September is when things start to pick up again after the lazy days of summer are over. School is back in session, coworkers return from vacation and all those projects you had on the back burner are top priority again.
That also makes September a good time to prioritize your finances and think strategically about the months ahead. Here are five ways to improve your finances in September.
1. REVIEW YOUR HEALTH CARE PLAN
Open enrollment is around the corner, so take time now to review your health insurance plan. Take an accounting of your health care needs over the past year and assess whether your current plan is still a good fit. Did you get slammed with a huge deductible during a recent visit to the doctor? Did your health change or are you planning to start a family? Should you switch to your spouse’s plan?
Also, check to see if you have any benefits you need to use up before the end of the year. Some flexible spending accounts (FSAs), for instance, are on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, which means you might want to take care of any medical spending now so that money doesn’t go to waste. To get started, we’ve pulled together a few more questions to ask during open enrollment, as well as a quick guide to the most common types of health insurance plans.
2. START SAVING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
No, we’re not brimming with holiday spirit (yet). But getting a head start on this busy time of year can be a boon for your bank account. Let’s start with Thanksgiving. If you’re planning to fly and visit friends and family this year, book your flights this month. According to the analysts at Google Flights, you’re likely to get the best ticket prices if you purchase by the second week of September. (Prices will take flight from there, pun intended.)
Another savvy tip for good tidings and cheer: Open a holiday savings account to get ahead of that holiday spending. You could open an entirely new account or create a subaccount with your existing bank that’s specifically labeled for holiday funds (many online banks now make it easy to do this). That way, you won’t be scrounging for extra cash — or go into debt — when it comes time to pay for gifts or host that big holiday family reunion.
3. PREP FOR THE FAFSA
If you have a soon-to-be college co-ed, it’s time to start thinking about financial aid for the 2020-21 school year. FAFSA application season commences Oct. 1, so use this month to assess what your financial needs will be — the sooner you get that application in, the better your chances for receiving grants and other aid. There are a few things you can do this month to get a head start, such as gathering tax information, getting your FAFSA ID and putting together a list of prospective schools. If you want your application to be among the first in line, we’ve got you covered with the 101 on filling out the FAFSA.
4. REVISIT YOUR LIFE INSURANCE COVERAGE
September happens to be Life Insurance Awareness Month, which serves as a good reminder to review your current levels of coverage. Not sure where to start? Here’s where you can learn more about permanent life insurance, universal life insurance and disability insurance. Ever wonder how permanent life insurance can affect your investments? We’ve distilled it down to the basics. Confused about life insurance dividends? We’ve made them easy to understand, too. How much life insurance do you need? You guessed it, we have a few thoughts about that, too.
5. GET A HEAD START ON WINTERIZING YOUR HOME
OK, so there’s still a lot of time before winter, but we’re a financial planning company, after all — we like thinking ahead. While you probably don’t want to put that grill into storage yet, it’s a good time to survey your home from top to bottom for energy-sucking leaks. Do the doors need new weather stripping? Could the window frames use some caulk? Maybe it’s time to upgrade to a smart thermostat.
Another one that’s easy to forget: check the fireplace and chimney. Creosote build-up or nests can be a hazard, so it’s not a bad idea to have an expert perform an inspection before the first fire of the year. Schedule a routine furnace check-up — you don’t want to find out the furnace is on the fritz when you need it. A little preventive maintenance today can help you avoid some big bills and headaches down the road.