For many of us, weekends in July were booked to capacity months ago. It’s the only way to fit in all those cookouts, baseball games, vacations and weddings into such a small window of time. Given the whirlwind July tends to be, it’s a good to take a breather and perform a mid-year check-up of sorts to ensure all that spending on briskets, bowties and bottle rockets remains in harmony with your larger financial plan. And, speaking of spending, July presents a great month to find excellent deals on small-ticket items, and it might be an opportune time to think even bigger — like, house-size ambitions.

In between squeezing every drop out of those dog days of summer, here are five ways to improve your finances in July.

  1. PERFORM A FINANCIAL CHECK-UP

    We’re half way through the year (went fast for you too?); July is a good time to ensure you’re making progress on those financial resolutions you made back in January. It’s okay if that debt paydown or savings goal is a little behind. Now is a great time to get back on track. Here are a few ways to simplify your finances or make that debt a little easier to pay off. While you’re looking at your budget, check in on your retirement savings as well. There are strategies to enhance what you’re already doing. And if you still need to open your first retirement savings account, it’s never too late — here’s how to get started.

  2. CAPITALIZE ON LOW MORTGAGE RATES

    Perhaps the July heat has you thinking about putting in a pool or turning that crisp, cool basement into an entertainment mecca. In June, mortgage interest rates hit a two-year low, which could make this an opportune time to refinance and pull some equity out of your home for a big project that will make your house the cool house. But before you get your mortgage broker on the phone, here are a few things you should know.

    If you’re thinking you may want to become a homeowner, the low rates are a great opportunity for you as well. Locking down a mortgage with a low interest rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. And don’t let the home-buying process intimidate you if you’re a first-timer. We’ve got the 101 on how to apply for a mortgage, when it makes sense to buy points, how to find a real estate agent and first-time home-buyer myths you can ignore.

  3. SCORE SOME DEALS

    Black Friday is months away, but now that Amazon has emerged as a retail behemoth there’s reason to celebrate sweet deals in the middle of summer (outside of Christmas in July, of course). We’re talking about Amazon Prime Day, which is slated to start July 15. If you’ve got a few things on your shopping list, or bigger items on your wish list, you might want to set aside some spare cash this month to scoop up cool stuff at a discount. Keep in mind, Walmart, Target, Best Buy and a host of other retailers will be posting their own sales to get in on the action — they aren’t going to let Amazon have a monopoly on their own holiday. When companies compete, you win!

  4. TAKE A BITE OUT OF SANDWICH GENERATION MONTH

    There’s a month or day to celebrate just about anything. July happens to be Sandwich Generation Month. This is a month to honor those of us who are caring for aging parents and raising children at the same time. Any excuse is good enough for us if it encourages families to talk finances with each other. Have you talked to your parents about eldercare and other health planning? If you’re one of the millions of “Sandwich-ers” out there, take some time this month to talk dollars and cents with the family — it might pay off in the long run.

  5. BOOK A LAST-MINUTE VACATION

    The days started getting shorter after June 21! That means time is running out to book a summer vacation for the family. We get it, it’s easy to neglect travel when you’re driving to baseball practices, graduation parties, wedding receptions or just trying to keep the front lawn from turning into a jungle. But, seriously, treat yourself and the fam. If you want a little inspiration, check out these four family-friendly locations that are perfect for last-minute vacations.

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