Fall signals a break in the weather and a break for your wallet. It is the quiet time between back-to-school shopping and the winter holidays. Your children have returned to school, and you now face credit card statements itemizing your summer spending.
The fall is an excellent time to cut costs and get spending back on track before the next round of higher expenses come during the winter holiday season. Here are ten ways to save money this fall.
- Turn Off the HVAC Unit. Heating and cooling represent the largest portion of utility costs. The Department of Energy estimates the cost of operating an HVAC unit account for 48% of total household energy use. You can lower your bill and extend the life of your system by delaying the use of the heat and turning off the AC earlier.
- Suspend Your Gym Membership. Take advantage of the mild fall weather and take your exercise routine outside. Walking, cycling, running, and other outdoor activities can improve your health without an expensive gym membership. Most gyms allow you to suspend membership for up to six months, giving you a break from the costs and encouraging you to spend time outdoors. You can save even more money by suspending the cable or satellite service for a few months.
- Prep Your Home for Winter. The fall is a good time to complete a home energy audit and identify ways to reduce your power bill this winter. Many utility companies offer a free home assessment through third-party You might find you can both save money on your heating bill and qualify for energy rebates when you take measures to conserve energy.DIY websites also offer easy to follow tips to improve the insulation and reduce air leaks in your home. Simple tasks such as insulating the water heater, cleaning refrigerator coils, replacing worn weather stripping, re-caulking, and sealing doors and windows can improve the efficiency of your home and lower your winter power bill.
- Service the HVAC Unit before turning on the heat. A professional will inspect, clean, and optimize the HVAC unit, allowing it to operate more efficiently. Ideally, you will have the AC unit serviced before summer and the heating unit serviced before the winter. Changing air filters will also improve the efficiency and lower the cost of operating your HVAC unit. Many companies now offer service contracts, which break down the cost into monthly payments and can provide discounts on repairs or a new system, when needed.
- Rethink Home Cooking. Recent studies show that consumers now spend more money eating out than at the grocery store. With the top three spending categories in most budgets being housing, transportation, and food, meals are the easiest place to cut costs. Save money on your food bill by grilling outside and breaking out the crockpot for simple meals such as soups and stews, ready when you arrive home in the evening. With a little planning, you can save money and eat healthier by cooking more meals at home.
- Review Work Benefits. Most companies have open enrollment in October when you can make changes to your benefits Are you putting enough toward retirement to maximize the company match? Do you need to adjust your insurance choices for the upcoming year due to changes in your family circumstances? Have you used your flexible spending dollars for the year? A review of company benefits will ensure you make use of everything offered.
- Health Insurance Review. Whether you receive health insurance through your employer, Medicare, or the ACA health care exchanges, enrollment take place each fall. Most policies renew on an annual basis, making it important to review overall health care spending for the current year as well as anticipated costs for the upcoming 12 months. A review will provide valuable information to use during often short enrollment periods.
- Set Aside Money for Holiday Costs. When you spread expenses over a longer timeframe, it requires less each month to reach your goal. An early start can reduce the need to charge purchases made during the holidays. Estimate how much you will need for gifts, entertainment, and travel, and then divide the total by the number of weeks left in the year.Putting the money in a separate saving account earmarked for holiday spending can reduce the temptation to spend it on other things. For example, if you want to spend $1,000 during the holidays, you can set aside $77 per week if you begin at the start of the quarter and eliminate the use of a credit card.
- Complete Fall Tax Planning. Take advantage of more tax deductions and credits with a little planning. Review your spending for the year and create a strategy to reduce taxes when you file in the spring. You might be able to contribute more towards retirement accounts to lower taxable income, start a business to increase income and write-offs, or make home improvements, which qualify for a tax credit. There are many ways to lower taxes, but most require action before the end of the year.
- Take Advantage of Holiday Sales. Halloween and Veterans Day provide a surprising number of discounts on items you may need. Halloween sales go beyond candy and costumes and often include lower prices on food, clothes, crafts, and fall decorations. Veterans Day often triggers a countdown to Black Friday deals, with savings on appliances, household goods, and winter clothes.
Finding savings during the fall months can free up money to pay for higher expenses during the holidays or allow you to pay off summer debt sooner.
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