How to Give Your Finances a Fall Cleaning

We all hear about the ritual of Spring Cleaning – but what about “Fall Cleaning?” For many, fall is a natural new beginning, signaling the start of the final quarter of the year, the descent into the holiday season, and a ramp-up to a fresh new start when January 1 rolls around. In many ways, there is no better time to conduct a thorough financial refresh, take stock of your debt relief goals, and to restructure your family budget to optimize your financial success.

If you’re looking to organize your finances this Fall, here is a simple checklist for you to consider.

Take Your Financial Pulse
Comb your important files, check all of your bank accounts, pull your credit reports, and revamp your family budget to make sure that you have a grasp on your income streams, debt balances, debt relief payment plan schedules, assets, and liabilities. Before plunging into a new year, it’s important to know where you stand, where your finances look healthy, and where you have room to improve.

Once you’ve taken your financial pulse, the critical next step is to commit to change. If you consistently overspend in a particular area, resolve to significantly cut back in the next three months. If your emergency fund is looking a bit thin, devote a larger portion of your monthly paycheck to funding it – even if it’s just a few extra dollars. Finally, if your budget needs a refresh based on your most current income and expenses, update it, and make sure everyone in your family or household is aware of the changes.

Contribute to Your Retirement Accounts
In the last quarter of the year, do your best to max out your retirement contributions. You may have to play around with your amounts each month, especially if you’re currently in a debt relief program or attempting to settle a debt. Also, the amount you contribute may depend on whether your employer matches your contributions. Consider meeting with a financial planner to ensure you’re sufficiently padding your accounts before the end of the year.

Check Your Insurance Options
Check your options for open enrollment in a solid health, life, and disability insurance plan. Spend some time analyzing your healthcare spending and see if enrolling in a new plan would help you save more. Also, you can consider opening a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to contribute a set amount of healthcare funds before the start of the year.

Focus on Debt Relief
If you’re working through a debt relief plan, like credit card consolidation or debt settlement, consider using this final quarter to make substantial progress toward decreasing your balance. Rather than apportioning a substantial amount of your budget for holiday gifts, use that money instead to pay down your debt. Consider picking up a side job or extra shift or devote a larger percentage of your monthly income to debt relief, if possible.

Although it may seem early, by taking these simple steps now, you can slowly and intentionally work toward a financially healthy New Year.