take advantage of, from parks and pools to music and street festivals, plays in parks and outdoor movies. Over 60% of the CPA Canada survey respondents were planning to either stay in province or “staycation” in their communities, so why not? Find out what’s happening in your community and get to know your neighbors, or discover a new neighborhood in your city by planning a visit to a local food or music festival there. Doing so may mean that you can alleviate the stress of summer spending, enjoy your home and friends, and put a few dollars away for a vacation somewhere warm and sunny – in February, when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and it’s -20C outside. Enjoy the summer and have fun.

Enjoy summer potlucks those closest to you

If the cost of summer entertaining concerns you, plan a potluck BBQ with friends. Everyone will feel part of the event, and the weight on your shoulders will be lighter. Scour the internet for a new recipe, and perhaps discover a cooking talent you didn’t know you had. Or maybe you’ll find you have a friend who’s a great cook, and they can become your favorite summer guest. Again, Food & Drink is a great source of recipes, as are sites such as Bon Appetit or your local grocery chains. And, as we pointed out above, leftovers can become lunch!

Need more finance-friendly tips?

If you’re looking for more money-saving tips and ideas, try CPA Canada’s Financial Wellness Guide to see how your finances stack up, and if you or your friends or colleagues think you need help, contact CPA Canada to schedule one of its many financial literacy presentations at your workplace or location of your choice.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop from Pexels