Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 by Toby Sanders
There may still be some snow on the ground, but the groundhog did not see his shadow a few weeks ago — which means that most of us are already dreaming of warmer weather and fun in the sun.
Of course, most of those dreams, whether it’s a new summer wardrobe or beach getaway, come with a price tag. The good news is that even if you don’t have the cash on hand right now, with a few smart money moves, you can have a nice little nest egg by the time summer arrives.
Even if you are trying to earn more money so you can pay off your credit cards more quickly (especially if you still have a balance from the holidays), you can put your cards to work for you. For example, moving a balance a higher interest card to a balance transfer card with a lower interest rate can lower your monthly payment and the overall amount you’ll end up paying.
Carefully review your credit card rewards programs to ensure you’re getting the most benefit from your card; e.g., not paying for purchase protection when your purchases are covered by the card, or not using discounts you’re entitled to. By carefully reviewing your card terms, you can turn it into a true financial tool.
The fastest way to earn extra money is to start a side hustle. Do you make handcrafts that your friends always ooh and aah over? Open an Etsy shop or hook up with a local shop to sell your wares. Do you have an advanced degree in a particular subject area? Look into adjunct teaching positions at a community college, or try tutoring. By devoting even just a few hours per week to a side business, you can easily make enough cash for your summer vacation.
Again, it seems obvious, but shedding some dead weight in the form of items you no longer want or use will put cash in your pocket. You don’t have to spend all day holding a yard sale, either. Thanks to several new apps, you can easily sell your stuff via your mobile device as well as by using typical outlets like Craigslist and eBay
The easiest way to save money is to not spend it. Most of us, though, spend every day without even realizing it. Get a better handle on your spending by designating regular “no spending” days when you don’t spend a single cent. That means no coffee on the way to work, no going out to lunch, no stopping in at the mall to “browse” at the end of the day. As you get more comfortable, try no spending weeks for a greater challenge, or even a no spending month, in which you don’t spend any money beyond what you need for food, housing, transportation, and utilities. You might be surprised at how much you waste every month, and develop better spending habits.
Are you working on a DIY project and need a tool or some labor? Don’t run to the home improvement store or hire a contractor without first checking your network of friends and family to see who might be willing to let you borrow the equipment or lend you some expertise. Depending on what you need (and who you’re borrowing from) you might be able to get the job done for the cost of some pizza and beer. For bigger projects, think about what you can offer in return. Some free babysitting, an afternoon of yard work, or even your computer skills can all be fair trades that allow you to save cash.
Several apps, such as Acorn, allow you to invest your spare change in the market by “rounding up” your purchases; the difference is automatically deducted from your checking account and added to your investment account. Some banks offer a similar service, adding the change to a savings account. Either way, it’s a painless and easy way to save without even thinking about it.
It may sound like a cliché, but it’s very likely that you’re spending too much on your monthly bills. Take a look at your cell phone usage, for instance — are you paying more for data or airtime than you’re using? Are you paying too much for television channels you don’t watch? At least once a year, carefully review all your bills and see if there are places you can trim expenses.
Saving money for your summer fun doesn’t have to mean huge sacrifices and Ramen noodles for every meal. With a few painless switches and some tricks to make the most of what you are already doing, you can easily have some extra cash in your pocket before June.