Rooftop bars, weekends away, new swimsuits, food trucks… if you’ve had any fun this summer, chances are your wallet is already aching. With only a few short weeks of summer left and the remaining days filling up with expensive activities, most of us are feeling some intense money guilt (or straight up dread) right about now. I call this the Summertime Sunken Place -- that moment you realize all those warm-weather brunches, beach trips, and outdoor happy hours have sucker-punched your bank account, and there is more to come.
It is normal to feel anxious about spending sprees, but summertime fun doesn’t have to be stressful! By identifying the spending that improves our lives, refreshing our money mentality, and taking a few smart steps to protect our financial wellness, we can all enjoy the rest of summer and look forward to fall with confidence.
Here are my go-to tips for tackling your financial sunken place this summer:
Know When To Say No
One of the most liberating financial decisions I ever made was moving “obligatory” social spending to the bottom of my priority list. This move required facing the judgment of friends, but made room in my wallet for the purchases that have shaped my life to be what it is today. My commitment to this new way of budgeting came after realizing I had made no progress on my life-long dream of traveling the world. From that moment on, I made honest decisions about how I actually wanted to invest my money, and by skipping expensive weekly brunches with friends, I took a spectacular hot air balloon trip in Albuquerque, New Mexico a few months later.
Too often, we spend our money on someone else’s idea of a good life. That pricey restaurant your friends chose for dinner, those tickets to a movie you didn’t care about: these social spending habits do not serve your idea of a good life. Learning when to politely say “no” to friends frees up your time and budget to say “yes” to what matters most to you. Financial wellness is not about having a ton of money; it is about using your money as a tool to make your life what you want it to be -- so let’s not waste it!
Say Goodbye to Guilt
Even when spending on the things that enrich our lives for the better, guilt can still lurk in the background. Do I really need this? Can I afford to spend this much? Do I even deserve to invest in myself this way? These thoughts cloud our thinking around purchases, bringing financial anxiety and confusion to the surface. The key to eliminating that worry lies in knowing exactly where we stand financially and feeling confident that our needs are met before spending on our wants.
Over one-fourth of Americans have an inaccurate idea of their own financial health. Spending time with our money and fully understanding where it comes from and what it is being used for is essential to feeling good about our “summer fun” purchases. The first step toward personal financial awareness is getting organized with our money. By evaluating our monthly bills and automating payments, we can rest assured knowing our essentials are funded. Next, I like to separate money from itself in distinct accounts for bills, savings (which can also be automated), and spending money. This system takes care of our needs first, protects us for the future, and validates the use of our spending account, eliminating the guilt and anxiety that we are drawing from a pool of money that can or should be put to use elsewhere in our lives. Remember this: whatever is in that account is yours to spend with no judgment.
Think of Spending as Seasonal
Certain seasons require more spending than others, and that is okay! We are bound to open our wallets a little more in the summertime and during the winter holidays. Our budgets should reflect those behavioral changes and predict them with periods of saving. Squirrels spend the fall season building up reserves for the future, similarly, we can treat fall and spring as times of saving, proactively preparing to spend more freely down the road.
While not operating within traditional calendar seasons, this concept of rotational spending and saving is especially true for those of us who do not have a consistent salary throughout the year. Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and others may experience influxes of income and dry spells every few months. It is unrealistic to cling to rigid budgets that do not serve our careers and lifestyles. Acknowledging personal spending seasons in the year ahead, and planning to balance them with periods of increased saving calms nervous guilt and promotes the security that comes with financial wellness.
Summer is almost over - but there is still fun to be had! Our money should be used as a tool to make the weeks ahead memorable and fill us with confidence, not as a reason for anxiety. With a little planning, a good system, and self-confidence, we can avoid the Summertime Sunken Place altogether!
Disclosure: I, Tiffany Aliche, am partnered with Prudential Financial as a Financial Wellness Advocate and this blog was created in conjunction with Prudential.