If you're like me, you'd like to simplify your summer finances. After all, summer is the time to relax a bit more, spend extra time with family and friends, and maybe even indulge in a little getaway if a summer vacation fits into your budget.
So chances are, money matters are the last things you want to worry about – especially if you're thinking about hitting the beach, planning a backyard barbecue, or even just chilling out alone on your porch with a good book.
In the spirit of keeping things light and easy for the summer, here are six tips to help simplify your summer finances. I've used the six-letter acronym S.U.M.M.E.R. to help you remember them.1. S – Set up automatic bill payments.
If you've not yet put your credit cards, utilities and other recurring expenses on automatic payment, summer is an optimal time to do it.
Many of us are traveling, busy with the kids or trying to squeeze in a few extra workouts to get a beach-ready body. So why bother with distractions like keeping up with bill due dates, scrambling for stamps and envelopes, or running to the post office to make sure you've paid your bills on time?
Do yourself a big favor, and arrange for those bills to be paid electronically and automatically. That way, you'll have more down time this summer and financial peace of mind, too. Plus, you don't have to commit to automatic bill pay forever. You can just do it for a couple of months this summer and see if it works for you.
2. U – Unwind any bad deals you want to terminate.
All right, so that lifetime membership to "Fans of the Endangered Peacock Club" or that monthly subscription to "Denim Vs. Silk Magazine" seemed like a good idea at the time, right? But now you're realizing that, um, it was kind of a waste of money. Don't worry, we've all been there.
But rather than allow your bank account to keep being tapped month after month (or year after year), just take a few minutes to cancel that regrettable deal. One phone call is probably all it will take. Even if you have to write a letter, fine. Get on your computer and whip out a quick note saying "Please cancel immediately."
Who knows? Depending on the deal you're unwinding, you might even get a credit on your credit card statement or a refund check in the mail. That's an easy way to get rid of a financial hassle – and generate some summer savings as well.
3. M – Meditate or pray about your finances.
Yes, you read that correctly: I said meditate or pray about your finances. Meditation isn't just for new-age gurus and people into yoga. Anyone can practice meditation, which, at its core, is really about finding balance and inner peace. And what better area of your life to reach peace and harmony with than your finances?
Prayer, for those of us who believe in God, is also helpful when it comes to simplifying your finances – and your outlook – about money. You can pray and ask God for anything from wisdom on how to be a good financial steward to blessings for a more economically prosperous life.
Even if you just give prayers of thanksgiving for things like your health, the roof over your head, or the clothes on your back, prayer can be a way of acknowledging what you do have and being content with that.
Can't get into meditation or prayer? Then at least mellow out with a summertime song that will put you in the right mindset to chill and take a break from your money worries. My recommendation: Will Smith's "Summertime." I love these classic lyrics from the song:
"Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind
Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind"
You can't listen to "Summertime" and not be grateful that the sun is blazing outside, you've got memories you can cherish way more than money, and that life is pretty darned good – financial problems or not.
4. M – Make a future appointment with your accountant.
I know, I know: Tax season is well behind us. And the very last thing on your mind is taxes or dealing with the IRS next April 15th -- unless, of course, you currently owe the IRS (as millions of people do), or unless you want to get a jump on your finances for next year's tax season.
During the fall and winter seasons, financially savvy people everywhere will be trying to schedule year-end appointments with their CPAs to get last-minute tax tips and learn how they can save money on their taxes before December 31st.
The even smarter move, however, is to reach out to your accountant now, during the slow summer season, so you can get on his or her calendar early – preferably sometime in late fall – before that accountant gets booked solid.
This strategy is all about making one easy phone call to start doing some smart fiscal planning that will lower your tax bill and reduce your future stress. Oh, and your accountant will be less frazzled, too, not to mention very impressed by your early-bird ways.
5. E – Eliminate financial clutter.
Since you're already calling the accountant, why not go one step further and get rid of all those unnecessary documents and financial paperwork cluttering your home or office?
I recently picked up a NeatReceipts scanner, which hubby and I love because it's a breeze for digitizing receipts and papers of all kinds. It also makes us way more organized, which is helpful for simplifying our finances. (Read more advice on giving your household a good financial cleaning, including tips on what documents to keep and what to shred when getting organized).
6. R – Register for an easy-to-use budgeting system.
Keeping your budget on track is a year-round task. But you can make it simpler, especially in the summer, by using free and easy budgeting software.
I like the budgeting tools offered by Mint.com. Mint's software does everything from tracking your bills to emailing you alerts about how much you've spent during the month on luxuries like eating out, travel and entertainment.
As you can see from these six S.U.M.M.E.R. tips, you can keep money matters cool, calm and collected even when the weather outside turns hot. So follow these steps to simplify your summer finances and watch the financial stress melt away – in the lazy days of summer and all year long.
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