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The save-more-money checklist: fall 2023

Key takeaways

  • Feeling like you need to get your finances back on track this fall? Let this checklist be your guide.
  • With every satisfying check mark, you’ll learn how to save money and prep for the future. Sense of accomplishment included.

After the summer slowdown, fall can feel like the season to get your life back in order. Feel good about your finances with this financial checklist designed to help you save on everyday expenses, prep for the holidays, and get your money on track before the end of the year.

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September

Go after that raise

Don’t wait until December to tell your boss you want a raise. Now is when many companies set the following year’s budget. So if your employer doesn’t have a traditional review process, it’s time to set up a meeting. Before you do, list out the accomplishments you’ll present—ideally using numbers to show results—and pick a percentage bump to ask for. Then shoot your boss an invite with a clear request. Try: “I’d like to discuss my performance over the last year and get your feedback.”


Swap out your closet and make some money

Consider selling summer clothes you won’t wear again on resale sites. Then use the cash you make to buy items you might need for fall. Try these tips for offloading your stuff.


Pay quarterly taxes

If you don’t have an employer withholding taxes on your behalf (because you’re a freelancer, side hustler, self-employed, or have substantial investment income) the quarterly deadline to pay taxes is September 15, 2023, for the June 1 to August 31 income period. You may need to make these quarterly estimated payments if you expect to owe more than $1,000 when you file your tax return or if you owed taxes last year.


Start a school carpool

Got a student who can’t get the bus? Save money on gas—and time in the endless drop-off line—by sharing chauffeuring duties with other parents. Post to a local social media group or a class email chain that you’re looking for a couple of families on your side of town and set a schedule. If you’re a commuting parent who can’t take a turn driving, offer to pay for gas in exchange for rides for your kid.


Review recurring expenses

Maybe you paused some services while you spent more time away from your place this summer. Now that you’re back, take a magnifying glass to your spending to save some cash. First, grab a recent credit card statement and highlight recurring charges. Some banks flag these for you. Note which services you’re still using and cancel the rest. Tally up the money you saved, and then create an automatic monthly transfer for that amount to a savings account.


Find a student loan repayment plan

A big thing that could impact your fall budget: student loan repayment. Borrowers who have had their federal loan payments paused are expected to start repaying them around October 2023. If that’s you, plug a few details into the Department of Education’s Loan Simulator* to see if there’s a new repayment option this fall that better fits your finances.


Save at the stadium

Millennials dropped more than $600 on game tickets, merch, and tailgating essentials last year, according to a LendingTree survey.1 But there are ways to save on fall fandom: See if your credit card offers discounts on tickets or memorabilia or look for tickets on reputable resale sites the day of an event for deals on seats. Check stadium rules to see if you can BYO concessions—some big parks allow sealed food and drinks. You might also save by parking farther away to avoid pricey lot fees or taking public transportation to the stadium.

October

Prep your heater

Furnaces have filters that keep dirt and dust out of your home’s airflow. Clogged filters not only make your house dustier but also make running your appliances more expensive. Change your furnace filters every 60 to 90 days so everything chugs along as efficiently as possible. Here are 6 more ways to potentially lower your utility bill.


Hit the farmers’ market for fall produce ...

You may associate farmers’ markets with spring and summer, but you could save in the fall too. Look for bulk discounts on in-season produce, such as apples, squash, or carrots. You might also pay less for “ugly” fruits or vegetables that are bruised or misshapen. Picking your own produce at a “U-Pick” farm could also save you on cost per pound.


… but head to the supermarket for pumpkins

You might get a better deal on a future jack-o-lantern if you skip the pumpkin patch and buy one at a grocery store instead. Why? The patch price might be marked up to help defray costs of the “experience”—aka hayrides, the corn maze, and other fall fun.


Save on fall party essentials

Need something you’ll only use once? Before buying a Halloween costume, fall party décor, or tailgate necessities, check local social media groups to see if there are any swaps going on. That’s when neighbors come together (IRL or within the comments on a social media site) to donate new or used items and pick up a new-to-them one for free or cheap. Check resale sites too for spooky good deals.


Track holiday airfare

Thanksgiving and Christmas airfares are predicted to be 20% over pre-pandemic levels.2 For the best deals on both, start monitoring prices now and book by early October. If you can, travel on less popular days, such as the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Also, check the Department of Transportation’s customer service dashboard* to learn which airlines will reimburse you (or put you up in a hotel) if there’s a delay or cancellation beyond the airline’s control.


Get ahead of gifting

There are only a few more paychecks until the winter holidays. And ’tis the season for overspending: Last year, 35% of Americans took on holiday debt, a LendingTree survey found.3 So make your gift list now when there’s plenty of time to check it twice (and score free shipping because you aren’t opting for rushed delivery). Then, figure out how much you can spend per paycheck to stay on budget. Also, consider tallying up what you’ll need for holiday tips and set aside (or start saving up) that money. Not sure how much to give? See our tipping guide.

November


Check on 401(k) contributions

Log in to your retirement accounts and see how you’re doing. Fidelity’s guideline is to save 15% of your income toward retirement savings, which includes your employer match. If you’re not there yet, try to inch up your contributions by 1% whenever you get a raise, bonus, or other windfall. If you can, consider contributing at least enough to your 401(k) to get any match your company may offer, so you don’t leave any money on the table.

Looking to max out your accounts? Individual contribution limits went up in 2023 to $22,500 for 401(k)s and $6,500 for IRAs.


Prep for open enrollment

If you get health insurance through your company, find out when open enrollment is this year. If you plan to buy insurance on HealthCare.gov, open enrollment starts on November 1. If you’re a first-timer, learn how to pick a health plan. If you’ve had coverage before, revisit last year’s plan. Didn’t meet your deductible? Spent a ton out of pocket? Check if another plan could better fit your needs. (Just make sure your doctors are still in-network and you wouldn’t lose coverage for, say, prescriptions.) If your benefits include access to a health savings account (HSA), learn how one could make your health care more affordable.


Plan for PTO

Unlike elementary school, there’s probably no perfect attendance award at your job. So figure out how to use all your vacation days now before the year ends. PTO is part of your total compensation package. Multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours your employer offers in yearly PTO. Saying "no thanks" to time off means leaving that money on the table.


Reverse your ceiling fan

Cooler autumn temps call for a ceiling fan check. Make sure yours is spinning clockwise—that motion makes the blades pull warm air down from the ceiling. And that may save you on heat use and costs. If the air isn’t going your way, there’s typically a switch to flip near the fan’s motor. Then remember to set your fan to spin counterclockwise in the summer to push cool air to you.


Make it a holiday potluck

Hosting a food-focused holiday such as Thanksgiving can get pricey with turkey, sides, pies, and cocktails. Try crowdsourcing the meal instead. You handle the turkey—they often get discounted just before Thanksgiving. Then ask guests to each bring a specific type of dish, so you don't end up with 3 bowls of mashed potatoes. Tell everyone to bring their own containers too for divvying up leftovers.


Book medical appointments and spend FSA money

Consider making health checkups now and going before the end of the year. That way, if you’ve met your insurance plan’s deductible, you can pay less for services before the January reset. If your FSA has money left, spend it on eligible expenses, then submit those receipts and get reimbursed before the December 31, 2023, deadline.

December

Plan for charitable giving

Consider what impact you want to make this year—and budget for it now. These tips can help you make a difference in 15 minutes or less. If you plan on donating money, you could potentially reduce your tax bill for this calendar year if you contribute to an eligible organization before December 31, 2023. (Do a quick search here* before donating.) Also, check if your workplace matches donations, which could make your gift go even further.

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* You are now leaving this email for a website that is unaffiliated with Fidelity. Fidelity has not been involved in the preparation of the content supplied at the unaffiliated site and does not guarantee or assume any responsibility for its content. 1. Jacqueline Demarco, “Sports Fans Will Shell Out an Average of $664 This Fall, and 33% May Take On Debt,” LendingTree, September 12, 2022. 2. Hayley Berg, “Christmas in July,” Hopper, July 24, 2023. 3. Matt Schulz, “Average Holiday Debt Nears $1,550, Highest in LendingTree Survey’s 8-Year History,” LendingTree, December 22, 2022.

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