Summer is the season of vacations, long days and lots of fun. It’s pretty awesome.
But what if you’re in the middle of paying off debt? You might be worried summer won’t be so awesome. That doesn’t have to be true, though! Listen, paying off debt is hard work, and you do have to make sacrifices. But it doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun this summer. In fact, God wants you to! God created fun and gave it to us as a gift: “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NIV).
The key is planning for summer fun when you make a monthly budget. If you set aside a little bit of cash to enjoy, you won’t feel deprived, and you’ll keep your eye on the prize of debt freedom.
Here are four strategies to increase your fun—while still decreasing your debt —this summer:
● Set a goal, name a prize, and chart your progress.
● Avoid temptation.
● Volunteer at your church.
● Enjoy free or low-cost local activities.
Ready to get started? Let’s look at each of these strategies in detail so you can pay down debt and still keep the fun in your summer!
1. Chart your progress toward a late-summer reward.
Once you know your destination and how much the trip will cost, plan to set aside a little cash each month so that you have enough by late summer.
Next, set a goal to pay down your debt by a certain amount over the summer months. Your trip will be your motivation! Keep a chart somewhere visible so you can track your progress. (Download our free printable chart here!) If you reach your goal, take your vacation!
2. Stay off social media.
Luke 12:15 tells us to guard our hearts against covetousness, to be content with what we have. But seeing photos of everyone else’s amazing summer trips can make your camping trip seem trivial in comparison.
Staying content might mean avoiding social media for the summer. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your friends; it just means you know their photos can tempt you to drift from your plan, and you want to stick to it. Keep your bigger goal in mind and know that someday you’ll be able to take amazing trips too—with cash.
It might help you keep a healthy perspective by surrounding yourself with people who have similar financial goals this summer. Those friends will respect your lifestyle and encourage you.
Keep your short-term and long-term goals front and center!
3. Pour into your church.
This might not seem fun, but hear us out. Your church slows down during summer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need volunteers. In fact, they often need more volunteers over summer to fill in for the regulars who need more days off.
If you find yourself too busy most of the time to engage with your church beyond Sunday services, take advantage of this summer when you don’t have a ton of extra income—and when the church is short on volunteers—to give your time. Ministries need help many days of the week—not just Sundays. If you have vacation time to spare, use a week to teach at VBS. Your kids can even attend while you volunteer!
Show your kids how much fun it can be to give your time to others. You’ll build character (yours and theirs), connect with your church community more deeply, and spend quality time alongside your family. Make a day of volunteering extra special by going out for ice cream together afterward.
4. Board the free (or cheap) activity train.
Wherever you live, your city probably has fun, free ways to spend a summer day.
Many movie theaters offer a discount for a few hours one day a week. Look into public splash pads for the kids or even free visits to the local nursery or farmer’s market, where you can talk about all the different flowers, plants, trees and fresh produce you see. Home improvement stores offer free kids’ workshops, and fire departments might give your kids a free tour of the station if you call ahead.
Looking for activities the adults can enjoy too? Check out a well-shaded hiking trail or explore your city on bike. Pack a picnic and head to a nearby state park; many city parks offer summer concerts outdoors. Wander in a book store, or order pizza and host a monthly game night with friends. See if any local museums offer free or low-cost admission.
However you decide to get your kicks this summer, make sure you keep the ultimate goal in mind: You’re making small sacrifices to reap huge rewards in summers to come. Keep your short-term and long-term goals front and center, and know that the greatest fun is yet to come. EveryDollar can help you win with budgeting this season and beyond. Now go out and budget a little fun into your summer!