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Much like a tree changes with the seasons, your finances should adapt to the current economic climate. By now, you've got a better read on how soaring prices on goods and services are affecting your budget.
As we head into the next few months with looming inflation and holiday spending season around the corner, use September to map out a strategy that will keep you on track.
Here are a few tactics to consider.
Map out a get-out-of-debt blueprint
Your future self will be thankful for getting started on paying down debt before the holiday spending season. Waiting until the new year might mean shouldering the burden for more months or years. With early planning, it’s possible to prioritize debt and necessary expenses ahead of wants or holiday spending pressures.
These cards typically require a good FICO score of 690 or higher to qualify. The BankAmericard® credit card lets you transfer high-interest debt onto it at a much lower rate for a fee. It gets a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 21 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 21 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, and then the ongoing APR of 14.24%-24.24% Variable APR. A 3% fee (with a minimum of $10) applies to all balance transfers.
Compare the cost of your current interest payments over the long term against the balance transfer fee amount to determine the best option.
You may not need to apply for a new credit card to get a balance transfer offer. Check your inbox (or your mailbox) for potential offers from your credit card issuers. Sometimes it's possible to transfer a high-interest balance onto a current credit card.
Lessen the blow of inflation with Labor Day discounts
For those necessary purchases, try piggybacking on Labor Day discounts for savings. If you’re not working on paying down debt, tap a rewards credit card in your wallet to squeeze more value from a purchase and pay it off in full to avoid interest charges.
Expect discounts on summer clothing, appliances, back-to-school supplies and mattresses, to name a few. Try maximizing rewards as much as possible with your best-earning card. A card like the $0-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express can earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retailers on up to $6,000 spent in each category per year. All other purchases earn 1% back. Terms apply.
Buy time on winter home repairs
Make a plan for those last-minute winter-proofing projects around the house. If you don’t have enough of an emergency fund to cover the costs, or want to avoid depleting it entirely, a new credit card can offer an interest-free window and possibly a sign-up offer to defray expenses.
A card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card can offer a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 17.99%, 22.99%, or 27.99% Variable APR. Plus, you can offset the cost of a repair with the card's sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. All purchases will also earn 2% cash back.
Store credit cards also offer financing, but these are typically deferred interest offers that can put you at risk for debt. If the promotional balance isn’t paid off when the offer expires, you’ll be socked with interest retroactively. Read the terms carefully before accepting a “no interest if paid by” offer on a store credit card.
Snag even more value from on winter projects or essentials by shopping for discounts through a cash-back shopping website or app that offers rewards on purchases made with select merchants.
Plan holiday travel
You can start thinking about holiday travel, and possibly book it, too. You’ll save more on holiday travel booked either now or next month. If you’re not working on paying off debt, also consider whether a travel credit card can offer savings on the holiday trip or the one after.
A card like the $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a hefty sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. That’s enough to cover a large chunk of a future vacation. The last few months of the year are usually ideal for earning this kind of offer since you can charge holiday travel, holiday purchases and everyday expenses.
The card’s $50 annual credit for hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® may also defray some holiday costs. And, you'll find plenty of ways to get rewards. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3 points per $1 spent on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout), 3 points per $1 spent on select streaming services, 3 points per $1 spent on online grocery purchases (not including Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs), 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 1 point per $1 spent on other purchases.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, see this page.