June 29, 2015

23 Smart Ways to Save Money in July

Read more about What to Buy in July

July is when the lazy days of summer really start to set in — but you can't afford to slack off on your finances. The decisions you make now can benefit you long after the seasons change.

© imagesbywestfall (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Here are 23 ways to improve your financial outlook in July so you're not feeling the heat the rest of the year.

SLASH YOUR TRAVEL BUDGET

1. Enjoy a frugal 4th
In 2013, Americans planned to spend an average of $300 to celebrate Independence Day. That number climbed to $1,161 for people who were going to travel over the holiday. If you're traveling this year, aim to book your trip midweek (leading up to the 4th) when flights will be about $40 cheaper.

2. Take a staycation
According to American Express, a family of four spends more than $4,500 on average to take a vacation. The cost breaks down to $1,145 per person. If you’re worried about your travel budget this year, consider staying home and pretending to be a tourist in your hometown, and save thousands of dollars.

3. Skip the rental car if you're planning a road trip
With gas prices still relatively low, driving to your vacation destination may be cheaper than flying, but only if you're taking your own vehicle. July is when rental car prices spike substantially, costing you as much as $25 per day more compared to the spring, fall, and winter.

4. Start planning next year's vacation now
The early bird gets the worm when it comes to vacation planning, and that's especially true if you're set on sailing the open seas. July is the peak season for cruising, so lock in your bookings now for next year to beat the crowds and save some money.

Tip: Beginner's Guide to Airline Miles and Points

5. Book ahead for September travel
Can’t wait until next year? You could book now for a September vacation. July is the time to book: According to a Wall Street Journal report, prices for flights are at their lowest 57 days before the actual booking date.

6. Check your credit card bonus
If you use a rewards credit card to accumulate points for flights or hotel stays, don't forget to sign up in July for your rewards. For cards like Discover It and Chase Freedom, which have rotating bonus categories, July is when the new quarterly bonus categories kick in. You don't want to miss out on the chance to earn the most rewards possible.

HOME BUYING, TAXES, AND INSURANCE

7. Scout out open houses
Spring is typically known as the best time of year to buy a home, but it's actually July when the available housing inventory hits its peak. If becoming a homeowner is on your horizon, you could get your pick this month in your local market. Sellers who are trying to move before school starts may be especially open to offers, so keep your eye out for signs of children during open houses — that may give you more wiggle room during the negotiation process.

8. Put in an offer now if you can
On August 1, new federal housing rules are set to take effect that will impact the mortgage closing process. It's anticipated that the new guidelines may extend closing times, so if you're in a hurry to move in, you'll want to make an offer sooner rather than later.

9. Update your car insurance
Statistically, the summer months are when it's most dangerous to be on the road. Car accidents tend to spike in August, so checking to make sure you have enough coverage in July is a good way to protect yourself if an accident happens.

10. Get life insurance if you don't have it
Just as car accidents hit their peak in August, so do the number of traffic-related deaths. Buying a life insurance policy now gives your family a financial buffer against the worst-case scenario.

11. Check your homeowners coverage
Hurricane season officially starts in June, but things don't really start heating up until July. Take a look at your homeowners insurance policy to see how much you're paying for the possibility of hurricane-related damage. Are you spending a ton of money each month, but how much you’ll be covered is paltry or unclear? It might be time to shop around for a new policy or a rewrite of the one you have.

12. Start saving for your September tax payment
If you're self-employed, you probably know that you're required to make estimated tax payments four times a year. The June deadline just passed but with the September payment due in two months, you'll want to start socking away money now so you don't come up short.

CUT COSTS AT HOME

13. Take control of the AC
There’s a big plus about July: Your heating bill has gone way, way down. But, of course, your electric bill could spike if your air conditioner is running nonstop. Consider putting a parameter around your AC use. Installing a programmable thermostat to regulate the temperature during the peak of summer could shave 5% to 15% off your energy bill over the course of a year.

14. Keep the cool air in
Switching up your thermostat won't do you any good if you're letting the cold air leak out of every crack and crevice. Spending a July weekend sealing up cracks around doors and windows and replacing worn out insulation in your attic could add up to an additional 15% savings in your heating and cooling costs.

15. Trade in your worn out furniture
If your sofa is looking a little ratty or your dining table could stand to be replaced, July is the time to start hunting for bargains. New furniture models begin rolling out in August, which means retailers will be discounting last year's items in July to open up space on the showroom floor.

16. Stock up on paint
Spring is usually when people consider slapping a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but you can save on home improvement costs if you wait until July to tackle the project. The week leading up to July 4th is generally one of the best times to score paint and paint supplies on sale.

17. Eliminate water waste
When a July heat wave sets in, keeping your lawn looking good comes at a cost — higher water bills. Opting to install low-flow fixtures is a relatively inexpensive switch that could save you as much as 700 gallons of water per year, which ultimately means less money you're spending in the long run.

MORE SMART MONEY MOVES

18. Hit the car lots
Research has shown that August is when transaction prices are 2.4% lower on average compared to the rest of the year, with the first week of the month being a prime time to buy. If buying a new set of wheels is on your to-do list, July is when you want to start scoping out deals in your area.

19. Plan your holiday spending
In 2014, Americans spent an average of $720 on holiday shopping. To avoid taking on debt when December rolls around, start saving for a holiday fund now. If you set aside $25 a week beginning July 1st, you'd have over $500 socked away by the time Black Friday rolls around.

20. Ask for a raise
Angling your way towards a bigger paycheck isn't rocket science. Sometimes all it takes is waiting until the right time of year. According to LinkedIn, the majority of raises are handed out in January, June, and July. If you've been thinking of asking for more money, now's the time to pop the question.

21. Create your third quarter budget
If you normally start your fiscal year in January, July marks the kick-off of the third quarter. Taking a few days to review your budget can give you an idea of where you're at with your annual goals and what spending leaks you need to address. If you're one of the 60% of Americans who doesn't regularly make a budget, you don't want to let the summer slip away without making one.

22. Start shopping for back to school deals
Kids don't officially head back to school until August and September, but you don't want to wait until the last minute to prepare. In 2014, parents of middle and high school age children spent an average of $682 per student. If you don't want to be blindsided by the final cost, mid-July is when you should be on the lookout for sales on laptops and supplies.

23. Plan ahead for college costs
For the 2014-15 school year, the average cost of attending a four-year public university was nearly $19,000 for in-state students and almost $33,000 for out-of-state students. For parents of students who are about to embark on their college career, July is the time to evaluate their financial aid package, research last-minute scholarship options, and start planning withdrawals from a 529 plan or similar college savings account.

FINAL WORD

Your finances aren't something you can just set and forget, especially during the dog days of summer. Doing the 23 things we've included on our July checklist can have a positive impact on your bottom line for months to come.

More from CreditDonkey:


What to Buy in July


Credit Cards for International Travel


How to Pay for College

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    July offers a discount oasis for shoppers who know where to look and when to buy. Many retailers will bring out slashed prices to lure consumers away from the beach, but only for certain items.

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