We’re halfway through the year, it’s the middle of vacation season, and you may be in “take it easy” mode. To keep your finances on track, however, it’s a good idea to carve out time to make a few simple money moves.
Manage health care spending
Wendy Naughton, a marketing professional from Chicago, takes advantage of the summer break to schedule medical appointments for her children. “It’s easier to keep track of health insurance deductibles when doctor’s visits are grouped around the same time,” she says.
If you have a health care flexible spending account but haven’t filed for any reimbursements, this could also be a good time of year to start spending money from the plan, says Alex Yeager, a certified financial planner with Everlong Financial in Austin, Texas.
Many companies offer FSAs to help employees cut out-of-pocket health care expenses. But employers may enforce a “use it or lose it” rule, meaning you could forfeit any money that’s not spent by the end of the year.
Other employers allow a grace period of two and half months after the plan year or let you carry up to $500 into the following year. However, by using your FSA dollars now, “you can help ensure that funds will be used by year-end,” Yeager says — you won’t have to scramble to spend them later.
Evaluate your personal budget
The midpoint of the year is a logical time to review your budget performance and decide if there’s room for improvement. Naughton says this is when she makes a point to check her income and spending to be sure she’s on her way to meeting year-end goals.
“I like to review my financial situation now because I know I’ll have time to adjust. If I wait until later after the summer, it’s kind of too late,” Naughton says.
If you haven’t created a budget, now is a good time to do so. You could use financial planning software such as Quicken or Mint to track expenses, or simply look over your pay stubs and previous bank statements to see where your money has been going the past few months.
With a spending plan in place, you’ll be better prepared to avoid going into debt when the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons arrive.
Weigh the benefits of downsizing
We’re in the middle of the busy season for real estate. The weather is generally bright and sunny for showings, and many buyers will want to close on a home and move in before the school year starts.
If your children have left the nest, or will be leaving soon, now could be a good time to move to a cheaper home. Downsizing to a less expensive place could lower your cost of living. And with a smaller place, you’ll probably have lower bills. This would free up money for everyday expenses, retirement savings or an emergency fund.
Selling could also bring you a significant chunk of change to put into your retirement account.
The bottom line
July is a great time to recommit to your goals and take steps toward achieving them. Consider budgeting, managing your medical spending, or even moving to a less expensive home. You’d be making moves that could put you in a better financial position for the rest of the year — and beyond.
Illustration by Dora Pintek