Five ways to enjoy summer on a budget
We're now in the middle of summer and, so far, it's been a pretty good one. The rain stayed away from Glastonbury and it was one of the hottest and driest Wimbledon Championships for many a year.
When the weather's good and our minds drift towards those long summer evenings after work and sunny weekends, for the majority of us, all we want to do is get out and about and enjoy what the limited summer months have to offer.
There's no shortage of things to do at this time of year, but when we're going out more often than we do in the winter, this can be sometimes detrimental to our finances. Which is why we've put together our top five suggestions for things to do over the summer that won’t leave your bank account penniless…
1. Picnics in the park
There’s little that signifies summer more than a picnic in the park. Luckily for those of us in the UK, we have a surplus of local green space, with large parks, fields and commons in towns and cities across the country. What’s more, it’s usually on the doorstep and it’s entirely free. As a result, you can spend a whole day in the park without troubling your purse or wallet. OK, you’ll have to take your own booze and picnic food, but by shopping cleverly in your local supermarket this shouldn’t set you back very much.
A popular way of spreading the costs is for each person or couple to bring a particular item of food (crisps, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, fruit, dips, sandwiches, etc.) and share it out amongst the group. You may even opt to have a mini BBQ – disposable BBQs can be purchased very cheap from supermarkets and hardware stores – but it’s important that you check whether the park you’re in allows for this sort of activity. In some parks, there will be specific or designated areas where you can fire up the coals and cook up some burgers and hot dogs. In others, you may not be able to BBQ at all.
Picnics in the park are also not complete without games and activities. An impromptu game of rounders or cricket is a must, while kicking around a football, chucking a rugby ball and partaking in a bit of Ultimate Frisbee are all popular park activities. All you need for a fun, cheap afternoon in the sun is food, booze, picnic blankets and a rounders set. Also, more often than not, an ice cream van will be on hand to cool you down with a 99 or an ice lolly.
2. Go to the beach
Another popular – and cheap – summertime activity is a day out at the beach, a place that conjures up memories for so many of us. There are many great beaches in the UK; shingle and sand, busy and quiet, water-sport friendly and not. For the vast majority of people, even those of us who live inland, the beach is not very far away at all. Getting from London to the likes of Southend, Brighton, Bournemouth, Hastings and Margate is fairly painless, with cheap train tickets available if you book in advance, take advantage of family saver deals and (if you’re eligible) use a young person’s railcard. Even for those who live in the Midlands, places like Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Skegness and Cromer are not too far away.
The beach, whether you’re in Scotland, Wales, the north of England, East Anglia, the West Country or the South Coast, is associated with a number of traditions. You simply can’t spend a day at the beach without indulging in fish and chips (eaten direct from the paper, of course!). If the weather’s good, a dip in the sea may be on the cards, while UK beaches are well known for their amusements, grand piers, crab fishing opportunities and sweet treats, including rock, fudge and popcorn. Even better, none of these things will break the bank. For a cheap day out with friends or family, the beach is pretty hard to beat.
3. Free local events
In the UK we’re also privileged to have plenty of free day events like fairs, fetes and country shows. These can be a great day out and offer something a little different/traditional. They are particularly good days out for the family, especially if you have younger kids. Keeping an eye on any local papers, keeping a lookout for posters, leaflets and fliers, and checking social media on a regular basis are all good ways to find out what's going on in the local area.
4. Consider a staycation
The “staycation” has become something of a phenomenon in recent years, with people looking to save money by holidaying in the UK rather than heading abroad. Fortunately, there are some wonderful places on offer in the UK where cheaper holidays can be had. Cornwall, Devon, Scarborough and Blackpool (with its rock, its tower and its rollercoasters) are all very popular, while the Lake District, Peak District, Scottish Highlands, Yorkshire Dales and Welsh coast all offer stunning scenery and brilliant walking and cycling holidays. In the case of the latter destinations, many people opt to camp, which is obviously a far cheaper alternative than a hotel, a holiday cottage, an apartment or even an Airbnb home.
If you want to be at one with nature and get back to basics, make sure you have all the necessary equipment (this doesn’t cost much to buy or you can beg, borrow and steal if need be) and the permission to camp in a given area. You won’t, after all, want to be woken up in the middle of the night by an angry farmer or landowner.
5. Use discounts and offers
If you do want to do things that might cost a bit more, search for discount and voucher sites – such as Groupon, Wowcher and VoucherCodes.co.uk – to get the best possible deals. You can often attend expensive events, or carry out various leisure activities, for a good price. On a smaller scale, you could also use Meerkat Movies – which offers 2 for 1 cinema tickets every Tuesday or Wednesday – to make a date night or a trip with the family to the pictures a cheaper affair.
If you’re after some cheaper grub, visiting local restaurants during the week is the best way to cut costs. Many of them offer 50% off or two for one deals on these days - every little helps! Chain restaurants such as Prezzo, Café Rouge, Pizza Express, Zizzi and Loch Fyne also have discounts and exclusive deals in place for a cheaper meal out.
It might seem difficult, but – as the above tips lay bare - with some careful planning and preparation summer really can be done on a budget.