How to Do a Fall Financial Cleanse

Autumn is my favorite season of the year.  Not only do I love the cooler weather, the changing colors of the leaves, football, and the county fair, but I’ve always loved the “back to school” season (which used to be September).  I look forward to getting new notebooks, pens, organizers. I’m a bit of an office supply geek.  It is like a fresh start on the year. Maybe if your New Year’s goals haven’t worked out, now is the time to reset and get back on track.

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, a certified financial planner and author of “The 30-Day Money Cleanse” says “giving yourself a “money cleanse” offers a chance to carefully go over your spending and financial habits so you can make any necessary changes to end the year strong. With inflation and economic uncertainty in the background, that’s no easy task, but putting in the extra effort now can pay off.”

How to Do A Financial Cleanse

Reflect

Look back, starting with the goals you set at the beginning of the year.  Check on the progress you have made and determine what adjustments you need to make. Look at your credit card and bank statements. What unexpected expenses did you make?  Why has it been harder to save?  Unfortunately, with inflation and higher interest rates, it may have been harder than anticipated, and certain circumstances may have occurred beyond your control.  However, don’t dwell on what you haven’t accomplished, but create a strategy to make small changes to get you going in the right direction.

Establish a Budget

Tracking your spending, and then studying where your money is going can make a big difference.  If it’s easier for you to track on an app, there are several out there, ranging from free to a monthly subscription.  Make sure you are using a reputable source. While I have not personally used it, Mint by Intuit is a free, highly rated app available to monitor spending, balances, and budgeting.

Make it a Habit

Spend 5 to 10 minutes every day checking your budget and accounts.  Whether this works best for you in the morning, to set your plan for the day, or at lunch, or in the evening, set a time each day to focus on finances.  When spending decisions come up, you will have your information on top of mind, and will know the impact it has on your goals.

Pay Off Debt

With interest rates rising, credit card debt and variable rate loans are more expensive. Making that same minimum payment is going to take even longer to see any decrease in the amount you owe.  (Look for a future article on when to refinance.)  When considering whether to put money in savings versus paying off a loan, look at the interest rates.  For example, if you are paying 18% on a credit card balance, and your savings is earning less than 1%, pay off the debt first.

Taxes

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention taxes.  Check your income and withholding compared to your most recent tax return or see your tax professional for a tax projection and review.  You don’t want to think you are on track with your finances, only to be hit with a tax surprise of an unexpectedly large balance due when April comes.

Have Fun!

Reward yourself. Build some fun or a reward into your budget. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. Go to a local theatre or concert, or buy a new book or accessory.  You want to build fun in your budget so you don’t feel deprived.  It’s kind of like starting a diet, you must be creative and add in some rewards or variety to stay on track.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional for your specific situation.

Filed under: Dollars & Sense, Life, News
Profile photo of Penny Wasem, CPA, CFP, PFS, owner of Lifetime Financial Planning Solutions in Lancaster, Ohio.

By Penny Wasem, CPA, CFP, PFS

Penny L. Wasem is the owner of Lifetime Financial Planning Solutions, LLC. A summa cum laude graduate of Ohio University, Penny earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with focus in accounting and mathematics. She serves on the board of The Fairfield Medical Center Foundation, is a member of the Investment Committee of The Fairfield County Foundation and has been active on many non-profit boards in the community. Penny lives in Lancaster with her husband Eric Hubbard and is parent to Clark and Olivia Hubbard.