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5 Ways to Improve Your Finances This Fall
I know it’s blasphemous to say, but I sipped my first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the season strolling along the streets of Paris. With each swirl of flavor, fall made its way into my mind, and I realized that as of October 1st, we’ve officially reached Q4 of 2021.
2021 was an absolutely crazy ride for me. I spent the beginning of the year on a last-minute pseudo sabbatical, hired several new employees, signed a motherfuckin’ BOOK DEAL, launched a chart-topping podcast, and packed up my apartment in Seattle for the digital nomad life.
As we enter the final four months of this wild year, it’s the perfect time to do a little revamping and checking in on your overall financial picture. Here are a few things you can do right now to help you rock your way into 2022.
Check-in on your emergency funds
How’s your emergency fund doing? I hammer this one home over and over on the blog, but one of the first and best things you can do to help build financial stability is to build a three to six-month emergency fund. This fund should include all of your non-negotiable expenses like rent, food, utilities, and any other essential items in your budget.
Sometimes, we build a budget at one stage in our lives and then forget to update it as we change. Have you moved or taken on new expenses since the last time you looked at your emergency fund? Make sure your calculations are still lining up so you don’t get caught off guard when an emergency strikes and your emergency fund depletes faster than you’d expected.
Here are a few categories to include in the emergency fund to help you make your calculations. Multiply the total by 3 or 6, depending on your preference!
Home Costs (Electric, Gas, Trash, HOA fees, etc.)
Cable, Internet, and Phone
Insurance Costs (Car Life, Health, Etc)
Car or Commuting Expenses (Gas, Maintenance, Metro Passes)
Minimum Debt Payments
Food (Groceries and Dining Out)
Any Additional Essentials
Start a sinking fund for the holidays
I have a great article on what sinking funds are and how to use them to help you plan for big financial purchases. The ones that always catch me off guard are the holidays. I love gift-giving, so I always plan for that, but sometimes I forget about the unseen holiday expenses like food, drinks, and travel. Starting a budget and a sinking fund for the holidays now can help you avoid last-minute financial panic this holiday season.
Read more: What are Sinking Funds?
Start planning for 2022
As we enter the final quarter of 2021, now is the perfect time to build your game plan for 2022. As you check in on your financial picture, how do you want it to change in the next year? Where would you like to be with savings, debt, etc., by October of next year?
This is an excellent time to listen back to my podcast episode on the Money Date. You should be sitting down for your Money Date once a month, but I think quarterly is a good time to really dig in on your goals and start planning for the longer term.
Checking in also includes going over your investment strategy. Investing is a long game, but it’s always good to check in every few months and see how things are going with your portfolio. Do you have more opportunities to diversify? Can you be maxing your Roth IRA sooner? Have you maxed your employer match in your 401K? Is it time to open another brokerage account?
Listen to the full episode on financial self-care.
You’ve heard of Spring cleaning, but why only do a closet cleanout once a year? As we head into cooler weather, it’s the perfect time to Marie Kondo the shit out of your closet and sell off those pieces that just aren’t “sparking joy” anymore. I’m a big fan of reselling clothing, especially if it helps you make a little back on items you paid a pretty penny for.
Don’t limit it to just your clothes –– take stock of your home inventory and purge what you don’t need anymore. Tackle books, furniture, kitchen items, electronics, and anything else you can think of! I think there’s absolutely something to the idea that decluttering your space can help you declutter your brain. After these last two years, I think we can use all the help we can get there.
Revisit your values-based spending plan
Just like revisiting your emergency fund, it’s time to revisit your budget and your values-based spending plan. As a quick recap, the idea of values-based spending is choosing three non-essential categories that you give yourself permission (within limits) to spend on. My three categories are travel, good food, and nesting. I have a section of my budget (approximately 30%) that I specifically set aside for this category.
I recommend checking in on your budget monthly, but quarterly can be a good time to do an even deeper dive. What if you decided to save 25% of your income vs. 20%? What if you thought designer coffee was an important part of your budget, but you started making coffee at home and suddenly have money left over in this category?
Start interrogating your spending habits and “trying on” new methodologies on paper. You might be surprised by what you discover when you lay it out on paper!
Bonus: Finally start investing
Tbh, this tip is my never-ending battle cry. You don’t need to wait for some specific time of year to start investing, and you don’t need hundreds of dollars a month to do it. What you do need is to just start (after you’ve paid off high-interest debt and put your emergency fund together, that is).
It’s estimated that women specifically will lose almost ONE MILLION DOLLARS over their lifetimes by waiting too long to start and investing less. This is particularly ridiculous, seeing that women are proven to be better investors than their male counterparts. If you want to get mad about it and get a little kick in the pants, listen to my conversation with Sallie Krawcheck of Ellevest.
This is also a great time to make sure you roll over your old 401K into an IRA if you’ve changed jobs! Capitalize is a FREE service that does all the grueling paperwork for you to roll your old 401K into a Roth IRA.
We’re in the final leg of 2021–– don’t give up, keep saving and investing, keep learning, and keep kickin’ financial ass all the way into 2022.