Fall is in full swing. With this new season comes a new schedule of seasonal festivities and time-sensitive chores and responsibilities. Now is also a great time to think about your financial goals and do some simple financial housekeeping. With that in mind, here are a few fall favorites with a twist—moves you should make with your finances this season.
Stock Up on Firewood – Make a Savings Pile
Firewood is a great asset. You harvest it, process it, and use it to get you through the coldest of days. That is a lot like your savings! You do the work upfront to gather a savings cushion, and then you have the security and peace of mind that it will be there for you in difficult times.
Now is a great time to take an inventory of your current savings. Do you have an emergency fund of at least six month’s expenses? For many, this fund has been depleted or at least decreased because of COVID-19. If you can, make it a top priority to build it back. If your emergency fund is still intact, consider how you can squeeze extra savings out of your budget each month.
Winterize Your Home (and Budget)
For those of you still mourning the loss of summer, I have some bad news: even colder temperatures lie ahead. Yes, winter will be here before we know it. With winter’s colder temperatures come increased utility bills. Now is a great time to take simple steps around your home to save on energy costs. Your wallet will thank you! Popular Mechanics suggests the following 10 tasks as easy to do on a budget:
- Add insulation to your attic
- Caulk cracks around your home
- Put in storm windows
- Replace weather stripping around doors
- Change filters
- Upgrade to a programmable thermostat
- Install gaskets around electrical outlets
- Reverse your ceiling fans
- Consider insulated curtains or other window treatments
- Insulate your hot water pipes
Just doing some of these could make a big difference. But don’t stop there. You should also think ahead to supplies you will need for winter. A snow shovel, salt, a winter coat—just to name a few. Now is a great time to look for these items while they may still be on sale or at least not yet in high demand. Be sure to consider used items too for extra savings!
Rake Leaves – Do Your Seasonal Financial Maintenance
Throughout the fall there are many opportunities to rake leaves. Raking is the quintessential fall chore, after all! For anyone with a yard, it is a basic and relatively easy form of maintenance.
Your finances also require maintenance. Fall is a great time to take care of two important chores: evaluating your retirement savings and to making a plan for your health insurance.
First, take a look at your retirement contributions. Have you made any this year? Do you need to adjust your contributions in order to put more into your retirement before the end of the year? COVID-19 may have affected your ability to save for retirement earlier this year, so be sure to evaluate if your circumstances have changed and it makes sense to contribute more now. If so, consult with the benefits or human resources department at your place of employment. Also, remember that the CARES Act provided for penalty-free withdrawals from retirement accounts for reasons related to COVID. The option expires on December 31, so if this is something you have considered, you have a little time remaining to take action.
For health insurance, the open enrollment period for many employers is held in the fall. Be on the lookout for information from your employer, and make sure to meet any deadlines. If you do not have insurance through your employer, you can search plans on the insurance marketplace. In either case, you will want to review the plan details carefully in order to make the selection of coverage that is most appropriate and affordable for you and your family.
Have a Pumpkin Spice Latte – Reward Yourself
For coffee drinkers, it isn’t really fall until you’ve had a pumpkin spice latte (PSL). There’s nothing quite like that combination of espresso, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, which is why the drink is a perennial favorite. But with a price of around $5, it is very much a treat to be saved for special occasions, and is not a daily sipper.
This year has been full of unprecedented challenges. You have worked hard to keep yourself afloat. Maybe you have even provided for others—friends and family—to help them through tough times. Take a moment to reward yourself for what you’ve done this year. This doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. It may be as simple as a PSL, or a socially distanced trip to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. It doesn’t even need to be fall-themed at all, but it should be affordable. Just find a simple way to indulge this season and take some time for yourself.
Plant Bulbs for Spring Flowers – Plan for Your Future Success
Did you know that some of the most beautiful and breathtaking flowers you see each spring were actually planted in the previous autumn? That’s right—now is an excellent time to plant bulbs for the flowers you hope to show off next year.
Your finances work a lot like that, too. The decisions you make now will have long-term impacts. What goal do you want to accomplish? Paying off debt? Saving for a new home? Providing for a child’s education? Whatever the case may be, lay the groundwork now so that you can reap the benefits later.
If you would like help preparing for your next financial goal, including a review of your budget, credit report, and overall financial situation, remember that NFCC credit counselors are ready to help. In the meantime, happy fall!