By Sabah Karimi
If you want to enjoy a carefree summer, make sure you have your finances in order so that money stressors don't rule your days. Whether you want to jet away on a summer vacation or just plan on enjoying a few weeks of rest and relaxation at home, prepare for a fun summer ahead by taking steps to improve your financial situation right now.
Here are six smart budget moves to make before summer begins.
1. Create a summer travel budget. If you're planning on doing any traveling this summer, put together a realistic budget to cover the cost of those road trips, weekend getaways or flight and hotel packages to your destination of choice. Start researching deals and determine what type of budget range you are comfortable with for each visit. Consider being flexible with your travel dates so you can secure a great mid-week deal or last-minute package to offset some of the costs.
2. Cut out extra expenses. Trimming down expenses even by $50 a week can save you $200 a month leading up to those long summer days. Take a close look at your grocery budget and everyday expenses such as coffee trips, parking fees and other miscellaneous costs that add to your weekly expenses. Cut back on extra trips, or plan on carpooling to save money on gas. Cook more of your meals at home to save on food costs. Making a conscious effort to save a little here and there can help you build up that savings account sooner than you think. Use a budgeting app for a few weeks to get into the habit of tracking your daily expenditures while you're on the go.
%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-884%3. Organize your accounts. If you have more than one bank account or different types of accounts that may or may not be collecting interest, consider consolidating your accounts to make it easier to manage your money. Some online banks allow you to create sub-savings accounts for specific purchases and expenditures; this can help you build up that summer travel fund or just allocate a certain amount of money for recreational purposes for the season. Take inventory of your accounts to determine whether you are paying unnecessary fees or accumulating charges because you aren't maintaining a certain balance. Those extra costs can add up, so it may be time to shift things around and just maintain a single account.
4. Prepare a list of budget-friendly activities. Now is a great time to brainstorm some fun ideas and activities for summer. Being spontaneous is always fun, but it can also be a costly venture when you consider that many hotels and resorts book up quickly for the summer and command higher rates during peak season. Plan ahead by making a list of budget-friendly destinations, free activities in the area and low-cost events that you might be interested in attending this summer. Creating this list now can help you pick up a fun activity even at the last minute -- without worrying too much about cost. Turn to your chamber of commerce, local parks and recreation department, area museums and local travel blogs for some interesting ideas in the months ahead.
5. Boost your income. If you're having a hard time saving money, seek out some simple ways to give your income a boost. You could pick up a part-time job for a few months, sell some items online or talk to your current employer about getting a raise. Be realistic about how much you can earn over the next few months or how much you could cash in on by selling certain items. Make sure the money you save from these sources goes directly into a savings account specifically for summer funds.
6. Start operating on a cash-only basis. If saving money doesn't come naturally to you and you don't think you can reach your summer savings goal, start operating on a cash-only basis to get a better handle on spending. Withdraw a certain amount for personal expenses each week, and pay your bills directly from a checking or savings account. Getting into the habit of working only with the cash you have on hand can put you back in control of your finances and make it that much easier to set savings goals.
Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.
By Sabah Karimi