6 Easy Ways to Save Money This Summer

6 Easy Ways to Spend Less This Summer

Summer is just around the corner, and while some are worrying about sculpting their summer physiques, my concern focuses more on trimming up my summer budget. Summer is a spend-heavy season, synonymous with vacations, road trips, and even smaller-ticket items like ice cream trips that can still really add up.

I want to enjoy all of that, but I want to be able to do it guilt free. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to cut down spending before summer, so that your savings won’t take a hit when it’s time to get up and get out. The money you save can help you pay off debt using the debt snowball spreadsheet.

Enjoy What You Have

It may seem like a trivial bit of advice, but psychological evidence is stacking up to suggest that creating a positive mindset when it comes to what’s already in your life can help you control larger habits, including spending.

The underlying ideology is that creating contentment with what one has counteracts the need to refresh or replace; a need that’s constantly fed to us, because the free market is only as good as its ability to sell in the marketplace.

Think about the mania surrounding the iPhone as an example. We all know someone who lines up at midnight to be one of the first to get their hands on a new generation, even when they had a perfectly functional piece of technology beforehand.

We want the new phone because it’s supposed to be better, more capable, and have a more rewarding user experience. At the end of the day, though, a new phone might alter our mood for a few hours, but what does it do for us long-term that one generation previous couldn’t?

Small things like simply writing down a few things you appreciate in your life and taking the time to do things you can enjoy for free can get your mind off of spending and help you focus on the material items in your life that are truly, functionally worth the cost of addition or replacement.

Here are a few free things worth trying that might just lead to a pretty great time:

  • Going for a walk through a nice part of town
  • Checking online for free neighborhood activities or festivals
  • Finding a museum with a free admission day
  • Organizing a game night or fantasy sports league
  • Using sites like Meetup.com to meet people who share similar interests

You’d be surprised at how many fun ways there are to pass the time that don’t cost a penny, especially during the summer season.

Set No-Spend Goals

Once your head is in the right place, challenge yourself to not spend outside of necessity. The Budget Diet ran the numbers, and if you cut down spending by $13 a day, you could save $400 a month, which comes out to around $4,800 a year.

Living completely no-spend is difficult, but going no-spend for short bursts can help cut out those unnecessary costs, such as impulse buys, entertainment costs, and even things like clothes and shoes that are eating up thousands of dollars of savings a year. Spending only on necessities such as bills, groceries, and gas for even a week can add up.

Take me, for example. I have a set food budget every month that gets me more than enough at the store to get by. For the sake of convenience, though, I rarely bring lunch and thus spend about $10 five days a week grabbing a bite. If I went no-spend for one week, my lunch expenses alone would save me $50.

The idea of no-spend is not to get you to give up all spending, but rather to create short savings bursts that can help you better evaluate what is really worth your time and cash. Free apps like GoodBudget and Mint can even help you keep track of your spending easily and on the go.

Get Minimalist

Minimalism is as hot a trend in finance as it is in design, and believe it or not, the two actually kind of pair. This is a big and small change coupling, where you need to go through both your current space, expenses and see what you can cut.

Minimizing things like clothing, furniture, and home décor is a cent-on-the-dollar kind of change that can not only help with creating a clear headspace when it comes to cash, but will also save you a little bit each time you downsize since there is less that has to be cleaned and maintained, meaning less spending on things that aren’t that important.

The next step is go through and financially clean up those things that you’re actively paying for, but don’t really need. If you’re paying for a cable package, for example, but spend most of your time binge watching Netflix, cutting your package down to just internet could be a savings of $100+ a month.

Go through your services, utilities, insurance, etc., and see what can be cut down based on what you actually use. Pay specific attention to services like car insurance, cable and internet, cell phone plans, and anything that comes in bundles. You may be able to cut it down to just the services you need and save in the process.

Change Your Transportation

There are a lot of ways to save on transportation, especially if you drive yourself. Taking advantage of even one of these even once a week can cut some major fat from the gas budget:

  • Take public transportation
  • Walk or bike to work
  • Participate in a commuter carpool
  • Take advantage of pretax commute payment options

Changing the way you get to work can greatly impact the way you save. Paying with pretax dollars, alone, can save commuters hundreds a year without even having to change the way they get around, and the American Public Transit Association estimates that by switching from driving to transit, commuters could save between $8,960 and $14,612 annually. I was actually very surprised when I saw this.

Cut Back On Inflating Items

A good beer is one of the great indulgences in my daily life, but did you know that between July and August of 2018, the average cost of alcohol and tobacco products went up by 1%? Considering that’s just one month, that’s a climb worth noting.

The good news is, these things tend to move in cycles, and prices both rise and fall over time. Keeping track of what’s on an upswing (such as alcohol) and where deals are good (such as gas) can help you prioritize your spending so that you can focus more money on what will get you further.

If you really do have a bar you’re seeking to stock, fear not. There are plenty of Apps that can help you compare prices both in store and online to help you make sure you’re getting the best deal on those things you just can’t do without.

Sell Before You Buy

If spending really must be on the table, you might as well get a return on it, even if it’s small. Look at selling earlier versions of the items you’re looking to purchase, especially for larger items like new technology, household appliances, or anything that’s going to take three or four figures out of your account.

Selling off your old wares won’t cover the full cost of the new one, but it will help recoup some of the budget, and mitigate overall costs by tens of percentages at a time. Items with the highest resale value on private listing online marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist include:

  • Cell phones
  • Power tools
  • Yard equipment
  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Gently used furniture
  • Bicycles
  • Motorcycles and scooters
  • Large household appliances
  • Cars

Through a mix of cutting expenses, smart spending, and a healthy mental attitude when it comes to money, getting your budget in line before summer is completely possible. Of course, these things are good year-round, but now’s the time to rake in the savings so that you can enjoy fun in the sun without any added financial stress.

How To Save For Your Goal

How to Save Gradually for Your Big Goal

Whether you’re saving for a wedding, an exotic vacation, or you simply want to establish an emergency fund after a financial crisis, you need a plan in order to achieve your big goal. Saving money isn’t always easy and if you don’t already have a habit of socking away a portion of your savings from each paycheck, now is a great time to start.

According to Bankrate.com’s June 2018 Financial Security Index, 27% of Americans surveyed do not have any money set aside in an emergency savings account. However, 72% of those surveyed who made more than $75,000 per year had at least three months’ in an emergency savings account compared to just 35% of those who made less.

Adopting and sticking to a gradual savings plan can help you set aside money for bigger goals while securing your financial future.

Use these tips to gradually save for a future purchase:

Set Weekly Goals

When you’re just getting into the savings mindset, it’s important to set small goals which will eventually lead to bigger goals. Try to save a certain amount of money each week and slowly build up from there, so you can stick with your plan and stay motivated. Give yourself some time to reach your smaller goals, so you avoid feeling overwhelmed before setting larger ones.

Use a Smartphone App

If you have a hard time keeping track of your money, download a smartphone app. Apps make it easy to visualize your savings goals and monitor your accounts at the touch of a button. You can keep costs in check and put together a realistic budget with the help of apps like Mint.com, Budget Ease, and LearnVest. Our personal finance app can also keep your finances in order.

Try Online Banking

One of the great things about setting up an online savings or checking account is being able to organize your funds easily, as well as create savings categories for different purchases. If you have a hard time keeping track of your goals and prefer to manage your finances online, consider opening an online savings account.

Shop around to find a bank that offers an online savings account with high interest rates and low fees. To help you get started, here is a list of some of the best online savings accounts for 2019.

Operate on a Cash-Only Basis

Make things easier on yourself and maximize your hard-earned dollars by making sure you are only spending a portion of what you have – and socking away the rest. Avoid using credit cards or loans in order to keep your finances in line and maintain realistic budget parameters.

Breaking the credit habit may be difficult at first, but it will be much easier to bolster your cash reserves when you are no longer relying on credit.

Be Very Specific About Your Goals

Sometimes you may lose the motivation to save money simply because you do not have a concrete goal. Not surprisingly, if you aren’t inspired, you will have a hard time staying the course. Write down at least two or three major savings goals and imagine how it would feel to achieve them.

Visualize going on the vacation you’ve always dreamed of, buying the car you’ve always wanted, or paying for your fairy-tale wedding without blowing your budget. Write down your estimated costs, so you can work with a clear goal in mind.

Saving Money For Travel

Saving Money For Travel Tips

Many families take a vacation as a reward for working hard and making it through the preceding months. Vacations create unique memories that everyone will share for years to come. Coming up with the money for a trip is not always easy. There are five budgeting tips that any family can use when saving money for travel.

1. Create A Savings Account

Creating a separate savings account for vacation money will help in a number of ways. It allows families to see the actual amount of money saved without having to deduct current expenses. A separate account also makes it harder to access the savings. This reduces the chances that it will be used for an impulse purchase. A dedicated savings account is useful because it is safe and separate from the main accounts used every day. Fees or other charges on a checking account will not affect the vacation savings.

2. Temporarily Eliminate Extras

A vacation is a time to relax and to have fun. One way to save money for a trip is to reduce the extra services in a home temporarily. Sacrificing a little entertainment or fun while saving will make the vacation much more enjoyable. Some extra services that could be cancelled include premium cable channels, housekeeping and expensive cell phone perks that do not affect service. These services can be reactivated after the vacation. The money from the cancelled services can be put directly into the savings account each week or month.

3. Lower Credit Card Payments

One way to help save money is to try to lower credit card payments before the vacation. Lowering interest rates will reduce monthly spending on bills. Credit card companies will sometimes lower rates for good customers who call and negotiate. This is not always possible for people with credit problems. A reputable credit repair service can often fix credit history problems quickly. This can make it possible to negotiate with a credit card company for lower rates.

4. Reduce Vacation Costs

An alternate way to help save money for a vacation is to lower the cost of the trip. This will make each dollar saved more valuable. Reducing the cost of a vacation can take some work. It is helpful to check regularly if there are new deals or discounts available. Finding less expensive hotel rooms or airfare will make it easier to save and will give the family more spending money once the vacation starts.

5. Create And Follow A Budget

The most effective way to save money for a vacation is to create a budget and then follow it as closely as possible. The budget should account for food, gas and other spending. Unnecessary expenses like eating out should be removed from the budget. All members of the family should resist spending money that is not listed in the budget. A good budget will predict exactly how much can be saved each week. It also shows expenses that could be reduced.

Hulu Or Netflix

Hulu Or Netflix: Which One Is More Worth Your Dollars?

Most consumers used to just sign up for cable without thinking about the alternatives, but the era of cable bundles may be coming to an end soon. Many people are finding that they would rather watch television online using their mobile devices as well as their gaming consoles and computers for a flat-rate that is much lower than cable.  Read more on ways to save money this summer.

So Hulu or Netflix?  Well, netflix currently has about ten times as many subscribers as Hulu, but their service has also been around much longer. Netflix has pledged to spend five billion dollars on acquiring new content throughout the next five years. They will be focusing on acquiring all of the most popular movies and television shows.

Hulu is owned by ABC, NBC and FOX. They currently offer customers the current season of shows from these networks for streaming. In addition to their large selection of television offerings, Hulu is currently experimenting with the addition of movie titles.

Hulu & Netflix – Accessibility and Content

Hulu or Netflix can both be streamed on many different devices, including smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and Blu-Ray players. They both allow customers to stream content over mobile broadband 4G and 3G networks.

Netflix is currently stocked with about 100,000 streaming options and their movie collection is constantly growing. They offer a variety of television shows, however most of the shows they offer have been cancelled. Their options for current television series usually don’t include the current season.

Hulu offers many current television shows and most current episodes are available the day after they air on television. Most people who watch Glee and other current television shows opt to subscribe to Hulu. The have shows from many networks, including ABC, BBC America, FOX, The CW and USA. The movie selection at Hulu is sparse, but their selection of television shows is excellent.

Hulu and Netflix Users Watching Habits

Hulu and Netflix Users Watching Habits

Pricing for Hulu and Netflix

Netflix streaming costs just $7.99 per month for unlimited streaming of any of the content on their site on any supported device.

Hulu offers customers many shows for free at Hulu.com, but these shows are interrupted by substantial advertisements. Customers can choose to subscribe to Hulu Plus, which costs $7.99 per month and allows customers the ability to download mobile apps and access Hulu content through gaming consoles. The amount of ads is substantially reduced for Hulu Plus customers, but a few ads still appear during streaming.

The Bottom Line On Hulu or Netflix

Many people who get rid of cable spend $15.98 per month to subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu. This gives you the best of both worlds, with a variety of movies and television shows available for streaming at any time. Netflix is generally the best option for customers who want to keep their cable bundle while giving themselves the option of instant streaming and more movie choices.

Budget Planner Template

Using A Budget Planner Template

I recently received an email from John about using a budget planner template.  He wrote:

“Hello, I’m feeling a little lost and have some questions in regards to budgeting and saving.  1. Which budget planner template should I use?  2. From the total salary what percentage is ideal to spend for various needs, and how much to be saved for future?  Any insight would be greatly appreciated.”

It’s a question that we all must answer. Even if some of us would prefer to ignore it! Because, with rare exceptions, we all have to deal with having just so much money to cover all our expenses. And, if we spend more than we take in for very long we get into trouble.

Let’s look at a “typical” budget planner template. Then we’ll discuss it.

Category % of Income
Housing 35%
Food 15%
Auto 15%
Insurance 5%
Entertainment 5%
Clothing 5%
Medical 5%
Everything Else 5%
Savings 10%

Understanding The Budget Planner Template

The first thing you’ll notice is that I didn’t include any taxes (either income or Social Security). You can choose to do that if you like (in fact, it’s a real eye opener). But for our purposes it’s easier just to deal with your ‘take home’ pay.  The second thing to notice is that this is a guideline, not a straight jacket. The truth is that very few of us will fit into this exact framework.  So if your spending doesn’t match, don’t despair! Analyze the situation before you panic!  Try our excel budget template!

Customize the Budget Planner Template To Fit Your Wants & Needs

For instance maybe your entertainment spending is closer to 10%. Is that a problem? Maybe not, if you’re young, single and sharing an apartment with three friends. In that case what you save on housing is going for entertainment. So overall you’re not spending more than you’re making.  Or you may be a city-dweller where housing is very expensive (think NYC). But because of public transportation you don’t own a car. So the extra you spend on housing is offset by the reduced spending on transportation.  You get the idea. Tailor your spending plan to your needs. And, adjust it as you go through life and your needs change.  One other thing to notice is that housing, food and auto make up the lion’s share of the expenses. That’s true for almost everyone.  It’s in those three areas that most families get into trouble. Most often by buying a home or vehicle that they cannot afford. But once the commitment is made it’s very hard to undo.

Categorizing Your Expenses

You might wonder where a certain expense goes. For instance, household cleaning supplies. Many people buy them at the grocery store. So are they a housing or food expense? The answer is: it doesn’t much matter. Put them wherever it seems best to you. The key is always putting them in the same place, so you can compare results from month to month.

Another common question is what should I do with charitable contributions. You can either take it off the top (like taxes) or create a separate category for it. If you believe that contributions should come before your expenses you’ll want to take it off the top. If you think that it’s part of your regular spending then include it as another expense category.  For a budget planner template to be effective you must continuously follow your progress.

How Much Should You Save?

Finally, let’s look at John’s question about saving. There probably isn’t any single right answer, because saving isn’t really an expense. It’s an investment for a better future.  So I prefer to think of savings in terms of priorities. Before I can put money aside for savings I need food and a reasonable shelter. Probably also need dependable transportation to get to my job.  But after those basic needs are met, it’s time to begin saving some money. Not necessarily the 10% in our guidelines, but 2, 3 or 4%. Enough so that there’s some money set aside for the so-called unexpected expenses that happen to us all (dead appliances, home and auto repairs, unexpected sickness, temporary lack of work).

One other comment about savings. Paying off debt (especially credit card debt) is a little like savings. Consider payments used to reduce the amount owed as if they were savings or a Bank CD.  Finally, for those of you who don’t want to bother with any of this. I know what you’re thinking: I’m fine and don’t need any help monitoring my money. Just remember that most people who are in trouble today said the same thing when everything looked good to them.