Family Finances: Our frugal summer

What Amanda Gibson and her family of five does to save money during the summer—a season we hear might be coming our way.

Photo by: mikepmiller

One of the advantages of being a graduate student is that when my kids are out of school, I’m out of school. So I get to spend time with them while I continue my work (at a significantly more relaxed pace) over the summer. And boy have we got plans–BIG PLANS–for how to spend our summer vacation. Because I’m me I look for cheap and free things to entertain and educate. Here are the free/frugal things in which our family will be partaking this summer.

We’ll go to the pool. Every day. For free! Richmond City has a number of pools free for the using. I can only comment on the Randolph pool, which is the closest to our house. It’s well maintained, monitored by a group of awesome and friendly lifeguards, and even has a wading pool for the little ones. It’s a bummer that they aren’t open in the morning because our under-three set is generally napping/needs to be napping in the afternoon. So we try to squeeze in an hour before supper. That way my husband can sometimes be pulled away from his computer long enough to come along with us too. Now that we have three children I expect to need the extra hands in the pool.

We’ll go to the beach. Just for a couple of days. I found a make-your-head-spin cheap beachfront hotel room a few weeks ago and I pounced. (It was featured in the Travelzoo weekly email of travel deals. If you are not already a subscriber check it out. I’ve been signed up for almost a decade and have at times been able to improve our travel plans based on some screaming deals.) We’ll eat sandwiches out of our mini fridge to save on restaurants. We’ll stick to the hotel pool and the beach to avoid spending extra money on entertainment. We’ll take photos of our first baby girl on the beach in her first baby girl bathing suit. And then I will die from the cuteness.

When we’re not in the water, we’ll go to story time at the library each week. Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend time with my kids. (Learning! A good story! Counts as interacting with other humans when you are an introvert!) The past few summers my guys could hardly get enough reading each day, and re-upping at the library weekly gave us parents a break from the same old books. While you’re there, story time is like the icing on the library cake. There are books, songs, and new friends. Shout out to Miss Heidi at the Belmont library, who reads to kids with the energy of a thousand burning suns.

We’ll do a home exchange. OK, it’s not completely free, but it is more frugal than other ways to see the world. This year we are spending two weeks in Iceland where we plan to see waterfalls and blue whales, learn about Vikings, look at the locals sideways thinking that if this was a thousand years ago they would BE Vikings, and float in natural warm springs until we all wrinkle like Viking prunes. It’s going to be the best.

We’ll also attend Vacation Bible School at our church. Like swimming and story hour at the library, Bible school was one of the mainstays of my own childhood. How many Baptists does it take to entertain cute kids with songs and craft crosses? So many, my friends, so many. Also there might be cupcakes involved.

All this fun and excitement will keep us pretty busy, but we still plan to make it over to a few of the city’s parks. I’m partial to Lombardy Park because it is close to our house, but the ARCpark seems to be all the rage on Instagram. And if Instagram says it, it must be true.

Of course not everything our family does this summer will be free or cheap. We’ve also signed our oldest up for a summer camp through the city Parks and Recreation Department that will involve him building robots out of LEGO. It’s way more expensive than anything else on our summer agenda (accept maybe flying to Iceland), but it is just the thing for our little engineer.

There will also be a healthy amount of jumping in sprinklers, evening walks, unauthorized mud pies, and lots of swinging. Always the swinging at this age. Is it even possible for children to get enough swinging?

And least you think our family makes no adult-focused, but still cheap, plans, know that my husband and I are planning to go for a few bike rides sans children and catch up on some of the Netflix we missed during the school year. Excuse me while I slay you with our wild adult life.

And if you, dear reader, know of cool, budget-friendly activities, please leave it in the comments.

  • error

    Report an error

Amanda Gibson

Amanda Gibson used to teach folks about money at the Fed. Now she spends her days reading history books, raising kids, and thinking of ways to rule the world.

There are 3 reader comments. Read them.