Despite our best efforts, it’s happened again… Summer is coming to a close.
After the barbecue fires have all been snuffed out, the very last frozen treat has been gobbled, and the kids have once again resigned themselves to 6:30 a.m. wakeup calls, you’ll find prime time to get your days—and your finances—back in order.
After all, those long, sunny days may have messed with your routine. They can make even the best of us lazy—and not just spending too much time lying in hammocks. (Is that even possible?) Summer travels and spontaneous get-togethers may have rendered your once-strict budget a little more lenient, so it’s time to rebuild healthy financial habits before those costly winter holidays arrive.
Top 5 Financial Organization Tips: Your Back-to-Budget Bootcamp
Here’s why fall is a perfect time to organize your budget—and how to get started.
1. Use Kid-Free Time for a Thorough Financial Review
Now that the kids are back at school, and you’re not tasked with entertaining them for eight hours a day, you can use some of that sweet, sweet quiet time to give your budget a thorough once over.
When it comes to financial organization, our best actionable advice is to get a handle on where each and every one of your dollars is going. You can automate this process with budgeting apps like Mint and You Need a Budget, which are especially useful when you have several accounts to keep track of.
2. Budget for Holiday Spending—Yes, Already
Giant feasts, well-trimmed trees, ever-more-expensive hot toy releases—there’s just no way around it. The holidays are expensive. But if you start planning for them well ahead of time, you’ll feel less of a financial crunch come New Year’s Day.
If you can organize your budget and shopping lists now and even buy a few presents before the end of September, you’ll be in shipshape by the time Santa arrives.
3. Use This Year’s Expenses to Plan Next Year’s Budget
By September, most major family travels are over or already on the books for winter break. With your winter budget in place, you should have a good idea of exactly how much you’ll spend in each category this year, which makes a reliable basis for tweaking next year’s spending plans.
4. Consider How You Might Save More
As we move into the final quarter of this year, not only do you have a good estimate of your total expenditures and earnings, but you also have a great opportunity to carve out more ways to save cash for next year.
While planning your budget, decide what cuts you can make that will allow you to contribute to retirement accounts, rainy day funds and other savings projects. You’ll thank yourself when you achieve a few financial New Year’s resolutions!
5. Use Back-to-School Budgeting as a Teachable Moment
Your kids are already in learning mode, right?
After you’ve done the heavy lifting, have them sit in on a minor budgeting session. Frame it as a family meeting, and maybe even give them small opportunities for input. Showing them the ropes will help them understand how money works—and why we can’t always have everything we want—while helping them build healthy financial habits early on.
Sure, getting serious and creating an organized budget might require some diligence—but having a solid basis for next year’s finances is well worth your effort. Besides, your kids aren’t going to use all those brand-new pencils and notebooks.