Don’t Get Off Track This Summer
- Written by Candice Elliott
Summertime and the livin is easy. Don’t get off track this summer by letting the relaxed vibe derail your financial goals.
Ah summer. Is there anything better? Long, languid days, sun, beach, barbecue, less clothes, cold beer. Sounds like heaven to me. But summer can be hell on your finances. Don’t let the carefree feeling that summer can induce make you careless with your money.
This won’t apply to those of us who are salaried but if you are paid hourly and your office gives you the option of summer Fridays, it seems pretty tempting. Who wouldn’t rather cut out at noon and get a jump on the weekend when it’s warm and lovely out?
If you have this option, take it. The world never feels so much like your oyster than it does on a summer Friday. But take them strategically. If you are escaping to the beach, head out early to avoid traffic. If it’s an especially nice day, take off and hit the park.
But if it’s forecasted to rain or if you don’t have any particular plans, forego that summer Friday and earn the money instead.
You’ve been couped up for months, not seeing anyone and obsessively tweaking your Mint budget categories. Unless you have an on-line shopping problem, winter is an easy time to save money on socializing.
It was so cold in New York that I think there was a stretch where I didn’t leave the apartment for like four days. I buy wine by the case and Fresh Direct delivers groceries so I couldn’t come up with a compelling enough reason to leave the coziness and venture forth. I’m not sure how the poor bastards up in Boston coped. Cannibalism maybe.
But now that mythical thing called the sun is back to kiss us with its warming rays. All hail Ra! We come out of hibernation to embrace our family and friends anew. We want to eat and drink and socialize like Bacchus.
You can certainly get carried away here. All the restaurants and bars open their patios and sidewalk tables and warmed by the sun, you can sit there for hours ordering more and more in the spirit of your rediscovered bonhomie.
You can do that but the great thing about summer is that you don’t have to. A cozy bar or restaurant are among your few options when it’s cold and miserable but summer gives you all sorts of options for cheap, al fresco socializing.
Pack some fruit, bread, cheese, and a nice bottle of Rose and make a picnic in the park or at the beach. Grab an ice cream cone and stroll a street fair. Invite everyone to a potluck barbecue. Heat makes us less hungry, we don’t need the extra calories to keep warm so you can eat less and eat lighter. A nice nicoise salad is cheaper and faster to put together than a beef daube.
You don’t even have to make food the focus of socializing in summer. There are so many activities available, art fairs, outdoor movies, hiking, kayaking, that are free or cheap and don’t involve a big bar tab or multi-course dinner. The dark and cold will chase you back to bars and restaurants soon enough, get outside to see your friends while you can.
I know you’ve worked hard all year and you deserve a vacation. Americans don’t get much if they get any and summer feels like a good time to take it. And it is. But it’s not always the cheapest time to travel.
But a vacation doesn’t have to mean an exotic,distant locale. You can take a few long weekends, bolstered by your half day Fridays and the summer holidays, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. If you can incorporate one of these into your plans, you can have a longer break without burning precious vacation days.
Do you have a friend with a beach house? See if you can get an invite. Like to camp? If you have or can borrow the gear, camping is fun and inexpensive. Look into something like WWOOFing or Helpx. You can visit nearly anywhere in the world and get free room and board in exchange for about twenty hours of work a week. All you have to pay for is getting yourself to your host and pocket money. Every wanted to visit a vineyard in Tuscany or a lavender farm in Provence? This is how you can do it.
Stay On Top Of It
The most important thing is just to stay on top of your finances. This time of year can make us lazy and complacent. We are busy pursing the pleasures the long, dark days of winter have denied us.
If you have things set up as you should, it shouldn’t be too hard to manage things with a minimum of time. No one wants to be stuck inside obsessing over every dime when the sun is out and the air is gentle. It’s more a matter of making sure not to get carried away with the pleasures of summer.
Take advantage of your opportunities but don’t let the summer you put the winter you in a bad position. Enjoy summer responsibly!