October’s here. Time for pumpkin spice, trick-or-treating . . . and prepping for the upcoming barrage of holidays.
Since planning ahead is key for staying on top of a budget, here are six questions you should ask yourself to make sure you’re ready for the months ahead.
Booking your holiday travel — even though it’s a few months away — is a potentially smart money-saving move.
Here’s what you’ll want to do:
Set up flight alerts on your departing city and where you want to go — some websites and apps typically will send you an email when the price drops or when it goes up — so you can book your flight at a lower price.
Try searching for flights to and from all nearby airports, if possible, to maximize your chances of getting lower fares.
Skyscanner, a popular flight-comparison tool, found that the average price for flights around the Christmas holiday was $910 round trip in 2017. According to Cheapair.com’s annual Holiday Flight Report, compared to purchasing flights in August or September, on average you’ll pay about $37 more for a Thanksgiving flight in October and nearly $107 more if you wait until November. If you haven’t booked for the December holidays, consider doing it now; according to the report, you’ll only pay about $5 more this month than you would have in September.
If you haven’t booked for the December holidays, consider doing it now; according to the report, you’ll only pay about $5 more this month.
Getting sick can cost you a lot of money. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that anyone six months or older get a seasonal flu vaccine before the end of October. It takes around two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies, so if you get the shot now, you’ll be well protected before flu season hits.
Many insurance plans will cover the cost of a flu shot, however if you get one at your primary care doctor there’s a chance you could still have a co-pay for the visit. If you don’t have insurance, prices for a flu shot will vary; you can get one at chain pharmacies or supermarkets. The CDC has a vaccine finder tool to help you find locations near you.
The flu is a major cause of employee absences. According to the CDC, U.S. employees miss around 17 million workdays a year due to flu. If you have children, you could miss even more days if they’re sick with the flu. Missing work could impact your wages, especially if you are a contractor, part-time worker or an employee who has already used up all your paid time off.
Mark your calendars — open enrollment for health care benefits generally begins sometime during the fall. This is the time to review your health insurance premiums and see how much you could be saving — including any tax advantages from HSA or FSA accounts.
Considering one projection predicts health care costs will go up by 6% in 2019, you’ll want to plan for any possible added expenses.
If you own a house, October is a key time for getting your house ready for cold weather — but a bad time to find out your furnace isn’t working.
It pays to have a professional inspect your heating system; a furnace that’s running poorly can cost you big time in energy costs. While you’re at it, get an energy audit done. The investigator may recommend ways to make small improvements like sealing drafts on doors and windows.
For example, if you add insulation correctly, you could be looking at saving anywhere from 5% to 25% of your monthly energy bills.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday— there are certainly good deals to be had in the coming months. Amid all the frenzy, what are you going to do to protect your finances?
With more and more holiday shopping taking place online, online fraud is also becoming more of an issue during the holidays. With so much going on, it’s easy to lose track of spending. In addition to keeping on top of a budget when going holiday shopping, doing the following could help to protect your finances:
Check your bank account regularly. Depending on your bank, you may also be able to set up text or email alerts to give you a heads of on any large transactions in real-time.
If you’re shopping online, make sure the website uses encryption before giving out personal information.
If an ATM looks strange or the card doesn’t enter the machine smoothly, consider using another one.
You probably already know about hackers who try to steal your credit card information and attempt to make purchases. With ATM skimming, thieves use a device to steal debit card information. The device fits seamlessly onto machines so you’re none the wiser.
A FICO study found that the number of compromised cards at ATMs and merchants went up by 39% in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same time frame in 2016. Be careful when using unfamiliar ATM machines, and avoid being part of that statistic.
Think about what you need ahead of the storms:
Switch from summer treads to winter treads
Change windshield wipers and refill washing fluid
Be sure your car has antifreeze
Keep an ice scraper in the car
Cat litter or sandbags come in handy for creating traction on snow if your car gets stuck
The statistics on vehicle accidents are scary — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17% of all car crashes happen during winter conditions. Considering insurance premiums could increase after filing a claim, it literally pays to be prepared.