It goes without saying that this summer looks very different than most. Vacations are being changed or outright canceled, baseball games will be played with no fans in the stands, and many of our favorite activities are tough or impossible to do while implementing safe distancing practices. While the ongoing pandemic has been challenging for infinite reasons, it also has implications for your finances. Here are a few tips to maximize your budget and a few inexpensive ideas for summer fun.
Re-examine your budget. Chances are, your expenses (and possibly income) have shifted during this time. You may be spending more on utilities and food, but less on entertainment and transportation. Go through your spending with a fine-toothed comb to adjust your budget as needed for the near future. Perhaps you have been getting takeout multiple times a week. If that helps you manage stress and works with your budget, then by all means continue, but if you’re looking to cut back on spending, that may be a good place to start. Other things to take a close look at right now include subscriptions and online shopping.
Consider ways to save. Now is a great time to not only shift your budget, but consider how to cut back on other expenses. Perhaps you can make some changes to your television, phone or internet plans. Check your grocery store circular or mobile app for extra savings. If you’re not driving your car at the moment, contact your insurance provider to explore options to reduce costs. After taking a close look at your spending, see if you can identify a few ways to cut back without having a big impact on your lifestyle. Try to balance what helps you manage your mental and emotional health during this time with where you can make small changes to save money.
Look at potential savings. You may find you’re not spending as much as usual if you’re not commuting or paying for childcare, or if you’ve had to change your summer travel plans. While these changes have their own challenges and disappointments, if you do find extra room in your budget, consider transferring those funds into a savings account for future expenses. You could contribute to your emergency fund, start saving for next year’s vacation, or pay off a loan.
Seek help if needed. If you or a loved one are unemployed or furloughed at the moment, finances may be especially challenging right now. But there are resources available to help. Check Feeding America for food pantries in your area, and contact your local or state government to understand what programs are available provide support for rent or utilities relief. The federal government also offers a Benefits Finder to determine what other assistance you may be eligible for.
Find inexpensive summer fun. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this season while remaining safe and on a budget:
- Set up a sprinkler in the backyard
- Have a picnic at a nearby park
- Take a bike ride on a new-to-you trail
- Make your own ice cream
- Go camping or rent a cabin within driving distance of your home
- Explore a park or go hiking
- Start a garden
- Pick up books from your local library and read outside
- Have a family game night
- Try cooking a new recipe
2020 continues to be a challenging year, but by squaring away your finances for the near future, you can hopefully reduce your stress in one area and enjoy a simpler summer.