Midyear Check-In: Your Monthly Financial Calendar
Working toward your financial goals isn’t something you do once then walk away. It’s an ongoing process that demands your attention. But if you get organized and stick with it, then you can make quicker strides with less stress.
To help you get (and stay) on track, we’ve compiled a financial to-do list for the remainder of the year – just a couple things you can tackle each month. Before long, you’ll be in better control of your money.
Plan a Vacation
Think of getting away as a necessary luxury. Studies report that more than half of Americans don’t use all of their paid time off. Proper R&R can reduce stress and fatigue, which may translate to more productivity at work and fewer illnesses. During the pandemic, you may choose to vacation in your own backyard. If you travel, then don’t go broke doing it.
- Start early. You’re likely to save money if you book your travel at least three weeks out from your departure date.
- Be flexible on dates or destinations. Go on an off day or off season. Look for more affordable lodging just outside the main attraction.
Shop Prime Day
Amazon typically posts incredible once-a-year deals in July. Other retailers, like Walmart and Target, have followed suit to compete. As Business Insider reports, it’s smart to plan your big electronics buys around these special promotions.
Evaluate Your Subscriptions
Maybe you added subscription services, like streaming entertainment, grocery delivery and personal training classes, during the pandemic lockdown – many with recurring monthly fees.
- Ask yourself if you’re still getting your money’s worth from the subscriptions you have. Cancel those you’re not using.
- Cut the cord. Do you need both cable and a streaming service, like Hulu or Sling TV? With a little research, you might be able to watch your favorite shows without paying for a cable package.
Stretch Your Back-to-School Budget
With a smarter spending strategy, you can save on the necessary supplies your kids need to be prepared for another school year.
- Take advantage of tax-free holidays if your state offers them.
- Team up with other parents to buy in bulk.
- Make your purchases with a credit card or online app that offers cash back.
Review Your Budget
Check to see if you’re on track with saving and spending goals. If anything has changed, like you got a raise or encountered unexpected medical bills, then adjust accordingly.
- Shop around for insurance. Compare your home and auto rates to see if you can save on premiums. It won’t impact your credit score.
- Refinance. Mortgage rates are still quite low. See if you can score a better rate or reduce your term. And look for a lower rate on your student loans, which could save you money every month and in total interest.
Start a 529 Plan
College tuition continues to skyrocket. The sooner you can start saving, the better. And it’s hard to beat the tax-free investment growth of a 529 plan as a tool to do it.
Get Your Estate in Order
Everyone could use an estate plan. It maps out exactly what you want to happen to you and your assets in the event you’re unable to speak for yourself or upon your passing.
- Common advanced-planning documents include a will, durable power of attorney and medical directives. Work with an attorney or try an online provider.
- Update beneficiaries. Many retirement accounts and life insurance benefits pass directly to the people you name as beneficiaries. Life events, like your marital status, can change who you want named.
Pay Uncle Sam
Did you ask for more time to file your federal taxes beyond the May extension the IRS granted earlier this year? Your extension deadline is Oct. 15. (Hopefully you paid on any tax you estimated due when you filed for an extension so you avoided interest and penalties.)
Get the 411 on Your 401(k)
With long-term goals like saving for retirement, many of us go on autopilot after we set up our 401(k) account. But like everything else, it pays to check in on an annual basis.
- Many employers match your contributions up to a certain percentage. If you haven’t invested enough to get the full match offered, then talk to your HR department about adjusting your final contributions for the year.
- Review your investments. Rebalance your portfolio to align with your target asset allocation. And keep an eye on fees to protect the growth you get on your investments. Index funds tend to have the lowest charges.
Set Your Holiday Budget
The best way to control your holiday spending is to plan ahead. Make a list now. Assign a specific gift or dollar figure to everyone on it. (Don’t forget to include tips for your hairdresser, dog walker, sitter and favorite wait staff – many folks who have had it rough recently.)
Go Car Shopping
Between manufacturer incentives and dealer sales events, December yields the year’s biggest discounts off of sticker price – 6.1% below MSRP, on average, according to data from Edmunds. So waiting until the end of the year to buy your new car can save you thousands of dollars.
Check Your FSA
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) let you put aside tax-free money for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Noting that most plans require you to spend what you put aside by Dec. 31, CNBC offers these suggestions:
- Find eligible ways to use your leftover money. Stock up on medical supplies. Schedule a doctor visit. Buy new glasses.
- Know your plan type. Some employers give you until the following March to spend your money. Others may allow you to carry over up to $550.
Want more money tips? Visit the Financial Wellness Center at key.com.