Fall is more expensive than we often admit. When Labor Day weekend wraps up, prime vacation season is over and we’re done with back-to-school shopping, which makes it feel like there might be a spending reprieve. But fall means great shopping, trying to cram activities in before winter hits, Halloween, holiday shopping and holiday hosting, all of which really add up. I actually noticed that when I moved from the Northeast to Los Angeles, my spending decreased around this time of year, simply because when the weather isn’t changing and the leaves aren’t turning, I don’t feel the need to buy a new sweater and 17 pumpkin-scented candles.
Regardless of the climate around you or your pumpkin spice tendencies, using your money wisely in the fall of 2016 can ensure you start 2017 in a healthy financial situation. This year, skip the impulsive fall spending with these 26 painless tips.
1. Adopt the “pay yourself first” method. Whenever you get a paycheck, pay your savings account first to make sure putting away money gets prioritized over impulse spending.
2. Satisfy your fall shopping craving at a thrift store. If you’re looking for the perfect new sweater or purse, buy it secondhand.
3. Plan your meals for the week to avoid eating out. The season of the crock pot is upon us. Make big meals and freeze the leftovers so you aren’t tempted to order in.
4. Eliminate “bad day” spending by finding go-to fixes that aren’t costly. Weather changes can make us grumpy, which can lead to splurging on something totally unnecessary. However, mood remedies don’t have to break the bank. Free podcasts break up an anxiety-inducing commute, and going for a run at the end of a long day can boost your mood. So can fixing up a great dinner with ingredients you already have — or making a frozen pizza, for that matter.
5. Switch to buying generic for a few of your groceries every week. You don’t need to do a complete shopping list overhaul. Instead, just target three or four items whose name brands you aren’t attached to and make the change.
6. Try a “no-spend weekend.” Doing a full week (or even month) of not spending any money out (i.e., no restaurants, bars or recreational shopping) can be daunting. So instead, just try two days at a time. Use your food at home to make meals, skip alcohol for the weekend, and plan to invite friends over or spend some quality time with Netflix
7. If you have children who are begging you to buy them pricey Halloween costumes, try to cut costs by having a costume swap with the other parents in your neighborhood.
8. DIY your fall decor this year. Make your own candles, your own potpourri and your own sugar body scrubs.
9. Break up with espresso. Creeping down the rabbit hole of pumpkin spice lattes (which lead into peppermint mochas, which lead into gingerbread lattes) can cost you about $5 every time you feed your craving. If you get three fancy espresso drinks a week for the next four months, you’re spending roughly $240 on hot beverages from now until the end of the year. As a solution to this, whenever you go out for coffee, limit yourself to only ordering drip coffee or tea.
10. And if you require the chic espresso drinks, make them at home. You’ll need concentrated coffee or cold brew, simple syrup, chocolate syrup and milk. If you want to go really crazy, you could even opt for pumpkin or gingerbread syrup instead of chocolate.
11. If you feel like your credit card spending is getting out of control, freeze your credit card. Literally. Try a hands-on approach to budgeting and put your credit card in a plastic cup of water, then freeze it for a month. It’s one foolproof way to guarantee you don’t rack up credit card debt in the last few months of the year.
12. Start working toward savings goals for the holidays in September. Some say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well, similarly, setting aside money for gifts in September means not having to battle a monstrous credit card bill in January.
13. Get specific about the amount of money you need to save for holiday shopping. If you’re trying to budget for gifts in a few months, calculate how much they cost you last year, and make a plan that will allow you to cover them without incurring debt.
14. Be equipped with a free activity suggestion so you aren’t always paying for brunch or dinner when you want to see friends. When you make the decision to go out to eat, you often think about it as how much the actual meal will cost, as opposed to factoring in tax, tip and maybe a drink. Instead, think about it this way: a $20 entrée isn’t a $20 bill. In fact, with tax, tip and a drink, it could be as much as a $40 bill.
15. Get rid of flash sale emails, because ’tis the season for inbox spam. Do not get distracted by pop-ups guaranteeing 40% off your favorite denim brand. Go through those emails and unsubscribe, and make sure your favorite shopping websites are not bookmarked on your browser.
16. Go without heat or air conditioning for September and October. Cut utilities down by abandoning the service that drives up your electric and/or gas bill the most.
17. Go through the subscriptions attached to your credit card and make sure you’re using them enough for it to be worth the expense. If you haven’t used it in the last month, get rid of it.
18. Cut one app out of your life that pushes you to spend more than you need to. It doesn’t matter whether this is a shopping app, a ride-share app or anything else. Pick one that’s hooked up to your credit card and delete.
19. Replace that app with a savings app. If you need help tracking your spending, Mint could be a great choice. If you’re looking for a quick way to invest, consider downloading Acorns. If you just want to cut down on gas spending, try Gas Buddy.
20. Call at least two providers of your monthly bills to see whether they could be charging you less. I’ve done this for most of my bills recently, and I had the most luck reducing my car insurance, renter’s insurance and internet bill.
21. If you are trying to stick to spending a certain amount each week, withdraw that sum in cash to help you commit. For me, watching the bills disappear from my wallet holds me more accountable.
22. Do a massive decluttering at home and sell some of the things you’re getting rid of. Take advantage of thrift or vintage stores that buy back clothing (or use online alternatives, like ThredUP and eBay EBAY -0.63%. Put all the money you make directly into savings.
23. Don’t forget about tax deadlines. If you’re self-employed, you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting all the deadlines this fall. If you feel like you aren’t on the appropriate timeline, consult with your accountant or dig up tax vouchers they may have previously prepared for you. I have a deadline September 15 to ensure I don’t get charged late fees in April.
24. Get rid of your gym membership until January. Unfortunately, I think we all realize that the holidays are when gym memberships get used the least. So as an alternative, challenge yourself to stay in shape by ditching the gym and doing at-home workouts. Opt for a free workout solution, like the Nike NKE -0.45%
25. If you’re hosting a fall or holiday gathering, don’t do it all yourself. Instead of planning the menu on your own and funding the whole operation solo, go potluck style or assign everyone a dish (or an alcohol) to bring.
26. Tap into the free (or cheap) entertainment that these next few months have to offer. In the fall, you have apple festivals, harvest festivals, haunted houses and turkey trots. Then once it gets colder, there are winter carnivals and free holiday shows and concerts. Cut your entertainment budget by only opting to attend the free (or under $10) activities.