by Sarah J. Crouch

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the kids are home from school.  This is a recipe for summer fun or maybe summer financial disaster, especially if you are in a Chapter 13 case that was filed based on February expenses.

Think about it for a second:

Air conditioning bills go up.

If your kids are too old for daycare but too young to be home alone.  A Sitter? Camp?  Who can afford that?

And if you have to hear one more time about how Tommy’s family is going to Disney World…there will be consequences.

Did I mention the kids are home and you have to feed them three a day instead of two plus lunch at school?

Now hopefully you hired a savvy bankruptcy attorney who questioned whether you were going to have to pay for summer camp in the summer and listed it as a completely acceptable expense on your schedule I, knowing the Trustee was going to howl about it but willing to fight about it anyway, like us.  We may have also questioned how your utility bills changed throughout the year but much like Christmastime even the most prepared person goes into summer knowing it might get ugly.

So how can you help your budget survive the summer?  A few little changes can go a long way:

1.  Meal plan. 

This is one that I do all year because thanks to long hours helping you folks out I have a relationship with my crock pot.  (My family would literally starve or eat fast food everyday if it weren’t for this device.) I sit down on Saturday before heading out to the grocery store with my pinterest account and figure out what to make that week so that my family doesn’t die of chicken-induced boredom.  Make sure you plan each meal lest you fall victim to “ooops I didn’t plan lunch” and end up going out to lunch with your co-workers.

Bad at planning and making grocery lists.  offers an EXCELLENT online tool for meal planning and creates a grocery list for you!  It costs about 30 bucks for a year or 3 bucks a month for the full version.  I don’t think they have a mobile app yet, but they do have a mobile site that is fairly easy to use.

2.  Eat Fresh and Stock Up

Fresh produce will never be cheaper than it is right now at your local farmer’s market.  Go to the farmer’s market.  Stock up and freeze what you can’t use immediately.  There are about a million websites that will teach you how to properly freeze and store vegetables.  (I do this a lot and dole them out in the winter thus helping out my winter produce budget).

3.  Plant a Kitchen Garden

Got a kid that loves to play in dirt…put in a garden.  This will keep you and the kids busy while providing food for the table and being GREAT for the environment.   I work a lot, but I still have a small container garden on my back porch that provides my house with the salad veggies my husband and I would otherwise spend a small fortune on.  Again, about a million websites out there that will teach you how to do this, if I can do it so can you.  It is cheap to get started and who knows, maybe you expand next year and the year after and your kid grows up to be a famous botanist!  (It could happen.)

4.  Staycations & Mini-breaks

So Tommy’s parents are taking him to Disney World, let him go sweat in Florida in August while stalking a 20 something dressed up as a mouse….I can’t put into words how much I DON’T want to do that….like ever…

If you are reading this it is very likely that you live in New Jersey.  Lucky you!  Want to go hiking, head up to New York or over to the Water Gap.  Want to go to the beach?  Great!  We have MILES OF THEM.  Thinking theme park?  Grab a few of those soda cans with coupons or one of the 1800 coupons for Great Adventure you are offered at the grocery store or quickchek and stay local.  I have heard Ocean City is a blast if you have young kids.  The money you save on travel can be spent on souvenirs, overpriced corn dogs, and a few extra trips to the destination of your choice.  Beaches offer badges so you can save some money if you plan on going often and I am certain Great Adventure has a season pass of some sort too.  Plus NJ has no shortage of street fairs or free/cheap festivals to attend over the summer.  Grab the Ledger on Saturday morning or get on and check the Two Days section and I promise you will find something.

5. Utility Bills

The kids are home.  The tv is on more and in the last week you have probably put on the AC.  I am still holding out but losing ground slowly to the whole it is too hot to sleep argument….  This is going to get expensive if you aren’t careful.

The best tip I have seen to offset this is to just make the house comfortable rather than cool.  My AC and my heat are rarely set over or under 65-70 degrees, depending on the time of day as that dictates if anyone is even home.  It is good for the environment and I generally don’t have a lot of complaints from the family.

6.  Child Care & Camps

Child care is tough.  You have to work whether the kids are out of school or not.  The best thing you can probably do is talk to the neighbors.  Do they have a sitter?  Are they interested in sharing said sitter?  If they are, sit down with the sitter and make her a deal, she makes more money because she has more kids, but you save a bit by sharing the expense.  Everyone wins.

Camps….camps are tougher.  Not a lot of negotiating power, but the good news is you hired a GREAT bankruptcy firm, like us, that put this in your budget and you saved for it!  🙂

So try not to get too nervous.  You will survive summer in your bankruptcy plan.  It can be done!

Interested in how we can help you through your summer financial crisis?  Give us a call at 732-302-9600 or fill out our online consultation form and we will call you!