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10 Tips for Enjoying Summer on a Budget

As many of you might know, Danny and I are planning to buy a house this fall (!!!) While I’m obviously super excited, this past year has also been daunting — how can we possibly save all we need to and still enjoy life in the city? 

We’re certainly not perfect. I have my occasional unneeded shopping sprees, or expensive dinners out. But it’s all about balance, right? 

Now that we’re just 1-2 months away from making the big purchase, we’re tightening our purse strings more than ever. But that does not mean I’m prepared to dial down the summer adventures. After all, summer is what we Chicagoans look forward to all year long. 

Here are a few tips and rules I’m planning to follow this summer in order to keep saving all we need. If you’re in a similar situation, or just want to boost your bank account, I hope these help you, too!

  1. Find free events. Every city is full of free things to do in the summer. In Chicago, my favorites are the Green City Farmer’s Market, movies in the park and fests like Old Town Art Fair and Taste of Randolph
  2. Limit yourself to one meal out per week. This one’s obvious. Eating out is truly the biggest money suck ever. One casual meal out for two can easily reach $75, $100 or more. So save up — pick one day per week to treat yourself to a reasonable meal out. You’d be surprised how much you can make do with what’s already in your pantry.
  3. Go ombre. This is kind of a funny one, but a great trick I’ve been following for about a year now. I get my hair colored just once every six months. How? Because I purposely have my stylist dye my roots a color that’s close to my natural, so when it grows out, it’s almost unnoticeable. That way you can still have a light summer glow without the expense.
  4. Block out Sunday for meal prep. This includes grocery shopping and any prep work for the day ahead. No — you won’t do it in the morning. Avoid repeatedly buying breakfast, lunch and dinner by having a set meal schedule. Knowing you’ve already purchased that food will make it harder to stray from your budget.
  5. Cut down the booze. Alcohol is expensive — even when you drink it at home. Give your wallet (and your liver) a break by skipping the booze three, four or even five days per week. It’ll seem like more of a treat when you do enjoy it, and you might be surprised by how much you save.
  6. Eliminate pricey shopping methods. Okay seriously — you don’t need to Instacart twice a week. And you also don’t need Whole Foods guacamole on the daily (though, damn, it’s good). Be smart about where and how you buy your food — it adds up quickly.
  7. Be a tourist in your city. Feeling restless one day? Spend your time walking around your city like a tourist. See the sights you’ve forgotten about or carelessly looked past. Lay in a park and read. You might find a new appreciation for where you live (and a new favorite spot!)
  8. Cancel your gym membership. The summer is full of outdoor fitness activities — whether running outside or working out a park. Consider cancelling your gym membership and pushing yourself to work out outdoors. That Vitamin D doesn’t hurt, either!
  9. Plan a clothes swap with your girlfriends. Half of the charm of shopping is being to wear something new. Well, one [wo]man’s trash can be another’s treasure! Ask your girlfriends to meet at a friends house and bring 3-4 items they no longer want. Then, throw them all in a pile and swap away. Whatever’s left goes to charity.
  10. Opt for happy hour versus dinner. Sometimes you just need to get out and wear those heels — I totally get it. Plan a dinner at home, but head out for a pre-dinner drink beforehand. Even just that one drink will give you a chance to get dressed up and out of the house without dropping $$ on a full meal.

Good luck — and happy saving!

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