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Winter is the season for saving — at least the tail-end, anyway.
We use all of January, February, and March to save up for the season coming. But in April, we want to spend.
There are trips to take, vacations to book, festivals to attend, endless sunshine-loving outfits to buy.
Spring and the upcoming summer are the seasons we splurge relentlessly and without apology; budgets are made to be broken under the beauty of sand, sun and surf.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to be a game of give and take where you give, give, give until your savings account has nothing left to take from.
In the realm of splurging and saving, you can have it all. So long as you play your cards (and your paychecks) right.
You should save for the fun stuff — and the serious stuff
Erica L. McCain, veteran financial expert, Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow and founder of McCain & Associates, told Elite Daily saving up for those fun experiences is just as important as putting cash aside for bigger investments.
"By not budgeting [for fun]", she says, "you may end up swipe, swipe, swiping your credit card until you're only capable of making the minimum payment as opposed to paying things off in full."
While you don't have to create separate accounts for every expense (and your bank likely won't let you do that), it's important to keep a mental or physical track record of where your money's going and why.
An Excel doc will make sure you know just how much you're allocating for the summer house share in the Hamptons.
It'll also keep track of how much you've got left over for a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree before you and friends hit Miami Beach in early August.
A good starting point, McCain advises, is to ask yourself a few questions before you hit the buy button on your web browser:
- What do I typically do for fun?
- How often do I make time for some fun?
- How much do I usually spend on doing something just for fun?
When you have a clear picture of where your money's headed over the next three months, you can make smarter, more confident purchases.
Plus, you've already got an innate fallback plan for saying no: The summer share is way more important than tickets to see Haim open up for Taylor Swift, so looks like the money's headed to the Hamptons.
Make time for cheating on your budget
Yep, we said it: It's OK to cheat on your budget. Promise.
"Life is full of choices every day, all day long. If we evaluate how much money we typically spend on fun and choose to build that amount into our budget, there's less of a chance we'll be caught off guard."
Which means you won't have to call Mom and Dad with your tail between your legs every time you want to do something.
To make a little room for an A-OK cheating clause, you've got to put a little work in and give yourself a little extra cushion.
McCain goes on to say, "Setting aside a secret amount of money from every paycheck, no matter how much or how little, gives us the freedom to splurge without guilt." So that guilt you're supposed to feel for cheating — guess what? You won't feel it.
"A little cushion", McCain shares, "allows us to be spontaneous within reason and still meet the budget needs."
But are there rules to safe cheating? Yes — and no. Cheating on your budget steers you in the way of dangerous territory (because cheaters are notorious for not knowing how to say no); however, making smarter, more worthwhile cheats will keep you from cheating nonstop on stuff you don't actually need or even need to be a part of.
Here's where the 'no' part of that answer comes in: Cheating is, at its very core, doing something wrong, so there isn't a hard-and-fast rulebook to follow on how to do it right.
Since every situation is different, you'll have to use your best judgment to determine if something is cheat-worthy or not.
So because there isn't a concrete rule, erring on the side of caution is up to you.
Ask yourself the age-old question
Do I need this or do I just really, really want it?
No one said budgeting was pretty, OK? And when it's Friday at 7 pm, and you've got a bank account full of two weeks of hard-earned pay, things can get real ugly real quick.
It's all too easy to stop in every Urban Outfitters, Forever21, American Apparel and H&M you see, insisting you've earned one of everything on your wish list.
Unfortunately, this isn't the case (but oh, how you probably wish it was). McClain says, "Impulse buying leads to splurging on items we don't need or even truly want."
And then we're faced with the ugly, uphill battle: You've got to walk-of-shame back to each one of those stores and return each and every item when you realize you can't afford it.
So before you set yourself up for over-spending failure, remember what mom used to tell you: Sometimes, your eyes are bigger than your stomach. And, in this case, your eyes are playing tricks on your bank account.
You can start, stop, pause, and pick-up-and-go whenever you want.
Here's the thing about saving: It isn't a club you need to request membership from. You can start saving right this very minute or two months from now — I'll be none the wiser and neither will anyone else.
Budgeting and saving needs to happen completely on your own terms and whenever you're ready for it, both financially and emotionally.
It's a big checkmark on the Things Adults Do list, so make sure your heart is in the right place. If you're the type who loves to complain about money without ever doing anything about it, by all means, carry on.
But if you want to change your story, McCain suggests you start sooner rather than later. Life is full of surprises, and sometimes [even the good ones] cause us to dig deep into our savings.
The good stuff — a best friend's bachelorette in Vegas, a couples-only getaway to Hawaii, a spa weekend away with the girls — is worth spending on, and memories you won't want to miss.
Moral of the story, though, is to be realistic about what you want and what you're going to want to do.
McCain says, without a budget; you have to ask yourself if certain money risks are ones you're willing to take. If the answer is a resounding no, you need to start saving ASAP.
Most importantly, treat budgeting like a learning process.
Do what you can, when you can, with what you have. As for the rest, just fake it 'til you make it.
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