by NEA Member Benefits

During the school year, you’re laser-focused on your students and your responsibilities at school. But come summertime, you finally have a chance to focus on you.

Whether you want to tackle a big home project or reassess your finances, jet off on a much-needed vacation, or just kick back and relax for a change, your summer is a blank slate. What will you do?

Here are a few ideas for smart ways you can spend your break, plus some benefits for NEA members that can help you make the most of your time off.

1. Rejuvenate

You’ve been on the go since last fall. It’s important to take time now to slow down and breathe for a bit. Check out this 3-step process that’ll help you unwind, reassess and recharge.

By allowing yourself to rest, build some healthy habits and tend to your own needs, you’ll be ready to go by your first day back next school year.

2. Take a vacation

Yes, you really do need to take a vacation! You could plan an adventure to exciting locales such as Las VegasEurope or Central America. You could plant yourself on a remote beach, live it up at a theme park or hit some well-known U.S. tourist destinations. You could take a road trip to explore Southern food cities or enjoy music festivals. Or you could hop aboard a train and let someone else do the driving.

Wherever summer takes you, your NEA Member Benefits can help. We offer access to discounts on your travel booking needs, including hotels, airfare, rental cars, group tours and more, as well as a free monthly e-newsletter with travel tips and special discounts. Find out more on our Travel & Vacations resource page.

When you book your travel, be sure to use your NEA Cash Rewards Card. You can maximize your purchase by choosing to earn your 3% cash back that month on travel purchases.

3. Plan now for next summer’s vacation

If you’re scrambling to lock in this summer’s travel plans now, do yourself a favor and plan ahead for next summer’s trip. Research destinations, determine your budget, and start setting aside money so you can travel where you want without going into debt. In addition to using our travel booking resources, you can open a savings account now to start building your vacation nest egg.

There also are some great opportunities for educators that require advance planning, such as applying for travel grants and signing up to be a cruise-ship lecturer.

4. Assess your finances

Reviewing your money situation isn’t necessarily relaxing, but getting a handle on your financial situation will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you identify areas for improvement that you can get started on during summer break.

Get your monthly budget under control with our printable tracker sheets, free for NEA members. With a little legwork, you can probably reduce some monthly expenses. Your NEA membership even gives you access to discounted wireless services from AT&T.

If you have a lot of debt, consider consolidating it into one credit card or personal loan with a lower interest rate to save money every month. Plus, making one easy payment can reduce the likelihood of being hit with late fees. Check out your consolidation options through the NEA Personal Loan (More Than $5,000), the NEA RateSmart Card and the NEA Cash Rewards Card.

Next, review your insurance policies to make sure you are adequately covered and not overpaying for unnecessary coverage. If you need to change or update any coverage, check out the NEA Auto & Home Insurance Program and our wide range of life insurance options.

If your children are heading to college or grad school in the fall, you may realize you need help to foot the bill. If so, we offer several student loan options that can help parents and students afford the education they deserve.

Retirement may seem a long way off, but it’s critical to ensure you’re saving enough now. First, do a quick assessment of your situation with our 5-Minute Retirement Calculator, then check out some of our retirement resources to help you plan and save, including the NEA Retirement Program.

5. Move before the school year starts

If you’re considering moving, now’s a good time to do it. Check out our home-buying resources for tips on what you need to know before you buy, how to succeed in a competitive sellers’ market and more.

Whether you’re buying or renting, it’s important to protect your belongings through either homeowner’scondo or renter’s insurance.

6. Tackle home-improvement projects

You finally can dedicate some time to updating your home, either for yourself or to appeal to potential buyers. First, figure out if you’ll do the work yourself or hire a contractor. If you need to hire someone, do your homework so you can find a good one.

NEA Member Benefits has several solutions that can help you update your house. For example, you can find deals on a variety of appliances through the GE Appliances Store, and you can earn rewards while shopping online at retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and more through NEA Click & Save. If you need to bankroll your home-improvement projects, you could put smaller tabs on your NEA Cash Rewards Card (be sure to choose to earn 3% cash back on home improvements and furnishings that month!) or the NEA Personal Loan (Less Than $5,000), and larger loans on the NEA Personal Loan (More Than $5,000).

7. Make some extra money

You could spend some time supplementing your income during the summer – on your own terms. One option to explore is turning your hobby into a part-time gig, or you could declutter your home and turn excess items into fast cash.

If possible, consider setting aside that extra money for your future, such as building up your emergency savings or adding to your retirement savings.

8. Start a few healthy habits

Now’s a good time to focus on your well-being, which can include breaking bad habits (bye-bye, stress eatingand nail biting!) to creating good ones (improving your diet and sleep habits and committing to adopt smart financial habits).

One more good habit to create now: Check regularly to see how your membership benefits can help you achieve your goals, from saving money on everyday items you need, to saving up for the big stuff like a new home or your dream retirement.