How to make the most of summer on a budget

A 43-year-old retiree and frugal guru says what some of us consider essential summer costs may in fact be money pits.

Mr. Money Mustache offers some advice for those who want to swim, but also save

A picturesque view like this can be a cost-effective summer retreat, if you rent, says a personal finance blogger.

A 43-year-old retiree and frugal guru says what some of us consider essential summer costs may in fact be money pits.

Pete Adeney, a personal finance blogger who goes by the name Mr. Money Mustache, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning that if you think you're saving money in the long-term by putting a pool in your backyard — hoping to have more staycations and pool parties than expensive trips — you will probably be disappointed.

His money-counting mind started to wander when he visited his sister, who has a pool.

Adeney estimated the initial cost of getting the pool installed in 2000 was $30,000, but that all the extra maintenance costs add up to a lot more over the years.

A backyard pool can cost a lot to install, and a lot more to maintain. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

"People are swimming in here every day. She raised two boys with that pool. It just works out that when you add up everything you spend on the pool over those years, including the money upfront and all this electricity, chlorine and replacing the liner on all this other stuff, it can be way over $100,000," he said.

"Even if you swim every day of the season, every member of the family, it still works out to $20 per splash. So it's not nearly as affordable a thing for some people that think it's a reasonable choice."

Don't buy a cottage 'blindly'

Aside from swimming pools, what's more quintessentially summer than a weekend at the cottage?

But for anyone who wants to save, Adeney warns owning a cottage eats up quite a lot of money. There are more ongoing costs than pools, he said, and then you have to factor in driving and fuel.

"So that boils down to maybe, in my calculations, $800 a night that you're spending when you work out your cottage costs divided by the amount of nights you actually spend, and that's if you're doing it pretty much every weekend," he said. "If you're a casual cottage owner, it can be thousands of dollars a night."

He suggested renting a cottage instead for the weekends you want to get away.

As for families who value the summer cottage tradition, Adeney said "That's an awesome way to think about it.

"You are going to spend money on experiences and it's definitely worth it to spend money on these things, but it helps to understand what you're doing instead of going in blindly."

Tips for saving

Adeney, who used to work in Ottawa, embraced frugality and was able to retire in his 30s more than a decade ago.

"It was just a matter of not spending all the money we earned as reasonably paid office workers back in the old day," he explained. "You really can live a fairly normal life and still save half your income."

He suggested getting out of debt often comes down to the little things, which add up. 

"You need to stop buying yourself treats. I meet people who are in debt, and then they'll buy themselves $5 coffees and $12 morning drinks on the weekend … they need to connect the fact that these $10 expenditures are actually adding up to millions."