Whether the particular financial goals you have are to retire at age 55, to save money for a down payment on a house, or to pay off your high-interest credit cards, sticking to your budget is crucial. Everyone should have a monthly budget, regardless of their income. Knowing how much money you have coming in each month, as well as how much will need to be allotted for monthly expenses will allow you to set realistic financial goals and work towards achieving them. If you do not have a budget that you are currently sticking to, follow Eastex CU Facebook page for financial tips, resources and articles to help keep you on track. When creating your monthly budget, look through your account statements for the previous year to see how much you spend each month on rent/mortgage, utilities, cell phone, auto loans, and insurance, and any other recurring monthly bills. Your monthly budget should also take into account other types of expenses that may fluctuate each month, such as how much you spend on groceries, dining out, gas, shopping, traveling, entertainment, and paying for services like lawn or pool maintenance and childcare.
Summer Budget Busters
Sticking to a budget is especially important during the summer months. There seems to be more temptation to get off track with your spending during the warmer months and few people account for this ahead of time. Here are some of the most common situations that can put a strain on your finances:
- Summer Entertainment. The entertainment options during the summer are especially enticing. You have lots to choose from, such as heading to a multi-day music festival, catching a headliner’s summer tour, attending a professional sporting event, or paying box office prices to see a blockbuster movie at the theatre. Heading down river in a raft or inner tube, or heading to the amusement or water park can also come with a price tag that was not factored into your budget.
- Unplanned Vacations. Last minute travel opportunities can seem like a great deal, however, these unplanned trips can add strain to your budget. Planned vacations are usually budgeted for, so the impact to your financial situation can be divided among several months or a year. Unplanned vacations can result in setbacks to attaining your short and long-term financial goals, and may impact your ability to stick to your budget in future months.
- School’s Out for Summer. Most schools close for 2-3 months during the summer leaving working parents scrambling to find alternative arrangements for their children. Many children go to summer camps that specialize in particular fields and interests. There are camps for those interested in marine biology, music, engineering, horseback riding, archaeology, firefighting, sports, sailing, zombies, and becoming a stunt double, which are just a few of the options available. If your children are old enough that they don’t need anyone watching them, they will likely want money to do activities with their friends or buy a new video game. Having to pay for summer camps or any additional childcare or entertainment while school is out can impact your budget.
- Back to School Shopping. Once you finally get settled into a summer schedule, the start of the new school year seems imminent. This means long lists of school supplies, backpacks, clothes, and shoes to buy. The cost of these items can add up quickly, especially if you have more than one child. Be mindful when doing the back to school shopping, that spending extra on those items will mean adjustments to other parts of the budget may have to be made.
Tips for Staying on Budget
- Set up a vacation savings account that can serve as your summer fund even if you don’t travel during the summer. Adding just small amounts of money from each paycheck to your vacation savings account will minimally impact your budget, but will allow you to enjoy the summer without feeling the effects of your spending the rest of the year.
- If you can’t afford to go on a vacation, take a mini-break somewhere close by or have a staycation. It’s not worth the financial strain to take a vacation you can’t afford and have trouble meeting your financial obligations because of it. Take a break from the day-to-day grind with a short drive to a nearby winery or brewery, see a new exhibit at the art museum, camp at a state park, or stay at a modest hotel for a night at the nearest beach. Having a staycation is budget friendly and can allow you time to tackle all those items that you never seem to get to on your to-do list, like touching up the paint in the kitchen, or clearing out the closets and having a yard sale.
- Entertain at home. Have friends over to your home rather than going out. Paying for food, drinks, and entertainment can be pricey, so plan a night in when you’re on a tight budget. Make it a potluck so everyone can contribute and share their favorite recipe.
- Watch big ticket events at home. Many concerts and sporting events can be streamed live and are much cheaper than attending the event. Be sure to factor in the cost of your ticket, travel, lodging, and food to see how much actually attending would cost when deciding if you can afford to see the event in person.
- Take advantage of discounts. Being affiliated with AAA, Costco, AARP, the military, and other organizations can save you money when booking your summer vacations and entertainment. These affiliations can save you money on expenses like hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, amusement parks, sightseeing tours, and tourist attractions.
- Become a member of your favorite local attractions. Paying slightly more up front will pay off over the length of the membership. If you or your kids love animals, join a nearby zoo or aquarium, or get an annual membership from Texas State Parks to see animals in their natural habitats. The membership will pay for itself in only a few visits, and you will always have the option of going there when you’re low on cash.
You can still have fun this summer while sticking to your budget. Being aware of summer budget busters will allow you to take steps to avoid or minimize their impact on your finances. To set up a vacation savings account so you can have even more fun in the summer, stop by any Eastex Credit Union branches or give us a call at 866-445-9622.