Fall is finally here, bringing with it the joys of a new school year, another football season, and a welcome round of homecomings and holidays.

Autumn is a busy time, and it can often be an expensive one—which means it’s worth setting aside a few hours to check in with your finances. Whether you’re sad to see the end of summer or excited about cooler weather, it’s a great opportunity  to ask yourself how you feel about your 2022 financial goals—and what you still need to do before winter arrives.

“Fall is a great time to think about what you want to accomplish before the end of the year,” says Jim Wang, founder of WalletHacks.

You might want to start by revisiting your summer financial check-in. If you set yourself the goal of building an emergency fund, for example, how much did you want to set aside this summer—and how much did you actually save? If you’re ahead of your fall finance checkup, that’s great. If you’re behind schedule, you still have time to catch up—but keep in mind that, for many people, this time of year prompts not only a shift in temperature but also in priorities.

“When heading into fall, most people are thinking about back to school and the upcoming holidays,” explains Steffa Mantilla, Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) and founder of Money Tamer. “Both of these can be strains on your budget, so it’s important to start planning and saving for them now.”

We asked our experts how you can prepare your fall finance planning —and here’s what we learned. Read on for our top fall financial tips.

Get ready to go back to school

For many parents, the school year has already started, or they’re preparing it to begin—whether they’re streamlining the morning routine, learning how to pack better sack lunches or talking to their kids about updated mask mandates. They’re also dealing with higher-than-usual grocery prices, not to mention notebooks, new shoes and long-overdue haircuts.

If you’re experiencing financial stress and aren’t ready to handle the increased cost of going back to school, it’s time to reevaluate your budget. You might want to consider cutting back on streaming services, for example—especially now that the kids are going to be out of the house for most of the day. You may also need to press pause on your savings goal—at least for a while.

“If the cost of back-to-school is unachievable,” says Mantilla, “you should reassess your savings goal to see if you can do with less.” Try to keep enough cash on hand to cover an emergency or any unexpected expense, and keep in mind that investing in your children’s education is one of the best ways to create generational wealth.

Start saving for the holidays

The holidays will be here soon whether you’re ready or not—and one of the best ways to get ready for the holidays is by saving money now.

How much money should you save for the 2022 holiday season? Take a look at the last few years of holiday expenses to get an idea of how much your holiday season usually costs. Then ask yourself how much you want to spend this year—and how much you might need to set aside every month. Setting up budgets like this is especially important if you want to have a debt-free holiday season this year.

“Once you have the amount, you can divide it by the number of months you have before you need to spend the money,” Mantilla explains. “This monthly amount is how much you’ll need to save in order to reach your goals in time.”

If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to save enough to cover the costs of the holidays, you may want to look for ways to earn more money this fall. “Find ways to make up the difference,” says Mantilla. “This could mean taking on overtime at work or taking on odd jobs on the weekends for some extra cash.”

Plan ahead for tax season

There’s one more annual event you’ll want to start thinking about this fall. Tax season will be here before you know it—and the more you plan ahead, the easier it will be to file your taxes.

“Tax planning is especially important because we often only think about it when we’re getting close to Christmas, when the time crunch puts an unnecessary sense of urgency and pressure on our decisions,” says Wang. “It’s better to start tax planning now, and make those preparations early.”

What kinds of preparations should you make? Wang has two suggestions. First, start by looking for opportunities to defer income. “If you’re expecting a year-end bonus, can your company defer it to January 1st rather than paying it in December?” Wang asks. “You’ll still owe taxes on the bonus, but not until the next tax year.”

Deferring income can benefit people who might be in a lower tax bracket in the future—especially if you take advantage of retirement plans that allow you to defer taxes on your contributions until you begin making withdrawals. If you’re concerned about how the recession might affect your job, deferring income could be one way to keep a little more of your hard-earned money. “It’s easier to have these conversations in September then in December,” Wang advises—and that applies whether you’re talking to your spouse about your career prospects or talking to your employer about deferring a bonus.

Wang also suggests looking into the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) system. “AMT is a separate tax system that has slightly different exemptions and rates,” he explains, “and is meant to ensure taxpayers pay a minimum amount of tax.” Be aware that the AMT system may limit your potential deductions—and be prepared to calculate your taxable income under both the AMT and the regular system before filing.

No matter how you approach your financial goals this fall, taking the time to check in with your progress will help you make smart decisions as you go back-to-school, prepare for the holidays and start planning ahead for next year’s taxes. You may discover a new way of earning income—or a new way of financial planning!

Not bad for a season that’s all about learning, reconnecting and harvesting—and, of course, preparing to celebrate the end of the year.

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