Photo by Paolo Rosa on Unsplash
When temperatures begin to rise this summer, the best way to beat the scorching urban heat is to go swimming with family. It’s also a perfect time to relax and unwind, far from your daily grind.
But without the right preparations, swimming can produce two unwanted results: sunburns and “sunburned” wallets. You’ll get sunburned if you’re exposed to ultraviolet rays that exceed your skin’s tolerance levels, leaving a sore, prickly epidermis which can last for several days. Avoid this painful condition. Have lots of water and slather on some sunscreen.
But let’s talk more about your wallet, shall we?
I coined the term “sunburned wallet” to describe financial conditions after a summer outing that make people spend more than their actual capacity. Yes, it may have been fun – with new experiences, new friends, and new photos to post on Facebook and Instagram. But when you get home and check your bank account online, your eyes can’t bear the pain and you wonder, “Why in the world did I spend that much on a summer outing?!”
If you’re planning to go swimming with family this summer, protect your wallet through these four action steps.
Plan your expenses. You’ll get a “sunburned wallet” if you don’t have a ballpark figure of how much you’ll spend for a summer outing. Before you finalize the date, make sure you calculate costs for lodging, transportation, food, first-aid, communication, and swimming accessories. If the beach resort you chose is a tourist spot, you should factor how much you might spend on souvenirs, attractions, and amenities. Of course, you should allot money for unexpected expenses or emergencies. And don’t forget to count your sunscreen in the spending list!
Know your spending limit. Going over your spending limit can give your wallet sunburn. So, once you get the ballpark figure of your total possible costs, compare it with how much cash you can spend for your trip. This is your spending limit. It would largely depend on how much you’ve set aside in savings for discretionary expenses or costs not needed for regular home operations (e.g. monthly rent, mortgage, tuition, loan payments, or utilities). At the same time, you balance that with how much benefit it can give you and your loved ones in terms of helping strengthen the family bond and improving your mental and physical wellbeing. If you see that potential expenses for your vacation will go beyond your spending limit, make changes to the plan. Identify which items comprise the biggest expense and find cheaper alternatives. In most cases, choosing a less expensive venue or lodging can easily reduce the costs without spoiling the fun.
Avoid using debt to finance your outing. Your wallet can also get sunburned if you use credit cards to fund expenses for your summer outing. Recently, I see lots of well-written articles or short videos online on getting more reward points if you use your credit card this summer. They entice you to indulge in expensive getaways you’ve always wanted although you don’t have the money. But these articles are not written by people concerned with your financial health, are they? These are sales copies composed by marketing staff whose job is to convince people to keep using credit even if it increases their monthly payments.
Here’s my point. Using a credit card to augment your lack of money for summer outing is financially dangerous because you and your companions are in the mood to spend. Undisciplined credit card users always end up with a debt so big that all they can pay every month is interest! Avoid that trap. Summer vacations should be a time for relaxation, not some stressful event because it left holes in your pocket.
Involve family members in planning. You can also protect your wallet from sunburns by involving your family. If you’re a parent, financial stewardship is not just your concern. Share that responsibility with your children little by little, so that when they are older they know how to handle money properly. Before the outing, hold a family meeting and impart your desire for everyone to be a good steward of money. Explain how much the entire outing would cost, how much you can spend, and allow them to suggest ways they can help to keep expenses within the budget. The meeting can be tedious especially if you’re doing this for the first time. But it’s still a precious opportunity to guide your children towards financial stewardship. Never miss these moments.
There you have it — four actions steps to protect your wallet from sunburns.
Have a memorable sunburn-free summer outing!
Dennis A. Dawal is a Registered Financial Planner. He is a speaker, lecturer, and writer on personal finance and retirement planning.