As the world starts to open up again, you might feel a range of emotions. You might feel excited about doing things you used to, joyous for advancements in science, or maybe even a little nervous. Getting back to a new “normal” can be nerve-wracking, especially if the normal before wasn’t so great.
This is especially true for people who are in debt or living paycheck-to-paycheck or even just focused on their financial goals. After the year we’ve just survived it’s understandable to want to go YOLO and spend on whatever you want.
To some degree, even a good idea. But you want to ease into it. Here’s how you can ease your budget into summer as everything opens back up.
Review the Past Year and Make a List
Though the past year has been difficult, many people have expressed gratitude for some things. For example, more time at home, more time with the kids, not feeling pressured to go out as much, driving less, slower pace, etc.
In order to spend in alignment with your values, first, take an inventory of the past year. Make one list and on it write down the things you did not miss at all this past year.
Then, on another list, write down the things you missed most during this past year. What things were you itching to do again? You’ll want to avoid the things you didn’t really miss and budget for the things you really missed.
Look at Your Current Financial Situation
Your financial situation may have changed over the past year. Some people came out relatively unscathed. Some people earned more and saved more from staying home, while others lost their jobs and incomes. Wherever you are, know that has no reflection on your self-worth.
But you do want to take your current financial situation into consideration. Take a look at how much debt you owe, how much you’re bringing in each month, and what you’re spending.
Do you feel you don’t have much room to spend elsewhere? If so, you’ll want to cut back where you can and/or try to earn more.
If you have money leftover, allocate an amount for the items you want to budget for. For example, maybe you budget $50 per month for your favorite restaurant so you can have a date night there.
Maybe you start budgeting for a babysitter again or for your next trip. To get where you want to go, you need to look at where you are now and build from there.
Don’t do it All at Once
It can feel like we’ve been stuck at home for a year and now we want to do All The Things All The Time. But remember, you can space things out. Maybe this month, you budget for a restaurant. The next month, museums. In six months from now, your next trip.
Remind yourself that financial success is about balance. It’s about budgeting, saving, spending wisely and with intention. Spending all your money right away will only create more chaos and stress, something you don’t definitely don’t need after this year.
To help, create goals for the next six months of things you want to do. Then space them out and create a hypothetical budget of what they will cost. Plan for them and enjoy things as a treat.
Look For Coupons
It is inevitable that you’ll spend more as things open up and you want to enjoy life again. You could look for coupons and deals in your area. Browse Coupon Chief for coupons, look at local retailers, and deals. Putting in a little effort to look for coupons can save you money without having to spend a ton of time.
If you use a credit card and are responsible for your payments, see about getting rewards with your spending. Having a rewards credit card that can give you miles or points to be redeemed for cash or gift cards or trips can help reduce your overall costs.
Be sure to compare new offers and promotions if you’re going to open a new credit card. Also, be aware if there are any spending minimums if you’re going to try and hack rewards.
If you’re already using a rewards credit card, stay within your budget and make payments on top. But if that’s an issue, you should probably avoid credit cards altogether.
Go to Free Events
Don’t forget that in the summer there are typically many free events to enjoy, especially if you’re in a bigger city. Check out event programming at local parks, venues, and arts institutions. You can Google “free events + city” to see what comes up. You can still have fun and do things without spending any money.
Have Low-Cost Outings
My favorite low-cost outings are to grab a coffee and go on a walk with a friend or have a potluck where everyone brings a bit of their own food.
You may want to have your own serving utensils and not shared ones during these times, but it still can be an affordable way to get together. If you want to go to happy hour, do some research ahead of time on the best deals or if there are buy one, get one special.
Having low-cost options in my arsenal helps me still have fun and connect with friends, without going overboard.
There’s no doubt that we’ve gone through a lot this past year and we’re all itching to go out and about and have some fun. It’s also important that we spend and support small businesses and the local economy too.
But not at the expense of our own financial wellbeing. Before going out, review your financial situation, set up a budget, and plan ahead so you can keep your financial situation in a good position while also enjoying more of the things that life has to offer.