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In the fall, I take advantage of back-to-school motivation to reviews my finances for the coming months.I start with my budget and credit, then look at insurance and upcoming expenses.Sometimes, I’ve made my January mortgage payment in December to deduct the interest for that year.
We are rapidly headed towards the fall/winter season. This is the time of year that I sit down and take stock of my finances, reassess my financial goals, and see what damage (if any) summer did to my finances. There are a few steps I take at this time of year to set myself up for financial success:
1. Review my budget and get back on track if necessary
It may seem like this summer flew by, but we definitely got the most of it. With increased travel and shopping, summer is definitely a time when we tend to spend more money. I even found myself enjoying brunch and cocktails with friends more often.
So heading into fall, I review my budget, income, and expenditures and target areas where I can cut back. I also take a look at my credit cards. If there are any lingering balances from swiping more than usual this summer, I prioritize getting rid of those.
2. Check my credit report
While relaxing during the summer months, it can be easy to forget to monitor your accounts. After peak travel season, it’s a good idea to check your bank statements and credit reports to make sure all accounts are yours and are being reported correctly.
I learned this the hard way after traveling out of state. Upon returning home, I learned that my checking account had $500 missing. Apparently, I had used an ATM with a skimmer attached. Scammers know how to take advantage of consumers and the summer months are a peak time for fraudulent activity.
I sit down at this time every year and pull all three of my credit reports (you can get your credit report for free) —Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — and I read through the paper statements for all of my checking and savings accounts.
3. Prepare for an increase in utility bills
With colder weather on the way, your utility bill will most likely be higher. I prepare for this by building a higher amount for my electric bill into my budget now. I know that I will be using my heat more and will be cooking more, so I try to get ready for that increase now.
4. Set my holiday budget
The holidays will be here before you know it. From Thanksgiving to the New Year, it’s a holiday gauntlet of dinners, gifts, and parties that can wreak havoc on your budget and your wallet. I get started early. I set my holiday budget now. I determine how much money I will be spending on gifts, my budget for vacation (if I’m taking one), and the dinners and parties I will participate in.
It is easy to spend a tremendous amount of money during the holiday season and for the budget to go out of the window. Get ready for holidays now.
5. Do an insurance review
I check all insurance policies: homeowners insurance, renters insurance, car insurance (when I owned a car), and health. insurance. This is a great time to do a comprehensive insurance review. Has anything happened this year to impact these policies? Will anything transpire next year? Make sure you have adequate coverage now.
If you have health insurance through an employer, open enrollment may be approaching. I review my health and medical coverage to see if any changes need to be made this year.
Bonus: Plan for an extra mortgage payment and charitable contributions
If you can, plan to make your January mortgage payment in December. If you do this, you’ll get an additional deduction for the interest paid. Also, charities are most in need of donations by the end of the year, and these contributions can help ease your tax bill (if you itemize). Keep all records of cash donations, especially if the total is $250 or more.