Fall always feels like a fresh start to me. It’s a time to revisit goals and check things off my to-do list before the year ends, like paying off lingering credit card balances and making holiday travel plans.
However, if I’m not careful, that “fresh start” could also mean new wardrobe additions, seasonal coffee drink purchases and grand plans for home decor crafts that never seem to materialize. I don’t think I can blame cooler weather for such bursts of spending energy.
This year I want to enjoy the season without racking up any more card debt or derailing my careful budgeting plans. If you, too, are feeling a bit of fall euphoria, here are some things we can both try to stay on track financially this season:
1. Make a ‘pumpkin budget’
“With all the “limited time only” advertising attached to fall-themed products, it’s easy to feel obligated to take advantage of all the treats before they disappear. However, instead of giving into all seasonal impulses, decide what treats your budget can handle each week ahead of time.
Whether you have $10 or $50 to spend on pumpkin-flavored vices, keep a running tally of what you buy each week in a smartphone note app that can be referenced quickly if you’re losing track of your treat trail. I personally love a good pumpkin muffin, but neither my wallet nor my figure need them regularly.
Small seasonal impulse buys here and there won’t blow your budget, but if you indulge consistently, such as by getting a $5 pumpkin spice latte on the way to work every morning instead of your typical $2 black coffee, that’s an extra $60 spent over the course of a month.
2. Limit new wardrobe items
Even though my closet is well-stocked, I have a hard time resisting all the fresh fall items in the stores each year — boots and scarves in particular.
This year I’m going to limit myself to three new fall wardrobe items. Anything else I want will have to stay on the rack for now. Winter items will enter stores soon enough and my wallet would prefer I peruse the clearance racks in a month or two instead of splurging now.
If you’re also a fan of fall fashion, a few small purchases now may satisfy shopping cravings until markdowns are made in January or until your financial smarts kick back in and you forget about material goods altogether.
3. Spend time outside
Hot weather makes it too easy to seek out air-conditioned ways to pass the time, like wandering around malls or lounging on the couch, browsing social media posts. In my experience, both of those activities can encourage needless spending, especially hours spent pinning wants and wishes onto Pinterest boards.
Now that the weather is cooling off, go outside and enjoy the season instead of putting yourself in front of spending temptations. I tried this on Sunday and sat outside with a book enjoying the fresh air and watching my dog play for a couple hours. It was relaxing and didn’t cost a dime.
Go for a walk, visit a park or even wash your car. Even if you only do this once a week, one less day of spending could really help you stay on track if you’re on a tight budget.
4. Cook more, dine out less
I save all these recipes on Pinterest that I want to try but really never get around to making–and this habit seems to increase during fall. I just want to make all the breads, soups and baked goods.
If you are always trying to reduce dinners out like I am, let’s try using the new season as an excuse to experiment with recipes and make those warm seasonal meals we’ve been visually attracted to online.
The money you were going to spend on another average takeout meal could buy you almost twice as much food at the grocery store — and make even tastier items. I think it’s time to break out the crock pot, muffin tins and spices. And maybe even that pumpkin pie pan.