If you have kids, the beginning of every school year likely feels like a new calendar year. So why not treat it as such by getting the ole finances in order?
OK, so there’s plenty of reasons not to treat fall as a time to deep clean your financial life, but like any spring-cleaning venture, you will feel better after organizing your money matters.
Let’s look at a few ways to get in financial shape this fall.
Before you review any financials or take specific actions, you’ll want to build up your financial motivation. You want to have an appetite to get things in order. There are a variety of ways you can do this; follow financial thought leaders on Twitter, peruse personal finance blogs, and, as odd as it might sound, even stay abreast of debt relief companies on social media. Since these companies focus on helping debtors climb out of the hole, they tend to post a lot of motivational content, and who can’t benefit from that? See what I mean by checking out the Freedom Debt Relief Facebook page.
How’s Your Emergency Fund Looking?
You want six months of living expenses, but in some cases, you might want even more. For example, if the income you’re making now is higher than what you expect in the future or if you might encounter a longer-than-average job search. But there’s also nothing wrong with having a bigger emergency fund merely to have more breathing room. Consider putting your emergency fund in a high-yield money market savings account, which can take your money a bit further yet be available anytime you need access.
And Your Retirement Account(s)
If you have a retirement account (and I really hope you do), fall marks the halfway point in the tax year, so how are your contributions looking? Make sure to max out your IRA or Roth IRA ($5,500 max), or as much as you can if you have a 401(k) ($18,500 limit) through your employer (especially if your employer matches contributions).
Review Health Spending and Benefits
Even if you get insurance through your employer or your spouse’s employer, fall is still the time to go through the open enrollment process to compare plans and see if you qualify for any additional benefits. The open enrollment period for 2019 coverage is from Nov 1–Dec 15, 2018. While you’re re-assessing health benefits and coverage, it’s also an excellent time to review out-of-pocket medical expenses on the year and check your company’s flexible spending account deadline.
Set Up Automated Bill Pay & Paperless
Missing a credit card payment by a few days or paying less than the statement balance and getting dinged with interest is careless if you have the money to pay your bills. Take yourself out of the equation altogether by setting automatic monthly payments on every credit card and/or balance you carry to ensure you never pay extra with interest. And if you haven’t already done so, help the environment (and your peace of mind) by enrolling in paperless statements sent to your email.
Position Yourself for Purposeful Black Friday & Holiday Spending
Despite popular belief, there’s nothing wrong about indulging a little in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the holiday period in general. Consumers’ issues usually stem when the “blockbuster sales” cause them to make spontaneous purchases or buy additional items.
This year really take advantage of the sales that retailers are offering by making a list of what you actually need and would have purchased soon regardless of a deal. Make a list of what these items cost right now, and then monitor prices leading up to the holiday season.
Many retailers will start dropping prices a few weeks before the official sale begins, so stay alert to avoid the chaos. If you can manage to stay disciplined, you won’t end up with any “I thought that looked cool, so I bought it” purchases, and you’ll save a substantial amount on the things you actually needed.
In finance, a little forethought and planning go a long way. Take a few hours this fall to get on the same page with your funds and enjoy a more stress-free rest of the year knowing you’re on track for success.