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Summer conjures thoughts of lazy days at the lake, sunny afternoons in the garden, family barbeques and road trips you wish would never end. The last thing you likely want to think about is your budget. But if you want to make the most of your long weekends and vacation time, it’s going to require some planning to ensure you look back at your summer with warm memories instead of lamenting a mountain of debt.
Perhaps you’re familiar with SMART goal setting practices. These ensure your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable and time-limited. But as we anticipate the fun-filled season fast approaching, let’s look at how to create a SUMMER budget that will maximize your enjoyment while keeping you out of debt.
Be honest with yourself about how much you can reasonably spend, how long it will take to reach your savings goals and what sacrifices you may need to make along the way.
Start by tracking your spending for the next couple of months. Keep and tally your receipts. Identify spending trends by category (e.g. housing, utilities, transportation, food, personal expenses, etc.) and set reasonable targets for future months.
If you don’t already have an emergency fund, consider building one before saving for anything else. This provides a critical financial buffer in the event of lost wages or unexpected expenses. It also gives you the peace of mind you need to fully enjoy your summer without worrying about money the entire time.
Now you can think about some savings goals. For example, imagine you’re considering a road trip. You’ll need to consider the costs of fuel and automotive maintenance, along with how much you’ll need for meals, accommodations and any activities you have planned. Assume your goal is to set aside $1,500 over the next six months — that means you’ll need to save $250 per month. Is that realistic based on your current spending habits?
Responsible credit use is a skill that most people learn the hard way. It’s often tempting to look at the available room on your credit card or line of credit, imagine all the incredible things and experiences you could get for that money and forget how difficult it is to pay that all back.
Before you pull out the plastic for that all-inclusive vacation in Mexico, make sure you’ve got a comprehensive payment plan in mind — ideally, with most of (or all) the money already saved. Also, a firm understanding of what interest charges you’ll have to pay if you don’t.
Here are a few more tips for using credit on your summer vacation:
Click here to learn more about your rights and responsibilities when using credit cards.
There’s no denying that summer fun is awesome. But having food on the dinner table, a roof over your head and electricity to run your household is even better.
Saving for those extras and experiences that will make your summer memorable will take enduring some short-term pain for long-term gain. Force rank your spending goals in order of importance. First, take care of all the things you first need to survive. Then budget for the things you desire.
As much rigidity as you may try to impose on it, your budget is more fluid than you might expect. Get in the habit of frequently reviewing your progress. Compare what you wanted to happen with how things actually went. Also, ask yourself why you spent more or less than planned and what you can do to keep or build the momentum you want.
Review your overages — including what you did to reduce spending in one category when you exceeded your budget in another. What kinds of habits have you formed to keep everything in balance?
On the other hand, also review your surpluses — are you contributing those savings towards one of your wants or tucking it away for future emergencies?
Hands down, the most effective system to help you stick to your budget is the envelope system. This involves labelling several envelopes with each of your expense categories and filling them with the pre-determined cash value you’ve planned to spend. Every time you make a purchase from that envelope you get immediate feedback on your progress — whether you’re spending more, less or as much as you’d planned.
Sure, you can take cash from another envelope to pay for an unrelated purchase. But you’ll have to live with the consequences of potentially not having enough to cover your rent, go for dinner with your friends or attend that music festival you’ve been saving up for.
You can even ramp up the guilt by leaving yourself a note indicating why you took the money, when and how you plan to pay it back. If you begin noticing patterns in the number or context of those notes, it’s time to revise your budget.
Watch this video to learn more about the envelope system and how to make it work for you.
Keep a detailed account of every dollar that comes in — and more importantly — goes out. You can’t properly forecast your spending without reviewing and understanding your spending habits. Sort your expenses into your envelope categories, total and review weekly. Compare your spending to your budget and adjust your purchase habits if necessary.
Some ideas for how best to track your expenses:
Click here to learn more about some of the free tools available for tracking your expenses.
Nothing puts a damper on your summer plans like the stress of uncontrollable debt. If you’re struggling with monthly payments you can’t afford and they’re getting in the way of enjoying your life, you don’t have to suffer alone. Schedule a
Free Confidential Consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to learn your options for a permanent financial fresh start.
During this no-obligation meeting, your trustee will review your entire financial situation, along with your goals and difficulties and identify options available to defeat your debt for good. You may qualify for a Life-Changing Debt Solution such as
Bankruptcy or a
Consumer Proposal. They may also be able to recommend other debt reduction opportunities to help you get a hold on your finances.
You’ll walk away with the knowledge and recommendations you need to create a plan and make the best decision for your unique situation — as well as the confidence and optimism for a debt-free future.
Based out of Prince George,
Leah Drewcock is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Vice-President at MNP LTD. To learn more about how MNP Debt can help, contact our local office at 250.596.8321 or toll-free at 310.DEBT (310.3328).
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*310-DEBT doesn’t operate in MB, NW ON and QC.
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