As I get older, time seems to go faster. Which, part of me loves because I’m future-oriented and I’m always thinking about tomorrow. But another part of me says “slow down!” because I know someday I’m going to miss these days when my kids are still at home and we’re busy doing life together.
Still, this past year I’ve thought more and more about retirement. I know it’s still 15-20 years away for us (and that’s a good thing because we’re going to need every year to save), but I think it’s important to at least start thinking about what it would look like. A little daydreaming keeps me motivated to do whatever we can to build the retirement we really want.
In that regard, I’ve been making these monthly financial checklists to help me remember that there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to planning retirement. When you think about it all at once it can feel overwhelming. But if you just focus on a few pieces each month, it appears more doable. That’s why I share them here, in the hopes that some of the overwhelm is replaced by the confidence that you can do this! Just one step at a time.
Calendars usually get a little busier this time of year as the lazy days of summer wind down and we get the kids ready to go back to school. Use this financial checklist for August to help you take a few more steps toward your financial goals.
1. Plan Your Back-to-School Shopping
I have always been a last minute, back-to-school shopper – sometimes not even getting to it until the first week of school. Usually, I’m rushed so I just run to Walmart and grab as much as I can find on the school list. There are always a few things that are out of stock or less common, so then I’m running to Office Depot to find them.
This is not the strategy to take.
Instead, you can do a little planning ahead to find the best deals, save a little money, and get your kiddos off to school on the first day fully prepared.
One way to do that is to know when your state is having its sales tax holiday. Not every state does this, but there are several that don’t charge sales tax on certain back-to-school purchases for a particular weekend in August. Considering sales tax hovers around 7-8%, you could save a good chunk of change by shopping on these days.
Also, you may want to look around your house to see what supplies you already have. Is it just me, or do your kids never end up using all the stuff you buy? I’ve found new packs of index cards, pencils, lined paper, and sticky notes in various drawers – usually, like, in November when I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving. My suggestion is to look in your drawers now so you’re not buying what you don’t need.
Lastly, add a back-to-school category in your budget for August. Most people end up spending over $100 for school supplies, so set your limit and account for it in your spending plan.
(Okay, so one last tip after that “lastly” part – if you have no problem procrastinating, you could just buy the items your kids will need right away. Then, in September, you can look for the rest of the supplies, when stores might have better deals because they want to move their inventory.)
2. Lower Your Homeowner’s Insurance
We just got a new roof put on our house, which is supposed to lower our homeowner’s insurance. I’ll be looking closely at our bill to make sure it does. If it doesn’t, hasta la vista insurance company! I’ll be looking for a better rate elsewhere.
You don’t have to get a whole new roof to lower your homeowner’s insurance. There are smaller improvements that can also put a dent in your monthly premium, such as:
- Increase your home’s security by adding an alarm system and putting deadbolt locks on your doors
- Protect your home from natural disasters by removing dead trees, adding storm shutters, and installing storm-safe windows
- Limit water damage by installing an automatic water shutoff device
- Maintain systems that use electricity by installing a permanent, automatic generator
The first thing you’ll need to do is call your insurance company and find out which improvements will actually give you a discount. Not all companies will reward you for every improvement, so know before you spend.
3. Organize Your Summer Tax Expenses
A lot of people move during the summer when the kids are out of school. If you’ve uprooted to a new place, start gathering your receipts so you’ll be prepared come tax time.
For example, if your family has moved due to a new job, you may be able to deduct expenses such as transportation, temporary lodging during the move, and the cost it took to pack up your things.
Other events that might be tax-deductible for you include the costs of summer camps, work-related travel, homeschool expenses, charitable donations, or Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) interest. There are limits to each of these, so make sure you do your tax research first.
4. Plan For Labor Day Travel
The last 3-day weekend we had was Memorial Day, so come September you might be ready for a mini-vacay with the fam.
The time to think about that is now when you have time to find some good deals on travel and figure out how it will fit in your budget. It’s also helpful to plan ahead so you have more options before everything gets booked up.
5. Calculate Your Financial Ratios
Part of planning where you’re going is knowing where you are right now. Financial metrics are really helpful in giving you a snapshot of your financial health today, so you know what adjustments you need to make in the future.
There are a lot of different calculations you can use, depending on your priorities. But to give you a start, you can read my post covering 4 financial ratios that will help you reach your goals.
Start tracking your numbers now so you have plenty of time to make course corrections. Look at standard recommendations for the metrics you choose so you have an idea where you need to be. However, each one will be unique to you and your situation, and ultimately you’ll need to decide what’s best for your own retirement.
Plan Your Checklist
Someone once said, “a goal without a plan is just a dream.”
In other words, dreams can only come true if there’s a plan attached to them.
Having a checklist isn’t enough – you have to actually implement what’s on them.
So review your goals this month, and then choose those tasks that line up with them. Put them in your calendar so you have a specific day and time to get them done.
Otherwise, the days will just fly by and before you know it, retirement is closer than you think. Because the older you get, the faster time flies, right?
Plan your dream today, so you can have the retirement you’ve always wanted.