This post is sponsored by American Express. All views and opinions expressed represent my own.
I don’t know about you, but aside from the holidays I always find that summer is when I spend the most money. Maybe it’s because things tend to slow down work-wise, so I’ve got more free time to pull out my wallet. Or maybe it’s because summer means vacation time, which means flights, hotels and lots of eating out.
And I’m not alone. Last summer, Moneris reported that consumer spending increased by 4.77% compared to the previous year, and in 2015 it increased by 6.68% compared to 2014. Clearly, summer isn’t just dangerous for my wallet, it’s affecting many other Canadians too.
This isn’t really a big surprise and usually it’s not that big of a deal to me. Partly because I am very conscious of my spending and consistently track it while reviewing my budget. But also because I’ve always had a secure, full-time job with guaranteed income. So if I overspent in the summer, I knew I could make up for it in the fall.
Not any more. Ah, the joys of being self-employed. This will be my first summer as a full-time entrepreneur, which means any future income will not be guaranteed. This June marks my 6th month of self-employment as it so happens, and right now I’m on track to reach my goal of matching my old job’s salary. Still, since things do slow down in the summer, I also know that this could mean my income will slow down in the next few months too.
That’s why this summer I intend on upping my game and being extra diligent with my money. Every dollar counts now, but at the same time I don’t want to shut myself inside for the next few months and go on a shopping ban until summer’s over. I’ve waited all year for these few months of sunshine, I want to make them count!
So, here’s how I plan on having the best summer ever without blowing my budget. If you need a recipe to help you do the same this summer, feel free to join me!
1. Be More Mindful of Spending
I already know some of my summer expenses, which I’ve been planning for since the start of the year. My husband and I will be going to our friends’ wedding in the Maritimes, and then we’ll be jetting off to Vancouver for my sister’s wedding. We’ve already booked and paid for our flights, but for our Maritimes trip we still have to calculate the cost of our accommodations, car rental, activities and food.
That being said, I still remember what we did to keep us on budget when we went to Thailand. Yes, things are way cheaper there, but we were also way poorer back then and had to work within a very shoestring travel budget.
What we did to stay on budget was give each day a spending limit. Then, to make sure we stuck to it, we’d review all of our receipts each night and write everything down in a notebook. It is hands-down the reason we didn’t spend more than we should have, and I plan on doing the same thing on our Maritimes trip.
Besides those two trips, it’s really all the little expenditures that can add up big time during the summer that I need to be more mindful of. You know, going for patio drinks, doing a weekend trip to Niagara or going to the Jays game. For these types of things, I’m going to practice some mindful money management and be extra conscious of everything I buy.
2. Take Advantage of Free (or Almost Free) Activities
Although I’m on a tighter summer budget this year compared to last year since I’m self-employed, there’s one big thing I’ve got this summer that I didn’t have last year — time.
The best thing about working for yourself is your time is in your hands, and you can do whatever you want with it. But, being self-employed also means any time you choose to not work means potential income you could be losing, but I don’t really see it like that. Because I work from my laptop, I can literally work from anywhere. So if I want to go to the beach, but get an important work email, I can take care of it right from my phone, then get back to baking in the sun.
And that’s exactly what I hope to do this summer. I want to really take advantage of as many free or almost free activities because I finally have the time to do it! Last summer, there was no way I could take a Saturday to go to the park to read my book and chill. My weekends were meant for my side hustle.
Now, my side hustle is my main hustle, so I fully intend on doing some of these frugal and fun activities:
- Going to the beach
- Relaxing at the park
- Going for a hike
- Bike riding along the lake
- Doing outdoor drop-in yoga
- Checking out the local street festivals
- Visiting the art gallery (I’ve got an annual pass)
- Hosting BBQs at my house
- Sipping on homemade cocktails on my deck
3. Be Strategic When Spending
Besides being more mindful with my spending and doing things that are free (or almost free), the last thing I’m going to do is to be strategic with how I spend my money.
Interesting fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by Amex and conducted by Nielsen, 27% of respondents say they put everything on their credit card, while almost half (47%) put the majority of their purchases on a credit card. I’d probably fall into the latter category.
I always put my bigger purchases (like flights, hotels, groceries) on my credit card so I can earn rewards or cash back. Since most of my big summer purchases are joint purchases with my husband, we use our joint credit card and accrue rewards even quicker.
And these rewards can really come in handy. Here’s an example of what we’ve budgeted for our two summer trips, and how getting cash back from a credit card can actually help us pay for some of it.
Roundtrip flights to Nova Scotia = $919.12
Accommodations for 9 days (approx.) = $1,350
Activities, food & car rental (approx.) = $1,000
Total = $3,269.12
Roundtrip flights to Vancouver = $1,308
Activities & food (approx.) = $500
Total = $1,808
Grand Total = $5,077.12
Looking at that grand total number just made my heart skip a beat, but here’s how we can bring that number down by using a cash back credit card.
If we were to use the AMEX SimplyCash Preferred Card for all of these expenses, and if we were to get their 2% cash back, we’d earn $101.54. That would bring our overall trip costs down to $4,975.58.
But, if we’d just signed up for the card and got their 5% cashback on our first 6 months (up to $300), we’d earn $253.85. That would bring our grand total down to $4,823.27.
And that’s just if we were to use the credit card for our trip costs. Say we added on our monthly grocery bill (which is currently about $600/month), we’d earn an extra $144 at 2%.
Obviously, I always like to urge smart spending when it comes to using a credit card. But, if you stick to using it for your big purchases and have saved up for those big purchases so you can pay off your credit card right away, it’s hard to deny that there are some great benefits to using a cash back credit card over cash or debit.
How do you plan on having the best summer this year without blowing your budget?