How to have fun in the sun this summer without taking on extra credit card debt.
Summer has officially kicked off, which means that it’s a good time to set a summer budget. A summer budget can help you maintain stability over the next few months, so you can avoid credit card debt. With that in mind, the experts at Consolidated Credit have some tips that can help you build a budget that will help you stay on track this season. We’ve also included some free resources that can help you save even more.
#1: Review your budget to adjust for seasonal costs
Summer is usually a time when many of the flexible expenses in your budget change. Flexible expenses are any expenses that are necessary in your budget, but have no fixed costs. This includes bills like your electric bill and water bill, as well as necessary expenses such as groceries and gas.
All those expenses we just mentioned tend to increase in summer. Electric bills increase with higher A/C use. Water bills go up in summer as you water your grass more and particularly if you have a pool to fill at your house. Gas for your vehicles tends to be more expensive per dollar during summer. And if you have kids, your grocery bills can also increase since the kids are home during the day.
To make things easy, look at how much your bills increased from May to June of last year. Review your checking account transaction statements and total up expenses in each of these categories. This will give you a measure of how much you can expect your costs to increase this year.
How to Analyze Adjust Your Budget
This video teaches you how to make seasonal adjustments to ensure you maintain a stable foundation with your budget.
Analyzing and adjusting your budget to foster financial stability.
A budget is a basic blueprint of your finances. It helps you organize and categorize expenses for a stable financial house. But you can’t just draw it up and toss it aside. You have to check in often and make adjustments as needed.
Fixed expenses only adjust if there’s a change, for example annual property tax adjustments on your mortgage. This consistency makes it easy to house fixed expenses.
On the other hand, flexible and discretionary expenses have no set cost. So you have to take steps to ensure they fit in your budget structure. To do this, you set target spending limits for each expense. Look back at what you spent in the last three months. Then take an average of those three months to determine a target spending limit.
Once your budget is set, compare your actual spending to the targets you set. If actual spending is consistently higher, you must cut back or adjust the target limit. Just make sure total expenses always fit the structure based on your income. If one expense grows, something else may need to be reduced or cut.
Come back to review your budget at least once per quarter or every three months. And also remember to make seasonal adjustments. Utility bills and fuel costs typically change from summer to winter. And you can also use your budget to plan ahead for key events like back to school and holiday shopping. By revisiting your budget often, you can always have a financial house that adjusts as needed to fit your life and goals.
For more great tips on budgeting, visit ConsolidatedCredit.org
#2: Save up for summer vacation spending money
If you’re taking a trip this summer, you hopefully already have your flights and accommodations booked. If not, then you need to book soon or you can expect to pay higher rates. In general, the sooner you book reservations, the less you can expect to pay.
Outside of reservations though, start setting money aside out of each paycheck to use as spending money for the trip. This will give you several rounds of saving to generate cash, so you can avoid pulling out credit for every expense on your trip.
Statistics show that 90% of us rely on credit cards to cover vacation costs. But that means you end up with credit card debt to pay off after your relaxing getaway… which just increases your stress right back up again. The more you can save to pay for daily vacation expenses and souvenirs in cash, the much happier you’ll be this summer.
#3: Look for smart ways to reduce the cost of your trip
In addition to saving up for your trip, it’s important to find ways to cut costs.
- If you haven’t booked your accommodations yet, consider getting a room with a kitchenette so you can cook some of your meals yourself. Covering breakfast and some lunches on your trip can significantly cut the cost of food on your trip.
- Take as much as you can with you, so you can avoid higher prices at the hotel. You can take snacks so you can avoid vending machines and, if you’re driving, take things like floats and pool toys to avoid rentals.
- Look for deals on excursions, either through apps or in a destination coupon book. You should also look into local events going on during your trip to find fun (and often free) local entertainment.
8 Money-Saving Vacation Travel Tips
This video offers money-saving tips for your summer vacation so you can cut costs and avoid bringing home too much credit card debt.
When you’re Penny Wise you know that a vacation put on credit cards turns into debt, and it’s only going to stress you out. Use our eight money-saving tips to avoid overpaying on your next getaway.
Penny Wise vacationers know that overseas travel often means added fees. Pound Foolish doesn’t check to see what the fees are, so they end up paying up to four percent per transaction.
Meanwhile, Penny Wise checks with all of their credit card companies in advance to find the card that has the lowest international fees. And they’re wise enough to know that a one percent fee is common, but any more than that may be way too much.
Penny Wise also reviews package pricing closely to make sure it’s the best deal. Pound Foolish always makes reservations in packages because it’s easy, even if they know they won’t use everything included. And they do foolish things like not comparing the a-la-carte costs against all-inclusive packages.
But Penny Wise weighs the price of individual components against all-inclusive packages to determine the best deal. And they check this every time, for every trip since deals vary by location and the activities they want to do.
Penny Wise vacation planners also know a constant stream of “buy me” from kids can drive up the daily cost of a trip. Pound Foolish piles on added expenses by paying for every little thing their children want, from snacks to souvenirs. But Penny Wise sets a daily spending allowance for each child and lets them know they have to stick to that amount or use their own money.
Penny Wise also knows that you can save big on domestic trips with an entertainment book. Pound Foolish arrives at a domestic destination and THEN decides what to do. As a result, they end up overpaying on food and entertainment.
Penny Wise knows you can purchase entertainment coupon book for most U.S. metropolitan areas and they’re full of valuable discounts. And they also check with the concierge or flip through a local newspaper to see if there are other free events going on.
Penny wise vacationers know how to save money on food. Unlike Penny Wise, Pound Foolish shells out cash for snacks whenever the family gets hungry. So, the Pound Foolish family overpays for things like trail mix, chips, gum and soda that are more expensive in hotels and airports.
Penny Wise packs snacks to take along, so the family can munch whenever they want without spending money on pricey hotel vending machines. And for driving trips, Penny Wise packs a cooler so the family can make less stops and keep costs low.
Penny Wise also knows that gratuities can cost a lot. Pound Foolish never budgets for gratuities, so they have to pull out cash at ATM machines to tip service staff. And they overpay on cruise ships where tips can really add up, too.
Meanwhile, Penny Wise budgets ahead for gratuities for everyone from bellhops to taxi drivers and pulls out cash in advance to cover them all. And Penny Wise even takes the extra step of checking tipping.org to see how much they need to tip each person.
Penny Wise vacationers keep in mind that phone calls on vacations can be expensive. When you’re Pound Foolish, you overpay anytime you call home. You use the hotel long-distance service at ridiculous rates or stay on your smartphone even when you’re roaming.
Penny Wise reviews mobile plans in-advance to check roaming charges. And when they use a landline, they buy a phone card before they depart so they can make the least expensive calls possible.
Finally, Penny Wise knows internet access can pile on added costs. So, they check ahead with the hotel to see if they have free wi-fi or if charges will apply. Pound Foolish doesn’t bother thinking about this, so they pay high rates at hotels… and even more on cruise ships
Visit ConsolidatedCredit.org and stay cool by making your next vacation a debt-free vacation.
#4: Set aside some cash for back-to-school shopping
If you have kids, then statistically the back-to school shopping season is your second most expensive time of year. The only time of year that’s more expensive are the winter holidays. So, you need to start saving early for the back-to-school shopping.
Again, review your budget to determine how much money you have to set aside every month for savings. Then, you can split that amount up between all your summer needs – vacation savings, back to school shopping and your regular emergency fund. If possible, set up a recurring transfer for the amount you want to save. That way, the money gets moved automatically into your savings account so you ensure you save effectively.
#5: Start looking for sales and discounts on school supplies and clothes now
As you set money aside for back-to-school shopping, also be on the lookout for sales. From school supplies to clothing, anything you can get at a discount should be purchased when it’s priced right.
Most children come home with a school supply list of what they’ll need for next year. First, take inventory of anything that you have left over from last semester. Then, consider signing up for email coupons and savings alerts from your favorite office supply stores. You can also do the same for clothing. Hitting sales throughout the summer will help you avoid credit card debt in August.
#6: Give your vehicle some much-needed maintenance
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, vehicle gas prices invariably go up in the summer. Prices tend to increase by 50 cents or more, on average. So, you need to give your vehicle some love to maximize the miles per gallon that you can travel.
- Get an oil change and have all your fluids checked to make sure your vehicle is in top working order
- Check your tire pressure to ensure it’s in line with the manufacturer’s recommendation for your car. (Check the vehicle’s recommended tire pressure and not the pressure listed on the tire itself.)
- Clean out any clutter in the trunk or your back seat to the lighten the load
These tips will help you increase your miles per gallon as much as possible. Then, use the right type of cooling when you drive this summer. Go with windows up and A/C on for highway driving to reduce drag. Then switch of the A/C and roll down the windows for stop-and-go city driving.
People pay a tremendous amount of money for a new vehicle and consumers are stretching out their loans further and further each year. This booklet explains how consumers can save money when buying a car and helps you understand common mistakes to avoid.
#7: Ask your electric company for an energy audit or assessment
Electric bills can increase greatly during summer with the A/C running all the time, especially if you live in the southern United States. But even though you can expect your bills to increase, you can still take steps to keep them as low as possible. A good first step is to check with your local electric company to see if they provide a free energy audit or assessment.
This assessment will help you identify places in your house where you may be losing or using too much power. They can tell you if your A/C is running at peak performance and if any appliances are draining power. You can use the results of the assessment to shore up your home against leaks and power drains that drive up your bills.
#8: Get your finances ready for disaster season
Whether you face hurricane season starting in May, storm season in Tornado Alley or wild fires on the West Coast later this year, take some time at the beginning of summer for disaster prep. These tips can help you avoid debt out of a natural disaster this year:
- Buy supplies, such as canned food and water, early so you avoid rushes at the store and higher prices.
- Prepare a waterproof folder with important documents, including titles and deeds, insurance policy information and wills.
- Put cash in the same waterproof folder in case ATMs are not operational during a crisis.
- Take pictures of any property of value so you have current pictures of anything that could be damaged during a major event.
- Also create a list of price estimates of your property and keep it handy with contact information for making insurance claims.
- Check your insurance policies to make sure you’re covered for any type of damage that you may encounter; know what your policies cover and what they wouldn’t.
Natural disasters can derail even the best laid financial plans. Whether you live in a hurricane, tornado or flood zone, or an area prone to wildfires or winter storms, it’s crucial that you get prepared to keep yourself, your family, and your finances protected during the storm. This guide teaches you how to prepare, so you can minimize financial losses.
#9: Take advantage of money-saving apps
There are plenty of apps that can help you save money, not only during the summer, but year-round. However, these apps can be invaluable during summer, when people tend to drive more and need more entertainment options for the family.
- A good gas locator app, such as Gas Buddy, so you can find the closest cheap gas anywhere you are.
- A social outing discount app, such as Living Social or Groupon, so you can get the best discounts on local entertainment and attractions.
If you like concerts, also consider getting a ticket app, such as Ticketmaster or Live Nation. Becoming a member of these services can get you access to valuable presales and exclusive money-saving offers.
#10: Don’t wait to consolidate
When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates earlier this year, they indicated it would not be the only increase this year. In fact, they expect rates to rise twice before the end of 2018. That means now is the time to get financing, particularly if you want to consolidate existing debt.
Debt consolidation allows you to refinance existing debt at a much lower interest rate. You want the rate to be as low as possible, making it easier and faster to pay off your debt. So, if you plan on consolidating this year, it’s best to do it early before the Fed raises rates again.
Can’t qualify for low interest rates on consolidation yourself? Talk to a certified credit counselor to see if you qualify for a debt management program.