Ways to Tidy up Your Finances Before the Holidays

Summer is over. This fall, fortify your finances to take the end of the year in stride. These helpful tips will get you back on track (and help you stay on track).

1. Start your holiday shopping now

Instead of making a mad rush for last-minute deals, spread out your gift buying over the course of the next couple months. Watch your local circulars and emails for discounts and promo codes, and strike while the proverbial iron seems hot.

2. Max out retirement plan contributions

If you haven’t already, try to max out your 401(k) contributions at work. If your employer offers matching funds, this should be a top financial priority, lest you fail to claim thousands of dollars in free money.

3. Take advantage of layaway

Layaway has had its ups and downs over the years. By 2012, many retailers were back on the layaway bandwagon to make buying easier on customers. It allows you to plan ahead and make scheduled payments so everything is ready to go by Christmas.

4. Use or lose flexible spending dollars

If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible spending account through your employer, your FSA may need to be spent by year’s end. Try to use up the balance so you’re not losing cash. In doing so, you’ll free up funds elsewhere that you don’t have to use on medical needs.

5. Make a gift list and check it twice

As you make more money, don’t get in the mindset that everyone needs a gift. Make a list of the usual suspects – immediate family, significant other, a few friends –give it a second glance. Will I see this aunt or that buddy this year? If the answer is no, decide whether a gift is necessary.

6. Revise your winter budget

Everything about winter, including heating your home, costs more than other times of the year, and you should prepare by revising your budget to make sure all bases are covered.

7. Determine what’s necessary for the holidays and cut back from there

The decorations, the parties, the gifts, the endless array of baked goods, and hosting get-togethers can get expensive. Consider taking a one-year-on, one-year-off approach to the latter part of that equation. If you host a holiday party one year, let someone else host it the next year. If you buy new decorations on year, don’t buy anymore the following year.

8. Get into cash back state of mind

Upfront coupons and savings are great, but there’s plenty more to be had on the back end if you know where to look. Apps provide cash back on purchases made on preset items or at selected retailers.

If you’re responsible at managing credit, now’s also a great time to take advantage of cash back credit card on your day to day purchases. By using a cash back card on necessities like groceries or gas, you’ll earn cash to bolster your budget. Just be sure to pay off your balance in full every month, or else this method isn’t worth it.

9. Rebid your insurance policies

You may be able to shave some money off your bills this fall by reviewing your insurance coverage with at least three independent agents.

The rebidding process can puts hundreds, if not thousands back in people’s pockets and just in time for the holidays. The worst that can happen is you find out you’ve got a good program in place already.

10. Book travel before demand pricing kicks in

If you’re traveling this fall or holiday season, book your mode of transportation and accommodations as soon as possible so you’re not looking at ultra-expensive rates at the last minute.

11. Investigate a balance transfer

If you’re carrying a high balance on a credit card, now is a great time to give yourself a credit card checkup.

Explore what’s out there. Consolidating credit card debt via a balance transfer can be pretty enticing, especially with those zero percent introductory APR offers. Just watch out for hidden fees.

Source: Wise Bread


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