Temperatures are climbing, school is ending soon and everyone wants to beat the doldrums with some fun summer activities. However, keeping the kids (and yourself) entertained can put a strain on your wallet. Here are some strategies for having fun in the sun without breaking the bank.

Create a spending plan. As with any budget, creating a plan for how you will spend your money and when is critical to enjoying a cost-effective summer. One method is to allot each child a specific amount of "fun money" for each week. The kids can then practice good financial habits by determining how they will spend their portion. A spending plan also helps reduce spontaneous purchases that can add up throughout the summer. For example, planning meals the week before a picnic can prevent the potential cost incurred by ordering pizza or fast food during the week.

Research budget-friendly activities. Many towns and cities in Wisconsin offer inexpensive or free activities during the summer. Your city's Chamber of Commerce or Travel & Visitors Bureau will have a full list of movie theater specials, park activities, zoo schedules and outdoor concerts. Many local libraries also have free reading sessions for kids on weekdays during the summer, which can be a nice break from the heat if the rest of your time is spent outdoors.

Enjoy a DIY waterpark. For a family of four, admission alone can cost over $100 at a large waterpark, and then you have to factor in concessions, parking, gas for travel, etc. Rather than spending all that money for a day in the pool with hundreds (or thousands) of people, organize a neighborhood water park party! Each family that gets involved contributes something to the event: food, a slip n' slide, water guns/balloons, prizes, etc. Keep it low-key or go all out; it's up to you.

With a little research, careful planning and some creativity, you can have an exciting and enjoyable summer without squeezing your budget! 

An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns.