Originally posted on Refinery 29.
Written by Judith Ohikuare.
Taking a vacation can be a daunting decision. Even after you commit to using your hard-earned time off, you still have to plan your itinerary and come up with the funds that will make it all happen. Your Instagram-worthy goals won’t pay for themselves, so it might be helpful to see whatever amount you need to seal the deal and think backwards from that: Look at the amount of time you have before your trip to save up, and then get going in ways big and small, day by day.
Planning a trip that begins toward summer’s end? Here are 23 ideas on how to get going during the next several weeks from money coach Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, the creator of The Fiscal Femme. Try some of these tricks over the course of the next several weeks, and hopefully it’ll help you reach your vacation goals.
Shopping is (obviously) a very easy way to spend money, and doing it is easier than ever. Swipe your credit card a few times, or glide through the online shopping cart that already has your payment information, and next thing you know, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars you didn’t even know you had. That itch to buy new things can become even more acute as the seasons change, but if your willpower still isn’t as robust as you’d like, there are some ways to reign things in over time. At the turn of each season, host a clothing swap with a group of friends. A piece you are completely sick of might be your friend’s favorite spring staple.
Marketing works. You hear about the latest, greatest elixir for the skin problem you’ve been trying to solve, and you have to give it a try, right? Well, if you consider how many of those potions actually worked (especially at the price point they go for), you might hesitate the next time.
Set a goal to stay clear of beauty stores for an amount of time that feels realistic; a month could be a fun challenge for you, or even two weeks is worth it if you’re a beauty junkie. Then, commit to using and finishing all the great products you already have in your arsenal before you buy new ones. You can team up with a friend if you want to keep each other accountable.
According to a 2015 Visa survey, Americans spend an average $2,746 each year buying lunch. By contrast, packing lunch or eating at home an average of five times per week led to individuals to spend $1,000 less on meals on average.
Run your own experiment: See how close you can get to spending $6.30 per day (or $32.76 per week) on a healthy, filling lunch to see if you can reach those savings.
If bringing your lunch to work every day sounds daunting, enlist the help of your colleagues and start a lunch club in which one person is in charge of bringing lunch for the group each day. You’ll only have to worry about preparing and bringing lunch once a week, and you’ll get some variety in your food routine — plus social time. Decide how much you want to spend as a group so that everyone is comfortable with it, and go over any dietary restrictions so that everyone can look forward to the menu.
“When I realized I was spending over $1,500 a year on coffee, I got into making coffee at work, real quick,” says Feinstein Gerstley.
Depending on how elaborate your favorite order is, or how often you place it, you may find opportunities to put some of that money to better use. Don’t assume you have to kick the little habits that bring you small moments of happiness completely, but try to look for shortcuts that can get you to the same place.
Boutique fitness classes can be amazing if you’re looking for a thorough, specialized workout. But at pretty high prices — sometimes up to $37 per class — they can do a lot of damage to your wallet, even if you work out regularly.
Warmer months can be a great time to suspend your gym membership if you know you’ll be spending time outside. Talk to a membership representative about what your rate might be to take two or three months off, and when that account freeze would start and end. When it gets too hot outside to risk breaking sweat, look to sites like Groupon and Gilt City for regional deals at fun gyms. You can still mix up your activities without spending full price.
One of the best ways to save is to make it happen automatically. Doing so can be an intimidating task if you’re still living on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis, or don’t have your finances in order enough to risk intermittent withdrawals. But if you have any funds to spare and commit to keeping track of your money, automating your saving can feel like finding a new source of cash in the income you already had. So prioritize paying yourself first, even in small amounts. If you want to save $300 in eight weeks, set up an automatic transfer for $37.50 each week.
Romance doesn’t have to cost a million bucks. Instead of going out for another expensive dinner, get creative and do something completely different. Summer is the perfect time to see a free concert in the park, pack a picnic with some tasty surprises, or check out a new museum exhibit at a museum. Switching things up just little on just five date nights this summer could save you $300 — and make you look more thoughtful than ever.
Who among us has not opted for a pre-prepared, frozen meal at the end of a long week (or the beginning of one)? But if you go fresh for at least a few days, you may find cost-saving options to make when you have more time.
The fresh produce section of local markets and grocery stores often offers much less expensive (and often healthier) options. Farmers’ markets can be particularly great ways to get more bang for your buck and get the best of what’s in season. Before you shop, jot down a quick list of the items you might want for any meals you have in mind. That way you’ll be more likely to eat what you buy before it goes bad.
Renting out your home can be a great way to earn some extra cash, and sites like Airbnb are still going strong.
If you go this route, be sure to check the rules and regulations for where you live — some cities and states make it illegal to rent out your home when you’re not there at the same time, and you don’t want to risk getting caught flouting the law.
If you’re good to go and won’t be home during the duration of your guest’s stay, be sure to lock away anything valuable to you, and leave information behind about how certain things work. Opening your home to someone else is only worth it if you feel comfortable with the exchange.
The ongoing wave of service and time-saving apps, from Lyft to ApplePay, make it incredibly easy to become disconnected to where your money is going. Spending only in cash for a few days can make you more conscious of your spending habits. For one thing, it feels very different to buy a pair of jeans using cash than it does to swipe a card, making it easier to second-guess your wants versus needs.
Try to start your all-cash output with just one day, and then go from there. Go to a bank where you already maintain an account to avoid fees, and then see how much you think you need for your budget, compared to what you’re actually spending.
Letting go of certain ongoing purchases can reveal our financial priorities; a money cleanse can help you along.
Start by categorizing each and every one of your expenses, no matter how frivolous. You’ll want to go through at least two bank statements to view any patterns more clearly.
Then, start eliminating the expenses that feel frivolous, or that you’ve even forgotten about. You might realize that you have more wiggle room in your budget once those costs are out of the way.
Smoothies are delicious way to hit multiple food groups, while cooling off in the summer. The problem? They can cost you up to $10 (or more) a pop at the local smoothie bar.
Stock up on your favorite ingredients and buy a blender (you can find inexpensive and effective ones at Target) to make your smoothies at home. You’ll have full creative license to experiment with your recipes. When you start out, buy a bit less than you think you’ll need to avoid wasting any unused produce. And remember to freeze ingredients that you’d rather put on deck.
If having a credit card causes you to spend more or maintain interest-heavy balances, you might want to avoid plastic in the short-term. But if you’ve been using one responsibly, you should definitely be utilizing the points that have accrued; you earned them!
Check your bank’s latest offerings to see if any of your points can go toward transportation for summer travel, or perks like free checked bags and lounge access. Benefits like these can offset the overall cost of your trip, and make the process a little more enjoyable.
Dining out with friends is big spending area where most of us have some room to maneuver. Alternate hosting summer potlucks with your friends for themed meals. If everyone brings one dish (including any beverages), the cost difference compared to what you’d pay for service and transportation could be big.
Cleaning out your home can be an excellent way to earn extra cash. Your home is a treasure trove of items you might not care to keep, but that others are willing to buy. Sites like thredUPand brick-and-mortar consignment stores may not net you that much, but if you can free up space in your home and get something out of it, that’s not a bad deal. You might also try haggling on Poshmark, where you can also sell new beauty products that you weren’t into after all. Have higher-end goods? Try The RealReal, which specializes in luxury consignment service.
Reading a good book, playing a new game, or listening to new music can make taking public transportation or walking somewhere more enjoyable. Summer is a great time to set up incentives and rewards that may help you pass on an expensive taxi or Lyft. Skipping a $10 to 15 per ride a few times a week can put more money back in your bank account.
The way we talk about money, even to ourselves, is really important. So when we berate ourselves for certain habits or obsess over what we “shouldn’t” or “can’t” spend on something, we often want that same thing even more.
Everyone has spending patterns that ebb and flow depending on necessities, emergencies, indulgences, etc. But if you look at one expensive habit that you’d be willing to let go of or reduce, you may find an even better perk on the side. Think of it as being open to redirection the money you dedicate toward one expense, and treat it as an experiment, rather than the Holy Grail of commitments. If you really miss it, you can always add it back in.
It can be hard to take on a time-intensive side hustle when you have a full-time job, but taking care of someone’s house, pet, or child can be a fun and (sometimes) easy way to bring in extra cash. You don’t need an official marketing plan or strategy if you’re just starting out and want to ease into things, but let your friends and colleagues know that you’d be up for the job if it ever arises, and maybe they’ll think of you the next time they head out for their own travels, or simply want to spend an evening away from home.
It’s an old refrain, but eating out is expensive, especially if you have any dietary restrictions. Sure, it’s easy to spend a lot of money at the grocery store, too, but that’s more likely to happen if you aimlessly wander the aisles on a whim and pick up whatever looks good in the moment. Try using this free meal-planning guide from The Fiscal Femme, to come up with a game plan in advance, or buying staples that can be prepared in different ways.
By some estimates, wine purchased by the glass is marked up at least three times. If you’re an oenophile who likes their vino, buy your favorite wine and skip the restaurant rates. You can mix up cocktails with friends for a fun evening, or just enjoy your limit at home during a quiet night in.
Thinking through upcoming expenses in advance is usually a win-win for our wallets and stress levels. Gift-giving is a perfect area to get in the habit.
When you plan out your gift strategy in advance, you have more time to think of something thoughtful, can often find it at a better price, and won’t have to pay for rush shipping. Buy something on the fly because you’re in a rush, and you may pay twice as much for something less meaningful.
As the days get longer, so does the list of events we really want to attend. Still, if you treat every occasion as an obligation, rather than a fun — optional — opportunity, you risk overextending yourself physically, and financially. If you’re feeling pinched by your social circle, try suggesting a creative alternative that costs less. Friends are often willing to compromise if you don’t put the onus of planning all on them.
Consider skipping the expensive endless brunch one week, and do a paint-and-sip night where you can BYOB or buy a cheap bottle of wine and make your own artwork. Or, if you just can’t join in on your friend’s 20-person dinner (that you know will result in a heart-clenching bill at the end of the night), ask to take her out on another night, just the two of you, for something more intimate. In the end, you’ll save money and probably enjoy more quality time together.