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Getting a frugal start on summer

By Kristin Wong

Published: Wednesday, June 11 2014 9:35 a.m. MDT

Last Friday, I had an amazing realization: It was the weekend, the weather was beautiful, and I had absolutely nothing to do. Great feeling.

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Editor's note: This article originally ran on the personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly. It has been reprinted here with permission.

Last Friday, I had an amazing realization: It was the weekend, the weather was beautiful, and I had absolutely nothing to do. Great feeling.

Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I decided to slap some sandwiches together and head to the beach. It was relaxing and low-key, and it made me anticipate summer.

But at the beginning of the year, I made some lofty savings goals for myself, and I’d like to stick to them. So I’m using the change in season to assess my savings and remember those goals. Last year around this time, I spent quite a bit of money on travel. This year, I want to focus on being frugal. Here’s how I plan to make frugality a part of my summer.

Purging my apartment

Because I’m an obsessive neat freak, one of my favorite things is letting go of stuff I no longer need or use. Living among a bunch of junk weighs me down. It clutters my brain. And, especially because I work from home, this can become quite a problem.

So I plan to purge my apartment of Stuff. This includes:

  • Magazines, newspapers and books: I’ve got stacks of them collecting dust. Of course, there are some books I’ll never get rid of. But the ones that have already served their purpose have got to go. I plan to donate them to my local library. Also, there are some great articles in those magazines and newspapers. Any of them that have struck or inspired me, I’ll cut out and tape in my notebook.
  • Useless gadgets: Get Rich Slowly writer Lisa Aberle wrote a great post about this. There are plenty of little gadgets and gizmos around my apartment that I use maybe once or twice a year. If I don’t need them, or if I can use something else to replace them, they’re going to Goodwill.
  • Personal documents: I’ll have to be careful with this one. It’s important to hold on to your personal documents, but some of them do have expiration dates. I plan to go through mine and see what can be shredded.

Growing herbs and vegetables

My awesome neighbors started a little community herb and tomato garden. I love it! There have been a few times that a recipe calls for dill, and I just leave it out because I’m too cheap to buy dill. Now, there’s dill growing right outside my door.

I’m planning to contribute too. I have an abundance of basil. I love the smell and look of the plant, so I bought one for cheap at Trader Joe’s last year. It’s since grown like crazy. I also have a bunch of grocery-store green onions that I’ve cut and re-grown. They’ve been re-growing quickly, and I now have more than I need.

And that’s why I’m glad my neighbors started this. If all of us have more than we need, we can share the abundance and save a little cash. Granted, we’re not saving hundreds here. But it’s a frugal idea and, darn it, I like it.

Preparing for the holidays

Too early? Pssh. To avoid overspending this holiday season, now is the time to start preparing. Here’s how I plan to get a head start on my holiday spending:

  • I’m adding a Christmas fund to my budget. I’ll start setting a little aside every month until the holidays.
  • I’m paying close attention to conversations with my friends and loved ones. If they mention anything they want or need, I’ll write it down. This way, I’m not stumped when the holidays arrive. Holiday stress often leads to overspending.
  • I’m on the lookout for gifts. By preparing my gift-giving now, I’ll have time to look out for deals and discounts. This doesn’t mean I’m actively shopping, but if I come across a great deal on something I know my mom wants, I’ll probably buy it for her. Of course, this could backfire if she buys it herself before Christmas, so I have to be careful.

Maybe you think this one is silly because you’re great at not overspending. Good for you. I’m weak. For me, it’s way too easy to give in to the temptation of last-minute, overpriced gifts. I’d rather eliminate the temptation to overspend altogether by preparing early.

Saving for next year’s vacation

As I mentioned, we went a little travel crazy last year. It was great. But this year, we have to cut back on the spending mostly because I want to be able to afford a great trip in 2015. So 2014 is dedicated to saving and staying home. We did plan a small trip to Houston-New Orleans to watch my brother graduate and relax a little, but that’s about it.

I get the travel itch quite a bit, and in the summer, it’s even more tempting to want to scratch that itch. So it’s hard not to want to say, “Screw our finances, let’s go to New York City!” A couple of things will inspire me to save better this summer:

  • Planning for next year: Planning our next destination and researching it will motivate me to make it happen by saving.
  • Remembering previous trips: We took so many photos of our travels last year, and we haven’t even really looked at them. It’ll be nice to go through these images and remember how lucky we were to be able to see those parts of the world. Gratitude can be a great motivator.

Overall, I know this is a spoiled problem to have — being challenged to save up for a vacation. But when I was paying off my debt, similar strategies actually helped. I stayed focused by 1) thinking about and planning for my awesome, debt-free future; and 2) remembering all of the things that make me grateful, despite my debt.

Anyway, I’m excited about summer, but I still need to make a conscious effort to stay steady and frugal.

What are your spending and saving plans for the summer?

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