A Fall To-Do List for Your Personal Finances

Summer is often a time of relaxation, vacations and lazy afternoons at the beach — your summer to-do list might not usually include much more than planning your next barbecue or deciding who to invite to the next pool party.

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But the peaceful days of summer give way to the renewed hustle of autumn — so it’s a good idea to use the fall season to take some time to reevaluate your personal finances. Making a personal finance fall to-do list can help make sure your financial life is on track for the rest of the year.

Here are five things to think about putting on your fall to-do list for your personal finances:

1. Pay down credit card balances.

It’s understandable if your summer has been a bit expensive! Many families find that they have to use credit cards more often during the summer months, whether it’s to pay for vacations or to deal with summertime expenses for the kids (sometimes having the kids home from school is more expensive than having them out of the house).

But before winter arrives, take some time to sit down, add up all of your credit card balances and make a plan to start paying off debt.

2. Reevaluate your emergency savings fund.

What would happen to you and your family in the case of a financial emergency — losing a job, unexpected medical expenses, getting in a car accident or unexpected home damage? Could you pay the insurance deductible when needed? Do you have enough money in the bank to help cover these costs?

Some personal finance experts recommend that you have an emergency fund in an easily accessible (“liquid”) cash savings account. A popular recommendation is that your emergency fund should be equal to at least three to six months of your after-tax living expenses. If that’s not possible, then you should try and put aside a little bit of money each month for emergencies. If you don’t have emergency savings, it might be beneficial to implement a strategy for saving money so you are covered in case of financial emergency.

3. Consider school-year expenses.

If you have kids, then you know that back-to-school is a busy time of year — and it also can be a busy time for your wallet. Are you ready?

Make a shopping list for back-to-school shopping, and also budget for your kids’ school expenses — school registration fees, books, extracurricular activity fees, sports, club memberships and anything else you need to pay for to get your kids through the school year. If you plan ahead, you won’t have unpleasant surprises once the school year is underway.

4. Save for the holidays.

Even though summer is just now giving way to fall, and winter seems so far away, the shocking truth is that the holiday shopping season will be in full swing in a few short months.

It’s not too soon to start thinking about how much you want to spend on holiday gifts, and to start saving up for your holiday shopping fund. Also consider looking into a new rewards credit card to help put some rewards back in your pocket during your holiday shopping.

5. Think about next year’s taxes.

Did you owe money on your taxes in April? Want to improve your chances of getting a tax refund next year? It’s not too late to adjust the withholding from your paycheck at work to put more cash toward your current year’s tax bill.

Or if you’re self-employed, take some time to sit down and reevaluate your current year’s estimated income tax payments compared to last year — are you on track to owe more or less money in taxes than you did last year? Spending some time to make some adjustments in your tax situation may help you avoid unpleasant surprises next year at tax time.

Now that you’re done with your fall to-do list, you can enjoy the rest of this beautiful and all-too-fleeting time of year! Taking some time to deal with your personal finances can help you enjoy better peace of mind and make the rest of your personal “fiscal year” go more smoothly.

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