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By Maggie Tomasek
Between the final dog days of summer and the first crisp days of fall, we experienced another important season: Back to school season. It’s the unofficial season of renewal and rejuvenation, both in and out of the classroom.
During back to school season, our brains naturally transitioned from summer’s leisure and indulgence to fall’s order and discipline. That’s also what makes fall an opportune time to take a fresh look at your finances and even learn a few things, regardless of whether you’re actually taking classes or have kids who are.
Here are some tips to help you hit the reset button on your finances:
During the summer months, we take advantage of the long days and warm weather, and that often equates to more travel, more eating out, more everything. With school back in session, it’s the ideal time to re-establish regular routines, including regular spending routines.
Once you’re on a roll with your routines, you’ll be better equipped to look at your monthly budget with a discerning eye. Plus, if you experienced any major life changes – new job, new house, new baby – a budget adjustment is a must, anyway.
Dec. 31 will be here before you know it, so with the loosey-goosey spending of summer behind you, think about what you can do to optimize any tax breaks over the next few months. Can you max out your Roth IRA or increase 401(k) contributions for the rest of the year? What about your Health Savings Account (HSA)? And don’t forget about charitable contributions, which double as a tax break and a chance to support a worthy cause. Win-win.
Finding lower rates is another way to save money and take charge of your financial health. Is it time to refinance your mortgage? (Mortgage rates remain at near-record lows.) Also, speaking of back to school season, what about your student loan debt? Even if you don’t make a change right now, it’s important to know your options for if and when you’re ready to take that step.
Maybe you spent more than you expected to on that family vacation to Universal Studios (even though the butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was totally worth it). Not to worry, there’s still time to get back on track. If you’re nervous about increasing your monthly savings, try thinking of it from a percentage standpoint rather than a dollar amount. Remember: most experts recommend having about six months of living expenses in emergency savings for, you know, emergencies.
No matter how you spent — or overspent — your summer, you’ll have the tools and knowledge you need to help ensure you finish the year with high marks.
Maggie Tomasek is the PR and Social Media Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is a six-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.
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