Hector Madueno June 8, 2023 at 8:09 AM

A Splash of Ideas to Make Your Summer Budget Friendly

Summer is just around the corner, and for many of us, that means backyard barbeques, family vacations and planning activities for the kids. It also means cranking up the air conditioner, buying summer clothes for the family, and bulk-buying groceries for outdoor gatherings.

With these summer expenses in mind, you may be looking for ways to make plans without breaking the bank! Here are a few tips and activities to try so you can still have fun this season at a fraction of the cost.

Summer Budgeting Tips

  • Make a spreadsheet – Few of us like to curb those impulse-buys and budget our money, but it helps to keep a record of where your income is going. Documenting your expenses in a spreadsheet to track things like rent, car payments, and utilities can help you be mindful of your income. Check out the budgeting spreadsheet linked here to track your spending so you can save up for those summer fun(d)s.
  • Vacationing on a Budget From family reunions to best-friend weekend getaways, chances are you’ll be traveling with friends and family this summer. There are all sorts of ways to stay in your budget when vacationing, such as finding great hotel deals, using credit card points for some of your expenses (and maybe even upgrades!), and making a souvenir budget and sticking to it. When it comes time to split the costs, SAFE members have access to SAFE Pay, a secure and easy way to send money to others. Learn more about SAFE Pay here.
  • Avoid Peak Hour Utility Bills – We’re all familiar with those triple digit summer temperatures, but there are ways to avoid sky-high bills. Prioritize using your air conditioner and other appliances outside “peak hours,” depending on your energy provider (PG&E and SMUD’s summer rates can be found in the links provided). You can also take a trip to your local library, indoor community space, or even the free Splash Parks around Sacramento and Placer counties when it gets too hot at home. Otherwise, if financially possible, it’s also a good idea to set aside additional funds for those sometimes-unavoidable higher energy bills during the hotter months.
  • Lower Your Gas Mileage – It’s tempting to get out of the house for more adventures when the weather turns sunny. If you’re looking to spend less on gas, consider using public transportation, renting a scooter for shorter trips, or biking to your local destination! Otherwise, finding the most affordable gas stations in your area and putting some extra income aside will help with the cost of those extra adventures and family road trips.
  • Mindful Credit Card Spending – When you’re out having fun, the temptation to “put it all on the credit card” can be even more difficult. But unmindful spending habits could mire you in more debt at the end of the month. When you feel the pull of these impulse buys, you can always take a moment to login to your credit card app, look at your balance, and do a mental “check in.” Ask yourself something like, “Is this something I want or something I need?”
  • Saving When Back-to-School Shopping It seems that back to school shopping list gets longer and more expensive every year! Whether you’re buying crayons for your kindergartner or a laptop for your college-bound student, we have a cool hack to help you defray some of those costs. When shopping for school supplies and new clothes, be sure to use your SAFE Cash Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card* and earn cash back on every purchase. You can earn 5% cash back on categories you choose every quarter; 3% cash back on restaurants, gasoline, and groceries; and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The more you use your card, the more you can earn.
    If you already have a Cash Rewards Credit Card, be sure to put it in your digital wallet for the ultimate in ease of use. If you don’t have one, apply for one today and get to earning! Learn all about the Cash Rewards Credit Card and apply for one here.
  • Get Smarter with Groceries – Large grocery bills tends to sneak up on us when planning get-togethers and barbecues with our loved ones. To mitigate some costs, try shopping at a discount grocery store like Walmart or Grocery Outlet for those longer grocery lists, and keep an eye on discounts at your local stores. Since many of these stores also offer additional coupons and deals on their digital app, consider downloading your local store’s app to save even more!

Summer Fun at Home

You don’t have to go out to have a great time! Here are a few ideas to get you inspired:

  • Camp in the backyard— Sharing ghost stories or watching a movie is even more fun in your own backyard—especially with some s’mores! Set up some tents or sleeping bags in the backyard to sleep under the stars. You can even decorate the yard with twinkle lights and electric lanterns to make a magical night “out.”
  • Beat the Heat As you find ways to escape the searing sun and blazing heat this summer, be it in a pool or inside with the air-conditioning, now is a good time to do those projects to make your home more energy efficient. If you’re thinking of installing solar panels on your home or need your single-pane windows upgraded to those that will keep out heat and drafts, SAFE can help. We provide green-energy loans* for homeowners to use for projects that save money and the environment. Learn more about these loans on our website.
  • “Kitchen sink” potluck—Invite friends over for a potluck where they can only use ingredients already in their fridge to make a dish. At best you will have a delicious dinner party, and at worst you will make great memories from dismal cooking failures! You can even make categories for “best” and “worst” dish…
  • Have an “Art Gallery” Day—If you’re a parent with younger kids, you may have a collection of abandoned art supplies laying around. Go online and find a few fun craft ideas your kids will love. Make the fridge or a big whiteboard your family’s official “art gallery,” and using the supplies you already have, let the kids craft the day away! Then display their masterpieces in the “gallery” for all to see.
  • Plan a themed movie night– On a few notecards, write some dinner/dessert/beverage pairings using your favorite films as inspiration. Put those cards in a bag and choose one at random to decide the movie theme for the evening. Then compile the ingredients for the recipes on the card, make a meal together and have your own “dinner and a movie” night!

Pro Tip: You can set up a “movie theater” in your living room with a sheet on the wall and a projector to really make it a cinematic experience!

  • Build a fort inside—Who knew you could build a whole fortress with some blankets, pillows, and sheets? Why stop at a fortress—you could build a whole village in your living room! Once you’ve constructed your pillow-palace, set up a tablet or laptop to spend the day watching movies, or go on fantastical fort adventures with the kids. This is a great chance to let your kids’ imaginations run wild!

Find Some Affordable Adventures in Your Town

If you’re ready to soak up some sun out and about, many cities in the area sponsor free and affordable community events during the summer months. Check out the following resources or go online to find some wallet-friendly events in your area!

Money Making Options 


Set Your Kids Up for Success Before School Starts

Before your kids head back to school, now is a great time to be sure they have an account at SAFE Credit Union. Our Kids Club accounts for kids 12 and younger are the perfect way to introduce your children to banking, saving, and tracking their spending. Teens can sign up our Young Member Savings account that also gives them access to Freedom Checking and their own debit card upon approval. You can open a kids account online or in person in one of our branches. We highly recommend the in-branch experience for you and your children to go through together. Our member service representatives will take the time to personally engage your kids in setting up the account and explain all the details of the account in a way your children will understand. Learn more about our Kids Club and Young Member accounts and you can schedule an appointment to open an account today.

Learn More

For more information on summer budget tips, register for our upcoming webinar, Enjoy Your Summer with 5 Budget-Friendly Tips. You can also visit our website for additional financial literacy tools and resources and contact our Financial Education team at financialeducation@safecu.org.

Insured by NCUA.

*All loans subject to approval and membership eligibility.


Hector Madueno

SAFE Financial Wellness Manager