Ever since I got my first job at age 15, I’ve found it very important to maintain some sort of savings account. When I was younger, it was mostly birthday and graduation money from grandparents, with a gentle mix of $30 paychecks from the Driving School front desk job I worked at in the evenings. Over the years, my savings account has been a very important thing to me. When I’m a little extra low on cash, I sometimes forget it even exists, and don’t even factor it in as an option to bail me out. Seriously – today I was contemplating if I wanted to make a follow-up appointment with one of my doctors because pulling that $50 copay out of my dwindling checking account for the second time during this particularly cash-strapped week stressed me out. I laughed out loud to myself when I remembered that savings accounts and emergency funds exist for exactly these reasons.
However, the stacked savings account I’d been growing since junior year of high school was completely drained around this time last year when I bought a new car. I needed that car, and I don’t regret my decision – but I do heavily regret that my original savings goal of replenishing that account by summertime was not even close to accomplished.
So, at the beginning of this summer, I started fresh with a summer goal: $1,000. I was going to do whatever it took to stop playing the paycheck-to-paycheck game, and tuck a cool thousand away to build off of once my fall semester begins and I fall back into a more regular school-and-work schedule.
I wrote earlier in the summer about my school-year savings techniques that ended up saving me a huge chunk of money last semester. However, the money I saved doing that was all used for other things (i.e. tuition) and not actually put into savings. And without school regulating my schedule and budget, I needed to implement some summer-specific techniques to help me reach my new savings goal.
1. I quit buying alcohol in public.
I’m not a huge drinker, so when I realized I needed to seriously change my lifestyle to pinch pennies this summer, I decided that alcohol would no longer be a thing I purchased, at least when ~going out~. I’ve told myself I can buy alcohol at the store if I want to drink at home and live the #pregame life, but I have hardly taken advantage of that. In fact, since summer started, I spent $13 on a cheap bottle of prosecco, $12 on a six-pack of beer, and that’s about it. (Full disclosure: I have consumed a certain amount more in public, but none of it was paid for by me. I’m not above saying “yes please” to sweet dates with lovely men who insist on buying my beer. Thanks squad.) As an added bonus, this also means I have hardly spent anything on hangover breakfast/brunch.
2. I’ve temporarily sworn off of all lotions and perfumes.
I’ve been wearing the same perfume scent since I was probably a freshman in high school, and the bottle costs about $60. I usually replace it once a year, but two summers ago, I cut it out of my life completely until winter rolled around in an attempt to stop getting surrounded by bees every time I stepped outside. (For context: I was a camp counselor, and got swarmed by bees who smelled my sweet perfume every time I hit the playground.) The bottle I bought the previous year is still half full almost two years later because I laid off of it for those months. So now, the $60/year price tag is more like $15-30 because it lasts me more than twice as long.
This summer, I also decided to take it a step further and replace all yummy cocoa-buttery moisturizers in my life with sunscreen. I do also wear it every day year-round, but in the summer, my skin is way less dry and therefore does fine with a sunscreen-only routine (for both face and body). This saves me $40 on my regular face moisturizer, and $7 on my regular body moisturizer, and replaces it with two $6 bottles of SPF 50 that will last all summer. This means that I get all of the heavily-scented products off of my body during bee season, and I save a decent amount of money too.
3. I’m not buying any clothes with my fashion side-hustle money.
I also mentioned in another post how I have a money-in, money-out system with clothes: I sell my clothes online, then use that money as designated ~fun money~ for (usually more) useless clothing purchases. This has always been a good way for me to make sure I’m only spending money I made off of selling my wardrobe on replenishing my wardrobe; I’m just replacing it with new pieces without spending any extra. But this summer, I decided to set up a direct deposit from my Poshmark account directly to savings account rather than my checking, so I would no longer have such easy access to my side-hustle money (I swipe that debit card like it is my damn job). Treating it as real income instead of money to screw around with has been amazing, and added a huge amount to my savings goal.
4. I don’t fall for the ice-cream spending-trap.
Every time the New England weather starts to warm up, I get this Lana-Del-Rey-inspired Americana image of myself in my head, wearing thick-rimmed white sunglasses and a one-piece bathing suit that perfectly accentuates my curves while licking a strawberry ice cream cone. I feel like last summer I bought ice cream about once per week or more, and I’m not at all exaggerating. At anywhere between $3 and $7 a pop (yes, $7 – damn you Fairfield County!) That’s getting close to $100 spent on ice cream during the course of one summer. And the killer is, I genuinely don’t really like the stuff. It is like cow pus and it makes my stomach hurt. I purchased ice cream at a Real Ice Cream Shop once this summer, and it was only because the super cute dude I was with really likes it. Worth every penny, but I won’t get suckered into getting a $6 cone for myself any time soon.
6. I am swearing off my beloved recreational drives.
Over the summer, without my commute to school restricting my gas budget, I get way too excited to drive around recreationally and listen to ~fun summer playlists~ while sipping Starbucks and basically pretending I live in a Tumblr post. I realized this last summer, and decided to make sure that this year, I still maintained a strict weekly gas budget to keep myself from getting crazy. I confess, I slipped up and took one of these out-of-budget drives last night (blasting Beastie Boys as I drove aimlessly all over creation for way too many hours while my sweet friends caught Pokemon in my backseat), and then this morning, when I actually had somewhere to be, noticed my tank was empty. I went to the gas station four days earlier than my regular fill-up day with my tail between my legs, but I’m still pretty proud to say that this mindful driving practice has helped me stretch my regular gas budget of $25/week to $25/three-ish weeks. This is one of my biggest savers because gas is so dang expensive where I live right now – too expensive for me to be driving around anywhere besides the places I actually need to go.
On the first day of 2016, I wrote in my little notebook that I had a $5,000 savings goal by summertime. (Lest we forget how optimistic I was feeling on New Year’s Day.) I obviously didn’t meet that at all, but setting a smaller, more manageable savings goal in May of $1,000 by August 31st helped me stay laser-focused about how I would accomplish it in such a short amount of time. With still one month left until I go back to school, I’m so excited that I’ve not only met my savings goal, but surpassed it, and am hoping to double it by my August 31st deadline. I’m not making extra money this summer – in fact, I am bringing in less than I was during the semester (because my work hours cut in half when the kids I nanny are out of school), and I’ve still somehow managed to put more in savings than I did all year.
I also have written in the notes section on my phone a new $1,000 savings goal to meet by New Year’s Eve. I know adopting little savings practices that are consistently effective in my day-to-day life is more of a lifestyle than a journey to reach a single goal, but breaking it up into multiple $1,000 goals seems to work really well for me and keep me on track and excited about it. I might have to adopt some Fall-specific savings techniques (I’ve never really messed with the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I’ve been known to drop a small fortune on apple cider donuts), but I think I’ll be able to reach that goal too.
Mary is the summer Media Fellow at The Financial Diet. Send her your summer intern stories (your lessons, failures, triumphs and good advice) at firstname.lastname@example.org
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