I am a spender. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true. I have never learned the fine art of budgeting or saving or, if I’m honest, managing my money at all. This was not because my parents failed, mind you; I vividly remember my father sitting me down and forcing me to learn how to balance a checkbook and lecturing me on the importance of a savings account. I’m sure if we got into the finer arguments about nature versus nurture we would discern that it’s because I’m naturally impulsive, more of a right-brained creative thinker than a logical left-brainer, and just all-around less careful than I should be when it comes to finances.
Which is why it’s so perfect for me that I married an accountant. He is the yin to my yang, the one who reigns me in when I get spendy and halts my financial excess before it begins. I’m not going to say this hasn’t created conflict in our marriage at times; I chafe at budgets and restrictions like the good old-fashioned rebel that I am, but in the end, I recognize that it’s also for the best. My husband is working hard to save for our children’s education, he’s making my dream of being a stay at home mother a reality, and all-in-all, he’s working to ensure long-term security for our family. I trust him and therefore defer to him in all matters of money.
So when he told me that things were getting tight this summer, I knew it was time to buckle down. The spender in me wanted to fight it, but I also knew that he would never sound the alarm unless necessary. We had to unexpectedly buy a new car last fall and couple that with medical expenses for our son and paying down some nasty credit card debt, it was time to get serious about saving. We sat down together and worked out a plan, and for the first time ever in my adult life, I was excited about the prospect of saving. Creating an actionable plan helped us both feel like we were more in control of our finances. Our “Summer of Savings” is a team effort and I am ready to tackle this adventure together.
Instead of coming up with a long laundry list of things we can’t do that would feel daunting to even the savviest saver, we discovered that there were three main areas where we could cut back. Just three. Three sounds doable, right? Three seems like something we can all manage, and after some quick calculations we figured out that these would save us a drastic amount of money this summer.
I firmly believe that even the biggest spenders out there can follow these three easy steps for a short period of time to save some cash. If money is tight because bills are mounding up or if you want to save for a trip or an upcoming event, give these three tips a try. They’re easy to implement and can maybe even lead to a few, tiny long-term lifestyle changes for the better too.
1. Ditch the Credit Cards
We have always been an all-credit family. We pay them off each month, but we purchase everything on plastic. We rationalize that we like the rewards, and this is the truth. It’s mostly the ease that causes us to default to the card, but it’s also the ease that causes us to overspend when we do. Studies show that when we use plastic, we are likely to spend between 12-18% more than if we pay with cash.1 That adds up quickly. So we are ditching the plastic for three whole months, and I’m sure it will cut our spending drastically.
2. Eat at Home
We are a family of foodies. I love to cook, yes, but I also love the idea of finding new and exciting places to enjoy a meal out. It’s inspirational to the chef in me and a welcome relief for the tired home cook. As a family, we eat out often. Whether it’s a quick stop for fast-food lunch on a fun day out with the kiddos or a date night with the hubby at a nicer restaurant, we average about four meals a week out of the home. This summer we have vowed to change this and eat solely at home. Not only is it healthier, but it’s a sound financial move. An average meal for a family of four at a restaurant is $60, to cook at home it’s $20.2 That’s significant savings over three months and one that will certainly help us pay down our debt. (If you need a few simple dinner ideas, check out my recent article, 15 Easy Slow Cooker Meals to Make in the Summer.)
3. Get Creative About Fun
When we first sat down and started budgeting, I was in a full-fledged panic. Summer feels like it’s just about the worst time to try and save. With the kids home all day begging for entertainment in the form of movies, ice cream, and mall trips; I know that I spend more than I should just to keep them entertained. I was afraid it was going to be a very long summer filled with “I’m boreds” and “I wants” that I couldn’t answer. But the truth is that there is plenty to do with them that doesn’t cost a dime. If we’re creative about it, we won’t have to spend a lot to keep them busy. From dollar movie days at the local theater to nearby pools and splash pads, there is something to fill just about every day of the week. Just a few hours on Pinterest was all I needed to come up with a gigantic list of fun and creative free things to do. Knowing that we don’t have to spend money to keep busy helped free up our imaginations and is expanding our fun this summer more than I thought possible.
Need to re-evaluate your goals this year? Listen to our recent podcast episode and find out you’re not alone! A Fresh Take on Resolutions You Need to Try – 046
You’ll also like 16 Simple Ways to Save Money Every Year, 7 Simple Ways to Free Yourself from Student Loans, Confessions of an Endcap Queen: How to Stop Mindless Purchasing, Mom Hacks: 10 Easy Ways to Save Time and Money, 5 Ways to Cut Your Monthly Bills, Are You Chasing Paper? 10 Practical Ways to Save Money, and 10 Family Outings That Are Cheap and Fun.