The summer sun may have given you cause to have a little too much fun. From weekend getaways to backyard barbecues, it’s oh-so-easy to get off budget during the months of June, July and August.
After all, there are amusement parks to visit and new restaurants to try, not to mention the summer blockbusters and all of those wedding gifts you’ve purchased. Have no fear if you find your budget out of bounds on a midsummer’s night. There are plenty of strategies to improve your finances before this season’s end.
Freeze your spending
Your money management skills could learn a thing or two from the ice cream and popsicles buried in your freezer. It might be a good idea for you to set up an extended period of time to go on a spending fast or at least freeze all unnecessary expenses.
For some of us, hardly a day goes by without us purchasing something. Dare yourself for a handful of days, a week or even a month of no spending. Set clear parameters — obviously to get to work you’ll need gasoline and more than likely you’ll need to purchase groceries, too. Plan a celebration — a meal out, a night at the movies or maybe even a symbolic ice cream cone — and party it up once you meet your goal.
Take the pantry challenge
The warmer weather during the summer months presents the perfect opportunity for you to eat simpler fare. No one wants to slave over a hot stove when the temperatures soar outside. Now is your chance to clean out your fridge, freezer and pantry, skipping a weekly haul or two to the grocery store.
Instead, plan your meals based on what you have and keep things as simple as possible. Listen, every once in a while, it’s OK to have cereal for dinner. In fact, your family might even think it’s awesome. PBJ night can be a classic summer tradition. See how many meals you can plan with only what’s on hand.
Host a family (and friends) night
Instead of sinking hundreds of dollars into entertainment, organize a special night in with family and friends. Rent a movie from Redbox and pop some popcorn on the stove. Dig into your board games and host a night of friendly fun.
Plan a pitch-in on a theme — choose your favorite world cuisine (Mexican, Italian, Chinese) or bust out of your dinnertime rut with breakfast for dinner, salads or appetizers.
Whether you break out the backyard games or build your own outdoor projector, an evening spent with those you love is worth way more than a pricey dinner or an expensive trip to a theme park.
budget for the next six months
Nothing halts your spending faster than evaluating upcoming expenditures. Take the morning off from your regular routine and begin to chart out your budget for the next six months. Don’t forget to account for back-to-school fees, fall clothing needs and even Christmas.
Rather than being caught in a pickle, your careful planning will allow you room to breathe when irregular charges crop up. If you need a budget outline to spark your memory when it comes to potential categories of spending, check out queenoffree.net/free-printables/.
Read a good book
Can I be honest with you? I spend way too much time on social media and watching mindless TV during the summer. While it may not directly cause me to spend money we don’t have, it does stir up malcontent in my heart. I find myself at worst wanting what others have or at best zoned out and unfocused.
Midsummer is the perfect time to unplug and read a great book. Choose a title that will inspire you and still be easy enough to read so you stick with it. Bonus: Your library might be offering summer reading programs, even for adults. Be sure you stop by and ask so the hours spent investing in yourself might also lead to some coupons or fun, free experiences.
Don’t throw in the beach towel on your checking account. Pause and evaluate your financial picture. Take one of these small steps forward, and you won’t be sorry when autumn arrives.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org