Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Budgeting Tips

Summer can be tough when it comes to budgeting and money. Our little family is no exception. Probably the toughest part about our situation is the fact that, as a teacher, I don't get paid regularly throughout the summer. Even though I get 24 pay checks throughout the year like normal working people do, I get all of my summer checks in one lump sum at the end of every school year. Our checking account looks mighty pretty that last week of school! But knowing that I won't get paid again until mid-August is a little scary. 

So, we've learned to plan ahead and incorporate little things into our routine that helps us not only save money, but also makes sure that we're not counting pennies come August. I thought I'd share some of our tips with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Pay your bills early. Even though it takes both my paycheck and the hubby's paycheck to get us through each month, when I get all of my summer check at once, there is enough money to cover all of our utilities and rent bills for the entire summer. So, we make our June and July payments at the same time which gets us through the rest of summer. Then, we use the hubby's paychecks for groceries and gasoline and whatever little things pop up.
Be sure to call your utilities companies ahead of time to make sure that they'll accept over-payment. Most won't have a problem with it and will simply apply it as a credit to your account. However, some loan companies (i.e. student loans, car loans, mortgages) will take your over-payment, apply it to your account, but still require another minimum payment the following month. If the company won't allow you to pay ahead, another option is to get money orders from your bank. They'll last up to 90 days and are as good as sending cash or a check. And the money will be out of your account and there won't be any risk of accidentally spending it.

2. Get a summer job or sell some stuff. One thing I try to do to help our summer budget stretch is to attend a couple of teaching workshops throughout the summer. I might not get paid my full hourly pay rate for every workshop I attend, but even a little bit of money helps. If you don't have the chance to do some side jobs over the summer for your current employer, you could always look at getting a small part-time seasonal position somewhere. Or, even consider holding a yard sale and getting rid of some clutter to make a few extra bucks.
3. Turn up the a/c a couple of degrees. And, as you've already learned, I hate the heat and prefer our apartment to be cold. We tend to keep the a/c turned down to 74 degrees when we're home and have the ceiling fans going. But, while I'm home during the day and the hubby is at work, I turn the a/c up as warm as I can stand it and still be comfortable. I don't want you to get the impression that I'm sitting around the house sweating to death. But, I turn the a/c up to anywhere between 77 and 80 degrees. I use a box fan in whatever room I'm sitting in to help with air circulation. Ultimately, cooling down the room I'm in versus cooling down the entire apartment saves money on our electric bill.
4. Limit day trips. I know, it's easier said than done. Especially when you're getting cabin fever. But, by limiting my trips outside of the house, I'm saving money on gasoline. Not only that, I'm less tempted to buy new things for the apartment. So, I make a point to have a to-do list so that I can keep focused and motivated throughout the day. I'm less likely to get bored. But, in case I do get bored...
5. Have cheap entertainment on hand. There are so many things that can fit into this category. One thing that I have relied heavily on these past couple of weeks is books. Sign up for a library card and check out books for free. Or, hit up the thrift stores and find a couple of books Another thing is to rent a couple of movies from Redbox. It gives me the opportunity to watch some of those chick flicks that the hubby would rather not watch. Or, raid your own movie collection and watch some of those old favorites that you haven't seen in a while.

 6. Plan your meals ahead of time. One quick way to save money is to watch what you're eating. When you're sitting around the house all day, it's a lot easier to snack. By making a plan before you go grocery shopping, you can ensure that you're only buying food you absolutely need to have on hand. Sure, stock up on a couple of snacks. But, limit the number of snacks you have in the pantry. The fewer mouths there are to feed in your house, I'm assuming the easier this is.

These tips don't necessarily save us hundreds of dollars, but in the summer time, it definitely helps keep our budget on track. I hope some of these tips help you stretch your dollars to make it through the hot months of summer. What things do you do around your house to cut costs?

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