10 small ways to be better with money by the end of the summer

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  • The summer is a great time to test out strategies and tools to get better with your money.
  • Learning about your finances doesn’t always mean a huge project – five-minute tasks like checking your credit score or calculating your net worth can immediately expand your knowledge.
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I don’t know about you, but for me, sunny days equal spending sprees.

Ever since the sun came out in Seattle, I’ve found myself caring less and less about my savings goals. I’m tempted by dinners out on gorgeous patios, refreshing margaritas after work, and constant road trips around the West coast.

But there needs to be a balance – and focusing on your money goals during summer is an awesome, achievable challenge. Here are some great places to start.

1. Check your credit score

Keeping up to date on your credit score will only take five minutes. But it’s something people often don’t check frequently (or at all.) Get in the habit of checking it quarterly – every month is better, if you make time – and evaluate how to raise it. Some good starting points: Utilise a small percentage of your credit and pay your monthly balances off in full.

2. Re-name your savings accounts

Nothing says, “I’m thrilled about putting my hard-earned money in here” like an account named 48720935. If you want to truly motivate yourself to save towards a goal, your account can’t be named 24601.

Instead, remind yourself what you’re saving for and change your account name. “Croatian Vacation, Summer 2020” or “The ‘Oh Sh*T Fund!” are two great options. Psychologically, you’re less likely to remove money from the account if you’re reminded what it’s really for.

3. Negotiate one big bill

Just one. Get on the phone with Verizon or Geico or Comcast and (politely) give them a piece of your mind. You literally could save hundreds of dollars a year from a 10-minute phone call.

I once saved $US150 just from 10 minutes of phone calls and an email (and you can, too.) Here’s the exact script of what to say (or, if you don’t want that kind of on-hold torture in your life, I love Trim, the app that does the negotiation for you.)

4. Ask for a raise

You know you’ve been meaning to. You keep putting it off, wondering if it’s “the right time.”

But news flash: It’s never the right time. Which means it’s always the right time! Logic!

By not negotiating your salary, you’re losing money not only now, but for the history of your earnings. Here’s the ultimate guide to asking for a raise, and some of my best tips on prepping to ask (and guaranteeing your success.)

5. Discover 3 go-to dinner recipes

“But Tori! This isn’t a financial goal!” Oh yes it is. Having a few dinner recipes that are simple, healthy and delicious will keep you on track for your savings goals. Try to find recipes that mimic your favourite take-out orders, so that you can indulge in that tikka masala from the comfort of your own home (without the $US15 price tag.) I personally love this sweet potato curry recipe that is delicious, nutritious, and cheap as hell.

6. Start (or grow) your side hustle

You’ve had that side project on your mind for ages, but haven’t done anything with it? Now is the time. You could be earning some serious cash – sometimes a few thousand dollars extra – a month by taking on a small gig a few nights/weekends. In addition to my 9-5, I work as a freelance social media consultant and do career coaching. I absolutely love what I do, and have managed to grow my side hustle into a lucrative business. This income goes straight into savings.

7. Calculate your net worth

This will literally take you 10 minutes. Tally up the worth of all your assets (savings/investments, value of big possessions like a house or car, etc.) and subtract your liabilities (debt, mostly.) Voila – net worth!

If this net worth is zero dollars (or in the negative), your goal is to get into the black as soon as possible.

8. Find a budgeting system that works for you

Maybe you hate Mint’s ridiculously-specific categories (I’m raising my hand). Maybe the cash-envelope system isn’t working for ya. Budgeting will be SO MUCH EASIER TO DO when it actually makes sense for you and your financial situation, not someone else’s.

Take these summer months to experiment with apps, spreadsheets and other resources – your budget should work for you, not the other way around. My personal favourite is what I call “The Three Bucket Budget”: necessary expenses, savings and “mad money.” That’s it, no crazy-specific categories. Maybe that will work for you, too!

9. Sell, sell, sell

I have a pair of hardly-worn Lucky jeans, an electric guitar in a hard case, and books that I won’t touch again – all perfect to sell online. Chances are, you have stuff in great shape that you know you won’t use again. Sell this stuff on Craigslist, OfferUp, PoshMark or another site to get some quick cash.

And if you don’t want to sell clothes (I personally think it’s too much effort for a shirt I paid $US15 for), do a clothes swap with friends or donate to your local Goodwill.

10. Fall in love with a personal financial resource

Perhaps it’s a podcast (The Fairer Cents and Mo’ Money are two of my favourites.) Or a book (The Financial Diet is my go-to.) Find a source of financial wisdom that really connects with you, and provides quality advice that’s easily digestible. Make an effort to consume its content with fervor during these summer months. You’ll walk away better educated, and shocked at how much you’ve learned.