6 ways to organize your life
It’s the time of the year when the days are getting shorter and pumpkin spice foods are piled on shelves in nearly every aisle of the grocery store.
But this is also a good month to consider the important money tasks you should accomplish to keep your finances in shape. This summer’s natural disasters and the extensive Equifax hack are wake-up calls that we need to pay close attention to how we spend money and protect our financial security.
Read on to learn more about the tasks that should be on your October financial to-do list.
Review Your Credit Report
You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months by each credit bureau. Reviewing it is always a good idea, but it’s especially important since the Equifax breach, which may have compromised the information of 143 million people in the U.S. You can request a copy from annualcreditreport.com.
As you go through your report, look carefully to see whether anyone has opened new lines of credit without your knowledge using your personal information. In addition to looking for possible fraud, you should make sure that the information about you, such as your name, phone number, and address, is correct. Sometimes the credit bureaus mix up people with similar names.
Also look out for closed accounts that are still reported as open and accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent. For more information, check out a great primer by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Lock Down Your Information
Consumers worried about identity theft after last year’s massive Equifax data breach can finally freeze their credit reports at all three credit bureaus free of charge.
If you haven’t already, the first, best, and fastest way to protect your credit information is to place a security freeze on your credit files at the big three credit reporting bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You can do this by contacting the credit bureaus through their websites or by calling their customer-service numbers. Depending on where you live and the credit bureau you are calling, there may be a fee for placing the freeze.
There are additional steps you should consider taking as well to protect your finances, including activating two-factor authentication wherever possible, safeguarding your smartphone and email accounts, checking your 401k provider’s fraud policies, and placing a fraud alert on your credit accounts.
Review Your Home Insurance
The recent hurricanes are a reminder to check your homeowners insurance (and flood insurance, if it applies) before the next threat heads your way. The Atlantic hurricane season runs through Nov. 30, and March through August is peak season for tornadoes. Wildfires also tend to flare up in spring and summer.
It’s a good idea to meet with your insurance agent, who will have software that can estimate the replacement cost of your home should the worst happen.
Fill Out the FAFSA
If you or your child will attend college next year, you should fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid, which will determine your eligibility for public financial aid. The form becomes available Oct. 1.
It’s a good idea to submit it as soon as possible because federal aid can be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. Other types of aid are not as dependent on when you apply.
Within a week of filing, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which will tell you whether you’ll qualify for federal need-based aid such as Pell grants and work-study programs. Put that information into a potential school’s net-price calculator (available on their websites) to get an estimate of how much that school might cost after factoring in aid.
Clear the Way for Trick-or-Treaters
More than 70 percent of Americans plan to trick or treat this year, according to the National Retail Federation. While your homeowners insurance should cover the cost if a visitor is injured and then sues you, it’s probably best to make the area around your home safe before trick-or-treaters arrive.
Make sure there is a well-lit path clear of debris or Halloween decorations, and skip any that require an open flame, which could prove hazardous around loose-fitting, flammable costumes. Secure any pets inside the house or in a fenced-in area outside.
Buy on Deep Discount
With the weather cooling down, you may be considering doing some work on your house before the temperature really drops.
If you’ve been procrastinating about putting a new coat of paint on your walls, now is a great time to buy interior paint. And just in time for when the fall foliage, leaf blowers are on deep discount. Check out our ratings to make sure you buy one that’s durable and has all the options you need. And don’t forget to keep your family safe; smoke alarms are also on sale.
We hope these tips help you move into the fourth quarter on a strong and solid financial footing.