With summer fast approaching and everyone itching to regain a sense of normalcy, there has been a lot of talk about what to do and where to go, but very little chatter on how to control your finances and make smart spending decisions while going back to "normal." Here Farnoosh Torabi, one of the country’s leading personal finance experts, dispenses a few tips and tricks to help you stick to your financial goals while still enjoying yourself this summer.
Erase the guilt or shame.
I've been hearing from my audience about how they are really nervous about spending money and, quite frankly, feeling guilty that they can experience life “normally” again after a year of so much loss. In fact, a recent Zelle consumer behavior study found that adjustments people have made during COVID-19 are here to stay as only 1 in 3 (34%) say that they don't plan to make permanent changes in a post-coronavirus culture. But I want to tell everybody that there is no shame in spending money on the things that are important to you -- especially not on experiences that can enrich your life. Experiences like going to a ball game or the beach are actually correlated with higher levels of happiness. Of course, spend responsibly, but don't be too hard on yourself because you want to treat yourself after a really hard year and a half.
If you are someone who is a bit unsure about spending money for pure enjoyment, take it slow. Take it month by month. For others, it may be really tempting to try to experience it all now that we're fully vaccinated. No doubt our friends’ posts on social media about their trips and experiences won’t help us feel as if we’re not making the most of the summer. But create a plan, make intentional expenses that aren’t led by impulse, and of course be realistic about what you can afford. Space out your trips or excursions so that you have time in between to rebuild or replenish savings.
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Share in the fun (and the cost).
There's the expression that “there's safety in numbers”' Well, there's also “savings in numbers.” And now it's never been easier to share expenses with friends, thanks to peer-to-peer services like Zelle. It has totally eliminated the chore of chasing down a friend for paying her share of last night's dinner!
Create a "new normal" budget.
We learned a lot about ourselves in the pandemic. It was a time of great reflection and in the past year we may have realized how frivolous (or meaningful) some of our spending choices have been. What did you miss or not miss? Take inventory of that and apply it to your “new normal” budget. Post-pandemic life isn't about going back in time and repeating everything. It's about refinement and spending with more clarity and consciousness.
Some financial habits are worth bringing back.
Before you go on a spending spree, make sure that your bases are covered. Do you have a rainy-day savings account? Did youI pay all your bills last month? Have your contributed to your retirement? If you answered yes, then from here you can spend more freely and with peace of mind.