My most two dreaded 4-letter words are debt and snow. The thought of winter makes my body curl up onto itself – a true, physical cringe. Likewise, the thought of debt chills me to the bone – because I’ve been there, close to broke and in the clutches of financial winter.

Summertime and financial independence, on the other hand, warm me to my cockles. I love summer. Balmy summer days and warm breezes lift my spirits and provide wonderful distractions – the smell of freshly dried clothing on the line, the eye-popping beauty of lush flower and vegetable gardens, outdoor concerts, picnics and the pure, simple pleasure of being in the sun. After our hunkered down, closed in lifestyles in winter, we loosen up – our wardrobes, our houses and our attitudes.

As much as we love the sun, our physical body suffers from too much exposure – our skin reddens and burns. Still, we forget to put on sunscreen, thinking, “I’m only going out for a little bit.” Then, when we get too much sun, we hurt. We learn from the burn, and the next time, we mindfully prevent the pain.

Our personal spending tends to follow the seasons, too, and the lesson of the summer sun applies to our spending as much as to our skin. Too much spending sets our financial house aflame. Summertime spending can be like the sun burning a hole in the ozone above the Antarctic. This hole forms each year as the Southern Hemisphere’s summer begins. It closes as the summer ends. Our fiscal systems suffer from us neglecting financial sunscreen and acting in the heat of the moment.

How do we treat our personal finance with the same free and easy attitude we do a summer day? In business, we’re told to make hay while the sun shines. We take a more consistent attitude toward spending in business, knowing that we must have reserves to carry us through lean times, and that every purchase must make fiscal sense. Because we don’t take a free and easy attitude toward business expenditures, we would be wise to ask ourselves what happens in our personal life that’s different. How is it that our attitude changed simply because spending occurs in our personal lives?

The solution? Spend easily and consciously, because we’ve prepared for the occasion during financial winter. Like the feeling of being in the sunshine is so good on the skin, treating ourselves to a new shiny object also feels good to the psyche. Unfortunately, the shiny object tarnishes. What appears glistening in the sun turns into a mirage later. The economy this summer is brightening for some, while others are still in the depths of their financial winter. Summertime, whether on the calendar or in the consciousness, is no time to be cavalier with money.

Renée Barnow learned about finance at the dinner table from her father who was a sales rep, being taught to read the Wall Street Journal at an early age, as a licensed securities broker and through editing and contributing chapters to finance and economic textbooks. She’s also coached young leaders in organizations about personal budgeting. She earned, burned and lost a fortune. Then she learned and remade it.

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