Welcome to our Gen Y money blog, where a recent grad chronicles her real-life journey to becoming a financially independent adult.
Blame it on the humidity, or the open patios, or both – I'll admit that I'm a bit less careful with how I spend my money during the summer months.
While I use the summer as an excuse to splurge a little on weekend getaways or patio days, I'm also always on the lookout for less expensive entertainment. Having spent four summers in Toronto living in an apartment without air conditioning on either a student budget or an entry-level salary, I also know a thing or two about having fun (and keeping cool) on the cheap.
For those of you in the same boat, here are a few fun and budget-friendly summer activities:
I'm not exactly new to Toronto, but I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this city. I enjoy the cliché of being a tourist in my own city and spending a few hours walking around a new area – it gives me a deeper appreciation for where I live. If it's especially hot, I'll drift in and out of stores to take advantage of the AC (yes, I'm one of those people). These adventures usually cost me less than $20 as my only expenses will end up including transportation, a coffee from a local coffee shop and maybe a pint from a local bar.
Street festivals are another fun way to get a taste of the city (and fill up on funnel cake). If you like food and live music, Toronto's street festivals are the place to be. While you could go crazy spending at festivals, I take a similar approach as I do with my exploring endeavours by bringing $20 in cash and seeing what it gets me. Penny-pinching festival hack: If you go during the afternoon, you can often find enough free food samples to fill you up until dinnertime.
Being a foodie on a budget is difficult – my current budget allows for endless binge-watching of The Mind of a Chef on Netflix, but not so much actually dining out at Michelin star restaurants. During Summerlicious, a number of restaurants in Toronto offer special prix-fixe menus, which gives me an excuse to check out some restaurants that normally wouldn't fit my budget. Dining out for Summerlicious isn't a cheap activity per se, but it's a cheaper option.
You better believe I'll be checking out some of the Panamania action (happening as part of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto) throughout July and August. I'm most looking forward to some of the free concerts happening at Nathan Phillips Square. Regardless of who's playing, free live music is free live music, and I'm counting on experiencing an exciting atmosphere that the city doesn't usually see.
Make your own sangria
This certainly isn't a Toronto-specific activity, but is a great way to get more out of a $10 bottle of wine while on a tight budget. Last summer, my roommate had the practice of making budget sangria down to a science – once you master the basic "sangria format," you can tweak it however you want (or depending on what kind of fruit you already have in your fridge). This is also a fun activity to do with friends, especially if you're sick of spending money on the bar patios – get everyone to bring a few ingredients and have a sangria party.
I'm okay with a little extra spending during the fast and hot Toronto summer, but it's not like my budget suddenly disappears as the temperature rises. As long as I'm finding the balance for both mine and my wallet's happiness, I'm staying cool.