Ah, summer. The sun is shining bright, the streets are full of happy people, and other than the tube smelling like the actual armpit of satan, everything is just right.
But if you're a little tight on money or simply want to up your savings game, summer can instil fear rather than hope and love. Having fun and sticking to your budget seem contradictory. But what if we told you you could have your cake and eat it?
The key to this is being prepared. Planning ahead is so important to the economical fun-loving person, and can literally be the difference between loose change and hard cash.
You could start by reviewing your finances. How much can you afford to spend on yourself and still meet your goals (even if they are just making it to payday)? That will give you a rough idea of what you can and cannot do if you want to keep your pockets full. You can use a budget app to help you with that if you don't know where to start.
Then, you can try to crawl the web to find events, discounts, vouchers and anything fun and cheap (or free). Most cities would have lots of things going on during the summer months, so that could sort you out.
If you're struggling a bit, don't worry! We've gathered these ideas you can work with to create your perfect - but affordable - summer.
1. Go outside
That's the cheapest option. Either go to the park, meet mates for a picnic, or just go out for a stroll. Spending some time out isn't only be a great past-time in summer, it's also good for you (hello vitamin D, it's been a while).
2. Make your own coffee
Or iced coffee, if you're in the middle of a heatwave. Buying coffee out really adds up, so investing in a good flask and making your own coffee for the day can actually save you some money.
If you want to feel like a functioning adult, try to take your own lunch to work too. Think of it as minimal effort that will allow you to use the money you would otherwise spend on an unimaginative sandwich and a sad soy latte on cinema trips and nights out with friends.
3. Stay home - in style
Your mates want to go to the neighbourhood pub for the third time this week? Already spent too much on eating out but everyone wants to go out to dinner? Suggest staying home instead!
Get yourself a minibar going on and enjoy the nice breeze coming through your window. You can also cook together and save money on takeout, and the best part - you'd ACTUALLY be able to hold a conversation while hearing what everyone is saying. It's a win-win.
To mix things up, here are some ideas for fun nights at home:
- Potluck - everyone brings the best thing they can cook. You all feast.
- Board game night - be prepared for some healthy competition!
- Karaoke night - for when your friends are the right amount of drunk.
- Film marathon - did someone say Harry Potter?
4. Work out without spending
You don't need to hit the gym to get fit, especially in summer. Go for a run, a walk or do some yoga in the park (or if you're lucky - on the beach). For some extra fun, call a friend to exercise with!
5. Shop for less
If you enjoy shopping, picking your way through a market or window shopping can be a low-budget alternative (especially if you go to a vintage store). You really don't need to buy a load of stuff to enjoy the sights and sounds, and bringing a friend with you always makes things more fun.
6. Utilise membership discounts
A lot of places offer great discounts to members of their loyalty schemes. Look at what your supermarket and phone provider are offering, or see if when you pay an entry fee to something it's worth upgrading to a year-round pass. Choose which memberships are worthwhile for you.
7. Go to the cinema or theatre for less
A lot of cities have budget cinemas, which could be a great alternative to the expensive chains we all know and love. And the mainstream cinemas often have cheap tickets for off-peak times. Another great way to enjoy being cultured for cheaper prices is enter West End raffles - most shows will have an app, website, twitter or physical raffle for free or discounted tickets.