Summer may be the season of relaxation, sun-kissed skin, and hot temperatures, but it’s also the second most expensive season after the winter holidays. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, all the summer activities and festivities—the daytime outings and late nights, celebrations, and vacations—add up quickly. And at the end of the day, we’re all liable to fall victim to the frenzied excitement of the season and miss the consequential effects it has on our wallets.
1. Take inventory of your finances
In order to make sure you’re financially prepared for summer, you first need to know what you’re working with. Take inventory of your current financial situation by calculating the total amount of your living expenses, any debt you’re paying off, and what you’re setting aside to deposit into a savings account or investments. Once you have that number, subtract it from your income. This will give you a general idea of how much money you’ll have left over to spend as you wish this summer.
In addition, take the time to examine your spending patterns; you can refer to credit card statements, bills, receipts, and bank statements to do this. These visuals will show you where your money’s going, which you can then use to find more effective ways to redirect your money and fit it into your summer spending plan.
2. Make small lifestyle changes now
Look at your expenses and see if there’s anything you can cut out or places you can cut back in for the time being. If you’re an avid reader, take advantage of your local library; you can borrow pretty much any book that’s ever been published, save hundreds of dollars, and witness your tax dollars being put to good use. Plus, most libraries now offer e-books and audiobooks along with their standard hardcovers and paperbacks. Making small changes now and throughout the summer will give you more flexibility to go out on a whim because you’ll have more to spend. Something as simple as canceling your gym membership and exercising outdoors instead or refraining from grabbing takeout and opting to make more meals at home can make the biggest difference.
3. Check in on your savings and debt payments
The last thing you want to do is continuously pull from your emergency fund to float your summer lifestyle, so find out how much you have saved up now. From there, figure out a baseline number (say you have $10k saved up; your baseline could be $8k) you don’t want to dip below. You don’t need to hit your baseline, but having one will help ensure you’re making regular contributions to your savings and not spending that vital money elsewhere. Whatever amount you decide on, make sure it’s enough to cushion the blow in case of an emergency; the general rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses saved up.
Additionally, having debt looming over your head can make it difficult to sleep at night, so if there’s any small debt you can pay off now, do so to alleviate some of that pressure and allow for more flexibility in your spending. If you’re paying off large amounts of debt, consider using a debt payoff app to get yourself more organized before summer starts. Tally is a great option for those who are paying off a lot of credit card debt, while ChangEd is a good option for those paying off student loans. These are just two examples, so be sure to do your due diligence and research; it’s always important to know exactly what you’re signing up for.
4. Go on a spending cleanse
Another way to really improve your budgeting skills and save up a bit extra before summer is by going on a spending cleanse for a week or two. During this time, refrain from spending money on anything but necessities. A spending cleanse is a very productive way to challenge yourself to be better with money and will inadvertently force you to create healthier money habits. It’ll also open your eyes to any unnecessary purchases you’ve been making over the years. Really, it’s a win-win all around.
5. Look at what you have penciled in
Check your calendar for any upcoming events and celebrations you already have penciled in—like birthdays, cookouts, weddings, baby showers, and so on and so forth. Doing this ahead of time will help prevent any unwanted, last-minute financial surprises from putting a dent in your finances and make planning your summer budget a lot easier.
Once you know what you have penciled in, calculate a rough estimate of how much each event will cost. Which events do you need to buy gifts for and how much can you realistically spend? How much will the drinks and food cost for any parties you attend? Getting everything in order now will not only make budgeting easier, but it will also give you a better idea of how much you’ll have to spend when all is said and done.
6. Swap out your old budget for your new summer one
Much like makeup and fashion trends are swapped out each season, budgets need to be as well. After you’ve completed the steps mentioned above, you can get to work creating your summer budget. This will replace your current budgeting plan, and you can make it by hand, on a spreadsheet or template, or through a budgeting app, like Goodbudget or Mint.
Key things your summer budget should include:
- Enough money to comfortably pay for living expenses
- Contributions to savings and outstanding debt
- The costs of any planned events or celebrations
- A small amount that can be used for unplanned surprises, like a random night out
7. Create a summer activity vision board
Manifest the summer of your dreams that doesn’t mess with your money by creating a vision board full of fun, inexpensive summer activities. Look up any upcoming summer events—like art festivals, street strolls, carnivals, feasts, etc.—going on where you live or in any nearby cities and towns. A lot of these types of events are usually free or very inexpensive. Visiting public beaches, parks, or hiking trails are also fun and inexpensive ways to get into the summer spirit.
On the flip side, keep in mind that despite the beautiful weather, you don’t always have to be out and about. In fact, there are tons of ways to fully embrace summer right from the comfort of your own home. Besides, what better way to embrace the laid-back vibe of the season than relaxing in your space? Grab a bottle of rosé, whip up a charcuterie board, and invite some people over to hang outside or relax in the A.C. Enjoy some pizza and champagne and watch the sunset, or go stargazing with your significant other. When the weather is nice, the options are endless.
Having a vision board filled with fun and inexpensive summer activities and ideas will help keep you from overspending and give you something to turn to for guidance throughout the season. Summer is the time to feel young, wild, and carefree, so don’t be afraid to have fun and get creative with your ideas. Remember that at the end of the day, making memories and having an unforgettable summer doesn’t have to come at a cost to your finances.