Seize the Summer

Sometimes, my summers feel like any other season. Other times though, I do the season right. A couple weekends back, I sat out on a dock with my family, overlooking a small lake in Michigan, our bathing suits still wet and our t-shirts sticking to our backs in the heat. My brother had made a pitcher of lemonade. My sister was strumming along on her ukulele. It was one of those summer scenes where your biggest worry is getting stung by a bee, and even then, it can be cured by the plant in the neighbor's backyard.

While we're in school, we spend almost two decades with summers off, and I think it's going to take me at least two decades to get over the fact that I no longer have that. I might be working all summer, but there's a lot I'm doing to keep the richness of the season this year while still keeping the richness of my back account.

The Livin' is Easy
Summer is the time after seeding, before the harvest, when we get to sit back and watch things grow. For me, summer is as much of a state of mind as it is a season. Back in the day, I remember the transition from the rigid time frame of the school year to the lack-of-schedule of summer. In school, we lived and died by the sound of a bell, scurrying from class to class with each punctual chime. When summer came, time seemed to open. Somewhere between playing catch with my friend across the street and eating dinner on the back porch, days became endless. It's this openness of time that defines summer for me, and what I try to find again today.

My schedule doesn't change during the summer anymore and so I have to be mindful to open time up when I can. Luckily, the days are longer. Having a few extra hours of daylight allows me to play with the clock a lot better. Whether it be leaving my phone and watch at home and getting lost in a walk, or finding a grassy knoll to enjoy my library book, at least a couple times each week, I try to step off the schedule completely. I let hours count themselves without me checking to make sure they're still moving at the same pace.

Okay, enough with esoteric thoughts on summer. Here are some of my logistics…

Local Festivals
One of my favorite parts about traveling is when I stumble across a local festival. I remember accidently ending up in South Haven, Michigan for Blueberry Festival and spending the day pie sampling, listening to music by the lighthouse, and taking goofy photo-booth pictures. When I lived in Texas, it was hard to hit the road on the weekend without running into a music festival somewhere.

Every town and city has local summer festivals and every town and city near your town or city has local festivals. I love trying the alligator pierogi and polka dancing at Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana when I'm with my family in Chicago, or whistling along at the Kerrville Folk Festival when I'm back in Texas. Some of my most summery days happened nearly for free just by googling what was going on in the area. Try it, you might be surprised, “your city here Summer Festivals.”

Take Advantage of Summer Produce
I love how supply and demand works in my favor with summer produce. Prices plummet when the season hits on your favorite fruit. Whether it is strawberries, cherries, peaches, blueberries or one of the many other summer fruits, you can eat your fill and still not be able to keep up. Buying farm direct is usually cheapest if you live close, but farmers markets are good options for city dwellers. I like to inquire about the bruised fruits, which aren't as pretty as the stuff on the table, but the jam I make with them is just as good.

Better yet, make a day trip of it and either stick a small amount of cash in your pocket so you don't go over-budget and enjoy a stroll around your local farmer's market or head out to a “you pick” farm and come home with more fruit than you know what to do with.

The second step there, of course, is learning what to do with it. You can freeze them, pickle them, jar them, make jam, make preserves, make sauces, and make it so your biggest problem isn't fruit going bad, but rather where to store it all.

Get to Water
Last summer, in Texas, we had over 100 days of over 100 degrees. Never has it been so evident to me how important water is in summer. I'd stop for a dip in Barton Springs on the way to work and it would cool me to my bones. Even if you're not in that kind of heat, getting to water often can make summer feel like summer. Here's some of my favorites:

  • Find a river near you to tube down.
  • Borrow a canoe for a nearby lake.
  • Check out your local library's summer reading list and take it to the cooling breeze of a beach.
  • Go to the deepest part of the local swimming hole and see if you can swim to the bottom.
  • Four words: king of the raft.
  • Be like this kid.

Float on it, dive into it, walk around it, or meditate on it, I get myself to water as often as I can when the temperature heats up.

None of these are ground breaking. I know that. But it's July already and I want to make sure I get a few weekends of real summer in before it's too late. It's a practice and I have to consciously remind myself to carpe the season. I don't need a long or expensive vacation. A trip to the sand dunes, street food, some outdoor music, and the laughter of my friends around me are my recipe for a successful summer.

Have you yet to take advantage of summer? What are your fun and frugal plans for the sunny days to come?

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Marsha
Marsha
8 years ago

I’m a teacher with summers off, and my teenage sons are in college and high school. We spend most of the summer cleaning, organizing, repairing and remodeling our home and otherwise preparing for the upcoming school year. Today, for example, my sons will be painting the bathroom that they recently tiled with ceramic tile, while I work on the clothes in my “to be repaired” basket. Later today, I’ll be helping my younger son with his SAT prep, while my older son is pre-studying for some of his fall classes. Later in the summer we’ll have a garage sale in… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I absolutely take advantage of the long days, frankly I wish we had day light savings all year round. Mostly I just get outside and go for a walk with the dog. I enjoy the outside and get some exercise. I live in So. Fla. so its got a summer atmosphere year round. We take advantage of the relaxed “lattitude” by hitting the beach early in the a.m., enjoying our local dive/tiki bars ($1 beers are perfect for our budget). We also enjoy taking instate vacations, the Keys, Key West, this weekend we are heading to Siesta Key (on the… Read more »

Cybrgeezer
Cybrgeezer
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Ditto most of that from way up here in North Florida.

Alex
Alex
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Another GRS reader checking in from FL’s Treasure Coast!

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

Hiking and swimming are two of my favourite summer activities. There are also tons of summer festivals in the city I live in, and I try to take advantage of as many of the free events as I can. Tonight my partner and I are meeting up with some friends to go to a free concert at our city’s Jazz Fest. This past weekend, we went to a free art exhibit opening, and then on the walk home, stopped in to have a drink each out on a patio. I think eating or drinking outside is a big part of… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Our city has a music fest, too, and it’s free! It’s awesome and perfect for summer…you get to walk around, see people, hear some music, and if you don’t go hog wild with the beer and food, it’s pretty darn cheap entertainment. 🙂

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

I too have never quite gotten over not having the summer’s off. Especially living in Seattle, when summer finally hits I find it difficult to believe that we don’t declare a regional holiday. We stinking should.

Instead I give myself a summer vacation. I take a week off to stay at home – the staycation – because even just being home is more enjoyable in the sunshine. I read and lounge (or try to) and recapture some of the summer childhood idleness (and tan) I miss so much.

We don’t take enough advantage of the seasons.

Lance@MoneyLife&More
8 years ago

We live a few blocks from the white sand beaches in the Florida panhandle so that is our big summer frugal trip.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

I agree with all of the above suggestions too 🙂 My city doesn’t have any water front, but it has pools and splash pads in the parks.

I would add drinks on the patio, picnics and BBQs to this list. Nothing says summer like eating and drinking outdoors. (I’m envious of people who can do that all year round — not so easy in winter here!)

Jason @ WorkSaveLive
Jason @ WorkSaveLive
8 years ago

We haven’t really taken advantage of summer yet but I really despise the 100+ degree days. When it drops down in the 90s I don’t mind sitting on our back porch and reading or taking the dog for a walk.

The area where we live offer free concerts every Thursday and Friday so we plan on going to a couple of those here in the next month. Love the opportunity to enjoy music for free!

Holly@ClubThrifty
8 years ago

We’re going on a beach vacation with the kids in 63 days….not that I’m counting. = )

Woot!

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

I haven’t had a summer off in your lifetime, Tim. Last year was the first time I took a two-week summer vacation though, and it absolutely rocked. It was shocking to realize the difference between my mindset before and after that vacation.

I’m hoping next summer I can take a three-week vacation. After 25 years of full-time work, I deserve it.

Another Kate
Another Kate
8 years ago

I know this isn’t a rigorous personal finance article, but as a summer-lover in a northern state, I love it and am bookmarking it. It’s too easy for me to use my energy from the longer daylight hours to try to get more done instead of relishing this brief, beautiful season. And yes, for us northerners, the entire summer should be a state holiday!

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

Summertime looks like this around here, and the lake house is booked for August.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago

Lovely pic! Reminds me of some of the beautiful posts from this great Japanese blogger: http://shewhoeats.blogspot.jp/ (it’s an English blog)

Question: how do you embed links in GRS comments??

Smart Military Money
Smart Military Money
8 years ago

Tim,
Sounds like a great summer. It’s a good season for me to practice my personal finance skills while still having fun.

In August, I’m taking three weeks off to visit Europe. I’ve never been there as an adult, so it’ll be a thrill. Although I’ve used my credit cards to make the transportation purchases–plane and trains–I saved up enough to immediately pay them off. No added debt!

-Christian L.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

Tim, you did a great job of painting the mood of childhood summer and suggesting ways to recapture it. I’d love to go out to the park I can see from my office window now!

Elly
Elly
8 years ago

I love taking advantage of the summer. This year will be my first working full time though, so it will be interesting to see how i manage to balance my work and play… M eand a friend recently took a couple of days off work to visit my family in south wales, it was absolutely baking over that time and all we did was drive to the beach and chill out. It was absolute bliss. We also bought 2 super cheap disposable cameras to document our stay and thanks to the combination of real film and blue skies, all our… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago

The only way to enjoy summer here is to leave town for a higher altitude. We are supposed to break our record high (of 115!) today.

elena
elena
8 years ago

I loved this article. For me, it’s camping, kayaking and hiking. State parks are the best. One of my extended family’s best things is camping out on an island—it’s a state park–cost for the lean to is $15 a night. Views are spectacular. We have to take a ferry and then kayak to the island from there with all of our gear. (multiple trips unless someone pays for a motorboat taxi to carry non kayaking visitors across.) We stagger our arrivals so there is always fresh corn, ice, reading material and fine beverages. Our set up over the years has… Read more »

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

I haven’t had a vacation in years and I haven’t taken more than one day off to actually enjoy a summer day. Now that I recently started another job, I don’t feel I “deserve” it though I’m at the verge of being burnt out.

I take advantage of city activities and hiking at local parks, but it never seems like enough – I still have to go home. Fortunately I live in the part of the country that is still relatively mild (Portland).

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago

The local pool, despite the fact that the membership came out of my ‘to save’ fund, is great for our family; so are visiting parks (usually cheap) and stopping in at the public library (especially since we run limited air conditioning in our house!) Most libraries run extra entertainment– like free movies– in the summer, and some movie chains run cheap morning shows.
Visits to historic sites and farm tours are also good ways to spend the time. There’s so much more entertainment to be had in summer than I can fit in!

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

“carpe the season” – awesome.

I’ll confess I don’t care for summer vacations. That is because I am a cranky DINK who likes to travel when everybody else’s kids are in school. I am currently living for a week on Coronado in January.

Growing up, summer was chiefly distinguished by being the time of year you didn’t want to be outside (south Georgia).

PawPrint
PawPrint
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

I prefer fall travel, too. Not a DINK nor grumpy, but I prefer fewer people and less heat when I travel.

moola mind
moola mind
8 years ago
Reply to  chacha1

I’d like to add one of my favorites. Waterskiing. We go out once or twice a week, ski, and head back home all by noon. Its quick and refreshing. But like you, almost anything water related I enjoy.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago

I misread the headline to be “Seize the sunset” and thought you were going to extoll the virtues of sleeping in!

Great article, though.

KSK
KSK
8 years ago

Summer isn’t exactly my favorite season. Especially this year–way too hot/humid. Since we don’t have children we prefer to vacation when everyone else is back to their school routine.

I’m an avid hiker/backpacker so fall is my season. I have several backpacking trips planned for this fall. I’m really looking forward to hiking during the cool, crispy days; and cold nights sitting around a camp fire and sleeping in a tent.

If I could take the entire month of October off, I would.

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago

I love the ideas, unfortunately, I have a whopping mosquito allergy. 🙁 This means I have to be in by the time the street lights come on. LOL! One of my summer goals this year is to make an inexpensive mosquito-net “gazebo” for my back deck so I can at least sorta be outside with the fam. I am handy with a sewing machine, and I know where to get inexpensive material, it’s just getting off my backside and getting it done that’s the issue…

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  CincyCat

There is some great misquito netting clothing. Just search those terms. This is just one. BuzzOff_Clothing

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I loooooove the summer.

Yes, I’m stuck in the middle of a desert with no ocean or fresh fish, but the weather just says “don’t work too hard” and I think it’s okay to do that.

If I could I would flee North, to Nova Scotia or Price Edward Island or Alaska. Some place with lots of water and FRESH FISH.

Anyway, there’s a lake nearby and I just dug out my fishing pole from a closet.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

The server ate my post prematurely and won’t let me edit. Boooo!

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

A standing offer to take over my lake cabin whenever you get the urge to visit MN. Mi Casa Su Casa—even though I couldn’t spot you in a crowd of one. Ha!

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  KSR

This was a reply to Nerdo. What’s goin on with this site?

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  KSR

I don’t know but I got the message– thanks! We almost went to Minneapolis last summer for something. Would be fun to hang out!

Ann
Ann
8 years ago

Yep.. I grew up in Michigan, with a lake in the backyard… Each May, I count my good fortune at having had such a great kid-hood, and LONG to be 12 again: an age which afforded a fair amount of freedom to do things, with a miniscule amount of responsibilities and obligations. Swim, ride a bike, walk a dog, read a book…then do it all over again the next day!

Amy
Amy
8 years ago

This made me laugh. Almost outloud: “Summer is the time after seeding, before the harvest, when we get to sit back and watch things grow.” I am guessing you don’t grow much for food? Or grow much of anything at all? I’ve spent this summer fighting to keep things alive and growing in the record heat and record lack of rain for my area. On the other hand….this article reminded me that I did write a list of parks/beaches/sites to visit this summer that I will regret if I neglect to visit. So thank you for the reminder to Carpe… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy

I thought the same thing Amy. What I remember from being a kid in the summer on the farm was picking rocks and stumps and building granaries or fences from sunrise to sunset. It was glorious to take a break and go back to school. On a happier note, I’ve spent the last two summers with a month on the Oregon coast 2 years ago and 7 weeks from Montana & Idaho down to Colorado and Utah in an RV. This summer, the kid’s going off to summer camp so that mom can work extra hard and be able to… Read more »

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago

mmmm I need to get the lounger out under the breadfruit trees again for afternoon reading. I like the longer summer evenings for working in the garden. However…to go traveling I much prefer Spring or Fall. Less crowds and cheaper lodging.

cathleen
cathleen
8 years ago

I live in the Bay Area so we have a Mediterranean climate year round and we’ve been fortunate to not have the 100+ temps like the rest of the poor country. Also, no humidity. I *die* in the South and East Coast. I don’t know how people do it. Frugal tip for a pool. Check your alma mater and see if they have a pool and quarterly memberships. I pay just $50 per month for 3 months only when I want the pool in the summer and don’t need to pay an entire year like our local swim & racquet… Read more »

Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
8 years ago

Well said! Eat watermelon, too, and drink something out of a pitcher. Eat hot dogs.

Mel
Mel
8 years ago

Michigan summers make the rest of the year worth it. My family has a boat in Spring Lake right near Lake Michigan and I was just thinking how nice it would be to take a sunset cruise tonight. During the week there’s very few boaters on the lake. I can’t wait for the Free Fair in Ionia, Celebration on the Grand in GR or going up to a friend’s cabin in Grayling. The marina isn’t very frugal, but I split the cost with my family.

Tie the Money Knot
Tie the Money Knot
8 years ago

I had a few days off this summer, and that will likely be it. Things will be hectic otherwise. That being said, I do think that if one can do it, as I’ve normally done in past years, taking a solid week off for a vacation is a great thing in the summer. Plus, maybe take a long weekend or two. The pace is more relaxed, days longer, and it represents an opportunity to get outside and get some sun and fresh air. Good for recharging one’s batteries and just relaxing! We can’t go at a breakneck pace all year… Read more »

Kaytee
Kaytee
8 years ago

Summers in Vermont are amazing. Generally not too hot, hiking, mountain biking, swimming in rivers and ponds, many festivals all summer long…. and no snowshoveling!

Ant
Ant
8 years ago

I live in Miami, FL. Every day is Summer here… but wow how I miss that three-month vacation!

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

I’m definitely planning on spending many afternoons resting in my new backyard with my pooch. Camping and attending a handful of weddings.

Isela
Isela
8 years ago

This is my first summer off after 18 years of continuously working.

I didn´t realize how much was going out around me until I decided to quit my job an work from home.
Summer should be a time to relax , enjoy and plan for the rest of the year; and that´s what I am doing right now without spending much money.

David Sneen
David Sneen
8 years ago

There is definitely something to be said about every season. I have noticed that positive people tend to be people who, despite their busy schedules, find time to enjoy the outdoors.

Great listing of some of my favorite summer activities.

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