Every year, right about this time, you start to hear a lot more people asking, “What happened to summer?”
It’s been a whirlwind of weddings, graduation parties, trips with the family and barbeques in the backyard. But as the calendar turns to August, it all sinks in. You’re going to start seeing football again on television. It’s time to start thinking about sharpening those pencils (or charging those iPads?) to get set for another school year. To be fair summer isn’t officially over until Sept. 21, but if you’re looking to preempt those autumn blues – yup, they’re a thing – here are five ways to keep your mind occupied and improve your finances in August.
1 . SCHOOL BELLS RING, ARE YOU LISTENING?
Nothing beats the smell of textbooks and linoleum floor wax on a late-summer day, right? School is back in session, and whether it’s preschool or grad school there are ways to financially prepare. Parents, many states offer tax holidays in August to help with school supply costs. Be sure to check and see when, or if, your state is offering a break this year. For a few insider tips, see how this mother of three mastered the art of back-to-school shopping.
Heading to college? August is the right time to review your 529 plan distributions to cover tuition costs, review your financial aid package, or open a student bank account and credit card.
2. INTEREST RATES TAKE A DIP
Interest rates have been on the rise since 2015 and now we’re seeing a course reversal as the Federal Reserve looks to shape an “accommodative” policy to keep economic growth in the U.S. on track. For the average consumer, that means interest charged on debt balances – think credit cards, home equity lines of credit and other personal loans – tends to fall. So, this month, take a close look at your debt picture. Depending on your financial situation, it might be a good time to refinance debt or consider taking out a loan for a big-ticket purchase like a home renovation or new car.
3. LINE UP FALL/WINTER HOME IMPROVEMENTS
Speaking of renovations, August is a good time to plan an indoor home renovation project for fall or winter. Spring and summer are the busiest times of year for contractors because people in cold-weather climates pack all those outdoor projects into warmer months. But if you’re considering a big indoor project, there are advantages to pushing it into fall or winter. Contractor schedules lighten up a little more as the weather cools. And as business slows, you might even snag some off-peak discounts from builders and suppliers that are looking to drum up sales. Interested? Here are home renovation projects that add the most value, as well as a quick guide to hiring the right contractor.
4. WRANGLE SUMMER EXPENSES
If you lost track of how quickly summer flew by, you may have also lost track of your spending. There are no big holidays in August and sunburn may be keeping you from the beach. Take advantage of this lull to revisit your larger financial plan and ensure you’re still on schedule to hit your savings goals. And (just in case you’re asking for a friend) we’ve got tried-and-true ways to manage debt, get out of debt, consolidate debt and understand the difference between good and bad debt.
5. FAMILIES ARE GETTING BIGGER
There must be something about the coziness of winter, because history shows that more babies tend to be born in August than in any other month. If you’re one of those lucky families, congratulations! This is a milestone for your growing family and your finances. According to the USDA, raising a child costs roughly $16,000 annually, but don’t let that sticker shock sink in. A financial advisor can help you fit the costs of raising a child into your wider financial plan. For starters, if you’re new to this parenting thing, here are some money mistakes to avoid. Something that’s a savvy purchase for that little bundle of joy? Life insurance, of course – here’s why.