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5 Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Summer

Enjoy your summer break – without breaking the bank.

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With exotic vacations, wedding season, and summer-body prep work out classes, Summer can be one of the worst of times for your wallet. With sun in full swing, it should be the most relaxing time of the year. But when it comes to your finances, your summer mood can quickly turn into June gloom.

We often think of summer as the time to check in on our fitness habits. But it’s also a good time to check in on our financial habits, too. The summer is peak season for all the big-spending occasions: weddings, vacations, music festivals, and many, many happy hours. This leads to some sticky situations, like dropping more money on drinks than you intended to, or procrastinating too long to book a flight for your vacation to Hawaii and spending way more than you could have.

Finances can give you a headache, but there are ways you can be more mindful of your spending habits and avoid that pressure. Here are a few financial tips that can make a long-term impact on your financial (and mental) wellness.

Check your balance on vacation days.

The U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off found that 52% of American employees report unused vacation days. It’s easy to forget that your PTO days have a monetary value, and depending on your employer’s policy, you might be leaving money on the table. Many employers have “use it or lose it” policies, so don’t let those days go to waste. At the very least, you can take a staycation to give yourself a budget-friendly break.

And of course, the financial benefits are secondary to your mental health. You might feel more guilt taking time off for vacation while many of your co-workers will also be out. But this mentality doesn’t help anyone—you, or your employer. Taking vacation is essential to your job performance, with positive effects on your motivation, energy, mood, and productivity. Take care of yourself first. Your job can wait.

When you do take vacation, plan your expenses ahead of time.

If you are going to take vacation time, there are plenty of ways to relax and recharge on a budget, from choosing local destinations to just spending your vacation time more wisely. When you’re making a lot of decisions like whether to go to a restaurant for dinner, how much to spend on a hotel, and whether to take a cab or walk, your vacation becomes anything but relaxing. 

That’s why you need to tackle those decisions before you board the plane. Book as much as you can ahead of time, from your accommodations to any planned activities. Make a budget for how much you’ll spend eating out. Plan out how you’ll be getting around. It’s tempting to take an Uber instead of figuring out the local public transit to get around, so it helps to get the map out and plan ahead of time. And once you’re there, be sure to take advantage of other travel hacks, like getting cash from the local ATMs for the best currency exchange rate or trying a local cooking Airbnb experience so you can sightsee and eat on a budget in one go.

Spend time with your friends without spending all of your money.

Nearly one in four Millennials say they spent money they didn’t have just to keep up with their friends at social events—a trend also called “FOMO spending.” The summer can be an especially tricky time, packed with music festivals, getaways, and weddings. It’s easy to feel the pressure to pay for things you wouldn’t normally allocate for in your budget, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pressure. 

First, suggest activities that don’t involve a high cost; maybe you switch up dinner by having a themed potluck party at someone’s house instead of going out. In expensive cities like San Francisco or New York, many people overlook all the amazing free things to do, like enjoying the park, street fairs, or a free museum day. Go volunteer with your friends at the soup kitchen or animal shelter instead of choosing expensive and indulgent activities. Another trick? Carry cash when you go out—you tend to spend less when you are actively handing over money than simply swiping your credit card. Finally, don’t be afraid to be honest. Your friends are probably in the same boat (you might be in this whole student debt thing together) and you can all have fun together without breaking the bank. 

Consider a summer side hustle.

If you’ve ever thought about spending more time on one of your passions and picking up extra cash to fund those festival passes, the summer is a great time to try it out. From Wag/Rover (for the dog lovers out there), tutoring, to rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber, to selling your gently used clothes on Poshmark or The Real Real, there are a ton of summer-friendly side jobs you can get into. 

At the very least, you’ve pursued something you enjoy doing, while earning money on the side for those times you can’t talk your friends out of the Vegas weekend (okay, you didn’t try that hard to talk them out of it). And who knows? Maybe you’ll realize it’s time to try freelancing full-time—just don’t forget to enroll in benefits like health and life insurance. 

Invest in healthier habits that will stick around after summer.

During summer, our personal wellness and fitness are top-of-mind. Like New Year’s Eve, people are thinking about making lifestyle changes—that is, until a couple of months pass and they inevitably abandon their resolutions. 

The summer is the time to take another look at your budget and see if you can make room for some of those healthy changes. But it’s also the time to start habits that will have staying power even as the days get shorter and colder. A good example is running; it’s a lot easier to get up and go for a run outside when it’s light out and warm. So get in the running groove now—but also think about things like registering for a half-marathon in the future, to keep yourself accountable. Pull the trigger on the annual membership to your favorite kickboxing studio (after you’ve already spent a million ClassPass credits, it’s about time). While these things cost more money upfront, it will help you save money in the long run, commit to a long-term goal, and contribute to your mental well-being.

Even as we approach the end of July (how did we get here already?) it’s not too late to start taking better care of both your finances and your personal well-being. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be enjoying the stress-free fun in the sun that you deserve.

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