Ahhh, summertime. While it has been cold, chilly, and rainy over the last week, I hear there will be some true summer weather coming this weekend. Finally! I can't wait for weekends on the lake and cooking on the grill every night. I'm definitely ready for some carefree summer days.... That is, after I make some smart money moves.
You may think that major changes in your spending habits and other area of personal finance should wait until the New Year, or at least until camping season is over, but summer is actually a great time to try out some simple money solutions.
- If you're a student, you probably don't work full time during the school year. During the summer, however, you work a full 40 hours (and maybe more) so you have greater cash flow.
- If you've just graduated, this summer marks the start of your student loan grace period. In just a few short months though, your first payment will be due. Yikes!
- We all tend to get a little "relaxed" with our money during the warmer months, which can impact our finances later in the year.
- June/July marks the halfway point in the year, meaning Christmas and other expensive holidays are just around the corner.
The solutions below, offered by Personal Finance Writer Susan Johnston of US News and World Report, will help you stay on track with your money over the summer. Get your finances organized so you can spend more time worrying about which beach chair is best for napping.
1. Spending Review
Have you become relaxed with your spending? I have. I've been quick to order take-out when I'm too busy to cook and when I do have time to go to the grocery store, I go without a list and end up with many items I don't really need (and that I can't really afford). Take a look at your spending from January 1st until now. Where could you tighten up? Where have you become a little too lax with your spending? Write down your spending goals to help you stay focus through the summer.
2. Automate Bill Pay & Savings
If you don't do this already, I suggest you start this summer. Setting up automatic payments for your bills and automatic deposits for your savings will keep you caught up, even if you're away. If you plan to spend any length of time away this summer, automating your payments is the best way to stay on top of your bills and savings without having to worry about it. You're supposed to be relaxing by the lake, remember?
3. Plan for the Holidays
I mentioned this above: Christmas is coming. I know, I don't want to think about winter or holidays or anything related to snow either, but starting to plan for the gift-giving, food-making months ahead will alleviate stress down the road. You can avoid holiday-related debt by starting a special savings plan now. Calculate your budget or anticipated holiday spending and divide that number by 6 to determine how much to set aside in your holiday account. Preplanning will help you avoid overspending on last minute items.
Now that you've got your finances in order, go outside! Enjoy the sun this weekend and embrace the warm weather! I can't wait to head to the beach with my new book. What are your plans for the nice weather this weekend?