It should come as no surprise that, after the winter holidays, we spend more on average during the summer than we do during the rest of the year. This makes sense to me, even though I identify as a non-summer-loving individual. Summer is billed to us as a time to relax and unwind from the rest of the year — there is no tax season in the summer! It’s time for vacation!
How to create a summer budget for your time & money
But in reality, I think a lot of us find that summer is more expensive because of pragmatics, not just “fun” spending. I’m already a little overwhelmed looking at a calendar of all my upcoming commitments. It happens to be the year I get married, but even excluding purchases related to my own wedding, it’s going to be an incredibly expensive season for me. It’s all good things, of course — other people’s weddings and bachelorette parties, trips to see friends and family, a fun, semi-working vacation with my fiance, Peter. But when you want to say yes to everything, your wallet has to say yes, too.
I’ve put together my own little cheat sheet for myself so that I have a working summer budget for both my time and my money. We are now two weeks away from the beginning of June, which gives you plenty of time to figure out your own summer budget and gameplan. These are just a few ways I’ve figured out how to keep my costs low during a season when I sometimes forget my financial goals:
1. Create a savings spreadsheet
First things first: know exactly what you’re saving, and what for. In a perfect world, you will have already saved everything you need to for at least the big-ticket items this summer, like an upcoming vacation. But we’re not perfect! I’m well on my way to saving everything I need for everything I have coming up this season, but I’m definitely not all the way there yet. (If this is also you, here are a few last-minute summer saving tips.) And remember, summer is also a time to be saving for the rest of the year — and if you put in a little work up front, you won’t have to spend so much time worrying about what you’re not saving.
In order to keep track of everything (not including long-term savings and my retirement contributions, which are automated), I keep a running spreadsheet of everything I need to save up for. The system I use means my spreadsheet is never going to be “complete,” because I just keep adding to it when new short-term savings goals pop up. Here’s every cost I currently have on my summer saving spreadsheet:
- Wedding/honeymoon expenses
- Flight to Vancouver
- Colorado hotel
- Vancouver hotel
- Vancouver spending money
- Vermont rental car
- Flight to St. Louis
- Rental car for Marissa’s wedding
- Bridesmaid costs for Alice’s wedding
- Honeymoon spending money
I keep an “amount saved” and “amount still needed” column, and update them as I add to the savings pile. Once everything on this list is accounted for in my savings, I’ll add new line items that are a bit further away — transportation and gift costs for the holidays, vacation savings for next year, etc. This system is, of course, not just a summer budget, but now is as good a time as any to really get organized with your savings!
2. Create a “shopping only” email address for store newsletters
And only check it when you actually need to buy something. This is honestly a wonderful thing to do at any point, but I find that even I am a more impulsive shopper during the summer than at any other time of year. When it gets unbearably hot and humid out, I just need more breezy dresses and linen culottes that may or may not look terrible on me. I’ve started transferring all of my store newsletter subscriptions to a dedicated email address that I stay logged out of and honestly forget about most of the time. Then, when it’s time to buy a dress or a swimsuit for an upcoming beach weekend, I can just log in and see which store has the best current promo codes.
3. Schedule a few “off” weekends
I can’t recommend this enough. I’ve ended up planning my summer so that I’m gone four weeks in a row this July, and while, again, they are all commitments I am looking forward to, that much back-to-back travel is not my favorite thing. After I realized that, I blacked out a few “off-limits” weekends on our household Google calendar. This is to help me (really us) maintain my sanity and also not spend so much money every single weekend, and risk blowing my whole summer budget. Also, I somehow feel like I missed out on NYC summer by the time October rolls around every year, and I want to try not to feel that way this year. Which brings me to:
4. Put together a list of go-to inexpensive activities in your area for when boredom inevitably strikes
Of course, the caveat here is that it’s a lot easier to find cheap and/or free summer activities if you live in an urban area. New York may be one of the most expensive cities in America (if not the world?), but there is a ton of free programming. Even just in the park across the street from our office, there seems to be something free going on every day. But, I promise, you do not have to live in a big city in order to not spend a ton of money this summer!
I recommend making a list of all of the inexpensive activities in your area. Look up walking trails and parks that you have yet to visit. See if your area’s rec center offers any free fitness classes, or maybe even adult recreation classes, like bird watching or painting. Check out whether your local bowling alley or movie theater has special deals every week (growing up, we had $5-ticket Tuesdays). There’s a good chance you live near a minor league baseball team — look up their schedule, because you can often find tickets for $10-20. The point is, if you have a list of options ready to go at all times, relieving your summer boredom and sticking to your summer budget is going to be so much easier all season long.
5. Start using a password manager
Again, this is something I personally recommend doing all year round. (I must give credit to Peter, who bothered me about setting one up for two whole years until I finally gave in.) But if you’re spending a lot of summer on vacation, or even just relaxing at home, you don’t really want to worry about things like your online security. A password manager can mean keeping all of your logins safe — including your bank and credit card accounts — so you have less to worry about. It’s a little annoying to get set up and start using, but it becomes second-nature after just a few days. We use 1Password, and it works great!
6. Queue up a bunch of books to put on hold on your library’s website
I already cannot praise the library enough, but I have become fully obsessed with keeping books on hold. You queue them up, and sometimes you have to wait weeks or even months before it’s your turn to read them — which, in my opinion, makes it all the more exciting when you do get to check them out. Most libraries offer ebooks to check out now, too, which makes it even more convenient. The NYPL and many other libraries use the Libby app, which I can attest is super user-friendly! I definitely recommend queueing up a bunch of books so that you have plenty of options come available to you this summer. Because even though I use the library, I am never without reading material. I literally haven’t bought a book all year (excluding one for my book club’s first meeting), and I’ve read 11 books in 4.5 months.
7. Make a few specific plans
Lastly, go ahead and make some plans — especially if you’re not traveling this summer. The more you have to look forward to, the more enjoyable the season will be. Also, the more you plan ahead, the more affordable it will be. It could just be marking your friends’ calendars for a few recurring potlucks, planning to see a summer blockbuster, or taking a day trip to the beach. Whatever your plans may be, simply having them will make you start feeling that little bit of summer joy we all need.
Image via Unsplash