We receive advertising fees from the brands we review that affect the ranking and scoring of such brands.
Advertiser Disclosure

Don’t Get Burned: How to Avoid Overspending this Summer

Angela Mae Updated: July 5, 2023 • 6 min read
family summer fun

Overspending is a common issue during the summer months. According to a recent survey, around 25% of Americans believe it’s worth going into debt to have a great summer holiday. Around 16% of Americans even plan to apply for a new credit card to help fund their vacation.

However, planning for summer fun doesn't necessarily mean going into debt. The good news is that you can enjoy the season without experiencing financial regrets. All you need to do is budget for the summer months and create a smart financial plan.

These strategies don’t just work for summer – you can also use them as other holiday spending tips.

Setting a Summer Budget

Creating a personal budget is key to managing your money overall, but it doesn’t hurt to also have a dedicated summer budget. Having one can help keep you on track financially and prevent overspending. To create a summer budget, take the following steps:

1. Review your income and existing expenses.

2. Add up your monthly income from all sources. Include your regular salary, any side hustles, passive income from rental properties and so on.

3. Calculate your fixed and variable expenses. If your expenses change a lot from month to month, average out the past three to six months’ worth of expenses and use that number as a baseline.

4. Subtract your expenses from your income to determine how much money you have left each month. You can then dedicate a portion of this money to fund your upcoming summer plans. 

Last but not least, don't forget your ongoing financial goals. If you're regularly paying down debt, saving money and investing, try your best to do so even if your summer expenses are higher than your typical spending throughout the year.

Set Realistic Summer Spending Goals and Limits

Making sure you have enough money to enjoy the things that are important to you and your family is incredibly important. Proper planning and budgeting can prevent overspending and going into debt.

This is especially vital if you expect your income or expenses to fluctuate during the summer. Here’s a simple way to do this:

  • Write down your summer plans. Start by writing down everything you plan to do this summer. This could include things like vacations, summer camp, concerts, barbecues and other types of entertainment. 
  • Prioritize your wants and needs. Allocate your funds for each activity or event based on how important they are to you. Perhaps visiting relatives abroad is vital, while that home improvement project can wait until next summer. 
  • Estimate your summer expenses. Jot down how much you think you’re going to spend on each activity or event. This can give you a better idea of how much you need to set aside. When in doubt, round up, as things like gas and airfare are constantly fluctuating. 
  • Start saving up. The sooner you can start saving up money, the better since this will give you the most time to prepare. If you start early enough, you might even be able to afford more than you thought. Set aside some money each week or month to get you on track for summer. 

Smart Summer Vacation Planning

Ready to create a summer vacation budget? Here are the key elements to a smart planning strategy for your summer vacation and related activities:

  • Create a vacation budget. To budget for vacation, calculate the various expenses that might come with your summer plans. Include things like food, gasoline, entertainment, hotels, airfare, souvenirs, and event tickets. Set aside as much as you can without causing financial strain elsewhere. For example, if you plan to spend $1,500 on a long weekend for the family, budget to save $125 each month.
  • Research and compare travel options. Many sites, like Kayak and Expedia let you compare airplane tickets, hotels, and vehicle rentals. These sites gather the latest information to try to get you the best deals. In some cases, you can even bundle different things – like a car rental and accommodation – for a larger discount.
  • Save on accommodations and meals. You can stay with a friend or family member at your destination. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even check out budget-friendly hostels in the area. You can also prepare some of your lunches and dinners in advance and store them in a cooler or refrigerator. If you do go out to eat, consider inexpensive restaurants or splitting meals with friends.
  • Manage vacation expenses. For instance, you could leave behind your credit cards behind and instead use cash to pay for things like street fairs or local events. If you do use credit cards, make sure to take advantage of travel and dining points.
  • Plan and book in advance. For example, some kids’ summer camps offer an early bird discount to families who sign up before a certain date – often a few months before summer. You can also often find group deals on certain activities, parks, and events through sites like Groupon. Not only can this fill up your time with something fun, but it can cut back on financial strain.

Having a method to manage your money is one thing, but following through with it can be tricky. While you’re on summer vacation, a budget might be the last thing you want to think about. But if you stay on track, you’re more likely to feel relieved when you get home and realize you didn’t overspend. After all, if you spend too much money during summer, you could end up falling behind on other financial goals like saving up for future trips or investing in retirement.


Plan Affordable Summer Activities

Even if you have a limited budget this summer, that doesn’t mean you have to limit your fun or cut back on memorable experiences. There are many cheap alternatives that can be just as exciting and meaningful. Here are just a few:

  • Check out local events. During summer, many cities have local events or activities. This includes things like street fairs, food or art festivals, live music, and more. Some of these events charge a nominal entrance fee, while others are free aside from whatever food or souvenirs you choose to buy. Many official state websites have a calendar of upcoming events that you can check out. 
  • Hit the outdoors for an adventure. If you’re looking for something free or inexpensive to do this summer, there are plenty of outdoor recreational activities to choose from. You could go hiking, camping, swimming, or kayaking, to name a few.
  • Check out free community programs. Some local or community organizations put on free or low-cost events for people. Check out the public library for upcoming events or, if you have kids, see if their school has any free or affordable programs planned this summer.
  • Explore nearby areas. If the cost of travel is too high, consider taking a couple of day trips this summer. Check out nearby towns, or head to the beach for a day of fun in the sun. Alternatively, see if your city offers free admission to the museum, zoo, or similar locations. We've gathered the Top Cheap Summer Travel Destinations for 2023.

These strategies don’t just work for summer – you can also use them as other holiday spending tips.

Having a method to manage your money is one thing, but following through with it can be tricky.


Whether you’re planning a family trip, or you want to keep things local this summer, make a summer vacation budget. Try to make your plans in advance so that you can take advantage of early bird specials or discounts. While you’re at it, check out local or community events to see what’s happening in your area. By having a budget and saving up ahead of time, you can enjoy your summer without feeling stressed due to overspending.

Written by Angela Mae

Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.