As a graduate student, I always feel the pressure to balance my budget while trying to have fun.
Having come from the sunny country of Nepal where the sun shines high and bright even on our snow-capped mountain areas (more about Nepal in my coming blog posts), I had no idea what all the fuss about SUMMER was until I joined my University went to upstate New York. Winters that practically lasted half a year made me realize why California is all the rave in the US. I realize there’s a reason why the “crazy” daylight saving is justified – to enjoy the sun as long as possible! 😉
Enjoying summer can be an expensive affair if one is not careful. I have been trying to be economical while also enjoying it thoroughly. I’ve listed down a few tips here that have helped me maintain my budget. These tips are more for the students who will still have a few weeks of summer to enjoy, but need some pointers for a new setting:
1. Enjoy the many natural swimming areas:
One of the things that I have come to appreciate here is that there’s always natural swimming area – a lake, a waterfall or a small pool in the park – and they are almost always free. In Ithaca where I live, a beautiful swimming area is only 20 minutes walk away. Dipping in cool water with the sun shining bright surrounded by natural green is a cheap way to enjoy summer, or what is left of it.
2. Prepare your own food and drink:
Summer is when things are a little less hectic, and we can actually find time to cook. As enticing as tall glasses of smoothies or patio settings of a restaurant look, they are also hard on the pocket. One time I found that my largest food expense of a certain month was on cold beverages. From that time on, I made a point to prepare a drink at home and carry it in a cold flask. I also prepare my own cheap but healthy version of summer salads. The internet is a great place to look for doable delicious recipes.
3. Scour the web/local notice boards for free local events:
A small town of about 30,000 people, Ithaca is bursting with free events every day for the whole summer. And small towns in the US cannot get much smaller than Ithaca. So whether you live in a big or small town, I’m sure there are loads of free activities going on. After that harsh winter, people make it a point to enjoy sun by organizing fun events outdoors. On any summer day, you can find about a 100 free things to do and attend in NYC. These are also great opportunities to know local culture, as well as meet all sorts of interesting people.
4. Make it a habit to hike to a point to enjoy the stunning sunset and/or sunrise once a week or a fortnight. Sunsets and sunrises can’t get much better than in the summertime. Also you can pack some salads or home-made smoothies, grab a rug, a few pals and spend hours basking in the setting sun.
5. Make use of any star observatory near you.
These are generally free. As summer provides one of the clearest nights, it is always great to go star gazing.
6. Keep an eye on ride shares/carpools: Summer is also about travelling. To budget travel, keep an eye on zimride.com or Craigslist for rides to happening cities around your area. They are eco-friendlier than private cars, cheaper, faster plus much more comfortable than buses/trains/planes.
7. In sync with the ride share, also search for probable lodging accommodations specially StudentUniverse in advance. Booking a hostel in advance means that you get to choose the best in the lowest price. Can you believe in Niagara Falls, I got a dorm bed as cheap as $22? But if you are not quick to grab it, they will be packed pretty soon. Its summer after all.
Besides these points, also check out the previous post by our student blogger for more cheap traveling tips at Traveling With No Money.