We know it can be a little difficult to keep track of time during quarantine, so you may be surprised to learn that it is in fact summer. While it might still feel like March in our minds, our AC unit (and the associated electric bill) have confirmed that we are now deep into July. And that means it’s time to talk about ways to save money throughout the summer months.
We’ll level with you—we had planned to write this article about tax breaks related to summer activities like sending your kids to camp, or how to factor in taxes from your summer job at the shore. But, like those activities themselves, our writing plans were put on hold by the pandemic. (Although if you did manage either of those activities, feel free to give us a call so we can talk you through their tax implications!)
Instead, we want to share a few ideas around enjoying a nice summer vacation that’s as good for your mental health as it is for your wallet.
Staycation: All I Ever Wanted
We’ll start off by championing one of the greatest inventions of the past 50 years: the staycation.
Remember years ago when the term “staycation” came into our lives? It was pitched as a money-saving alternative the vacation: you just take off work and stay home. For accountants like ourselves it was a frugal dream come true. And with everything shutting down or running on limited capacity, the summer of 2020 is the perfect time to revive the idea of a staycation.
“But we’re tired of being stuck at home and not working,” you might say. And that’s a fair argument, but our response is that staycation is a state of mind and if you’re sick of staying home, you’re not living that staycation lifestyle. It’s all about giving yourself the mental and physical break we all need right now. Start with a “one-day staycation” to recharge your batteries:
- Plant yourself on the couch and read that book you’ve been waiting to pick up (bonus points if you borrow it from the library to save money).
- Go on a hike, or take your bike for a spin (it still counts as staycation if you come back to your own bed).
- Even getting takeout from your favorite restaurant can be a staycation-worthy activity, and we won’t even cringe about the extra spending. We’re accountants, not ascetics.
If this one-day staycation hits right, you won’t feel “stuck” at home. Maybe you turn it into a long weekend, or even a full week. It’s all about shaking up your routine to keep things interesting.
Sometimes You Gotta Get Away
Okay, as much as we love the idea of staying home and not spending any money, we will admit that sometimes you do need to leave the house. And between this being a financial blog and the world being wracked by a deadly airborne virus, we would like to humbly suggest you try the great activity of camping. It’s inexpensive, it’s socially distant, and it’s good for the body and mind.
If you’ve never gone camping before, there is a bit of an expense when it comes to getting started. You’ll need a tent, a sleeping bag to keep you warm at night, and an air mattress or other padding to let you get comfy and avoid absolutely hating your camping experience and the dumb blogger who suggested it in the first place. A cooler and ice, some food and beverages, a lighter or book of matches, and the appropriate clothing will all help enhance your venture into the great outdoors.
None of that has to be expensive! And much of it can be borrowed from someone you already know. In fact, if you’re new to camping and you trust that outdoorsy friend’s social distancing abilities, you may even want to involve them in your plans. Camping is best when it’s done alone or with friends, after all.
Once you have your camping gear, the price of participation drops considerably. Many private campgrounds (which generally feature the nicest amenities, like showers) charge in the range of $25 to $50 per night. National parks are in this same range, and offer some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. But we highly recommend state forest camping, which runs about $5 a night, or Bureau of Land Management areas, which are completely free. You won’t find showers (or flush toilets) but you’ll be able to get away from it all and enjoy nature at a truly bargain price.
Vacation is a state of mind
Staying at home or escaping into the wild aren’t your only choices for a fun and frugal summer getaway. But hopefully they’re enough to get your mind working and your imagination flowing. A vacation can be whatever you want it to be, especially in a world as crazy as ours is right now. Maybe it’s an epic road trip. Maybe it’s spending time with family in another city, or even just another neighborhood. Whatever it is, take some time for yourself and do it. Just remember to be smart about your safety in the face of COVID-19, and to always keep your financial interests in mind!