Fall is finally here, and the holidays are right around the corner. For many, this time of year is ideal. The air feels crisp and fresh, the leaves on the trees put on a gorgeous display, and warm spiced drinks take over as beverages of choice.
But there’s a dark side to autumn and the impending holiday season. With parties, dinners, get-togethers, and gift-giving, the end of the year gets expensive, and fast. Don’t let the next few fun, festive months bust your budget. Plan ahead and prepare your finances now!
We recently hopped around the personal finance blogosphere to ask various bloggers to share their favorite fall budgeting tip to help you save more money this season. Check them out below, and put them to good use today.
Shannon McLay, Financially Blonde:
“Reassess where you are toward your full year goals. With three months left to the year, you may need to switch to a more aggressive budget to make sure you hit your full year goals. Save on gym bills and workout outside. Fall weather is perfect for working out and many gyms allow you to put a hold on your membership for a few months at a time. Download some free apps and enjoy nature before the cold winter weather forces you indoors. Include your holiday spending in your monthly budget through the end of the year. By including this as part of your plan for the next three months, you will limit the amount of credit card debt you amass over the holidays.”
Stephanie Halligan, The Empowered Dollar:
“When fall hits, I’m already looking ahead to where my money has to go in the winter! I’ve got to prepare financially for the holidays before they sneak up on me. So I like to take a moment to plan out my holiday shopping budget in the fall before I get sucked into the craziness of holiday consumerism. I recommend sitting down in September and October and mapping out your anticipated holiday spending. That includes gift and travel. Than calculate how much that’ll cost you each week until the holidays are over. For example, if there are 8 weeks until the holidays are over and you plan to spend $400, that’ll take $50 a week. Start setting aside that money now or cut back on unnecessary purchases to make sure you hit that target number.”
Cat Alford, Budget Blonde:
“Fall is a great time to be frugal. Head out apple picking or to the pumpkin patch, but hold off on any big splurges. The reason is that the holidays are right around the corner and if you can keep a tighter budget during the fall, you’ll have more room for the holidays.”
Matt Becker, Mom and Dad Money:
“When it comes to budgeting, people love to talk about setting limits. But in my opinion it’s more important to focus on your habits. These are the things you do every single day without thinking and every one of them is either making effortless progress towards your goals or effortlessly working against them. The more you can align your regular habits with your long-term goals, the easier it is to get where you want to go.”
Michelle, Making Sense of Cents
“My favorite fall budgeting tip is to save on electricity and heating bills as long as you can. I love the cool, low humidity air that fall in St. Louis brings and I try to keep my windows open for as long as I can. This saves me around $50 to $100 for each month I can go without turning my heat on. It also feels great in the house so you cannot beat that!”
Stefanie, The Broke and Beautiful Life:
“As far as best budgeting tip for fall: plan ahead! The end of the year – any goals you’ve yet to get done, accounts you’ve wanted to get funded, and the holidays, of course – is right around the corner. If you don’t budget for those things now, you’re likely to find yourself falling behind and relying on credit you can’t necessarily afford.”
Lisa E., Lisa vs. the Loans:
“My favorite fall budgeting tip is to take the time now to review your 2014 financial goals. Are you on track with your retirements savings? How about your short term money goals? Is your emergency fund where it should be? What about any tax deductible charitable donations? Fall is the perfect time to review all of these things since you still have some time before the end of the year to make things right! If your funds aren’t exactly where you want them to be, you have time to kick your savings/earnings into high gear for the rest of the year to achieve your goals!”
Lauren Bowling, L Bee and the Moneytree:
“My favorite fall budgeting tip: As the weather cools down, I find myself entertaining at home a lot more and people being more interested in staying in. I take money from my ‘eating out’ budget and put it towards lower cost entertaining at home. I’m also able to allocate a little bit more toward the holidays with the savings.”
J. Money, Budgets Are Sexy:
“It’s not easy sticking to your budget around the fall holidays, so one thing I allow myself to ‘splurge’ on a little is my belly. Spending a few dollars on some festive drinks and snacks here and there helps keep me motivated throughout the more tempting times of the season. You’ve gotta give yourself some wiggle room for the niceties in life or you’re liable to burn out and give up on the budget altogether!”
Carrie Smith, Careful Cents:
“My favorite fall budgeting tip is to make a list of items you plan on purchasing and then buy them when they go on sale – specifically from online deal sites. This time of year is when we’re all looking for Christmas gifts, planning parties, buying decorations, and filling our closets with warm clothes. So instead of waiting until Black Friday or rushing (and overpaying) towards the end of the year, keep a list everything you plan on buying and then purchase it when you see it on a big discount site like Groupon, Overstock, or Groopdealz. This can apply to activities and events too! You’ll get everything on your list for more than half off and not have to stress at the last minute.”
Tonya S., Budget and the Beach:
“One of my favorite ways to save money during the fall is by utilizing my Crock-Pot for recipes that last longer than my usual recipes. Two of my favorites are minestrone soup and chicken tortilla soup. Both recipes are really yummy and hearty on a cool, crisp night and will last for days!” (Editors Note: Tonya also provided her fun post that includes the recipe for minestrone soup!)
Mario B., Debt Blag:
“Fall is a great reminder that buying what’s in season is both frugal and delicious. Harvest time here in the northern hemisphere means you can get plenty of produce at the cheapest price you’ll see all year. I’m stocking up on bell peppers, squash, carrots, and pumpkin – obviously. If you’re looking to pair it with a fun, frugal activity, drive out to farm country where you can either buy corn or apples picked hours earlier from farm markets and roadside stands, or head to a pick-your-own farm to save even more! I got all these vegetables for just $10 and they’ll last me weeks!”
Connie M., Savvy with Saving:
“While most people are thinking about how to save up for the holidays during the fall, I like to think ahead even further… to next year. It’s never too early to start thinking about expected commitments or life changes coming your way next year and how you can start preparing for them now financially. An easy way to get ahead is to start your taxes. In the fall, I start organizing all my documents together from last year’s tax return to receipts. This allows me to file earlier and in turn get my refund earlier (or give me more time to pay any outstanding balance back). The fall is also a good time to review and adjust your benefits, such as your health, dental, and 401k benefits. Most people just let their current benefits roll over to next year without thinking about ways they can optimize it.”
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Cait Flanders, Blonde on a Budget:
“I try to make a list of what I need to buy for Christmas in October so I can finish all my shopping in November and then actually enjoy December. The last month of the year is crazy enough without having to go to a mall. Why not try to alleviate some of the stress by getting everything done before December 1st? This also gives you time to shop around and try to save a few bucks, versus being stuck having to pay full prices at the last minute.”
Grayson Bell, Debt Roundup:
“For the homeowners out there, fall is the time to get ready for winter both inside and out. If you want to have a lush green lawn come spring, budget in some money for aerating and overseeding. You can get a great deal on rental equipment and grass seed. You should also budget some money for HVAC servicing. Don’t wait until your heater breaks to call out a repairman. Get a tune up for 75% less than emergency service.”
Mrs. FW (and Frugal Hound), Frugalwoods:
“Turn your heat on early! No, not to heat your home (wait as long as possible to do that), but to test your heating system before you actually need it. Testing your system in early fall, before bleakest winter sets in, ensures that you won’t be scrambling to repair it at the exact same time as everyone else in your city. If you need to hire a repair person in, say, September or October, it’ll be a lot easier and cheaper than trying to hire that same technician in December when it’s 20 degrees out. Plus, since you’ll have the luxury of time, you might discover that a problem is actually something you can fix by yourself for a fraction of the cost. Plan ahead, test your heat, and save!”
“The holidays are almost an excuse to open up your wallet and spend without abandon. Between Black Friday and Christmas, people regularly spend thousands of dollars on themselves and special people in their lives. But what if we stopped this cycle of consumption, budget busting, and possible debt? My fall budgeting tip centers on one simple mind hack: how do you show others you care? Is it through the purchase of things? This fall and holiday season, consider where you are in your own personal finance journey. If you have more than most, maybe donate on behalf of a loved one to their favorite charity. You’ll feel great, they will, and so will the recipients.”
Checking in regularly with your finances can help you to reinforce your financial structure and build a financial house that can withstand the test of time. The change in season is the perfect reminder to touch base with your goals, reevaluate your financial strategies, and make changes as necessary!
Alright, all-star readers… what are some of your best tips for saving this fall?
Image Credit: AnnieAnniePancake