This is a guest post from Pauline of InvestmentZen.com
Spring is just a few days away, and what better time, as we start enjoying the warmer weather and longer days, to implement some good money saving habits? I know during winter I generally have lower energy, and when it’s dark outside, I feel more like a hot chocolate and a movie in bed than hustling. So let’s enjoy the new season and start on the right foot!
Start a garden
If you have a garden at home, starting a little vegetable patch is a fun and inexpensive hobby, that will give you delicious fresh vegetables come summer. Depending on where you live, you can start right now or in a few weeks. And if you do not have a garden, how about some herbs on your balcony? I even had tomato plants out my window one summer, they don’t need a lot of space. There is something very rewarding about growing your own vegetables. Pay attention to what your neighbors are planting, to see what the best species are for your location and climate. If you are in an arid area, watering your patch is going to be costly, but you can still plant a few fruit trees that don’t need too much water. On top of a nice harvest, you are likely to increase the value of your home with a nicer garden.
If you end up with a surplus, canning is a great idea to avoid waste and enjoy your produce all year round. Learn how to make jam, find some nice jars at a garage sale or dollar store, put a handmade sticker on it, and you have a super cheap and original Christmas gift for friends and extended family!
Plan for summer
Summer will come before you know it. And with it, holidays, long weekends, summer camp for the kids, and many other costly activities. Time to save and budget so it doesn’t take you by surprise. You should book your flights and accommodation as soon as possible if you plan on traveling. Get a travel rewards credit card to earn miles and free hotel nights. Join the hotel chains’ newsletter to receive their special offers. Plan a frugal holiday around National Parks or State Parks, free activities that are plentiful in summer, especially in college towns, and a few big ticket attractions.
Or if you really want to take the kids to Disney or on a cruise, start saving money now, so you don’t have to charge your card later. Again, book an early bird deal, so you only have to pay for food and gas during the summer months.
Repair your stuff
DIY is another gratifying hobby. That shelf that fell down last November. The bicycle you haven’t used since the last puncture. The shirt button that needs sewing. You will save money by giving your things a few more years of use, instead of throwing them away and replacing them. And if you get handy in a particular area, like car or computer repairs, you can even start a side hustle! Put a local ad and start charging neighbors for it. Many fixes are very simple but people are too lazy or too busy to repair their things. You can also go through your attic or garage, and sell the things you are not using, once you repair them.
Invest your tax refund
The average tax refund this year should be around $2,800. Think of it as money you saved during the past 12 months, not a windfall you should spend mindlessly. If you have high interest debt, like credit cards, you should use it to pay part of your balance. But if you only have student loans and a mortgage, this is the perfect opportunity to fund your 401k and investing account. Think about it. If you invest nothing else during the year, and invest your $2,800 refund every year for the next 30 years, you will have over $330,000 in your retirement nest egg! That is assuming a rate of return of 8%, which is a little lower than what the S&P500 has returned over the past 30 years.
Go back to nature
Spring is the perfect time to cancel your gym membership and start running or cycling outside. A day at the park, playing ball games and watching birds will only cost you gas money and a picnic. This is a much healthier option than an afternoon at the mall and greasy food court meals.
Look up for meet ups in your area to do yoga, walk dogs, or go hiking with other outdoors enthusiasts. Many sports club have free afternoons for beginners to get acquainted with their discipline, so you can make an informed decision when it is time to buy sports gear. And most activities will only require you to wear a t-shirt and a pair of running shoes. What are you waiting for? Break a sweat, meet people, keep your leisure budget in check.
How are you planning for a frugal spring?