Life's A Beach: Get Your Finances in Shape for Summer

by Kali Hawlk May 25, 2018

Did you know that Americans collectively spend a whopping $100 billion on summer vacations and related activities, according to Marketwatch?

That’s a huge number, but perhaps not entirely surprising to those who have ever noticed a spike in their credit card bills come September.

The good news is that summertime fun need not come at the expense of your rest-of-the-year budget or your long-term financial goals. In fact, it’s possible — with the right tips and a little prep work — to strike a balance between sun-kissed thrills and keeping your finances on an even keel.

Here are nine simple things you can do right now to make sure your budget is beach-ready.

1. Write down your financial goals


Don’t let immediate fun push long-term goals further away. “Jot down your financial goals for the next one, three and five years,” suggests Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP and founder of financial planning firm Workable Wealth. “Heading into the summer with your goals written down will help you to curb impulse spending on fruity cocktails and trips you didn’t budget for.”

Feeling like you don’t have a goal? “Reflect on your most pressing financial concern and then set a goal based on that,” advises Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together. “Once you have the broader goal,” she adds, “break it down into smaller segments. That will help you actually take the steps you need to take today instead of feeling freaked out by the scale of your goal.”

Lowry speaks from personal experience. “I knew I wanted $10,000 saved by the time I graduated college,” Lowry explains. “That sounded like so much money, so I broke it down by year. That meant I needed to save $2,500 a year throughout college or even better, $208 a month.”

 

2. Follow your money


Simply paying attention to where your money goes can do a lot to change your financial life. Because when you’re more mindful and aware, you position yourself to make better decisions. You can use apps to track both your spending habits and your budgeting successes, alerting you when some aspect of your financial life needs attention or if you’re at risk of overspending.

 

3. Name your savings accounts


Creating a purpose-driven or motivating title for your savings account is one of Lowry’s favorite simple-but-powerful financial hacks. “You can change your bank account name from Account 3934101 to something like ‘Quitting My Job June 2019,’” she says. “Knowing exactly what that account is for makes it less likely that you'll skim a little off the top each time you have the desire to splurge this summer,” Lowry explains.

 

4. Auto-pilot really does help


You’ve probably heard this advice before, but putting your finances on auto-pilot really does help — especially if you want to spend less time paying bills and more time enjoying summer fun. Clear out your to-do list with auto bill pay, automated transfers to savings and automated contributions to retirement accounts. This can also reduce the potential for oversights such as forgetting to pay a bill by its due date and giving into the temptation to spend instead of save.

While you’re in your online accounts setting up those automated payments and transfers, toggle over to the statements view and set your preferences to paperless to reduce clutter. Less paperwork and it’s eco-friendly? That’s a total win.

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Don’t let immediate fun push long-term goals further away.
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5. Spend smarter


Cheap thrills are available in abundance during the warm summer months. Think outdoor events such as concerts, craft fairs, food truck convergences, outdoor movie nights and family days. Make a habit of meeting up with friends and BYOB instead of entertaining everyone — you’ll keep your social calendar full without breaking the bank.

You can also consider longer day trips instead of expensive weekends away. Ask yourself: will you get just as much enjoyment out of picnicking at your favorite day-drivable beach or lake, rather than footing the bill for a hotel room you won’t spend much time in? Know what truly makes you happy — and don’t worry about spending on things that don’t offer as much personal value.

6. Check in on your credit


Your credit score is a bit like your financial report card. It’s an indication of both the current health of your finances and an estimate of how likely you are to repay any money you borrow. The state of your credit report matters to your wallet because it may be a factor on how lenders determine the interest rate they may offer you.

You may be able to boost your credit score by taking these steps:

  • Make at least minimum payments on time. Payment history makes the biggest impact on your score.
  • Mind your balances. The second-biggest credit scoring factor? How much you owe. Pay your balances owed in full whenever possible. And if you can’t…
  • Create a repayment plan — stat — and stick to it. Other factors, such as keeping old accounts open and maintaining a mix of loan types, may play important roles, too.

 

7. Pick up financially savvy beach reads


Everybody loves a juicy beach read, but why not add a little money education to the mix? Not every finance guide reads like a textbook. Pro tip: Flip open a potential buy to a random page and see if the author’s style grabs you. If you’re drifting off through the first paragraph, choose something else.

 

8. Learn about investing — then do it


Of course, one of the most effective ways to be sure your finances are always in shape (no matter the season) is to take a holistic and overarching approach to money matters throughout this and every year.

Simple tips and money hacks are useful. But they’re no substitute for a true financial education. “Set yourself a weekly task to spend 15 or 30 minutes studying personal finance, reading financial blogs and books, or listening to money podcasts,” suggests Storjohann.

Even with some newly acquired financial knowledge under your belt, you still might be unsure about the best way to approach the market vis-a-vis your own unique resources, goals and needs. It’s OK — experts are standing by. Don’t be afraid to seek out advice from a seasoned professional.  

“While you can always go the DIY route,” Storjohann says, “investing in objective financial advice can pay off in optimized debt pay-down strategies, better allocated investments, tax savings and more.”

 

9. Keep it going


While getting your finances in shape for summer is a good start, you probably want to find ways to turn these actions into habits you can practice for years — and future summers — to come.

And the first rule of changing financial habits in a sustainable way is to keep it simple.

“Trying to do everything at one time can be paralyzing and stressful,” advises Taylor Schulte, a CFP and the founder of Define Financial. Instead, focus on one thing you know you can do to improve your financial life. “Maybe it's tracking your expenses — which just about everyone I meet with can improve on,” he says.

“Really commit to the process of making that action your new normal. Choose a method for tracking your expenses, block off a time and date every week on your calendar to update your budget and don't be distracted by other financial tasks you could be doing,” Schulte recommends.

Schulte says that once tracking your expenses and maintaining your budget feels effortless, that’s your sign that it’s time to move onto the next item on your list of financial success habits.

“One of the key factors in creating habits is associating a reward or benefit with the new behavior,” Schulte adds. “So you could also build in a reward for yourself if you successfully implement your new habit, and even ask someone to hold you accountable.”

“At the end of the day,” Storjohann says, “getting comfortable in simply talking openly and honestly about money is a great way to improve your financial situation.”

And really, what better place to start that conversation then at the beach this summer?

 

 

Kali Hawlk is on a mission to find all the free outdoor workouts in Boston this summer so she can keep her budget and body in summer shape. You can read more about her love of fitness and finances at GoingBeyondWealth.com

 

 

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article.

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Everybody loves a juicy beach read, but why not add a little money education to the mix?
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