7 Fall Budget Moves You Need to Make Now

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Getty ImagesStruggling to save each month? Now's the time to rework your budget, so you don't fall behind in the last months of the year.
By Sabah Karimi

The year is coming to a close in a few short months, and if you're still struggling to meet your savings goals or are worried about upcoming expenses, now is the time to take control of your financial life. Autumn is the perfect time to review your spending habits and make some much-needed changes before holiday spending season gets underway.

Here are seven budget moves you need to be making this fall:

1. Take advantage of open enrollment season. If your employer offers a great health insurance benefits package, make sure you sign up for the right plan during open enrollment season. Most employers schedule their open enrollment during the fall months since your new coverage will start in January of the upcoming year. Get in touch with your human resources department if they haven't reached out to you yet so you can maximize your benefits, set up a flexible spending account for the upcoming year and make adjustments to your insurance plans as needed.

2. Set new savings goals. Whether you want to save for your teen's college expenses or establish an emergency fund, there's no better time to start. The 2015 "How America Saves for College" report from Sallie Mae revealed that parents who plan for college have saved 46 percent more money than non-planners. Sallie Mae spokesman Rick Castellano recommends simply getting started. His approach: "Start by setting a specific goal and saving toward it and track your progress. By being able to take smaller, digestible bites out of long-term goals, saving becomes a more manageable task." Even if you fell short of some of those financial resolutions and savings goals you set at the beginning of the year, there's still time to end this year on a good note.

3. Start or grow a holiday spending account. Are you ready for this year's holiday shopping season? If you ended up using credit cards or dipping in to a savings account to cover some of those holiday expenses last year, don't make those bad financial moves again by starting a savings account now. The average American planned on spending $765 on holiday gifts in 2014, according to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey. If you don't have money set aside to take care of holiday shopping duties this season, now is a great time to start. Even setting aside $50 a week will help you save up to half or more of your annual holiday shopping budget, so there is no need to turn to credit cards or a savings account to cover this year's costs. Tighten up your budget for the next few months so that you can set aside some extra cash specifically for those holiday shopping sprees.

4. Start winterizing your home. Cleaning out the gutters, installing insulated windows and hanging insulated curtains are a few tasks that need to be taken care of around the home as temperatures drop. Get a head start on these activities and put together a to-do list with estimated costs. Starting now will give you a chance to get quotes from local service providers and shop around for the best deals on supplies and tools you might need to get the job done yourself.

5. Prepare your vehicle for the colder months. Get your car ready for the cooler months so you aren't stressing about worn tires, window replacements or transmission issues in the dead of winter. Take the car in for a maintenance check, and take care of basic tasks such as oil changes, radiator flushing and other necessities. Seek out special deals and promos from area dealerships or service providers to save on car maintenance costs.

6. Be smart with a wardrobe refresh. Fall is a great time to update your wardrobe, but make sure you do it without overspending. Take inventory of your closet and donate anything that you will most likely never wear again. Be sure to get a receipt for tax benefits. Clearing out your closet will give you a better idea of what you truly need so you can put together a shopping list of must-haves. Invest in some basics that you can wear for several months to come, and don't overlook the option to shop the clearance racks of summer inventory to pick out some pieces you can layer.

7. Revisit your monthly budget. When was the last time you looked at your budget? Are you even working with a current one? If you're having a hard time saving money each month or always seem to be living paycheck to paycheck, now is a great time to create or rework your budget so you can get yourself ahead as the new year unfolds. Use tools such as You Need a Budget or the Mint smartphone app to track expenses and create a customized budget that works for you. Starting or updating your budget now can set you up for financial success just in time for the holidays and in to the new year.

Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.
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