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Ready to splurge this summer? Follow these tips to avoid tumbling into debt in the process

In a post-pandemic world, many of us are ready to spend on some summer fun. But travel, eating out and clothes remain pricey.

SAN ANTONIO — Americans say they are ready to spend as they re-enter the world.

“We’ve seen a lot of talk about this big potential explosion of pent-up spending that may be coming,” said Matt Schulz, the chief credit analyst for LendingTree.com.

Almost half of Americans are willing to get into debt this summer as they take advantage of travelling, dining and going back to work, a LendingTree survey found.

“Things that are going to send people into debt after the pandemic aren’t necessarily things that are essential to life,” Schulz said. “We’re not talking about keeping food on the table. We’re not talking about keeping the lights on, that sort of thing. We’re talking about a lot of the fun stuff a lot of us missed over the past year.”

You do not have to miss out on the fun to miss out on the debt. Take a trip, but do it midweek to save.

“You’re definitely more likely to find better rates,” said Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor of The Points Guy, a website that helps people maximize their travel. “You might not have to contend with some of the minimum-stay policies that a lot of hotels have in place.”

The high cost of a rental car right now could send the cost of travel skyrocketing, so skip the rental line.

“Take advantage of dealership try-before-you-buy programs,” Lieberman suggested.

Or skip the rental car all together by taking a trip to the city.

“We’re seeing better deals on flights to cities,” Lieberman said. “There is way more in terms of hotel availability, better rates. And you don’t have to get a rental car when you get there, which could save you a ton of money down the road.”

Go out to eat, but set a budget.

“If we allow ourselves $100 a month to go out for food, we may not go to a really fancy restaurant once,” said Trae Bodge, a smart shopping expert. “We may go out to a more moderately priced restaurant four times. We make more measured decisions when we have those parameters that we need to live with.”

LendingTree found about 80% of people plan to spend money going back to work. The average cost was $750 for clothing, décor and supplies.

“We’re not talking about people necessarily splurging on going back to work stuff, but we are talking about people adjusting back to life where they have to wear khakis and business casual instead of sweatpants and shorts,” said Schulz. “That’s a significant change that’s coming and people need to be ready for it.”

Head back to work in style by shopping your closet first.

“You obviously want to feel special and good when you’re going back to the office,” said Bodge. “But the first thing I would recommend is go through your closet because if you’ve been wearing loungewear for an entire year, you probably don’t remember what is in your closet waiting for you to wear again. You might have bought something new for yourself at the beginning of 2020. You probably don’t remember that.”

Ditch the debt, not the fun.

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