15 Tips for Keeping Your Summer Vacation Spending Under Control

Make a Budget

First and foremost, make a budget. A budget can help you stay on top of spending habits and make sure you spend within your means. Get online and sign up for a money tracking program or make a simple spreadsheet. Keep track of how much money you have and set limits on the amount you spend in certain areas, such as groceries, entertainment or travel expenses.

Get a Job

Find a part-time position to offset summer costs. Summer jobs might not pay very much, but it's still experience for your resume and a lucrative way to pass the time. Since positions for college students fill up fast, it's best to look for work before the end of the school year.

Reduce Rent Costs

If you're living alone, think about sharing your place for a couple months and splitting the rent. Students who plan to live in the dorms might be happy sleeping on the couch or sharing a room short term. If you live in the dorms already, skip renting an apartment for the summer and move home where you can live rent free (hopefully).

Ditch the Car

No matter where you go, try to carpool or take public transportation. Not only is it better for the environment, but it will save you money in gas costs. Another great way to get around is by bike - you can save money and get in shape.

Skip the Coffee Shop

Everyone loves the taste of an iced coffee on a hot summer morning (especially if you're on your way to that part-time job). Many popular coffee shops charge over four dollars for a blended drink, though - why not make some at home? Go online to find delicious and cheap recipes for making your own icy treats.

Rethink Movie Night

Put that carpool to good use and catch the summer blockbusters at the drive-in. Old-fashioned drive-ins still exist, and sometimes cost less than a show at a movie theater. Alternatively, stay in and rent a movie from an outdoor kiosk or the video rental store. Summertime is a great time to find free movie showings at the park or other venues. Check your local newspaper to see if there are any free movie events near you.

Take a 'Staycation'

You might have dreams of going to Mexico or driving across the country to find yourself, but that costs money you might not have. Consider taking a 'staycation' and become a tourist in your hometown. Make a list of all the activities you've been meaning to do and get out there and do it! Take a camping trip at a nearby state park, or spend the weekend at a local resort with friends. You might be able to find some last minute deals that make the stay affordable.

Invest in Your Fun

If there is a local theme park that you love and plan to go to many times over the summer, consider investing in a season's pass or membership. Zoos, museums and the local swimming pools might all offer discounts for purchasing a season pass.

Extreme Couponing

While you're not likely to get $350 of groceries for free, if you want to save money on shopping make sure to use coupons! Many coupon sites offer weekly deals that can help you make the most of your summer on a budget. Whether you get 60% off of a facial or a buy-one-get-one movie ticket deal, coupon sites can be well worth the time and effort.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Take advantage of the sunny weather by getting outside. Hiking, sunbathing or picnicking with friends allows you to save money and do what you enjoy. If you purchase an annual pass to local, state or national parks you can save money on entrance fees for subsequent visits. Other ways to enjoy the outdoors include visiting local historical landmarks, attending a free outdoor concert or taking a nature walk during the full moon.

Cook Your Own Meals

If you're the type of person who eats out at every meal, it's time to change your habits. You can save a huge amount of money by cooking your own meals. Drinking at bars can deliver a huge blow to your budget as well. If you go to happy hour, skip the appetizers and come home for dinner. Check out a book on mixing cocktails and you can make dinner and drinks for your friends in your own home.

Find the Free

Free concerts in the park, library reading events, open mic nights at the comedy club or free tea services are just some of the events available during the summer. Check your local newspaper for listings.

Shop Locally

If you love to cook, shop or garden, check out your local public markets. Many open in the spring and run through the fall. You can find reasonably priced fruits and veggies that might not be available at your local grocery chain. Not only will you be supporting local farmers, but you can also find great deals on prepared food, plants and gifts.

Carry Cash

Put away the debit card and start using cash only for your purchases. By carrying cash, you'll be more cognizant of your spending habits than if you use your card. It's much easier to swipe your card for a transaction of $19.34 than it is to hand over a 20 dollar bill and get a few coins back. Using cash only will give you a visual of how much money you have and likely keep you within your budget.

Plan a Splurge

While trying to keep your spending under control, there is no need to suffer. Have a plan for that one splurge item you want to buy or event you want to attend. Make sure you have the money in your budget, and most definitely do not go into debt! By planning ahead and having something to look forward to, you're less likely to buy on impulse and more likely to enjoy the reward.

While spending too much over the summer could cause credit card debt, student loan debt can also be an issue. If you're worried about how much you owe, read a reality check on student debt.

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