Ways to Whip Your Budget Into Shape This Fall

We all have financial goals, and a tendency to stray from those goals. However, to stop the snowball effect, it’s a good idea to get your budget worked out prior to the holidays. Whether you plan on saving for the holidays or just need to formulate some benchmarks, we’ve got you covered.

US News suggests these 7 tips to consider this fall. They range from benefit planning to savings to winterization, so there’s something for everyone.

1.    Get serious about open enrollment
Are you getting the most out of your health benefit plan? Most employers’ open enrollment period is over the fall to prepare for the coming year. Talk to HR or keep your eyes open for information sessions relating to your benefits and any changes you should make, whether it’s a gym membership reimbursement or switching to a more cost-effective plan.

2.    Set new savings goals
If you set a goal in the beginning of the year but didn’t quite stick to it, here’s your chance to learn from what went wrong and start a new plan that works for you.  Break your goal down into bite-sized chunks--saving a portion of each pay check, for example--can help wrap your mind around the amount it takes for a down payment or paying down debt.

3.    Start/grow a holiday spending account
Do your best to avoid dipping into your credit or regular savings for the holidays by starting to set money aside now. It’s good for your credit score and will help you build that budget.

4.    Start winterizing
It seems like many home improvement shops are providing large deals on different home renovations or styles. Start paying attention for things you need that could help save money. Weatherproof curtains can help retain heat, for one. Pick up more insulation for your attic, price out cleaning your gutters, all those types of activities to build into your budget or save money.

5.    Prepare your vehicle for cold weather
A stitch in time saves nine, they say, but a more appropriate saying might be that if you take care of your vehicle, your vehicle will take care of you. Take your car in for a winter optimization check so you aren’t entering snow season with bald tires, engine flush, or anything else it might need to run smoothly in 60 degrees and -60 degrees.

6.    Refresh your wardrobe--within reason
Ah, fall is a favorite fashion season for a lot of reasons. Fashion week just ended in New York, so tons of new styles are hitting stores. Fall is also the layering season, so everyone is thinking of new tops, jackets, closed toed shoes, and so on from there. Be smart about your fashion choices, though. Run through your existing wardrobe and donate at least as much as you plan to buy (or more). Avoid anything overly trendy that you probably won’t wear beyond the season. Or purchase cost-efficient versions.

7.    Revisit the budget
How often do you look at your budget? Daily? Weekly? As little as possible? Unfortunately, a budget is kind of like a plant: nourish it and it will thrive and do well, ignore it and it will cause problems. Find an app that you like to help manage your spending, or keep a register to write down purchases and deposits. Find a system that works for you, but just don’t ignore it.

Here in Minnesota, we know winter is coming. While we take pleasure in fall, winter is another story. Start fall on the right foot, budget-wise, to best plan for winter hibernation!