For many of us, the ideal summer includes cookouts, weekends by the pool, relaxing vacations and plenty of sunscreen for some fun in the sun. What better way to end the work week than by getting out and soaking up some much-needed Vitamin D? While we’re out enjoying the weather and all of the activities that come with it, we can sometimes become a little lax with our finances. With that, we often forget that too much summer fun can come with a hefty price tag. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your summer without emptying your wallet. Volunteer One of the best ways to enjoy the upcoming summer without spending money is to get involved in your community — and the warm temperatures are a great excuse to get started. Enjoy the sunshine by leading a local youth group or help a local nonprofit by maintaining a community garden. If outdoor activities aren’t your scene, try getting involved with a summer reading program at your local library or perhaps volunteering at a nearby animal shelter. There are plenty of organizations that are in need of volunteers this time of year, and year-round, so start exploring your options now. Taking some time out of your schedule to help others can have a huge impact on your community, and it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference. Garden Whether you have a green thumb or you’ve always wanted to try your hand at gardening, try planting your own vegetables, flowers or herbs this summer. Not only will it allow you to enjoy the warm weather, but growing your own food will also help you save money. Take tomatoes for example, which cost about $2 per pound at the grocery store. For roughly the same price, you can purchase tomato seeds and grow your own. After the initial investment on gardening equipment (planters, soil, plant food/fertilizers, etc.), you will begin to save money with each harvest. These savings can be applied to other areas of your grocery budget or even help curb costs on an upcoming summer vacation. Get Fit Another cost-effective way to enjoy your summer is to get involved in activities that will keep you healthy and fit. This can be as simple as going for a walk after work, signing up for a 5K or even participating in an organized sport. There are many organizations and employers that offer summer programs designed to keep you active in the summer at a low cost, or if you’re lucky, for free — which easily beats paying for a gym membership. Use different fitness trackers to monitor your summer activities. Depending on which model you choose, products such as FitBit, Nike+ FuelBand and Microsoft Band can record your steps, sleep and heart rate, and are accompanied by downloadable apps to make fitness tracking even easier. Even if you don’t have one of these devices, there are many free fitness-tracking apps including RunKeeper, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal, which can be used to help motivate you to reach your goals and to stay active. Bike to Work Fluctuating gas prices can often be the difference between taking a summer road trip and staying home. To save as much money on gas as possible, use your bike for transportation. When feasible, riding a bike to work, to appointments and on leisure trips is a great alternative to taking your car. Not only will you save money on gas, but you will also get a great workout, reduce weekly wear-and-tear on your car and it’s better for the environment. With three months of summer to look forward to, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make the most of it. The options are limitless, so get creative, find new and exciting activities and enjoy the season without the worry of breaking your budget.
April Clobes is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer for MSU Federal Credit Union in East Lansing. She can be contacted by e-mail or by calling (517) 333-2254.