25 Ways to Get Your Finances Back on Track This Summer
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Don’t look now, but summer is right around the corner. I love this time of year because it usually means a family vacation or two. You may not be going on a trip, but you may have kids home from school or other activities that’ll keep you busy, and perhaps not focused on your goals. You may have started the year off with the goal to get your finances back on track. Whether it was to attack debt, start saving for retirement or making extra money you had noble goals in mind.
Then something happened. Life got busy and your goals fell by the wayside.
If that describes you, I know it’s tempting to throw in the towel and give up on the goal. Don’t! You’re only doing yourself a disservice. I know it may feel like you can’t or won’t make any noticeable progress. I know it may feel like the summer is too busy or you don’t know where to start.
There’s a problem with all of those thoughts; they’re excuses that will hold you back from the kind of life you want, free from the worry of money problems. If you want to get your finances back on track this summer it is possible.
You simply need to take a step in the right direction. No, you won’t achieve financial independence overnight, and you shouldn’t expect to. The point is to get started because one step will turn into many and build the confidence you need to achieve your goals. Not each option below will apply to your situation and that’s okay.
That being said, following even a few of them will help you build the momentum you need. Below are some ways to get your finances on track this summer and hit your goals this year.
Budgeting and Debt
Start Tracking Your Spending
I’m not talking about the “B” word here. Budgets may not work for everyone, and that’s fine. However, there is immense power in knowing where your money is going every month – without living by a true budget. That power comes by seeing how you’re spending, which reveals any changes you may need to make.
There are many ways to track your spending, but I’ve found that automating it is the simplest way. Personal Capital is a free tool that allows you to do that and many other things. Open an account today and start seeing where your money goes each month.
Leave the credit card at home
Does having a credit card in your wallet tempt you to spend money you don’t have? There’s a simple solution – leave the credit card at home and stop racking up debt.
Consolidate your credit card debt
If you have credit card debt you know just how suffocating the interest can be. According to Bankrate, the average APR on a variable rate card is almost 16 percent – and many are significantly higher than that.
Assuming you’ve cut the behavior that led to the credit card debt in the first place, you can save a good chunk of money by consolidating your outstanding balances into a lower rate loan. Sites like Lending Club, Avant or LightStream can cut 10 percent or more and help you pay off the debt quicker.
Lower your mortgage payment
How much is your mortgage payment? Have you taken advantage of the low rates to refinance and lower your payment? If not, you may be overlooking a great opportunity to save money. Do the math to make sure it’s right for your situation.
Think of this as the precursor to consolidating your credit card or student loan debt. Sit down and list out all of your debts, the interest rates, balances and minimum monthly payments to see where you stand financially. This allows you to know what you’re up against and form an effective plan of attack.
Refinance your student loans
We’ve all heard the numbers about student loans, and how their staggering amounts make it virtually impossible to make any kind of financial headway with them on your back.
Check out the current rates at SoFi to see how much money you can save by consolidating or refinancing your student loans. Just make sure you don’t give up any valuable benefits by going this route.
Cut one bill
Find one bill and cut it. You can either do some comparison shopping to reduce a bill or you can cut a bill altogether. Find something you can live without or will be fine reducing and go after it.
It can be as simple as reducing your cell phone bill by switching to Republic Wireless for as little as $15 per month or Straight Talk for as little as $35 per month or by cutting memberships you don’t use. Take the savings and use it for something that returns value.
Save Money on Food Costs
Start a meal plan
I hate food waste. We average over $500 in food waste per person, per year. That’s literally like throwing cash in the trashcan. A simple way to lower this is to start meal planning so you can shop wiser at the store. A service like $5 Meal Plan can help you come up with meal plans that everyone in your family will like and also help cut down on food waste.
This is a no-brainer and a great way to save money. In many instances generic is quite a bit cheaper and of similar quality. Find what you like that’s generic and put the savings towards something else in your budget.
Clean out your pantry
We saw this when we moved last year. We found food in our pantry that we didn’t know we had. Some had to be tossed; other things could still be consumed, which saved us money the next few weeks on our groceries. If this sounds like you, plan a clean out the pantry day every month or two. You’ll cut down on food waste and reduce the number of items you have to buy at the store.
Stop eating out
Eating out is fun, but it can get expensive. The average family spends at least $225 per month eating out at restaurants. That may seem like nothing, but taken over a year it comes out to $2,700 – that’s nearly half of the amount needed to max out a Roth IRA. Find a way to cut that in half, or more, and put that money to work for you, not against you.
Investing and Growing Your Money
Open an IRA
Are you currently saving for retirement or does it seem so far off that you don’t think starting now will make a difference? Don’t give into that myth. You can invest with little money, but you do need to start. There are many online brokerages out there that simplify investing for you. Some, like Betterment or Wealthfront allow you to open accounts for nothing or $500, respectively, and do much of the heavy lifting for you.
Find one way to make extra money
We hear a lot about side hustles. It’s for good reason as they can be a great way to bring in additional income. The side hustle my wife started seven years ago has turned into a business and we’ve more than replaced our income as a result. There are many ways out there to make extra money – regardless of your skill level.
Make more money at your job
Side hustles are a great way to make money. However, you shouldn’t overlook the opportunity staring you in the face – and that’s at your day job. Can you volunteer for overtime? Can you volunteer to take on additional duties? Not only can that be a great way to bring in more money but you can also grow professionally.
Save your tax refund
The average tax refund is somewhere north of $3,000. How much did you get back this year? Instead of wasting it on something frivolous, use it to build your emergency fund or invest in the stock market.
Open a savings account
A savings account is the traditional way to start saving. If you don’t have a savings account, consider opening one to get back on track. Banks like Ally or Barclay Savings let you start saving, with no minimum balance and pay at least 1% in interest.
Have a short-term savings goal
Many struggle to save for long-term needs, or simply save for a long period of time. Instead, make a goal to save a certain amount of money each week or month. Use the momentum to build your savings and bonus points for challenging yourself to save even more – the goal, after all, is to change your behavior towards saving.
how to use Shopping to get your finances back on track
Start planning for the holidays now
Christmas may seem like a long way off, but it’s only eight months away. Do you know how you’ll afford buying gifts? If not, start putting away a little money each month now so you won’t be surprised at the end of the year.
Go without something for one month
I’m not a big fan of no spend months but I believe it’s possible to go without a non-essential item for one month. That one thing will be different for everyone and that’s ok. Find one thing that’s a luxury and see if you can go without it for one month. You may find the value is worth the cost, but you also may find a new money-saving opportunity.
Start using the 30-day rule
How often are you tempted to buy something when out shopping? It happens to all of us. Now, how often is that purchase in your budget? To kill instant gratification, leave the item at the store and sleep on it for a month.
If you’ve come to the end of the month and no longer truly want the item, you’ve saved yourself money. The waiting helps you see if you really value the item enough to part with your money over it.
Get discounts through your employer
Many larger employers offer discount programs to their employees. It can range from cheaper cell phone plans to car insurance and more. We both did this before we quit our jobs and it saved us money each month on things we were already doing. There’s no sense in paying more than you have to!
Around the House
How much stuff do you have lying around the house that you don’t use? When we moved last month we sold a number of items – some large and some small and made close to $400. No, it’s not a lot, but that’s extra money that can be used in our budget. You can do the same and use it to pay off debt, invest in the stock market or build up your emergency fund.
There’s no need for explanation on this; you can save crazy money each month by killing cable. In fact, we’re saving $80 per month after canceling DirecTV and it was a great decision.
Create a visual reminder of your debt
Are you currently paying off debt? Make yourself something visual to have around the house to keep you on track. I did something similar when I was paying off debt and it helped me when I wanted to give up. Start with the amount you currently have and draw a progress bar going to $0.
Each time you throw more money at the debt you fill it in. I found this was one of the best ways to pay off debt quicker as it made me want to fill in each bar as soon as possible.
Fix something around the house
I’m not very good with my hands, but I learned one thing quickly when we became homeowners – it’s expensive to hire someone to fix something for you. With the amount of tutorials online you can do many things around the house and save a chunk of money in the process. I mean, really, do you want to pay someone $200 to fix something that requires a $10 part?
There are many other ways to get your finances back on track this summer. Find a few that work for you and make them work. Don’t give up because you think they won’t do anything for your finances. Each step you take will help you reach your goal of better managing your money.
What are some other ways to get your finances back on track this summer? What’s a new way you’ve found to save money recently? Do you assign savings from certain items to specific goals?