A chill is in the air and the light fades early. It’s fall! Here are eleven fall finance tips that will help take you to the end of the year.
I love summer but fall definitely has its charms, pumpkin beer, stews, the smell of crunchy leaves. Take advantage of the lull before the holidays rev up to get a few last minute financial chores in.
Winterize Your Home
A few simple things can save you a lot of money on your heating bills. If you have window air conditioners, take them out and put them away. Caulk any gaps in your windows. If your windows are really drafty, cover them with bubble wrap. It works as well as or better than those plastic kits you buy and it’s cheaper.
If you’re gone most of the day, get a programmable thermostat. You can set it lower during the day and at night but program it to warm up before you get home or out of bed. I hate coming home to or waking up in a cold house. For every degree over 68 you set it, it adds 3% to your energy bill.
Change your furnace filters. Take out your screens and install your storm doors and windows. Change your ceiling fans to turn clockwise, this will push the warm air down.
Winterize Your Car
Stock your car with emergency supplies like a flashlight, food and water, a blanket. Check your defroster and heater since they haven’t been used for months, replace your wipers and top up the fluid.
Start Your Holiday Shopping
You probably have another two days before every store starts piping in Christmas music but that doesn’t mean you can’t start shopping now! When you’re rushed, you spend more money. Take time, make a list of what you want to buy for each person on your list.
Because Christmas is still comfortingly far away, you can shop around for the best prices. You can also get some end of summer deals. Sure, your niece isn’t going to play with that croquet set in January but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good gift.
If you’re a crafty person (Martha Steward Living crafty, not Martha Steward investing crafty), starting now will give you plenty of time to finish your gifts before zero hour. Don’t forget to buy up all the cheap Halloween candy the day after to stuff stockings. Except for Ghiradelli caramel squares, those are all gone because I bought them all half off.
Make Holiday Travel Plans
The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to fly home for the holidays. You’ll also have more choice right now for things like which airline, which airport to leave from, flight times, and seat if you book early.
Clean Out Your Closet
Time to put the shorts and sun dresses away and replace them with sweaters and jackets. While you do that, take stock. If your summer stuff is looking a little ragged, now is a good time to replace it as stores will be trying to sell off the last of their summer stock.
Stock Up On Produce
One of the best things about summer is the bounty of produce. Tomatoes and peaches bought from the grocery in December don’t compare to ones bought at the farmer’s market in July. And they will be more expensive too.
If you know how to can or just have a lot of freezer space, stock up now while produce is cheap and actually has flavor.
Use Up Your Flex Spend Dollars
For many plans, any money not spent by December 31 is lost. That’s your money! Make sure you spend it before it’s taken away. I found a great site where you can shop directly with your FSA money. You can buy everything from knee braces to thermometers. Stocking up your medicine cabinet is a good idea, saves you a trip to the drug store for cough medicine when you’re feeling terrible.
Review Health Insurance
I have never worked a job that kept the same insurance for more than one year. Now is the time to review your options for next year. Insurance jargon is confusing so if you wait until the last minute, you will be rushed and not make the best choice.
Speak to your human resources department and ask if they can set up a meeting where the different options will be explained. It will save them from having to answer everyone’s questions individually and frankly, explaining stuff like this should be something they are expected to do.
Because soon, it will be too cold and dark to do it. Do all the cliche fall stuff, pick apples and pumpkins, go on a hay ride, build a bonfire, go for a hike to see the changing colors. There are lots of free or low cost activities to take advantage of.
Buy A Slow Cooker
Seriously, get one. They aren’t expensive. Thrift stores often have them, sometimes still in the original box. You can take a cheap cut of tough meat and turn it into pounds of fork tender protein with almost no effort.
You can throw some meat and vegetables into the cooker before you leave for work and come home to a hot, delicious smelling meal.
No really, there will be a shortage. Central Illinois grows 90% of the US pumpkin supply. I would have thought is was New England but I think that’s just a romantic notion. When I think autumn, I think New England, not central Illinois.
The area was hit by heavy rains and usual pumpkin production will be down by as much a one third. So if you want pumpkin pie for the holidays, buy now!
Featured Image Photo Credit: “Autumn Norway Maple Leaf” by Ninjatacoshell