With all of the summertime fun to be had, for many families, living within their means goes right out the window by the time June rolls around. But if you want to reach financial independence, you must find ways to keep boosting your savings—even when fantastic summer vacations are calling your name.
For many of us, summertime is sacred. It’s the time of year for fun and relaxing with family and friends. And so, every year we try to make the absolute most of these warm months, and more often than not that means spending money we don’t have. Beach vacation with the entire family? Put it on the credit card! Country club pool membership? Just take money out of the rainy day fund! New shades and other summer duds? Whip out that plastic again! Unfortunately, this spend-now-worry-about-it-later mentality means severe setbacks when it comes to reaching overall, long-term financial goals.
“Naturally everyone wants to make the most of their summer, so many folks tend to go a little spending crazy,” says Vento, president of his New York City-based Certified Public Accounting firm, John J. Vento, CPA, P.C., and Comprehensive Wealth Management, Ltd., as well as the author of the new book Financial Independence, (Getting to Point X) An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management .
“Rather than living within their means, they start living the high life and very rarely can they afford it. It’s one of the biggest financial mistakes people make. If you want to become financially independent, you must live within your means, and that means carefully controlling and budgeting your spending over the summer.”
As Vento writes in his book, living within your means requires that you live on less than your take-home salary and any other resources you receive, such as income from an annuity or a trust. Living within your means does not mean existing from paycheck to paycheck. Living within your means does not mean living on credit or on loans. It means not only figuring out how to pay for your needs and wants, but budgeting your income so that you still have a little money left over. It also requires that you save money.
“That’s right, ‘living within your means’ includes not only such necessities as shelter, food, utilities, and clothing,” notes Vento. “You must also pay into your personal savings. Ideally, that payment should be 10 percent or more of your gross pay. And all of that can’t go out the window when summer rolls around and you want to go on a nice vacation. The good news is that when your entire family works together, you can easily adopt several summer savings strategies. Think about it this way: If you can implement a plan this summer that helps you save just $20 a week and then you keep it up for an entire year, you can tuck away an extra $1,040.”
Read on for a few of Vento’s tips excerpted from Financial Independence (Getting to Point X) on how you can save $20/week or more this summer:
Stay cool without breaking the bank. Hot summer days mean your AC is practically running non-stop, which means your summer power bills can sometimes break the bank. But you can allay some of these costs by using a programmable thermostat to minimize your utility use and cost or by installing ceiling fans to allow you to use less air conditioning. “You should also make sure your home—especially your attic—is sufficiently insulated,” notes Vento. “If the insulation in your attic is less than 6 inches thick, you are under-insulated. Insulation of 12 inches thick can lower your heating and cooling costs by 25 percent in a year.”
Save on gas. A great way to cut back on how much you’re spending on gas each week is to trade in your car for a bike. “If you live close enough to your work, enjoy the warm weather by biking or even walking to work,” says Vento. “If biking or walking isn’t an option, organize a summer carpool or start taking public transportation. Of course, if you’re able, these are great changes to carry over into the fall and winter.”
Wash your own wheels. It can be tempting to just zip into a local carwash and pay someone else to wash your car. But depending on the level of care you’re paying for, you can spend anywhere from $5 to $30. Get outside and enjoy the weather by washing your own car. You’ll save some money and will probably even do a better job on your own.
Shape up… Insurance companies take into account your physical health. Therefore, people who smoke, have high cholesterol levels, have high blood pressure, are overweight, and have other problems (including depression) will usually have higher insurance premiums than a person who is in good physical shape and health. “Use the summer to make healthy life choices,” says Vento. “Clean up your diet. Stop smoking and start exercising.”
…but forgo the gym membership. “Bathing suit season” as it’s often called will probably have you focusing a little more on your fitness. But rather than throw out a bunch of money on a membership to a gym you might not even end up using that often, think of all of the ways you can workout outside for free. Walk, run, or bike local trails. Use workout videos. Or attend donation-based classes that allow you to pay a much more reasonable amount for your workouts.
Have fun for free. Check out “free events” offered in your neighborhood. Many towns offer free concerts and movies in the park or at the beach during the summer. Or take the family to the park for a Saturday afternoon or evening picnic.
Don’t splurge on vacation. Of course, there’s always a lot of build up around the yearly summer vacation. “But if you don’t have the money to spend, you should absolutely look for more cost-effective options,” recommends Vento. “Instead of going on expensive vacations, traveling first class, eating at the most expensive restaurants, going on all the most expensive tours, and going to overpriced five-star hotels, fly coach, cook in the hotel if possible, and go to a safe, fun, cheaper hotel.”
Go green and save. Summer is a great time to make an effort to “go green” and start making more environmentally friendly choices. “A great way to do this is to refill your cleaning product spray bottles with less expensive refill bottles, instead of buying another more expensive spray bottle,” says Vento. “Or replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). These use more than 70 percent less energy and last much longer, which will save you money on the cost of light bulbs and on your electricity bill. And of course, you should always turn off the lights when you leave a room and take advantage of all the natural light you get during the summer.”
Hang it out to dry. Instead of running your dryer during the summer, hang clothes and other laundry outside to dry. This saves money on your utility bills as well as wear and tear on your clothing.
Become a thrifty foodie. First, give up junk foods completely: Not only are they expensive, they are unhealthy. Second, plan your meals. “Doing so can save you money and time,” says Vento. “When grocery shopping, you will know exactly what you need to buy so there is no excess food thrown out at the end of the week. Take advantage of readily available, in-season fruits and vegetables by cooking more at home. Then brownbag your leftovers for your lunch at work the next day. And finally, buy in bulk or use grocery store rewards cards.”
“Creating a summer of fun should not leave you worse off financially than when the season began,” says Vento. “Be sure to discuss and share your family financial goals with your entire family so that everyone can commit to taking these easy, responsible steps toward saving and building on your financial stability. When you make these smart choices, it makes reaching long-term financial goals all the more achievable.”
John J. Vento is author of Financial Independence, (Getting to Point X) An Advisor’s Guide to Comprehensive Wealth Management . He has been the president of the New York City-based Certified Public Accounting firm John J. Vento, CPA, P.C., and Comprehensive Wealth Management since 1987. His organization is focused on professional practices, high net worth individuals, and those committed to becoming financially independent. He has been the keynote speaker at various seminars and conferences throughout the United States that focus on tax and financial strategies that create wealth. John has been ranked among the most successful advisors of a nationwide investment service firm and has held this distinction since 2008.