It’s that time of year…for beaches, sun and barbeque. Relaxation is the word of the season! Certainly the last thing on your mind is your saving goal for the end of year. But what better time to reevaluate your financial situation than the midway point of said year? Today I logged into our savings account to see what we’ve accomplished in the last few months, and honestly, it was a bit discouraging. Because we had to borrow from ourselves and then spend a few paychecks on reimbursement, it feels like very little has changed since the start of the year. But no worries–moving forward, not looking back, right? All you can do is learn from the experience. I guess the first question I should ask is, do you have a savings goal for the year? If not, there’s no time like the present!
After setting a goal, a good place to start is figuring out how much you need to put away every month in order to attain it. Calculate how many months there are before the end of the year, then subtract the difference between what is in your account from what the goal is and divide it by the number of months. Wha? In other words: say your goal is to have $100,000 in your savings by December 31st and you currently have $90,000. I would divide the difference, $10,000, by six (months). That would mean we have to save $1,666 every month from now until then. While this is systematic and helpful to see the bigger picture, I almost never save this way. I just do it to make myself aware of what should be happening, no matter how daunting the result. A little healthy pressure. I usually transfer money in clumps when a large amount comes in for some reason or another. Then nothing for one month. Then a little the next, and so on. I’m not sure this is the best strategy, but it has worked out for us so far (as in…last year). Here are some better tips for saving in the summer months when you’re often feeling lazy and in a savings slump.
1. Sell, sell, sell. Summer is THE season for yard sales. Try getting together with some neighbors or friends and combine your goods. You’ll attract more people this way. And be sure to advertise a lot! Even if you only bring in $100, that’s cash that you’ve moved from your closet to your bank.
2. Try an abbreviated version of the 52-week savings challenge, but just for the summer months. This is where in the first week of the year you deposit $1 into your savings, week two, $2, week seventeen, $17 dollars and so on. By the end of the year you will have saved $1,378.00. A reader once mentioned he was trying that out at the start of the year, and I’m anxious to hear how it’s going! I may even attempt it in 2015. But you really could hop in at any point in the year and just adhere to the same rules. For example, we are in week twenty-five right now. So if I started today with $25, by September 1st I’d have saved $330. That’s no small potatoes, people!
3. Save gift money if you’re a summer baby. I know it’s hard. I know those are your freedom fries! (That’s what that phrase refers to right?!) Your chance to get that skirt you’ve been eyeing or splurge on an Apple TV. But just think of the disappointment you’ll feel come December if you don’t make your goal. You won’t even be wearing that skirt by then! And Apple TV craps out on you. A lot. This works for other times of the year as well. Every Christmas that we’ve been married, my husband and I have received gift money from relatives and hung onto it. No regrets. I can’t even think what we would have bought with it had we splurged on something. Birthdays and holidays are kind of the perfect occasion to save cash because you are probably already getting something you want as a gift from someone else.
4. Abstain from purchases. Seems like the most obvious way to save. This summer, every time you want to buy something, add the cost to a list and keep a running total. Don’t buy it. At the end of the month or week (if you’re weak), put that amount in your savings.
5. Use your talent for side work. I have no special skills whatsoever and even I do this. Speak German or are really good at math? Offer tutoring on Craigslist at a special summer rate! I have a friend who has her cosmetology license even though that isn’t her primary vocation. One year, she was doing well with money, so she offered heavily discounted hair styling to all her friends. She drove to your house for the cut or dye and only asked that you pay what you can. She put it on Facebook, tagging everyone she thought would be interested and ended up developing a lot of loyal customers for a side job that wasn’t even really for the money. That’s kind of the key. You can’t be relying on this income to support yourself. It needs to be extra that you really will put away for a rainy day.
6. If you plan to go out of town, make it a diet vacation. You don’t have to go all out every summer. You can take a weekend trip, rent a place with a kitchen and cook most of your meals. Skip the lattes. Find free activities. There are always frugal options when traveling. It’s just hard to take them when faced with so much expensive and fun temptation. Take the leftovers and throw them at your goal.
7. Cash in your rewards from credit cards. This is tough. Credit card companies are so good at convincing you to use the rewards for a gift card worth $10 more than what you pay. What a great deal! Who wouldn’t want to use it that way? It’s free money on top of free money! But how about…just for the summer… using that cash to add to your savings. It’s not so bad when you limit it to a season, huh? Again, it may only be $50. But if you actually try most of these tricks, you’re looking at upwards of $1,000 come Labor Day weekend.
8. When you finish paying off a debt or bill, take that same amount you were losing monthly and start contributing it to your savings. It will feel like a seamless transition, which is the least painful way of doing it.
9. Airbnb. Rent your place out for a few days to make some extra cash. Summer is the season for people passing through town! See if you can go camping or stay with a friend or family member and save the money you make. Or use it as your travel funds instead of pulling from your regular money.
10. Save “loose change”. Went out to dinner and spent $27.01? Round up and remember to save $2.99 for that day. Your electric bill is $19? Pretend you paid with a $20 and save $1. If you do this all day, every day of the summer, that will add up to a lot of bucks. And it may even be incentive to stop spending as much money.
Your savings goal may be very modest compared to the example I gave above. Maybe for the entire year it is only $1,000 because you are also trying to pay down a large debt. That’s okay! Next year it can increase to $2,000 if your situation improves. Just remember to give yourself some sort of cushion for emergencies before you tackle the debt so that you don’t go into more debt when an unexpected situation presents itself. And have fun. Summer is a time take a break from the hustle of the rest of the year. Enjoy yourself while being responsible at the same time. No need to lose sight of the prize just because the sun is a little brighter.