How to Save Money in the Summer

I’m soooo good at saving money in the winter … because I don’t do anything or go anywhere. When it’s cold — and heaven forbid raining or snowing! — I am a master of staying home, cooking cozy soups at home, and watching the number in my savings accounts grow.

But when the sun comes out, the days get longer, and my seasonal depression fades, I emerge from my cocoon of comfort and conscientious spending and throw money at everything. Suddenly, my coffees at home are replaced by Hot Girl Walks to get fancy (read: expensive) iced lattes. My weekends are filled with activities and adventures that all cost money. And it seems like just stepping outside to enjoy the sun turns into a money-draining venture.

A month into summer I always get a shock when I finally look at my bank account. How could I have hemorrhaged so much money?

Talking to my friends, it turns out we all experience the same phenomenon. On the one hand, this helped melt away some of the guilt and shame at my spending habits. Instead of feeling anxious and paralyzed about my spending, talking it out made me realize my summer spending is normal. Then, relieved of the burden of that self-flagellation, I was able to actually address it.

The key part of taking control of your finances: not feeling bad about your spending. You’re an adult. You can make decisions. The trick is making sure your decisions are aligned with your overall goals, not just forgettable whims that come at the expense of your goals.

In conversations with my friends, we realized we all like spending money in the summer. Summer activities don’t feel right without a beverage, and getting together with friends outdoors is important to us.

But there has to be a way to enjoy some money without draining your bank accounts.

After a combination of reflection and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that saving money in the summer doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, by being more intentional about your money, you can actually end up being more intentional about your time — and having a better summer than ever.

How to save money in the summerPhoto by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. The secret is getting clear on your values and spending your money only on your very top-tier experiences, then saving the rest of your money instead of throwing it away mindlessly. Here’s how:

Get super clear on what you actually want to spend your money on

A good summer looks different for everyone. You could dream of festivals every weekend, an Italian vacation, or days in the backyard with your friends.

Get really specific on how you want to spend your summer. What do you want to do? Who do you want to see? Make a vision board to really get clear on your dream summer — and feel free to dream big. Then, ask yourself how much the big things cost. That festival ticket or round-trip flight to Europe has a sticker price. Once you know what it is, you can start saving for it.

Pay yourself first

Take the pain out of saving by automating your savings. If you know how much money you need for your big expenses, split that into weekly or bi-weekly “payments” you make to yourself and automate them into a savings account. This way, you don’t have to manually take the money out of your checking account. Save yourself the pain by setting and forgetting your savings.

Triage your priorities to see what you can save money on

As you work towards your big goals, you don’t have to give up on everything to fund your big-ticket items. Triage your common money-spending habits into three categories: your must-haves, your like-to haves, and then the things you don’t need.

While you automate your big savings goals, enjoy your “like-to haves” and give up on the mindless spending that doesn’t matter to you.

For example, let’s say you really love your summer beverages — from your coffee walks to your rooftop cocktails. Conventional finance wisdom might tell you to skip out on that little luxury. However, if they really make a difference in your mood, keep them and triage something else.

For me, summer means spending way more on eating out — so I try to make my home grocery budget stretch as much as possible. I also shop less in the summer — my uniform of a tank and jeans hasn’t served me wrong so far. While in the colder months, dressing up helps motivate me to go out, in the summer, I don’t need extra motivation. I throw on my simplest fits and go out into the world. Instead of buying a new hoodie, I put that money towards my summer fund.

Take advantage of sales

Whatever you do buy, try to buy on sale. Summer is full of holidays and sales where you can get great deals on things you were going to buy anyway. Don’t get suckered into buying things you don’t need. Take advantage of everything from Memorial Day to Independence Day to get great deals on necessities.

Get creative about summer activities

Okay, what if you’re in the midst of summer and looking for a way to drastically cut down your spending? Start brainstorming new and creative. I often find myself looking for things to do with friends and spending absurd amounts on cover charges at bars or bottomless brunch.

While a night out and a morning of mimosas are fun every once in a while, they can easily become the default activities — which is a sure way to watch your savings plummet. Get creative with group gatherings. Have a picnic. Host a dinner party. Go to a gallery opening (they always have free wine — score!). Find free events in your city. With a little research, you can step out of your comfort zone and end up having a blast.

Track your spending

Stay with me here. It may sound boring, but one of the best ways to prevent that feeling of dread when you check your bank account … is to know what you’re in for. By regularly checking on your spending, you can make small adjustments to your habits before they derail and drain your bank account.

And it doesn’t have to be complicated! We live in the digital age! Many new apps do all the work for you — just connect your accounts, and it will tell you exactly what you’re spending. By facing your money head-on, you can actually do something about it. And set yourself up for a fun — and financially secure — summer.

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