5 Little Life Upgrades Anyone Can Make Before Summer’s End, According to Experts
Don’t look now, but the year is officially halfway through — and there’s no better time than now to start thinking about some of your future goals. Whether you’re hoping to land a better job in the fall or simply save a bit of extra money every month, career, life, and money coaches say that taking baby steps towards long-term goals can help set you on the right path towards bigger life changes.
“We often get overwhelmed and stumble when we try to take on too much too fast,” says career coach Kenitra “Keni” Dominguez. “Breaking bigger goals into small, incremental changes makes it easier to implement them in your life for the long haul.”
Interested in learning more about some of the little ways you can upgrade your life in just a few months? From taking an online professional course to paying down credit card debt and more, here are five small yet effective life changes that career, life, and money experts say you can make before the end of summer.
Learn something new.
Whether your goal is to apply for a new job in the fall or negotiate a higher salary at your current one, Dawid Wiacek, a certified career coach and the founder of The Career Fixer, says summer is the perfect time to pick up a fresh work skill to make it more of a reality. “Consider designating a single evening each week to an online professional development course,” he says. “Once you earn that new certification, you’ll not only have a badge you can add to your resume, you’ll also have a newfound confidence about you — since you can now talk about that new topic or skill with proficiency during a networking conversation, a casual chat, or a formal job interview.”
If you aren’t interested in studying a work-related skill, Dominguez recommends setting some time aside every day to read an interesting book instead. “Not only does reading help us learn about new things, it stimulates our brains, improves memory function, and expands vocabulary,” she explains. She suggests setting a goal like reading 20 pages a day, and setting aside a specific time to read. “It will be easier to make time to read in the morning (before you get bogged down with the details of the day), or in the evening during your daily wind-down routine.”
(Re)connect with people.
If you’re hoping to expand your social circle in the fall, but feeling a bit rusty after more than a year tucked away at home, Julie Melillo, a life coach in New York City, recommends making a small but concerted effort to talk to one new person a day. “It only takes 10 seconds to ask a check-out person how their day is going, compliment a stranger about their cute dog, or ask someone for directions,” she explains. “This will help you get more comfortable talking to new people, while hopefully spreading around some positivity along the way.”
Not comfortable talking to strangers? No worries. Wiacek says taking a few minutes a day to reconnect with an old friend or colleague can be equally effective. “Writing a quick email or text to check in with a former friend or coworker can be a springboard for rekindling connections,” he explains. “This can lead to future plans, new acquaintances, and even job recommendations down the line.”
Lower your debt(s).
Whether you owe money on a loan or a credit card, Lisa Menckhoff, a financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual, says summer is an opportune time to prioritize reducing your debt. “Focus on making larger repayments towards outstanding debts with high interest rates (like credit cards and student loans) to help you save more money down the road,” she explains. “Create a monthly budget that allows you to identify (and cut back on) nonessential spending, so you can use that extra money to pay down more of your debt every month. ”
If saving extra money every month isn’t feasible for you, Menckhoff recommends reaching out to some of your credit card and loan providers directly to discuss your options. “You can call your credit card provider to negotiate a lower rate and/or consider refinancing if your student loan interest rate is high,” she explains.
Show yourself some love.
A little self-love can go a long way when you’re trying to upgrade your quality of life. “Whether it’s sleeping in on your days off (and not setting an alarm clock) or adding naps to your daily routine, it’s crucial to prioritize your peace of mind no matter how busy you may be,” Dominquez explains. “Developing an intentional self-care practice that makes you feel good will help you prioritize your mental health and prevent feelings of burnout down the line.”
If you can’t commit to a daily or weekly self-care practice, Dominquez recommends incorporating some mandatory “micro-transitions,” or short breaks that allow your brain and body to shift from one state to another, into your daily routine. “As we transition from one major part of our day to the next, it’s important to take a few minutes to recharge and shift gears,” she explains. “When you’re done working, for example, you can turn down the lights and put on a relaxing playlist to help ground your thoughts and create a ritual to signify the day’s end.”
Contribute a little more to your retirement fund.
If you have an IRA, 401(k), Roth IRA, or a Roth 401(k) and a little extra money to spare, Menckhoff says making additional contributions to your retirement account over the summer can help you grow your savings for the future. “Thanks to compound interest, even small improvements like increasing your withholdings by an additional one percent or, better yet, setting up an automatic annual increase, can have a huge impact over time,” she explains.
To get a better idea of how much money you’ll receive when you retire (and how much more you’ll need to contribute to meet a long-term financial goal), Menckhoff recommends using a free online compound interest calculator. “You can get a quick estimate of how much you can expect to retire with by plugging in your current retirement savings, annual contributions, average interest rate and expected years until retirement,” she explains. “Don’t forget to factor in any additional contributions from your employer.”