It’s no surprise that many educators don’t have regular income over the summer. And while careful planning and part-time work can help manage the summer-budget blues, there are times when you simply have to make those dollars stretch a bit further.
Don’t ignore a financial crunch hoping that somehow everything will work out okay. Plan it out now and you’ll save stress and worry—and hopefully come out ahead!
Start with these 10 tips from NEA Member Benefits to have a fabulous summer even on a tight budget.
1. Take financial inventory. Look at your income and savings sources to figure out how much money you’ll have until your first back-to-school paycheck. You can include any useful, unused gift cards that may be hiding in your wallet.
2. Create a summer budget. Add up all your monthly bills and known summer expenses to figure out how much you think you’ll actually need. Omit things you buy for convenience, from habit or because you simply want or prefer them—zero in on the bare-bones minimum you can live on. If you find you won’t have enough, use tips 3-10 to get your expenses down.
3. Use what you already have on hand. If you have stockpiles of shampoo, soaps, paper products or other essentials, tap that stash instead of buying new. Even if you didn’t love the product, if it’s still good, use it first to save money.
4. Prepare more home-cooked meals. Every meal or snack you make at home can save you money compared with dining out. See what’s in your pantry and freezer, says author and NEA member Dawn Casey-Rowe, who teaches grades 9-12 social studies at William M. Davies Career & Technical High School in Lincoln, Rhode Island. “Chances are you have more than a month of food on hand, but you skip over a lot.” Eat those things first.
“Make a calendar that uses up those dry staples—the beans, rice, flour, baking ingredients, things left in the freezer,” Casey-Rowe adds. That way, “you won’t waste, and you get a bunch of free meals.” Find sample meal planners on Pinterest and other sites.
5. Cut off paths to easy spending. Plug any leaks in your budget. Shop from a detailed list so you don’t buy non-essentials. If you know you habitually spend a lot of extra money at particular stores, avoid them for now. Block easy access to shopping online by deleting your credit card information from your favorite sites, at least for the summer. Try one of these 5 budgeting techniques to train yourself to think before you spend.
6. Find free entertainment. Save on summer fun by taking advantage of free days and discounts at museums, parks, concerts and other entertainment. Think like a tourist on a budget.
Use your library card to access free books and e-books, movies, music, research resources, job training, seminars, free Wi-Fi and more.
Take up an inexpensive hobby or a digital project such as starting a blog, writing a book or posting your pictures, says Casey-Rowe. You’ll have fun and learn useful skills. And, she adds, and “it will fill your summer, for sure.”
7. Juggle bill payment dates. See if you can defer or reduce your monthly bills until you’re receiving a paycheck again. Check your NEA benefits such as the NEA Auto & Home Insurance Program’s Summer/Holiday Skip option. Ask your bank or credit union and other billers about Skip-A-Payment options.
8. Save when you must spend. Use savings apps like Ebates, iBotta, Shopkick and others that offer discounts, coupons, cash back or other rewards with each purchase you make through the app. Be a smart shopper. Take advantage of coupon sites, promo codes, loyalty programs, negotiation and deal watching. If you have an NEA credit card, use your points to help pay for things you need.
9. Earn extra cash. Sell things you no longer need or want at consignment stores or online sales sites such as eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, Etsy and others. If you love to create things, convert your hobby into a side business.
You also can provide services for pay. Many educators correct AP exams or freelance over the summer, says Casey-Rowe.
10. Stay healthy! Make time to exercise, rest and relax! You’ll be less stressed, save on trips to the doctor—and working out at home or in the summer sunshine is free!