But summer doesn’t have to put us out of pocket for the remainder of the year. As the old song goes, “The best things in life are free!” But how do we take advantage of them, exactly? And while we’re at it, how do we stop comparing ourselves to friends who have bigger paychecks, a lineup of exotic vacations, and closets full of designer garb?
Ruth Soukup, founder of Living Well, Spending Less, says we can get back to basics, let go of that need to “keep up with the Joneses,” and prevent the mindless spending that comes with the season.
Here’s how to have a magical summer on a budget (and stop comparing yourself to others).
Sever (virtual) social ties.
“Unfollow everybody who triggers you on social media,” says Soukup. “Unfollow them; don’t unfriend them.” This can also be a great time-management tool.
Simply turning off the highlight reel of other people’s lives can help you relax and be more present, exactly where you are (even if that’s at home in your pajamas). And no one even has to know you’ve done it. I must admit: I’ve tried this myself, and it’s quite lovely!
Just say no.
Saying no is a successful person’s best-kept secret. Say you’re invited to an event or a vacation you can’t quite afford—it’s imperative to say no. Credit-carding it is not an option if you want to live the remainder of the year debt free. Social pressure or a short-term high is not worth the anxiety and stressful scramble to pay the Visa bill later.
When you need to politely decline something, Soukup suggests easy phrases such as:
“Sorry—it’s not in the budget right now; we have to pass.”
“We’ve already allocated our vacation budget this year.”
Not only is this language kind (and impersonal), it makes you appear super savvy and organized.
Take advantage of location, location, location.
Based on your region, you can often find wonderful free things to do in the summer. Do you live near the water? A park? A community pool? Summer leisure time is not reserved for fancy vacation spots—it’s all around us! Even sitting on a stoop or park bench with an iced coffee and a magazine counts. What can you explore in your neighborhood right now?
This also doubles as a mini gratitude exercise, as you are focused on enjoying what you already have (but might overlook).
Bring your own.
Outdoor brunches and rooftop rosé can add up, so why not get crafty and creative? Gather your tribe, make some sandwiches, grab a bottle of your favorite beverage, and find some shade under a tree. If you have an outdoor space, why not host a themed soirée and invite everyone to bring a dish?
Make a game of it.
Soukup has a spending-freeze challenge so popular, it became a book: 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero. Can you try a zero-dollar month, a zero-dollar week, or even a zero-dollar day? Try to make a game of it. How can you be competitive with yourself and spend as little as possible? Consider the financial rewards you’ll reap on a larger scale. It all adds up!
Overspending is not fun, nor is it good for you. Getting past the need to keep up with friends (IRL or otherwise) can also be surprisingly fun and satisfying. Think of what the savings would mean to you long-term, and it will reframe the way you think about restraint as something pleasurable instead of restrictive.
Oh, the sweet satisfaction (and cha-ching!) of simplicity.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!