Tips from an Old Mom: Making Summertime Budget-Friendly and Fun

How to Have a Fun and Budget Friendly Summer

How to Have a Fun and Budget Friendly Summer
Image Credit: Dollarphotoclub/@david_franklin

When I was a kid summer was a heady mix of camp and free-range fun.

My parents had it easy. There weren’t a lot of choices. Kids roamed the neighbourhood on their bikes, turned on the hose for a rousing game of sprinkler or slip and slide, or played Mother May I. When we got thirsty or hungry we headed inside for some lemonade and a sandwich. If we had a quarter we rode over to the local variety store for a banana popsicle and a pack of Hubba Bubba.

That was when we weren’t at day camp or if we were really lucky, sleep-away camp. But even when it came to camp, it was simple. There was camp and then there was camp. Forget all the fancy options. You got signed up for a week or two or eight and you did a little

of everything.

I like easy. When my kids were younger they did 4 weeks of a day camp, then 2 weeks off where we did a road trip or hung out, then another 2 weeks of day camp with a week off before school started. I found that to be the perfect balance.

None of this one week here and one week there running your schedule ragged.

This is the problem these days. There are almost too many summer activities to choose from, each one more expensive than the last, and often in one week sessions. Talk about getting pricey and complicated. Summertime involves a lot more logistics and expenses than the school year!

Did you know that according to a recent TD survey, 55% of Canadian parents with children under the age of 18 take on additional costs during the summer; and in fact, 71% of them spend up to $999 per child.

This is all why planning summer activities can really be a daunting prospect. My advice? Simpliify, simplify, simplify. General interest camps rock because there’s something for everyone. Bus service? Even better. Lunch program? Gold. Free programs, nature, NOTHING, those are good too.

But if you have your kids home the whole time or you want to do shorter stint camps, there are some easy tips and ideas I can share.

Plan! Don’t leave it to the last minute. Many of the best camps fill up early, even before January. You may not believe it, but my kids’ sleepover camp registrations are done in October. Also, many camps offer early bird discounts if you book by a specific date. And don’t discount community centre camps. They’re great fun and have the added benefit of being budget friendly. So check that out.

Buy in bulk. It may seem more fun for your kids to attend different camps according to their interests. But, besides being a scheduling nightmare, it can end up being a lot more expensive. Many kids offer multi-child and multi-week discounts. Worth it. Your little darlings will love whatever you choose. Because summer is awesome.

Look for old-fashioned fun! There are lots of things to do in the summer that are free. I know playdates are annoying, but they make your kids happy. Host a few sprouts at your house on Monday, and then guess what? On Wednesday you get a few hours to yourself when those parents reciprocate. How about a bug-hunting picnic in the park, an adventure on a walking trail, or a sprinkler and chalk party on the front lawn? Those are just as much (maybe more) fun as expensive activities. Hit the library and see what’s going on there. Load up on glitter glue, feathers, paint, and construction paper and you won’t see them for hours. Trust me. It’s you that cares how awesome the activity is, not them.

Have some downtime! You don’t always have to be doing something. I know. Novel concept. Laying around is fun too. Read books, kick a ball around in the back yard, or even *gasp* watch tv. Whoa. I’m so old fashioned.

Explore your city! Wherever you live, I’m sure there are lots of great things to do, both free and for a fee. Let your kids to pick a few that they like and buy season’s or family passes if they’re available. If they love it, go back over and over, no matter how tortured it makes you feel. Remember: if they’re having fun, guess what? So are you!

Budget Smart! After speaking with Linda MacKay, Senior Vice President, Retail Savings and Investing and Shirley Malloy Associate Vice President, Acquisition & Sales Management, otherwise known as the experts at TD Canada Trust, I learned some great tips on how to make your dollars stretch over the summer months. First off, have an idea of what you’re going to spend. Keep your eyes open. This stuff ain’t cheap. We gave up a lot to make summers happen for our kids, and I don’t regret one minute of it. Aside from that, don’t blow the bank without checking into your options. Did you know many rewards program points can be redeemed for theme park or excursion passes? Or that there are coupons galore available on the internet? Don’t ever pay full price. I mean it. You can also start saving early with a TSFA summer fund. Visit for their online budgeting tool to help you know how much to put away each month. Make sure to keep your receipts. Tax refunds are like a money gift.

Ship them off! Yes, I know, I’m terrible. But you know what? For the right kid, sleep-away camp is the best thing that will have ever happened to them. My son says it made him the man he is today. And that’s worth every (many) cent that it cost and every vacation and spa service I gave up to send him.

Do you have any summertime activity tips? How do you keep it together?

This post has been sponsored by TD Canada Trust, but the opinions are my own. For more information, please visit

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