Personal Finance

Did You Forget to Budget for These Summer Expenses?

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Summertime is supposed to be mostly carefree, and it’s easy to think you’ll be spending less money. Warm breezes, nights on the patio and watching the sun go down are free, right? And nobody’s fretting (yet) about how they’re going to pay for the holidays. Besides, after making travel reservations and buying wedding and graduation gifts, it feels like we’ve got it covered.

The trouble is that summer brings with it some sneaky expenses that are easy to overlook.

You hope to be spending more time outdoors, right? If you’re a homeowner, count on spending some of it mowing the lawn or paying someone else to do it. And who among us has never at least tried to grow tomatoes? (People do seem successful with zucchini; you can probably save time and money by just accepting the zucchini your friends and acquaintances are trying to give away in August.) But whether you’re paying to sharpen mower blades or buy a soaker hose, there’s a good chance that green-thumb or green-lawn ambitions will come at a price higher than you expected.

And then there’s dining out, or even in. Sometimes, when we enjoy the warm breezes of summertime, we do it dining alfresco, relaxing with good friends. Or we don’t want to heat up the kitchen, and so we pick up dinner. Even cookouts at home will cost more this year — have you seen the cost of beef lately? One of the pleasures of summer is taking trips, and you may find that you are hosting visitors as well as doing the visiting. (And what does your outdoor furniture look like this year? Are you already looking at something you hope goes on sale after Memorial Day? Is the grill good for another year?)

In planning your own vacation, it’s easy to forget about the cost of taking care of your pets while you are away. How much you’ll have to pay will depend on how long you’ll be gone, how many pets, what kind and the level of care they need. But boarding pets can make a pretty big dent in a vacation budget — enough so you may prefer pet-friendly accommodations.

Have kids? Expect your grocery bill to go up when your kids, and sometimes their friends, are home and wanting snacks. Also, you may be making more trips to the library, the mall and the movies (and the pool, if it’s not within walking distance).

Those trips will cost you more too; another higher cost is likely gasoline. The less-polluting summer blend of fuel is also more expensive. And the boat or ATV you use much more in the summer? Those most likely require gasoline, too, and they may need some maintenance before the first trip out. It can add up.

It’s worth taking some time to figure out what the less-obvious summer expenses are and make room for them in your budget. Because nothing ruins memories of summer fun like a big credit card bill reminding you of the little expenses you forgot to plan for. What’s more, if summer spending leads you to carry a high balance on your credit cards, you might end the season with a lower credit score than when you started out, which is probably not the summer memento you had in mind. If you do anticipate getting into a little more debt this summer, you can track your credit scores to get an idea of where you stand using free financial tools on sites like Credit.com.

What summer expenses tend to take you by surprise?

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