If you're like most Americans, this past summer season was filled with short trips out town, family vacations, and likely some extra spending on eating out and entertainment as well. A recent NerdWallet survey found that Americans planned to put $1,019 on their credit cards to cover travel summer travel costs and said they'd spend about $471 per child for summer activities.
Vacations are a much-needed element for a balanced work life, and some Americans don't take them. But the added expense of taking a trip out of town, or sending the kids to summer camps, can easily bust your budget and may even saddle you with additional credit card debt. If you're guilty of overspending over the summer, don't worry; just follow these three simple ways to help get your budget back into shape.
1. Revisit your budget and cut out additional expenses
Summertime often means meeting up with friends for dinner or taking the family out for a meal. It's easy to get stuck in a pattern of spending money on eating out and not even realizing how much it's busting your budget. The average American typically spends about $263 per month on eating out, and it's one of the easiest things to trim from your monthly expenses. If you notice that you're continuing to eat out like it's the summertime, consider cutting back to get your food budget back in line.
Next, take a look at your entertainment expenses and see if you've picked up any unhealthy spending habits over the summer. For example, perhaps you made it a habit of catching all of the summer blockbusters over the past few months. This might be causing your entertainment expenses to become much larger than you realize.
2. Get back on a savings plan
It's logical to assume that if many Americans are spending more money over the summer, then their savings plans may have taken a hit to cover the costs. The average American doesn't have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency, which means that most Americans would do well to spend a little time working on this part of their personal finances. And with the fall season about to begin -- and the holiday season just around the corner -- now is a great time to revisit your personal savings plan.
The first step to kicking off your post-summer savings plan is to establish a goal. Maybe you spent some of your savings to cover fun expenses over the summer, and all you need to do is map out a weekly or monthly savings plan to get your savings account back to where it was a few months ago.
But if you don't have anything in your savings account, then first start with saving $1,000 to create an emergency fund. If you already have that, then focus your attention on setting up a plan that gets you to a goal of having three to six months of expenses socked away.
Whether your savings plan goal is to save $1,000 or to replenish your savings account to its pre-summer amount, it's a good idea to automate your savings so you won't stray off course.
3. Tackle extra debt you accumulated over the summer
This section may be most important for most Americans, especially given our penchant for charging our expenses. The average credit card interest rate is now at a staggering 16.7%, and that means if you made a minimum payment of $25 per month on a $1,000 balance on your credit card, at a 17% interest rate, it would take 60 months to pay off and cost you $486 in interest charges.
The best way to start tackling your post-summer debt is to focus your attention on your smallest credit card balances first. For example, if you put a few plane tickets on an airline credit card, and the amount is smaller than your other credit card balances, then pay that card off first. The point is to take care of smaller debt amounts first so that you free up more money each month and add momentum to your debt repayment plan.
Get back on track
One of the most important things to remember about getting your budget back into shape is to be honest with yourself about some of your additional spending habits. It might feel overwhelming to log in to your bank accounts and take inventory of your spending habits, but the faster you do it -- and then create a plan for paying down your debts and saving money -- the quicker you'll be ready to handle new expenses that are bound to pop up.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.