How to save money this summer

Fun ways to make your finances flourish

Felicity Hannah - Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Felicity Hannah | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and consumer affairs journalist

The sun’s out, the days are longer and it can be very easy to spend more than you mean to. Here are some great ways to spend less and do more this summer.

BBQ on a budget

It’s easy to spend a fortune eating and drinking out when it’s warmer: longer evenings lend themselves to sitting and chatting in beer gardens. But you can have the same enjoyment in your own garden and pay supermarket prices instead of much higher restaurant bills.

Invite friends round and ask them to bring a dish or bottle too so that the cost is spread. Shared tables let you enjoy a range of dishes without overspending. And you could make it a regular event and take it in turns to host. 

Go outdoors

One of the best things about the warmer months is that it’s so easy to go out and have fun without blowing the budget. Unlike rainy days, where going out means paying to get into places or walking around the shops and spending a fortune, the sun makes days out cheap and very cheerful.

Britain is full of wonderful walks and nature reserves, where all you need to pay is the parking (and sometimes not even that). Search the web for ‘walks near me’ and you’ll find plenty.

Pack a lunch and you have a full day out, but you’ll have barely spent anything. And if walks aren’t your thing then there are parks, beaches, historic monuments to enjoy. Free fun and free vitamin D courtesy of the big ball of fire in the sky.

Do festivals for free

Tickets and tents for music festivals can cost a hundreds of pounds, but there is a way to enjoy that festival experience for free – you just need to do a bit of work. Many of the biggest festivals rely on volunteers for work like litter picking, car parking and handing out wristbands. You agree to work a certain number of shifts but the rest of the time at the event is your own to enjoy.

You’ll even be given food tokens so it’s a really cheap way to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy some music and gain experience behind the scenes at a major music event. A few different organisations recruit volunteers but Oxfam is one of the most established, placing teams at Glasto, Download, Leeds and Reading. 

Plan your holiday with care

Many people will be jetting off on holiday abroad or in the UK. If you’ve not yet booked your break, then there are so many ways to pay less without accepting less.

For example, TravelSupermarket has found that the cheapest time to take a short-haul package holiday is May and that midweek flights are often cheaper than weekend bookings. Try different dates and flights to see if you can save.

And if you have forgotten to exchange money in advance then don’t just do it at the airport, as it costs loads more. You can book it online last minute and collect it at the airport for a better price – although it’s still cheaper to do it even earlier. [Editor’s note: check out our article, The insider’s guide to booking holidays, for some useful tips on making your money go much further.]

Set a sun budget

Undeniably there is a lot more to do in the sun. Concerts, gigs, farmers markets, chocolate festivals… People value experiences more and more, and marketers know that.

So if you know that it’s all too easy to lose grip of your spending in the sun, then set a budget. Give yourself an affordable, fixed amount you’re happy to blow on fairs and festivals, and then use that to limit your spending. An annual sun budget is a way of factoring summer fun into your spending without getting hit by a shock credit card bill just as the weather starts to cool down again.

Go second hand

If you haven’t already, now is the time to make a will and consider life insurance or critical illness cover, if you are worried about how your family would cope financially without you. If you’re anything like me, you can’t sit out in the garden without thinking of things that would make it even better. A trampoline or slide for the kids. A set of garden chairs. Five of those weird giant supermarket garden gnomes wearing different costumes (what, just me?).

But you can save a fortune and reduce waste by buying these things second hand. Many of them are made of plastic anyway, so they are long lasting, and you can pay much less for what you want. Find a local selling group on Facebook or local classifieds websites and you can even say what you’re looking for and people will send you pictures and prices. Just make sure you really inspect anything you are considering and only hand over the cash if you’re genuinely satisfied. Returning a private sale can be impossible. 

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.