spending

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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With the new year, it's time for resolutions. Many people will be resolving to diet and exercise, to learn a language, or to read more often. But you might be resolving to be better with your finances. This is a complicated area that differs from person to person, but there are still a few guidelines that can help you with your new resolutions.

1. Start budgeting by recording what you spend within a month.

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Use this time to take a step back and examine what you're spending where. You can wait a month or a pay period and record what you spend to get a baseline. Or you can pour over your past recents and bank records to see the big picture. This step will be very helpful when you start determining your personal budget. Knowing your fixed costs allow you to determine your discretionary spending limits.

2. Be prepared to adjust your budget within the first month or two.

This really goes for all kinds of resolutions. Most people set their sights a little too high and become discouraged when they're not reaching their goal. Don't expect an immediate, drastic change. Instead, ease into your new spending habits. Weaning yourself off of your old budget will allow for a much smoother transition. Setting more realistic and flexible expectations will also make it that much easier to stick to your new budget throughout the entire year.

3. Make room for unexpected bills or sudden changes in income.

However, not all costs remain the same. You might have an unexpected car repair or medical bill. You also could experience a change in your employment status. You never quite know what life is going to throw at you. This is why you should build in some financial padding if you're able. Having an emergency savings account will help you out in a pinch when an unexpected bill appears.

4. Plan for the holidays and other big events all year long.

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While the unexpected really can't be planned for, there are some things you can anticipate. This includes the holiday season and other big events like family reunions. There's no reason these things should be a surprise to your finances. For Christmas, set aside as little as $10 or $20 a month and you'll have a built-in gift budget. Same goes for any other big events that you know are arriving. Make room in your budget to save specifically for these if you know you're going to be spending during those months.

5. The easiest budget is saving a set percentage of each check.

If you don't want to have to think too hard about your budget, decide on a set percentage and stick to it. There's a rule that you should save 10 percent of your check for retirement. There is also the popular 50/30/20 rule, which says that you should save 20 percent of your income. Figure out what percentage will work best for your income and stick with it. That money will add up more quickly than you think.

6. If you want more specific saving goals, try the envelope method.

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If you're looking for a more specific budget, you can try the envelope method. This method involves you setting specific categories for every area of your life. A basic version would include rent, groceries and entertainment. You can break these down or add as many categories as you like. For each category, you set a specific spending amount you're allowed every month or every pay period. It's usually recommended that you do this budget all in cash, but it can definitely be done digitally or with pre-paid visa cards. This method can be very rigid but will definitely help you stay on track.

Once the first of October comes around, Halloween is on the minds of Americans as surely as the leaves will fall off the trees. The fun of dressing up, gorging on candy, and decorating the house is a long-running tradition that gets our minds off serious matters and into the spirit of, well, spirits!

But fun isn't free, especially this year. In fact, as per the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend a record amount of money on Halloween in 2017, to a tune of $9.1 billion! The dead must be rolling over in their graves.

From costumes, to candy, to décor and more, Americans will be shelling out substantial cash for the October 31st festivities, up from last year's still whopping total of $8.4 billion. According to NRF, 7 out of 10 people will celebrate, and money is apparently no object. Costumes can be costly, parties are bigger and better than ever, and neighbors are striving to outdo one another when it comes to lawn and home decorating. Plus, NRF says 95% of Halloween celebrants plan to purchase candy… and lots of it. Treats are better than tricks, after all. Where's the fun in Halloween if you don't cap off the night with a stomachache?

NRF notes that men plan to splurge more than women this year, spending $96 on Halloween gear, compared to women who will spend an average of $77. That's a lot of mini Snickers bars and scarecrows. Perhaps they're saving elsewhere so Halloween can be as ghoulishly good as possible.

Why the big spending? The Balance suggests, "Shoppers are willing to spend money on something if it provides a lot of value. Halloween does that. Another reason is that consumer confidence is at its highest level in 10 years. People aren't letting the uncertain state of the global economy scare them away."

This information is sure to make for a Happy Halloween for seasonal retailers who make most of their yearly money in a short bracket of time. Will you be going all-out this Halloween too? And pumpkin spice lattes don't count.

Have a safe one!

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Today, more than ever, it seems travel has become an important part of our culture, whether you're traveling for work, taking advantage of your vacation time or simply following your wanderlust dreams. If you aren't living that trust fund lifestyle, but are still trying to live up to your globetrotting potential, then you may quickly find that money is a big determining factor in where and how often you can get away. The good news for all you jet-setters out there is that there are a lot of credit cards with benefits and rewards that can help you maximize every dollar spent towards travel. These are the top credit cards for world travelers.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 miles after spending $3000 in the first 3 months of account opening (equivalent to $400 towards travel)
  • 2x miles on every purchase and 2x miles on dining in the US
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory fee for the first year, then $59 after tha

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $4000 in the first 3 months of account opening (equivalent to $625 towards travel)
  • 2x points on travel including airfare, transportation, and hotels and 2x points on dining worldwide
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory fee for the first year, then $95 after that

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

  • Earn 25,000 points after spending $2000 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • 3x points for airfare purchases, 2x points for restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets, and 1x points on all other purchases
  • $100 airline fee credit for incidental fees each calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 introductory fee for first year, then $195 after that

Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after spending $1000 in the first 3 months of account opening
  • 2x points for Southwest purchases and on purchases with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and 1x points on all other purchases
  • 3,000 bonus points as a Special Anniversary Gift
  • Southwest perks- 2 free checked bags; no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • $69 annual fee

United Mileage Plus Explorer Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • 2x miles for airfare purchased through United, 1x miles on all other purchases and other opportunities for bonus miles
  • United perks- free first checked bag, priority boarding and lost luggage reimbursement
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2x miles on all purchases and get 5% miles back every time you redeem
  • 0% introductory APR for first 12 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 fee for the first year, then $89 annual fee after that

British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • Earn 50,000 Avios points after spending $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months with opportunities to earn additional bonus points during the first year of account opening
  • Earn 3x Avios points on British Airways purchases and 1x Avios points on all other purchases
  • Automatically enrolled in the Executive Club for new card members
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee