Having summers off represents one of the greatest advantages of some professions, but also one of the greatest stressors.
Many people in the education field, including college professors, work approximately 8-9 months out of the year and have 3-4 months off. Not all employers provide the option of extending paychecks over 12 months. Many other professions are also cyclical in nature and after months of intense work you might suddenly find yourself without an income and with nothing to do.
The more prepared you are for the summer, financially and otherwise, the more stress you can remove from your life and enjoy the time off as it is meant to be enjoyed.
- Calculate your monthly expenses and then calculate exactly how much money you will need to get through the summer– Calculate the absolute minimum amount of money you will need to get through the summer (We are talking beans and rice diet and not spending a penny) and also calculate a realistic amount you need to continue your current standard of living. Don’t forget that most people don’t get paid as soon as they go back to work. Some people will be back at work for 2 weeks to a month before they receive their first paycheck. Also, don’t forget that you may have additional ways to save money in the summer like less commuting costs, less convenience food, etc.
- Save, Save, Save– Every extra penny you have needs to go into savings to help you get through the summer. If you do not have the absolute minimum amount of money to get through the summer you need to start making some plans now. How can you currently save more money? How can you work over the summer?
- Set yourself up for extra income during the summer– I have been buying items to sell on eBay when I happen to make it to a thrift shop or yard sale but haven’t had the time to list them. I will be listing them this summer. I also plan on indulging my hobby of scouring thrift shops for more items to sell online. This usually provides extra income and I love doing it. I also picked up a few 6 week summer classes to teach that I wasn’t planning on but if the classes don’t fill up that income is not guaranteed. Let friends and family know they can pay you to babysit or pet sit if you are interested. I also plan on trying to earn more Swagbucks for extra spending money.
- Be realistic about your summer plans– We had been planning on going on a cruise to celebrate a milestone birthday but unfortunately we had unexpected expenses present themselves during the year that meant that we couldn’t afford the cruise. However, we ended up renting a couple of condos on the beach with the price split between family and friends. We are going to have just as much fun and save a lot of money! I also knew that I needed to buy a couple of plane tickets this summer so I ended up factoring that into the amount I would need to get through the summer. However, if you are wondering how you are going to pay your bills this summer knowing you haven’t saved enough money you might have to cut any activities that aren’t free from your summer plans.
- Plan Free/Frugal summer activities – We live in Florida so our main summer activity is hanging out at the beach which only costs us a little bit of gas. There is also the discount movie theatre which is .75 cents on Tuesday nights. I plan on renewing my library card this summer and catching up on some reading. Exercising at beautiful, local parks is also free. There are tons of fun, free summer activities that you can take advantage of.
- Spend time with family and friends- Priceless but free! I never feel like I have enough time to spend with family and friends during the work years so I make sure to have plenty of time for them during the summer.
- Plan on doing frugal things you didn’t have time for during the rest of the year– If you aren’t working then your job is to save even more money. For example cooking more meals at home, hanging your clothes to dry instead of using your dryer, planting a garden, etc.
- Adjust your mentality– Summer is a time to rest and recharge after working the rest of the year. Take time to be outside and enjoy the little things. Don’t think that spending money is a requirement for having fun. You know that novel you have always wanted to write? Now might be the time.
- Get Organized– Get rid of things you don’t want/need, clean and organize the entire house.
- Try to take care of things that you didn’t have time for during your work year– For me, this list includes getting new glasses (mine are currently so scratched after 6 years of use that I can barely see through them), going to the dermatologist (a must for Floridians), detailing my car (my labor not paying someone), finishing sewing projects (I have clothes that need mended and pants that need hemmed in addition to other projects I plan to tackle) , deep cleaning the house, any store returns I have been putting off, etc. This is also a good time to fix things that need to be fixed.
- Travel frugally– I happen to believe that travel is good for the soul and I sacrifice in a lot of other areas so that I have the money to do it. There are some inexpensive ways to travel including house sitting, camping, road trips, cheap plane tickets, visiting family, etc. If you believe in doing this enough you can figure it out.
- Stock up on bargain basement deals– If you have the extra money and storage space, stock up on items you will use throughout the year at bargain basement prices when you find them. Having a stockpile of basic food goods that won’t go bad quickly saves me tons of money throughout the year. Over the summer I have time to follow the grocery store loss leader sales more closely.
- Set yourself up for success before you go back to work– Put systems in place to make it easier to adjust to returning to work. I will fill my freezer with drop and go crock pot meals, stock my pantry with the basics, clean and organize the whole house, take care of appointments and car maintenance all so that the transition back to work goes much more smoothly.
- Put a plan into place for the next year for your next summer- Three months of summer always seem to fly by. However, planning ahead makes a huge difference. If you are transitioning to only working 8 months of the year it usually takes a little while to perfect your system of saving for summer. If what you did this year worked great then implement it again for next year. If you wished you had saved more during the year then adjust your system for next year.
Best tips from others who have had summers off:
Mandy- “Don’t mindlessly shop. Only go to the store with a list and stick with it. That’s what I did when I wasn’t working. Take advantage of free things like your apartment pool or gym.”
Leanne– “I would make sure that I had things lined up ahead of time. I would look toward industries that gear up in the summer, rather than slow down. For example, teachers and professors could always look to teach a specialized program at a summer camp.” She also suggests that before you make a purchase from a store, Macy’s for example, you check eBay. She recently bought a $60 Macy’s blouse on eBay for $8 including shipping!
Fate- “I did an auto deposit of 1/3 of my paycheck into a savings account during the work year at a different bank so I never see it. That’s what I’m living off in the summer.”
Karin– “I would probably get really creative with food and try to have fun with it. I know an adjunct who made it kind of a project to eat everything in her pantry and not buy groceries (aside from milk, bread and eggs) for a few months. And I’d pick up a fun, cheap hobby like painting and/or writing to make good use of my free time without spending money. So basically I would focus on saving money and having (almost) free fun instead of trying to figure out how to earn- that is, if you have some money set aside to get you through!”
Tiffany– “Play on your strengths with a part time job as a tutor, SAT prep, or nanny. Produce something of value in your free time like a blog or a self-published book.”
Maureen– “No dryer, hanging clothes. Using air conditioning units only until the room is cool. Buying only dry cat food. Staying away from stores because if I go to the store I buy something.”
Do you have any great tips for surviving a temporary period of no income? Share your story with us!