Reality check: fall is get your financial sh*t together season. Because summer fun has a way of throwing your budget off track. And a big spending season is right around the corner.
Ready to do this.
First, check in on your spending habits by reviewing some recent bank statements. Note any new expenses, as well as ones that might be popping up again soon (hey, office commute). If you see room for improvement in your budget, now is a good time to free up some cash for the rest of the year.
One idea: Try negotiating down some of your regular bills, like for your phone, internet, and even your rent. Start with some research. Then call your service provider or landlord. If you find a lower price from a competitor, you can ask them to match it or see what else they can do. Odds of striking a good deal are best for loyal customers with a history of on-time payments.
Got it. What else?
Add these tasks to your fall money checklist:
Prep your holiday budget. Yes, this early. Because pandemic-related shortages and shipping issues are already predicted to make the 2021 holiday season extra expensive. Estimate how much you spent last year on things like gifts and shipping, decorations, clothing, and travel. Divide the total by the number of weeks until you'll start spending, and save a little from each paycheck in a holiday sinking fund.
Round up your rewards. Did your summer swiping help you rack up credit card points or cash back? Redeeming what you can now could help offset some big purchases, like gifts and travel. Speaking of...
Book year-end travel. Delaying this move could cost you. The cheapest days to book holiday travel may have already passed. But booking a Thanksgiving flight before Halloween could still save you up to 40%. And you'll want to book a Christmas flight before prices go way up in December. Oh, and don't forget to consider travel insurance.
Use your work benefits. If you have unused vacation days or funds in your flexible savings account, use them before you lose them.
Think about your health insurance needs. Open enrollment is the most wonderful (and only) time of the year to sign up or change your health insurance. The exception: if you just experienced a life change, like getting married, having a baby or lose your employer-based coverage. If you get your insurance on the gov's marketplace, open enrollment for 2022 coverage begins November 1 of this year and ends December 15. Your company may have its own enrollment period around the same time.
Clean out your closet. Because your pandemic wardrobe might not cut it anymore as you get ready to head back to the office. Sell what you can on consignment sites like Poshmark, Depop, and ThredUp. Donate the rest, and keep the record for a potential tax deduction.
Up your investments. If there's room in your paycheck, consider increasing how much you invest in your 401(k). Reminder: the 2021 limit is $19,500. Retired You will be happy you did. So will the You who gets to deduct retirement contributions from your 2021 taxable income.
Add student loans back into your budget if you've been taking advantage of the pandemic pause. Heads up: it ends January 31, 2022. For real, this time.
Apply for student aid. If you’re heading back to class for the 2022–23 school year, your first chance to submit your FAFSA (hint: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is October 1. Pro tip: file ASAP. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. So procrastinating could mean missing out and having to borrow more.
Fall is the right time for watching football, finding out where your friends stand on the Great Candy Corn Debate, and getting your finances in order. Tackling a few money tasks – like freeing up cash in your budget, getting an early start on holiday budgeting, and reviewing your benefits – can help you end the year strong.
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