There’s something about the fall that makes adults out of everyone.
The summer sandals are put away, the kids are back in school, and the drumbeat of work carries on. And before we know it, those falling leaves have given way to snow.
Here’s the good news: this fall presents a great opportunity to step back, to survey your life, and to get ready for the long winter ahead.
Here are five great ways to prepare for the fall:
1. Review Your Accounts (And Check Your Credit Score)
Summers can be chaotic. That’s especially true after a pandemic-filled winter that prevented so many people from doing the things they enjoy.
It’s no surprise that such pent-up demand drove Americans to spend significant sums of money this summer. In fact, studies show that personal expenditures are far above pre-pandemic levels to a tune of $15.8 trillion.
As you transition into the fall, take an afternoon to review your accounts and track your spending. If you went over budget this summer, tracking your expenses is a great way to refresh your spending limits and finish the year strong.
By reviewing your accounts, you’ll also be able to identify any recurring charges and memberships you may no longer need.
P.S. While you’re at it, take a moment to check your credit score. If your bank doesn’t provide your FICO® score, you can check it for free here.
2. Conduct A Home Energy Audit
Winter is coming, and so are higher utility bills. If you’re planning on working from home this winter, you’ll potentially spend even more on gas and electricity than you have in recent years.
While there are many effective ways to lower your utility bills — such as upgrading to a programmable thermostat — a home energy audit provides the most holistic overview of your energy consumption patterns.
A professional energy auditor will look at both the inside and outside of your house to identify any potential leaks. They’ll also inspect your insulation to make sure it’s correctly installed within the walls.
Most importantly, the auditor will provide a thorough assessment of your furnace and water heater, ensuring your HVAC system holds up effectively (and efficiently) all winter long.
By investing in an energy audit, you’ll learn how you can save money this winter and for years to come. To book an appointment, simply Google “energy audit near me.
3. Check-Up Your Car Maintenance
Summer driving is easy, but with fall comes the rain, the cold, and before long, the snow.
If you have a car, now is the time to run a full maintenance check to get your vehicle ready for the colder months.
In addition to checking the car battery, make sure your headlights are in good shape. With Daylight Savings Time ending on November 7th, you’ll be driving in the dark more frequently and will need strong, clear beams to stay safe.
To that end, you should also check the tread on your tires. Traction is key, especially when driving in sleet and snowy conditions. This step is easy: simply grab a penny and place it into a tire’s tread groove; rotate it so Abraham Lincoln’s head points downward into the tread groove. If you have less than 1/8-inch of tread left — i.e. if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head on the penny — it may be time to invest in some new tires for the winter, since your current tires are worn.
4. Prepare for Open Enrollment
Open enrollment — the time period where you can start, stop, or change your health insurance plan — happens every fall.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to feel rushed when it comes to open enrollment. So whether you’re on an employer-sponsored plan or enrolled in Medicare, make sure you have your essential information in order prior to November 1st.
Remember: open enrollment is the only time of the year you can adjust your coverage options. Give yourself plenty of time to make an informed choice that satisfies both your family, medical, and financial needs.
If you’ve had a significant life change — i.e. you recently got married or had a new baby — you’ll likely need to alter your plan.
P.S. Don’t forget to spend your flexible spending account (FSA) funds by the end of the year!
5. Rebalance Your Portfolio
In keeping with the “buy-low, sell-high” tradition, be sure to review your portfolio allocations in the fall (and perhaps once again at the end of the year).
Despite all of the setbacks associated with COVID-19, the stock market has had a great run this year. In fact, by mid-August, the S&P 500 hit its 49th record close of the year.
If you haven’t checked your IRA or 401k recently, chances are your allocations have shifted, and your equities may be top-heavy.
After all, you might just decide to harvest the gains and use them to cover your home energy audit and car maintenance.
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