Now that the summer is over, it’s time to ‘fall’ back into good financial habits. Okay that was super corny and autumn doesn’t officially begin until the 22nd, but the sentiment remains the same. A lot of time the summer season means parties, vacations, and other events that can lead to overspending. With those days behind you, now is a great time to review your finances and make some smart money choices. For example:
Tune up your budget with a money challenge
Everyone knows the importance of creating and sticking to a budget. Of course, during the summer, there’s also a good chance that budget got a bit wonky if not entirely blown. In order to get back on track and perhaps even make up for the damage done, you could try challenging yourself to some money experiments for the next few months.
There are really an endless number of challenges you could take up in pursuit of this goal. Maybe you resolve to stop eating out for the next month and cook at home instead. Incidentally that’s exactly what TwoCents has as their monthly money challenge for September. Some other ideas include making extra payments on your car loan or mortgage, saving your change (both physical change and digital) to put into a rainy day fund, or simply setting aside cash for retirement savings — whatever you can do to save more and enhance your budget.
Make good use of your credit card cash back
One potential upside of the extra spending many do in summer is that you (hopefully) racked up some cash back or points on your rewards credit card. In my case, I actually just got my first-year matching reward from my Discover It card, so I’m flush with bonus cash. But, instead of allowing yourself another splurge with this found money, why not think of ways you can put it good use?
If you took a road trip this summer and didn’t get a tune up beforehand, maybe that cash back would be best spent on an oil change or some new tires now. For others it might make sense to either invest that money or at least put it in an online savings account so it can continue to grow. Another suggestion I’d offer is setting the money aside for the holidays in one form or another. If your cash back card offers gift cards purchases with your rewards like mine does, this could also mean that your bonus money goes further and will help keep your budget in line with winter.
Add some automation, but cut off some fat
Whether you “temporarily” disabled some of your auto pay and auto transfer options for the summer or you never had them set up in the first place, it’s time to change that. Automating your finances can make it easier to save, pay bills on time, and stick to your financial habits. That said, automation can also have a dark side. Case in point: many of us subscribe to services we no longer need but don’t notice the money coming out of our account. So while you’re setting up your healthy automation, be sure to look through your accounts and see what you can cancel as well.
Summer can be a rough time for finances. Luckily, if you overdid it in the past few months, now’s the perfect time to get back on track (and prepare yourself for the holiday onslaught). By taking on some money challenges, using your cash back for good, and optimizing your automation, you can not only make a return to those good financial habits but improve your money life overall.