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August 2012

ChicagoHealers.com: Five tips to keep summer spending down

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Looking to curb summer spending? Buy local! Street fests and farmer’s markets are two of Chicago’s favorite summertime activities.

This is a recent article I wrote for my good friends over at ChicagoHealers.com that was featured in their eNewsletter. Be sure to like them on Facebook, check them out on Twitter and sign up for their eNewsletter!

There’s something about summer in this great city that just makes people want to spend a little more. Winter leaves us cold and often without much sunshine. Once it hits 70 degrees, we’re ready to venture out sans jackets for some outdoor fun. Unfortunately, many of us take that opportunity to take a shopping offline and increase it with in-store purchases. Whether you’re taking a vacation or just taking a leisurely stroll downtown, there are ways to limit the amount you spend. Here are five tips to keep summer spending down.

Take a “daycation”
Though a full-fledged summer vacation may not be in the cards for everyone this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a getaway. Take a “daycation” to some place you’ve never ventured to close to home. Hope in your car, drive a few hours, and see where you end up (and what you can find along the way).

Grab some cheap deals last minute
If you want a nice weekend getaway that’s too far to drive, booking early may not net you the best deal. But waiting until the last minute just might. Most airlines offer special fares during the week for weekend flights. United’s E-fares offer incredibly cheap flights to almost every major city in the United States. Head over to their website every Wednesday to see which deals you can grab for a last-minute weekend trip on Friday.

 Pay cash one day a week
I’m all about setting an intention and following through, and I think scheduling a Cash Only Day a couple days per week is a great goal. I know how tempting it is to pull out the credit card at a local street fest for cute trinkets from a local artist. And what’s a $2 ice cream cone, really? Well those little purchases add up, especially if you’re making them through your Visa. Pick a day (or two or three, if you’re feeling adventurous), grab a set amount of cash and only use that for spending money.

Buy local
A great way to spend your Cash Only Day is by shopping locally for groceries. Surf the web for the farmers markets in your area, and do your produce shopping there instead of the grocery store. You can get everything from fruits and vegetables to homemade nut butters and even some breads and pastries. If it’s in walking distance, leave the car at home and make it a fun morning activity for the family (the dog too!). Since they are generally held in or near parks, the kids can keep busy and you can cross off an important item on your weekend to-do list.

Cook outside
Foods taste better when cooked over an open flame, and I’m not talking about just chicken and steak. Grilling your vegetables, cooking seafood and baking cakes all taste delicious when cooked outdoors. Why is cooking outside cheaper than your oven? The oven creates heat; when the house gets hotter, the air conditioning blasts longer. And that makes your electricity bill climb higher. So spend a one or two days a week cooking outside on the grill. The internet has an unlimited amount of recipes for delicious ways to grill almost anything. Be creative!

Financial forgiveness

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The finance industry has been inundated with talk of forgiveness lately. Student loans are being forgiven. Big banks are being bailed out. And Wall Street has seen a good amount government support these past few years. All around us, people – from the little guy to the biggest business – are experiencing financial forgiveness.

But what about you? Sure, you’re probably not going to get a bail out any time soon. And your relationship with Sallie Mae has serious mileage left before your student loan is forgiven. Long-term financial forgiveness is one thing, but the type of forgiveness I’m referring to is much more dyer in your day-to-day life.

Picture this.

Monday morning. You’re zipping through the house making sure the kids are up and moving, clothes are clean, the dog is walked and food is ready for breakfast. Then, it’s off to drop the kids off at their respective schools before you make the trek to start your work day.

In the midst of the chaos you eschew breakfast, grab coffee on the way to the office and choose to go out to lunch instead of making one at home. After a long day of work (with a few breaks for some online shopping), you’re too tired to cook so you pick up the kids and order take-out for dinner.

Sound familiar?

We’re a busy bunch, and it’s very difficult to find the time to make it all work and stay sane. So when we check our bank balances after the bills are paid, the kids are squared away and we’ve done our daily spending, we’re a little embarrassed that the account is so low. We know that it was our actions that led us to this point, but we’re still upset with ourselves. We’re smarter than this, right? But month-after-month, we find ourselves in this same situation.

I talk a lot about being conscious of what you’re doing with your money each day. After all, going after your ideal life is a lot tougher when you don’t know exactly where your current one resides. So when you go through your current financial situation and uncover what your real financial habits are, don’t bury those negative emotions; bring them to the surface and let them heal naturally.

Don’t judge your choices; remember, you are human and you make mistakes. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed; we’ve all had moments of excess. Instead of making changes from a place of shame, blame, judgment or guilt, come from a place of forgiveness.

Action step

As we’re inundated with messages of big bank bailouts and student loan forgiveness, it’s time to start forgiving ourselves for our financial mishaps – those out of our control and those within our own grasps. Start practicing financial forgiveness in your own life. Stop looking at your big picture as one financial failure after another and choose instead to view it as lessons learned.

This week, focus on financial forgiveness. Don’t beat yourself up over that spending spree. Instead, forgive yourself and come up with a better financial plan for your fun money. Financial healing and financial forgiveness go hand-in-hand; forgive yourself for your mistakes and the healing will soon follow.