If your school is like most, then your teachers likely are covering economics to some degree. (That’s good!) When it’s summer, however, you have the perfect chance to learn more about this important subject in a real-world, hands-on approach.
- Summer fairs and concerts
When you go to most fairs and concerts, you have to go through a currency exchange, trading your money for the tickets you then can use for admission, rides or games. This is similar to the currency exchange you’d have to go through if you traveled to another country. You’ll likely find that the exchange rate—that is, the value of your money when you trade it—is fairly low in these types of events, with a single ride or game often costing several dollars.
- Gas stations
There are a number of factors that affect what you pay to fill up, such as the fact that warmer temperatures typically make fuel more expensive to produce, but the changes you see from day to day and week to week as you scope out summer events, go to a summer job or hit the road on vacation are largely a product of current supply and trade regulations. When gas is cheaper, it’s usually because governments and gas companies are producing and distributing more of the fuel. In some regions, such as the Middle East, oil is a major economic driver, bringing in billions of dollars to the countries that sell it.
Hotels, inns, motels and other venues have a limited number of rooms they can rent to customers. In the summer, demand for these spaces usually increases as people travel. The companies almost always respond to this increase in demand by bumping up their rates. You and your family still can save some cash if you’re careful, though. For example, hotels that are just a little out of the way from popular venues usually aren’t as expensive, as most people try to get rooms close to attractions and create bigger demand for those spaces. Experiment with your amenities, too—there’s no need to pay big bucks for a pool, gym, full breakfast and extended cable if all you’re going to do is crash and sleep for the night. Most places will reduce your rate a bit if you stay longer, as well.
- Farmers’ markets
Even though many vendors at farmers’ markets sell unique products like homemade hummus or BBQ sauces, you’ll often find that the selection of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices is quite similar from booth to booth, as sellers usually grow a variety of what does well in their specific region. This quirk means that the sellers have to be more competitive, and that prices often are still slightly flexible, just as they would be in a young economy getting established. Take note of what the different vendors are charging. Then go to the one you want to buy from and negotiate to see if you can get a good deal, pointing out where you’ve seen the same item for a lower price.
- Religious institutions/mission trips
Each religious group treats money a little differently, but in many churches, leaders collect cash from members. Some of the funds go to pay basic operating costs. In the summer, though, kids and adults alike usually have more time to put into service, so most churches treat the warmer months as prime opportunities for community outreach or mission trips. If you participate in these programs, either through giving your money or volunteering, you become more aware that not everyone has good access to all economic resources. That awareness can get you thinking about what is driving different class systems or economic development.
Just because school is out for the summer doesn’t mean you have to put your economy lessons on hold. In fact, summer presents some of the best chances to get thinking about how economies really work!