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It’s high summer, the best time of the year. Get a head start with 24 ways to get your finances ready for summer.
Summer is a time to relax, and it’s also a great time to get your finances ready before the end of the year before school starts and work kicks back into high gear.
1. Go Over Your Budget
If you set up your budget the right way and use the right tool, it pretty much takes care of itself. You don’t need to tinker with it every month.
But you should check in a few times a year. Have you had any changes to your income or expenses? Is there an area where you are consistently spending more than you should?
Take a look at your budget and make any necessary adjustments.
Involve your spouse or partner in this process. Both of you need to be on the same page for any budget to work and it’s a good time to reaffirm the financial goals you created together.
2. Your Investments Too
Buy and hold is the best way to invest but investments need periodic attention just as your budget does. Can you increase your 401k contribution? Do you have some extra money to fund your IRA or Acorns account?
Do you need to make an adjustment to your overall portfolio allocation to bring it back into balance?
If you have 401k accounts from previous jobs, roll them into your current employer’s plan if one is offered and accepts rollovers or into a new or existing IRA.
Leaving money in a 401k from an old job may mean you’re being charged increased fees and it’s just easier to manage your investments when they’re not scattered across multiple accounts.
3. Check Your Credit Score and Report
Your credit score is essential. Having a good score makes borrowing money for things like a home or car cheaper because the better your credit score, the lower rates of interest lenders will offer you. Having a bad credit score can prevent you from renting an apartment or even getting hired for a job.
Your credit score is based on the information on your credit report so it’s a good idea to get a copy of your report and make sure all of the information on it is correct. If you find mistakes, the FTC website will show you how to correct them.
You can get a free credit score and free credit reports from TransUnion and Equifax at Credit Sesame.
4. Do That Thing You’ve Been Meaning To Do
We all know that we can save money by getting a better deal on things like our cable and internet bills, our cell phone plans, and our auto or home insurance. But we don’t take the steps needed to do so, namely researching a better deal and then making the necessary phone calls.
Do that now. Because you can price compare online it really doesn’t take a ton of time to research and find a better deal and while dealing with customer service on the phone might be more time consuming, it’s still worth it to save some money.
If you have student loan debt, consider refinancing it at a lower interest rate with a company like LendKey or SoFi. Even getting a 1% reduction in your rate can save thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
If you’ve been struggling to get out from under credit card debt, call up each company and ask if they’ll reduce your interest rate. You won’t always get a “yes” the first time so if you don’t call back a few times and see if you one eventually.
Is your bank charging you fees? Change banks. With so much competition, there is no reason to pay bank fees. If you don’t have a fee-free brick and mortar bank near you, open an account with a no-fee online bank like Chime.
Sign up for a cash back shopping site like Ebates, so you save some money on your everyday expenses.
5. Take Advantage of Sales
As summer ends, summer clothes and shoes start to go on sale. Stock up on any clothing staples you wear in the summer like t-shirts, flip-flops, and swimsuits. Summer accessories like lawn furniture, pool floats, pool toys, and grills will be deeply discounted too.
Specific items go on sale at certain times of the year. In the summer, historically discounted items include computers, furniture, tools, appliances, bikes, and cars. If you’re in the market for any of those items, now is the time to buy.
6. It’s Never Too Early
It’s hard to get in the Christmas frame of mind when it’s 90 degrees outside, and you’re nursing a sunburn but getting a head start on holiday preparations now not only saves you money, it saves you the stress involved when you wait to the last minute. Start making gift lists and shopping for gifts during the summer sales.
It’s not too early to start looking at prices for hotels and airfare if you’re traveling over the holidays. You can create alerts on Air Fare Watch Dog, and you’ll get a notification when a flight your interested in drops in price.
7. Make a Cull
Go through your bank and credit card statements and look for things you’re paying for but don’t use. Things like music subscriptions, Amazon Prime (Prime can give you significant savings but only if you utilize what it offers enough to justify the yearly price which increased in the spring of 2018 from $99 a year to $119), or a meal kit service. I mention the meal kits because I had a friend who subscribed to one and then kept putting the food in the freezer because she ate out most nights!
If you see something, you can live without, cancel it and put that money towards paying off debt or topping up your emergency fund.
8. Start One New Habit
Start a new habit that will help you save money. Maybe start biking to work rather than driving or taking public transit. Stop paying for a gym membership and work out at home using Youtube videos. Spend a few minutes a day answering surveys to make a little extra money.
9. Break One Old Habit
Most of us have at least one habit that is not only costing us money but isn’t doing our health any favors either. Break one, money and health-sucking habit this summer. Stop drinking soda and switch to water (buy a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottles of water which cost about the same as buying a soda), stop eating fast food for lunch and instead make extra servings of your dinners, so you have leftovers.
Opt for paperless billing for everything you can. Eliminating paper bills makes life simpler. And set up your bills on auto-pay if the vendor offers that option if they don’t, you can usually set it up online with your bank. It’s still a good idea to log in to your accounts to make sure there aren’t any errors, but when you have your bills on auto-pay, you eliminate the risk of paying a bill late and getting hit with a late payment fee.
11. Do an Inventory
If any of your belongings were stolen or destroyed by a flood or fire, filing a claim with your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance company will be so much smoother if you can provide the proper documentation. Take photos of big-ticket items like appliances, furniture, artwork, jewelry, and electronics and photograph any receipts you have to prove their value.
For smaller value items like books, kitchen items, and clothes, use your phone to take a video of these things. You don’t have to record each individually, just pan your closets, cabinets, and bookshelves.
Take photos or scans of important documents like insurance policies, birth, death, and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, and driver’s licenses or state-issued identification cards. If you were to suffer a fire or water damage, you want to have a record of these things.
13. Set a Goal
Choose a financial goal for yourself to reach by the end of the year. Maybe you want to pay off the last of your student loan or credit card debt. Or you want to save $1,000 for an emergency fund. Make a plan to help achieve your goal.
14. Have a Yard Sale
Summer is the season for yard sales. Start planning one now. Not only will you clean out a lot of clutter, but you’ll make some extra money too. If you don’t have a yard, you can sell your items locally on sites like Craig’s List or Nextdoor.
15. Ask for a Raise
If it’s been awhile since your last raise, it’s time to ask for one. Go about it smartly though. You don’t want to just barge into your boss’s office and demand one. Document all of your successes and achievements at your job since your last raise, maybe you increased your sales by 17% or saved the company 12% by negotiating better deals with some vendors.
Research what other people in similar jobs in areas with a cost of living similar to yours are making at their jobs too. You want to know what you’re worth and if you aren’t offered what you think you deserve, you can negotiate and see if you can get more. You can find salary information on sites like Glassdoor and Salary.
16. Polish Up Your Resume
The summer isn’t really an ideal time to job hunt but come fall; there will be an influx of job openings. If you’re not happy at your current job or just want to see if you could be making better money, get your resume in order now so you can get a jump on other applicants when the leaves start to turn.
17. Research Scholarships
If you have a child who is heading into their last year of high school, help them start researching scholarships. The best bet is to go for smaller dollar value, lesser-known scholarships because there’s less competition. Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unrewarded every year because no one has applied.
It’s not necessary to have a perfect GPA to win a scholarship either. There are plenty of scholarships based on lots of things that have nothing to do with grades. All scholarships have deadlines so starting your research early means you and your student won’t miss them. Every dollar in scholarship money is a dollar that doesn’t have to be paid out of pocket or taken out as a student loan.
18. Learn Something New
Something related to personal finance that is. If you have a gap in your personal finance knowledge, you can’t get out of debt; you’re too scared to start investing, you want to buy a rental property but have no idea how to start, spend some time this summer filling in the gaps.
There are tons of podcasts, books, and blogs that can teach you any aspect of personal finance you want to learn. You could also take a course on personal finance at Udemy.
Pick one topic and become an expert before August turns to September.
19. Update Your Passwords
Create better, stronger passwords for any accounts pertaining to your finances, credit cards, bank accounts, and investment accounts. If a website you use offers multi-level authentication, sign up for it. Hackers are smart but lazy. They’re going to go after the accounts that have the least protection so make sure your accounts don’t fit that description.
20. Create a Master List
If something were to happen to you, could your family access your financial accounts? Create a complete list of all your accounts, their numbers, usernames, and passwords. For obvious reasons, you have to keep this list somewhere that is 100% safe. Because this information is so sensitive, a safety deposit box at a local bank is probably your best option.
21. Improve Your Credit Score
There is a really simple way to boost your credit score. Call your current credit card companies and ask for a limit increase (if you don’t have a problem with credit card debt). Part of what determines your credit score is your utilization. If you have a total credit limit of $1,000 across all of your cards and you have a balance of $100, your utilization is 10%. Under 30% is ideal.
When you get a raise in your credit limit, your utilization automatically goes down, and your credit score goes up! Easy. And unlike opening a new credit card, getting a limit increase doesn’t negatively impact your score.
22. Clean Out Your Files
You don’t need to keep all of your financial documentation forever. If you have ATM, bank deposit, and credit card receipts, you only need to keep them until you’ve reconciled them against your monthly statements. You only need to keep loan documentation until the loan is paid in full. You can toss tax returns after seven years.
Don’t just put these papers into the trash; they contain too much sensitive information. Buy an inexpensive shredder or use the shredder at your office if you have one.
23. Make a List
Summer has a seemingly endless list of fun things to do that are free or inexpensive, a day at the beach or the fair, a fireworks display, free outdoor concerts, and movies.
But when summer is over, there are fewer things to keep us occupied, and so we revert to filling our free time with things that do cost money like going out to dinner, to the movies, or always a good boredom killer, shopping.
Sit down by yourself or with family and friends and make a list of fun things to do later this year that don’t cost a lot of money.
Look for a calendar of free or inexpensive events in your area, plan a potluck party, find out which museums have free admission hours, find restaurants or bars that offer a special happy hour or fixed deals.
24. All the Produce
All of the best produce is at its best at your local farmer’s market or farm stand, or your own garden. Take advantage of peak season goodness and can, freeze, or make some jam, tomato sauce, or salsa from all that fresh produce. When fall comes, and the only tomatoes you can get are the mealy, watery ones trucked in from thousands of miles away at your grocery store, you’ll appreciate your homemade tomato sauce even more.
Summer is Too Short
Summer is so wonderful, warm weather, sunshine, the beach, barbecues, fireworks, fireflies, vacations. We know it’s already too short, so this list isn’t meant to disrupt your summer fun, only to let you head into fall, which is busier and more hectic for most of us, with fewer worries and more money.
And having fewer worries and more money are good things for any season. Now you’re ready for fall. Happy summer!