Money·5 min read

Skimm Money: Debt Ceiling Update, Holiday Shopping, and the October Effect

Stock ups and downs on road
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Oct 8, 2021

Hey hey.

Let's get down to (some taxing) business. If you asked for an extension, this is your one-week reminder. Next Friday is the final deadline to file your 2020 tax return. Missing it could mean late fees and problems getting refunds, stimulus checks, and child tax credit payments. 

Headlines, Skimm'd

  • September slump. The latest US jobs report was a big letdown, adding just 194,000 jobs when 500,000 were expected. Making that two months in a row for disappointing labor market news and indicating that pandemic worries are still a thing. 

  • Raising the roof. The Senate agreed to a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, which would allow Uncle Sam to pay bills until December 3 – the same deadline to pass another funding bill or face a partial gov shutdown. The House is expected to approve the measure soon before sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature.

  • Wanna trade? In August, the US trade deficit (when the value of imports > exports) hit a record, thanks to supply chain disruptions and Americans' high demand for imports like toys and sporting goods. Economists are split on whether a trade deficit is good or bad. But former President Donald Trump prioritized shrinking the deficit and used it as a reason for raising tariffs, aka special taxes on foreign goods. The Biden admin is upholding Trump-era trade policies for now.

Let's Talk About...

Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock

Why You Can't Afford to Procrastinate Holiday Shopping

The global supply chain is a mess, and retailers are struggling with worker and product shortages. Meaning some gifts (especially popular toys) may be harder to find and come with higher price tags. Another reason to start shopping now: some holiday deals are already here and might be gone by December. Get our tips on surviving the most wonderfully expensive time of year.

Make Good (Money) Choices

If you love scary stories...

Meet the October Effect – the belief that stocks are destined to drop this month – that freaks investors out. It's true that some of the worst stock market crashes have gone down in October. But on average, stocks have been more likely to go up. (FYI: the S&P 500 – which tracks the value of 500 big US company stocks – is up since October 1.) But either way, what month it is generally shouldn't be why you sell stocks. A better strategy: focus on your investing goals and cash in when you hit them.

If your lease is up soon...

Get ready for sticker shock. Rents have increased an average of 11.5% since last August. Demand is up, as more people are willing to move and a crazy housing market has kept a lot of potential buyers writing rent checks. Worse: federal COVID-19 relief measures, like enhanced unemployment and the eviction moratorium, have expired. (Local rent relief programs may still be available to help.) Making higher rents a big budget problem for a lot of people. To keep costs down, try asking your landlord. If they won't budge on price, see if they could cover other costs, like certain monthly utility bills or move-in fees and deposits. Or ask about a referral credit, if you can find a renter for another unit.

If you're thinking about hitting the books next fall...

Complete this prereq: submit your FAFSA forms to apply for federal aid and many school scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. The application period for the 2022-23 school year started October 1. Since aid is often first come, first served, the earlier you submit it, the better. For extra credit, read our guide on how to decide whether going to grad school – and taking on new debt to cover it – will pay off. PS: if you heard student debt is getting canceled, don't count on it to make this decision. The gov is overhauling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, but broader legislation for student loan forgiveness is still TBD.

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