Here Is Your October Financial Checklist
One of my favorite things about living in Colorado is the colored leaves in Fall. We have a huge tree in our backyard that tells me when the season is changing. Its green leaves begin to fade to yellow, and then a few weeks later they are a beautiful red before they start falling.
So far, I’ve never wished I had more summer. I’m always ready for the change in season.
If you’re like me, you may find it a little harder to stay motivated about your budget these days (*yawn*). I would much rather think about hunting down the perfect Christmas gift or baking cookies to enjoy by the toasty fire.
However … I know that if I let my grip slip just a little then things can get out of control pretty quickly. (Emotional spending, anyone?)
That’s why I make these monthly financial checklists. They’re just one way to stay focused on keeping my finances in order and on track to my ultimate goal of retiring comfortably on time.
I’ve outlined 5 money tasks for October that can help you with your money management as the shopping season starts to really kick in.
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1. Fill Out The FAFSA
If you have a kid that wants to go to college next year, you should have them fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in October. The form becomes available on October 1st, and the earlier it’s submitted, the better.
Most colleges award some type of aid on a first-come, first-served basis. They can and will look at the date of your FAFSA application and award aid to those first in line. So get it in as early as you can!
You’ll need a few things to make the process a smooth one:
- federal student aid ID* (which you can get here)
- prior prior federal income tax returns (yes I meant to write 2 ‘priors’). This just means for the 2020 FAFSA form you’ll use your 2018 tax records*
- current bank statements & investment records*
- driver’s license number
- social security number*
- list of colleges that will be applied to
*If your child is still your dependent, you’ll need this information for you as well.
Keep in mind that you may have to wait up to 3 days to receive your FSA ID, and that you and your child must create your own individual FSA IDs separately (you can’t create one for your kid).
You can list up to 10 schools on the FAFSA form, and each will automatically receive your FAFSA results electronically. Easy peasy!
2. Tax extension due by 10/15
If you filed for a tax extension last spring, time’s up. Returns must be filed by October 15.
Many tax payers mistakenly believe this extension applies to their payment as well, but that is not true. Your tax return needs to show that you paid at least 90% of your estimated taxes by the April 15 deadline.
If you failed to pay this amount in the spring, the IRS will charge you a monthly penalty that will continue to increase until it’s paid in full.
And if you don’t file by the extension deadline, the penalty will be even higher. So get those taxes filed!
3. Start holiday shopping
Okay, so some of you may have already gotten a head start on this. But for the rest of us recovering procrastinators, get your shopping lists out and start hitting the stores.
If you’re someone who resents Santa Claus showing up before Halloween, don’t let your disdain for American marketing keep you from snagging some great deals.
The earlier you plan your shopping, the more chances you’ll have to find the perfect gifts at reasonable prices.
It’s when we wait until the two weeks before Christmas (totally me) that stress rises, standards lower, and any kind of budget just flies right out the window.
Don’t do that. Start now. Take your time, enjoy the process, and spend money based on your values, not your feelings.
4. Evaluate your emergency preparedness
I love to think about disaster striking during the holiday season – said nobody, ever.
But, really, when is a good time? It’s never pleasant, so might as well do it when that good old Christmas spirit is kicking in. Makes sense, right?
Actually, for those who don’t stay on top of their financial game, this is the time of year when many emergencies are created.
The I have no budget but love to shop and buy others gifts so I’ll just charge it all and deal with it later kind of emergencies. Which usually show up in January when they get the bills.
If you make it a priority to replace any depleted funds from your emergency fund now, you’re less likely to dip into it for Christmas shopping or credit card bills. Having a fully-funded account will keep an emergency from turning into a crisis, so make sure it’s where it needs to be.
Besides having money set aside, think about stocking up on supplies such as batteries, a radio, flashlights, and a first aid kit. Having extra canned goods and household items can also be a part of your emergency preparedness plan.
5. Reevaluate your financial goals
Being mindful of your financial goals is a great way to stay on track with your spending. And if you haven’t pulled them out in a while to make sure they still align with your values, now is a good time.
Goals can be fun to think of and write down and make vision boards out of, but if they’re not helpful to get you where you want to go then they’re useless.
It’s important to evaluate the goals you’ve made in the past to see if they are still relevant to your future.
Are they still what you want? Is the destination still where you want to end up?
We’re not meant to “set & forget” our goals, because life is always changing and leading us through new experiences. As the saying goes, you don’t want to spend all your energy climbing your ladder and then one day you realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.
Keep your goals fresh and updated by reviewing them every few months. This practice will help you see the progress you’ve made and the pivots you should make to ultimately realize your vision of an amazing retirement.
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Plan your October Financial Checklist
The holiday season is starting, which means our schedules start to get busier and budgets tend to go out the window. Continue being intentional with your financial goals by scheduling a few tasks that will get you closer to them.
Take some (or all) ideas from this list and add them to your calendar. Every step forward is progress!