This is an excerpt from CNBC Make It's weekly newsletter. Subscribe here.
Call it revenge spending. With many parts of the U.S. reopening, tens of millions are expected to make up for lost time by shelling out for experiences they've been missing over the past 15 months.
More than a year after Covid-19 upended lives around the world, Americans are preparing for a return to a "normal" summer, filled with travel, concerts and a trip (or two) to our favorite boutiques. Financial analysts have been predicting a boom in retail and service spending as a result.
Of course, not everyone plans to spend lavishly this summer, and many Americans are still out of work. But many people's finances have actually improved compared to pre-pandemic times: The personal savings rate soared, and credit card balances have fallen in aggregate.
There's going to be a surplus of disposable money to go around in the coming months — and many Americans are itching to spend it.
I asked financial planners and wealth managers how to make the most of any extra money we might have going into the summertime. Here's what they advise.
Keep up your positive pandemic habits
Many experts gave advice that falls along the lines of what can be considered traditional money tips:
- Set a budget
- Add friction to make impulse spending more difficult
- Don't take on any new debt
- Keep up any new saving habits you may have established
These are the rules everyone knows, even if we don't always follow them. They're important — there's nothing wrong with a bigger savings account — but they're also not exactly fun. After the prolonged period of stress we collectively endured, a little spending on new experiences can improve our mental health and overall well-being.
Go ahead and let loose a little
Others pointed out that this is something of a once-in-a-lifetime reset in many of our lives. It's worth recognizing that many of us skipped vacations, avoided seeing loved ones, and stayed home from concerts and movie theaters for the past year. It's OK to let loose now and revel in some normalcy, assuming you have the means to do so.
"We need to see each other, interact with our loved ones and bond over our favorite activities," says Melanie Allen, who operates Partners in Fire, a financial independence and lifestyle blog. "It's important for people to know that it's OK to spend money on these things, especially if they bring you joy and enrich your life."
For me, eating in restaurants with friends comes to mind. While traditional financial advice encourages people to cut superfluous spending like that, I realized how happy it makes me to get dressed up and have someone who actually knows how to cook prepare a meal for me.
Ditch the old stuff that you don't need anymore
That said, it's OK to admit that there are certain things or activities that you really didn't miss, says Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. Perhaps your life was just fine without after-work happy hours, or a new wardrobe. Consider this "found" money, and direct it toward savings or some of your revenge spending.
"Figure out what you value and prioritize that and eliminate some of the clutter," says Rossman. "This reset can be liberating in that sense."
Reassess your priorities
There may also be found money in permanent life changes, says Jody D'Agostini, a New Jersey-based certified financial planner. Your work may switch to a hybrid in-person and remote schedule, which means you could potentially save on things like child care, commuting or dry cleaning.
In general, it's a good time to reflect and take stock of the future, says Rossman. Reevaluate your financial goals, taking the past year into account. Your priorities may have changed, and that's OK.
"By spending smarter and in ways that better align with your values, you'll be happier and your finances will be stronger," he says.
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter