When the leaves start changing colors and pumpkin spice is everywhere, you know fall is here.

As temperatures drop and sweater weather gets into full swing, you know the holidays aren't too far behind. Before you start panicking about how you'll afford everything on your loved ones wish lists, consider these five ways to have a frugal fall.

1. Watch for Fall Sales

Although back-to-school and Black Friday sales get most of the attention, there are other great times to shop during the fall. To avoid that December 23rd panic shop, it's a good idea to start thinking about holiday shopping early. With fall sales, you can get a head start on crossing names off your gift list. Lisa Koivu recommends shopping the week before and after Halloween to snag some deals. You may also want to pay attention to sales on Veterans Day, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

2. Cook With Seasonal Produce

If you want to save for the holidays, cut the number of meals eaten out and cook at home. Fall is the perfect time to cook with seasonal produce (which tends to be more affordable) such as acorn squash or mushrooms. Check out a list of seasonal vegetables and fruits that you can find during autumn, and get creative! To save even more money, search for free recipes online and look for ones that require ingredients already in your fridge. You could try getting started with these delicious squash bowls!

3. Max Out Your Flexible Spending Accounts

If you have flexible spending accounts, fall is the perfect time to start maxing them out. It's better to start doing this early because the holidays can get busy and make it difficult to remember. There are several types of flexible spending accounts (FSAs), such as health care or dependent care FSAs. These accounts allow you to put aside a certain amount of money to cover costs like copayments or prescription medications. However, you must use the money before the end of the year or you lose it, so fall is a great time to take advantage of FSAs.

4. Make Your Home Ready for Winter

Don't wait until the temperature falls below zero to start caulking drafty windows, start getting your home ready for the winter now. Check your insulation, doors, and windows, so that you can seal cracks and drafts. Give your furnace a tune-up by starting with an inspection and a clean. Another important task autumn task is to reverse ceiling fans, so they run clockwise and push the heated air down.

5. Clean Out the Closets

Consider cleaning out your closets in the fall. It's good preparation for rotating in your winter wardrobe, and it will give you a chance to see what you have, and what you still might need. You'll likely discover some clothes that you can donate, trade, or sell. Look for local clothing swaps or put items up for sale on eBay to make a little extra cash.

When you think of fall, you may start dreaming about caramel apples and leftover Halloween candy, but it's also the perfect season to start living frugally before holiday spending starts.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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