Summer is almost here, which means your college vacation is around the corner. However you plan to spend your time off—whether it’s working a summer job, hanging out with friends, or taking a class or two—you’ll need to find ways to stretch your income and savings so you can cover your expenses while still having money for fun activities. Follow these six tips, and you may have money for activities like shopping and travel, and maybe even set aside funds for the fall semester.
Calculate your income
If you plan on having a summer job, you can start by estimating how much money you will be bringing in each month. For hourly positions, you can do this by multiplying your wage by how many hours you expect to work monthly—that will show you what your gross pay will be. You can then use a free online paycheck calculator to determine what your actual paycheck might look like after taxes including Social Security and Medicare are deducted from it.
Figure out your expenses
It will also help to calculate what your total expenses will likely be each month for necessities like food, transportation, and rent (if you’re not staying with your parents). Some of these might fluctuate, but you could try using grocery or gas cost calculators to give you a ballpark estimate. Subtracting that total amount from your anticipated income should then give you an idea of how much you might have left over for either arbitrary spending or to put away. If you happen to have some savings to fall back on, such as from earnings from an on-campus job, or if your parents will be helping you out financially over the summer, be sure to work those sums into your calculations.
Prioritize your spending
Chances are you won’t be able to afford everything you want this summer, but you might be able to make your budget more flexible by prioritizing certain categories over others. To start, make a list of your typical expenditures. You can work to rein these in by making a list and putting the things that matter most to you at the top and those that matter least at the bottom—you can then try to limit your spending on those bottom items. For example, if you get takeout regularly due only to lack of planning, try to create a weekly menu every Sunday so you can prepare less expensive but tasty meals for yourself instead.
Track what you spend
It may seem tedious, but diligently tracking every dollar you spend, whether it’s on food or entertainment, can help you pinpoint areas where you might want to set limits to save more. These strictures could also help you stretch your dollars further. To help you with this, try using an app like Mint or a program like Excel.
Stretch your budget
If you’re short on cash, there are various ways to remedy your situation, including picking up an extra job, getting a rewards credit card to earn points or cash back for your purchases, and using retailers’ mobile apps to get access to special deals and savings.
Look for low-cost options
Summertime offers plenty of low to no-cost activities you can enjoy, from hikes through the woods to free concerts in the park to cookouts in your own backyard. By kicking back and enjoying some of life’s simpler pleasures this season, you might have enough cash to splurge on some of the fancier ones too.