This week, we asked financial experts just what Americans should be doing this summer to get their finances in tip-top shape. They suggested a range of strategies, from boosting earning power to overhauling spending habits. Now, we wanted to share five of our own summer money tips, based on the stories we’ve been reporting on recently.
1. Prepare for emergencies. Summertime can bring extreme weather. Already this year, we’ve seen flooding, forest fires, and storms that knocked out power lines for days. While you might not be able to avoid such disasters altogether, you can prepare for them and minimize the impact on your own bottom line.
Since one of the priciest costs of a weather emergency is the cost of alternate housing if you are forced to leave your home, create a list of affordable and nearby hotels that you could count on if necessary. It’s almost impossible to search for good deals if you lack wireless access or electricity. Keeping batteries, flashlights, granola bars, and other essentials on hand can also help.
2. Make sure your insurance is up-to-date. The worst time to discover that your rental or homeowners insurance has lapsed is after you need it, so make sure you’ve paid all the necessary premiums with your provider. And make sure you know just what it covers and what it doesn’t: According to the Consumer Federation of America, consumers are often forced to pay for more of the costs than they realized, including deductibles and coverage gaps for weather-related damage such as flooding.
If you’re not happy with your coverage, now is a good time to shop around. Experts generally recommend getting at least three quotes from different provides, so you can compare rates and coverage. Don’t hesitate to ask your agent questions if wording is unclear, as it often is.
3. Get the rest of your paperwork in order, too. If you ever had to leave your home quickly because of a flood, power outage, or other emergency, then you’ll want to know just what to grab. That essential stack of documents includes identification, insurance information, and any family documents, such as birth or marriage certificates, that you would want to protect.
4. Check up on your home’s water and energy consumption. Energy bills can go sky-high during the summer months as air conditioners work overtime to cool down homes. Make sure your home is properly insulated so you can use less heat and air conditioning. Closing doors to unused rooms, like a guest room, helps, too. Also, be sure to unplug appliances, turn off lights, and shut down computers at night. Even televisions can use up power when they're turned off, so either unplug them or use power strips that automatically shut the power off when they're not turned on.
5. Boost earnings with a side gig. If summertime means more vacation days and shorter hours, then it’s a great opportunity to pursue that second career you’ve always thought about. Expanding on a current hobby by offering lessons or tutoring to others, charging for what you already do for free, such as providing social media help, or opening an online store on a site such as Etsy.com or Fiverr.com can get you started.
What are you doing to boost your finances this summer?