Money Pitfalls to Avoid This Fall

The end of the year can feel like a time crunch. Within the last three months of the year is the start of school, a few major holidays and all those end-of-the-year types of things to wrap up like work projects, using any vacation that won’t roll over, benefits open enrollment...the list goes on. Oh, and did you know that September-November is also when the most birthdays occur?

Basically, it’s easy to get in over your head financially in the fall. And some of the decisions you make during this part of the year, like adjustments to benefits, can affect you into the future. Here are a few financial pitfalls to watch out for this fall from CBS News:

1. Putting aside your financial goals
We’ve written before on the blog about how conversely important/mundane saving for retirement might seem, but here’s the deal: a dollar not saved today can equal $10 you won’t have in retirement (compounding interest and investing can work literal magic). The same goes for other financial goals, like paying down student loan or credit card debt. Don’t let the holidays become a reason to splurge or stray too far from what you want to accomplish.

2. Not taking advantage of matching offers from your employer
Have a 401(k)? Or a 403(b) or any other type of retirement account which your employer will match investments? Take advantage of it. That’s basically the extent of it. If you think you can’t afford it, reexamine your budget. Missing out now will have an effect on your quality of life further down the road.

3. Letting your flex spending account slide
If you haven’t used up your flex spending account, review what’s eligible and go shopping. Contacts, glasses, flu shots -  the sky is the medical expense limit. Don’t let those dollars go to waste.

4. Not carefully considering all aspects of open enrollment
Some employers might offer things you haven’t considered before, such as childcare expenses or transportation/parking. Make an appointment with an open enrollment specialist or set aside time to review the offerings fully. You don’t want to leave any money on the table in 2017.

5. Choosing to be uncharitable
Charitable donations must be done by December 31. This long-range planning is important for large donations, but smaller donations--like the castaways from fall decluttering donated to a local cause--can be counted as deductions on your taxes, too. A little extra work today can put a little extra jingle in your pocket next year.

Avoiding financial pitfalls is all about the old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By taking action today, you’ll see the benefits appear in different ways.

What tips do you have for folks preparing for a busy fall?