Inside: You’ll find tips on money moves you can make with your finances this fall to ease the end of year rush and prepare for the next year.
Summer is almost over and the days are getting shorter. The kids are back in school (yay!) with their friends and learning more every day.
While I really do love this time of year, it means there is a LOT of stuff to get done before the end of the year or even before winter sets in.
Here are some of fall finance tips regarding money moves you should make this fall that will make your budget, and wallet, happy:
Use up those flex dollars
As much as I love them, FSA plans (flexible spending accounts) that you have through your employer are a use-it-or-lose-it type of account.
No rollovers, no refunds. If you’ve got money just sitting there unused, well, use it.
Make an appointment for a checkup or eye exam or buy some prescription sunglasses. You can even buy a first aid kit. As for most things benefits related, keep your receipts. Why? Sometimes the plan administrators want a copy of receipts as proof you are using your account correctly.
Prepare for open enrollment season
Fall is open enrollment season at many workplaces. This is when you can sign up for things like flex accounts, life and disability insurance, and maybe change your health insurance options.
Look at your health spending this past year and look forward to next year. If you maxed out your FSA account funding, did you easily use all of that, or were you scrambling to figure out how to make full use of what you contributed?
If you didn’t fully fund your account, would having more next year be better? Are you expecting additional medical expenses like a crown (the kind IN your head, not ON it), maybe a baby is on the way or you are finally going to get that LASIK surgery?
If your workplace provides life and disability insurance (especially if at no cost to you), then TAKE IT. Do not leave money on the table.
Boost your retirement savings
Have you or will you max out your 401(k) this year? If it’s in the budget, try to make your allowed contribution by the end of the year. At the least, contribute enough to get any matching funds your employer offers. Otherwise, you are giving up free money!
If you are eligible to make Roth IRA contributions and you can fit it in your budget, make those contributions as well. Saving early pays off in the long run.
Prepare for the holidays
Holiday celebrations are coming up fast and whether it’s gifts, travel or celebrations, the costs can add up quickly. If you haven’t already been setting aside money for these expenses, start squirreling some away now then mark your calendar to prepare the holiday budget for next year.
Our fallback for the holidays is using credit card rewards to buy gift certificates. I also make the annual pilgrimage to the Coinstar machine, taking in a now-full coin jar and get an Amazon credit in return (there are other options as well).
Related Post: How to Start Saving Now for Stress-Free Holidays
Do home maintenance tasks
Early fall is a great time to beat the winter rush to get things done such as a furnace tune-up. You can also get the windows sealed and any needed weather stripping put in place. Spending a few dollars on sealing up the house sure beats shivering later and paying higher heating bills.
Once leaves have fallen, get those gutters cleaned before the weather turns nasty. Clogged gutters just leads to possible water intrusion or gutters getting overladen with water because they can’t drain. It isn’t pretty (ask me how I know).
Related Post: 10 Easy Ways to Stay Warm This Winter
Get your vehicle ready for winter
Winter can be rough on a car. It’s a good time to get in that oil change and routine maintenance including getting new wiper blades and a tune up.
A great way to lower your tax burden is to make charitable donations. If you donate to a qualified charity, the donation is tax deductible if you itemize your taxes. (Make sure to get a receipt! )
Now is the perfect time to go through all your clothes. Anything in bad condition, just toss or turn them into rags. Anything you won’t wear anymore, donate!
With 2 growing kids in the house, we often have a few bags of clothing to donate. I write down basically what we are donating (ie: 3 sweaters – good condition, 5 children’s shorts – good condition, etc) and attach that to the receipt we receive in return. That way, when it comes time to do taxes, it’s easier to properly value the donations.
Besides clothing, other charities that can also use donations include food banks, animal shelters and loads of others. And ask your employer if they match charitable contributions because many do. So, that $100 you give to the food bank could turn into $200. The charity wins, you wins, and the employer probably wins with a tax deduction as well.
Do you want to include your kids in charitable donations? One way we do this when we hand out allowances, is that part of the allowance goes into a donation fund. At the end of the year, the kids decide which cause they want to give to. One year it was to buy a share of a cow for a family, another it was for the animal shelter, and another was for an emergency relief fund.
Related post: How to Give to Charities the Smart Way
Cook large, hearty meals and freeze leftovers
Fall is harvest season. If you know how to can food, it’s a great time to stock up the pantry for the winter. If you don’t know how can food or are too lazy to do it (like me – it’s a lot of hot work!), it’s still a great time to freeze a lot of meals or veggies for easy dinners later. How about some chili, enchiladas, meatloaf/lentil loaf, or a nice pot pie? You’ll save money and time.
Fall seems to be a time of winding things down, getting everything in order and preparing for festivities and the coming year.
Winter is coming. What are your special tips for handling finances in the fall?