For those trying to save some dough this summer — or fall or winter — it can pay to understand the psychological traps that emerge when the sun comes out, the clouds turn to rain or when seasons change.
Whether sweltering in the heat or hiding from the rain, people tend to manage money differently depending on the weather. If you want to spend less money, this list can help you figure out how to work with the weather forecast instead of against it.
1. When Updating Your Warm- or Cold-Weather Wardrobe
Summer spending typically starts when the weather turns warm, not necessarily when the calendar hits June 21. Spending on clothing is consistent with weather patterns, reported trade publication Horticulture Week last summer, when it registered a dramatic uptick in apparel spending as temperatures peaked.
Shoppers are often excited by the first wave of warm weather, flocking to the stores in search of wares to update their summer wardrobes. Still, the best way to make your money last might be to keep your excitement at bay and save your shopping for later in the season, according to U.S. News and World Report. The best summer clothing deals can be found from Fourth of July to Labor Day, already well into the heat of the season.
2. As a Response to Extra Hours of Summer Sunlight
A three-part study reported on by Psychology Today found that people feel more positive when the sun is out. That might not be surprising to anyone who’s enjoyed a long walk with a friend on a sunny day. However, those sunny feelings also prompt people to want to shop — and spend — more.
If you know ahead of time that the weather forecast is linked to how often you open your wallet, plan ahead, and arrange a free or inexpensive outing — like a daytrip to the beach or a local park — the next time warm weather strikes. Finding ways to spend less money often depends upon your creativity.
3. When Trying Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
About a half-million the U.S. population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that strikes during fall and winter months, when there is less sunlight available each day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The condition is most prevalent in women, as well as people who live in cloudy regions or far north or south of the equator, where light disparity is at its greatest.
Grant Bledsoe, a Portland, Ore., financial planner and founder of Three Oaks Capital Management, said he has seen this phenomenon firsthand. “I grew up in Alaska, where there’s very little sunlight in the wintertime,” he said. “When we get depressed, we tend to go out and buy stuff to make ourselves feel better.”
Instead of using retail therapy as the cure, the Cleveland Clinic suggested daily 15- to 30-minute morning sessions of light therapy, a treatment that exposes sufferers to an artificial fluorescent light source.
4. When Traveling to Escape to a More Moderate Climate
When it comes to summer vacation, more than two in three travelers spend more money than expected, and almost half accumulate credit card debt while traveling, according to a 2015 summer travel survey released by consumer credit reporting agency Experian.
“Here in the desert, people spend money to stay cool” by traveling to more moderate climates, said Charles C. Scott, accredited investment fiduciary with Pelleton Capital Management in Scottsdale, Ariz. To stay cool in the summer, Scott’s neighbors head to the beach in Southern California or up to the mountains in Northern Arizona, he explained.
That traveling doesn’t always come cheap. The average vacation costs more than $1,000 per person, according to a 2015 survey conducted by American Express and independent marketing firm Ebiquity. Summer is a notoriously expensive time to travel, but those with school-age kids at home have few options. Instead, consider a series of daytrips that don’t require lodging, or pick a place within driving distance to forgo the airfare.
5. When Looking to Beat the Heat
Hot weather spells at home tend to be accompanied by a substantial boost in day-to-day spending, said Andrew McFadden, founder of Panoramic Financial Advice. “In my hometown of Fresno, Calif., we have long summers with 100-plus degree heat,” he said. “That means we’re all cranking up our air conditioners in our homes and in our cars, and we’re buying ice-cold bottled water [and] Starbucks Frappuccinos to keep us cool and happy.”
Those choices come at a price, but they don’t necessarily have to, said McFadden. “If we planned ahead for the adverse conditions, though, we could avoid some of these higher costs.” Pack your own drinks in a reusable water bottle, he suggested, and make energy-efficient choices in your home. “It’s the impulse spending decisions that kill our finances,” he added.
6. When Deciding What to Eat
Perhaps unsurprisingly, demand for hamburgers and coleslaw rises dramatically when temperatures near 70 degrees and people spark up their grills. When winter strikes, people tend to shop instead for comfort foods. Google searches for pork chops, meatballs, lasagna and chocolate chip cookies soar when the weather turns cold or blizzards strike, according to The Washington Post.
Advertisers know this, too, and take advantage of shifts in local weather patterns to promote foods that were not likely part of your shopping budget. The Campbell Soup Company heightens soup ads during nasty weather; McDonald’s uses its digital menu board to promote its frosty treats when the weather is hot, reported The Washington Post.
Still, no matter how seemingly trivial, it’s the cumulative effects of unintended impulse buys that can torpedo even the most well-thought-out budget. Plan for food cravings as part of your budget, and stock up on your favorite warm and cold weather foods ahead of time, when you’re more likely to find them on sale.
7. When Expecting Inclement Weather
Many 30-somethings fail to plan ahead and wait until the weather turns to start buying winter necessities, said Mark Struthers, chartered financial analyst with Sona Financial. “In financial planning, it’s fear that usually motivates someone,” he explained. “They wake up to -10 degree Fahrenheit weather and say, ‘I need a coat.'”
Instead, to save some cash, consider planning ahead, maybe even by an entire season. Buy weather-appropriate attire when prices are discounted the most. Boots, coats and other winter gear are at their lowest prices later in the winter, according to Lifehacker. Meanwhile, late summer is the best time to shop for swimsuits. That pre-planning can make a significant difference when it comes to staying within budget.
8. When Trying to Beat the Rainy Day Blues
Gloomy weather can dampen even the cheeriest of moods. It’s no surprise that some spenders scamper to their local watering holes to ward off the rainy day blues. Once there, they often “increase spending on things that are not good for you, like drinking or smoking,” said Struthers. These choices can sometimes come at the cost of healthier spending alternatives, like “eating healthy, exercise, healthcare and financial planning,” he added.
Instead of blowing the budget at a bar, invite some friends over and host a board game marathon, a darts tournament or a round of cards. It’s hard to stay down when your friends are around. Even on the grayest of days.
9. When the Weather Is Unseasonably Warm or Cold
Conversely, unseasonable weather tends to keep shoppers at home, according to Ad Age. “I live in Minnesota, and I haven’t bought a new pair of cross-country skis in 10 years,” said Struthers, referring to the recent string of unseasonably warm winters the traditionally cold-weather city has faced.
When the weather stays warm, shoppers won’t spend money for ice fishing, downhill skiing or snowmobiling, according to St. Paul Pioneer Press. Colder-than-expected summer weather also keeps daytrippers away from lakes and beaches, depresses boat rentals and even puts a damper on apparel spending. All that might be good news for spenders, who can save those rainy-day bucks for an upcoming sunny day.
10. When Poor Weather Prompts You to Fill Your Online Shopping Cart
Then again, shoppers sometimes ride out the storm at home, and take to their computers to shop online. Last summer, Horticulture Week reported a 6.5 percent uptick in online sales when the weather turned cold and storms filled the sky.
If you’re not sure how to stop spending money, even when the weather crimps your options, consider disconnecting from the internet and hunkering down with a good book or settling in with a friend for a long afternoon chat. Neither costs a dime, no matter what the weather forecast.