By Margarette Burnette
With summer in the rear view and the heaviest holiday shopping still a few weeks away, October is a good time of year to focus on cutting expenses and scoring deals. Here are some ways you can make the most of your money this month.
Lower Your Checking Account Fees
If your bank fees have recently increased, this could be an apt time to shop around for a cheaper checking account. By saving $10 a month on service charges, for example, you could pocket an extra $120 by this time next year.
If you’re not ready to switch banks, see if there are ways to waive fees on your current account. Josh Maher, an author and investor in Seattle, has a checking account that charges a $10 monthly fee, but it can be waived by setting up direct deposit or by keeping a $2,500 minimum balance.
Maher chose to set up direct deposit, and he now doesn’t have to worry about monthly service charges. “Automated deposits are your friend,” he says.
Beyond direct deposits, banks offer other ways to avoid maintenance fees, from keeping a minimum account balance to linking multiple accounts. Check to see what’s available to you.
Reduce Energy Expenses
Many parts of the country will start to experience chillier weather this month. Whether you live in an area that has harsh winters or relatively mild seasons, it’s a good idea to check your home for ways to conserve energy and lower your utility bills.
Start by checking the weatherstripping and caulking around your doors and windows to make sure they’re in good condition. And if you’re able to see space between your floor and the bottom of any doors that lead outside, buy new door sweeps.
Purchase a programmable thermostat that can adjust the temperature when you’re not at home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you could save up to 15% a year on your heating bill if you lower the temperature on your thermostat 15 degrees for just eight hours a day.
Monitor Your Online Shopping Security
Because of recent changes in credit card liability, you’ll see more retailers use EMV credit cards with embedded microchips to process payments after Oct. 1. This technology is expected to reduce counterfeit credit card fraud for in-person transactions, but a recent EMV chip study also suggests that online shopping fraud could increase as a result.
With the holiday shopping season coming soon, make sure you protect your accounts. A good way to help prevent identity theft and credit card fraud is to regularly change your passwords. You’ll want to choose new passwords that you haven’t used before, are hard to guess and contain a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.
Score a Deal on a New Car or Truck
This time of year, auto dealers need to sell current year cars and trucks to make room for next year’s vehicle models. If you were already planning to buy an auto, October could be a good month to score a deal.
Get approved for a low rate auto loan before you start shopping. That way, when you’re negotiating the car price with the dealer, you won’t have to worry about also negotiating the financing terms.
Check Your Credit Reports
To get the best rates on auto loans and other types of financing, make sure your credit is in shape. The Nerds recommend you check your credit reports at least once a year for accuracy. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and get one report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — every 12 months at no cost.
According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s 2015 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, only 34% of U.S. adults have checked their credit reports within the last year. But checking your report regularly could mean you catch a mistake. And correcting an error could result in a higher credit score, which could then lead to lower interest rates on credit cards and loans.
Putting It All Together
Every month is a good month to save money and find deals, but October can be an especially smart one in which to cut expenses. It’s also a solid time of year to snag a deal on a new car or truck. By taking these simple savings steps now, you could reap financial benefits for months to come.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.
This article was originally posted on NerdWallet.com.