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Red Deer, Alberta
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Will Your Summer Expectations Add to Your Debt?

Do you have memories of your own carefree summer days as a child? Once school was out, there was time to play in the sunshine with friends, or enjoy backyard picnics, or spend time with family at the lake.

If you’re a parent, the summertime memories you’re making with your kids are just as precious. Unfortunately, your summer is probably not quite as carefree. Today’s parents find themselves tasked with filling endless summer hours and days with safe and healthy fun for their kids, often while there’s limited available child care and they’re still required to be at work.

All that summer fun can lead to a lot of summer debt.

Families feel the financial pinch

Raising a family is expensive. The costs for kids’ extracurricular activities during the school year (an average of $1,120 per child!) on top of basic living costs can find parents reaching for their credit cards. A recent Statistics Canada report found that couples with children account for half of the total national household debt in Canada.

Many parents struggle to cover all the costs of family life and save for their future and create an emergency fund. Adding debt because of school holidays or family vacations can stretch family budgets dangerously thin.

Summer costs add to the stress

When summer rolls around, essential costs can also skyrocket. Now that school is out, parents must cover the costs of all-day child care and/or day camps.  A lot of parents find themselves recruiting friends and family to help, hoping to reduce their overall expenses.

And then there are the extras. It’s natural that parents want to make the summer memorable, safe, and happy for their children. But when families have time off together, summer overspending can lead to debt, as summer budgets tend to bend and stretch.

One way to avoid taking on more debt this summer is to adjust expectations.

Consider a family staycation instead of vacation. Get together and list things you’d like to do (that you might not normally get to do). Stay up late to watch movies, have a pizza party, bike to a local park or activity centre, or learn a new craft or skill together (think painting, pottery, chess, karaoke).

As a parent, you might find that your own expectation for the summer (or the pressure you feel to give a certain kind of experience) needs more adjusting than your kids’ expectations.

Thinking back on your own fond summer memories, you might realize that many of your happiest times were nearly cost-free. Running through sprinklers, eating popsicles, staying up late, having a camp fire in the back yard. Summer brings lots of opportunities for consumer debt to creep up, but planning ahead can help you to reduce your debt.

Bottom line: thinking locally and planning frugally can really help avoid debt during the summer vacation months. Once September (and back-to-school!) rolls around, you’ll be glad you aren’t carrying additional summer debt with you.

Look at this list of frugal vacation activities from Canadian Budget Binder. If you have an explorer in the family, check out the geocaching suggestion!

What summer costs are most challenging for your family? Tell us on Twitter. #Parenting #Budgeting

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