It’s hard to believe but the leaves are already starting to change. The year may be winding down, but your schedule probably isn’t. Between school activities, work deadlines and social events, it can be hard to keep track of it all, let alone your financial to-dos. 

That’s where we come in. We’ve outlined five tips to keep your finances on track as we head into the last quarter of the year. Read on for important deadlines to keep in mind, as well as our tips for making the most of your time and money this month. 

1. FREEZE YOUR CREDIT 

After to last year’s massive Equifax data breach, it's likely that some of your personal information was compromised — after all, 143 million American consumers were affected. One of the steps you can take to protect yourself is to freeze your credit. And, as of mid-September, you can now do it for free at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — and, yes, you need to do it at all three). This helps prevent someone else from opening an account using your identity, and now that it’s free, there’s really no reason not to take this precaution. And you may want to consider freezing your kids’ credit, as well.  

2. MAKE MEMORIES AT HOME 

The school year is in full swing, which probably means your schedule is filled with science projects, soccer games and trombone lessons — in addition to your own workload. In all the hustle it can be difficult to prioritize quality family time, which is why we want to help. Share your kids’ ultimate home experience in our #IfItWasUpToMyKid Contest, and we might just bring their dreams to life. The contest ends on October 13, so get the family together and let your imaginations run wild. If you’re looking for some inspiration, here are six home design trends that bring the whole family together.  

3. SUBMIT YOUR TAXES IF YOU FILED FOR AN EXTENSION  

If you filed for a tax extension back in April, you probably thought six months was more than enough time to get them done — that is, until now. The tax-extension deadline is fast approaching, so make sure you complete your paperwork by October 15 to avoid any penalties. And while you have taxes on the mind, make sure you’re withholding the appropriate amount. After the new tax law changes, an estimated 30 million people may not be withholding enough — which could translate to owing money down the road. 

4. GET A HEAD START ON THE FAFSA  

If you have a college-age kid at home and are hoping to receive financial aid, it’s time to start thinking about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can begin filing as early as October 1, and colleges use this to determine your student’s financial aid package, so don’t put this one off. You need to fill out the FAFSA each year you hope to receive aid, but if this is your first time filing, here’s everything you need to know about the form.  

5. START YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING 

Stores haven’t even discounted their Halloween candy yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start your holiday shopping. The next couple of months will fly by between various family, school and work events. Don’t get caught frantically online shopping — or worse, in an actual mall — days before your holiday celebrations. Getting organized now and starting to cross things off your list means you can enjoy more of the holiday cheer and avoid the stress. 

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