Of course, your Summer season should be filled up with leisure time and relaxation, or as much as you can possibly fit in your schedule, as your weekends are normally packed with social and outdoor activities. However, you should still spend some time this month and next, getting through a few important financial tasks can help you make sure that you’re on the right track the rest of the year. Here’s your Summer Financial To Do List!
Among the things you should do: Make a plan to pay back your student loans, double-check that the right amount of tax is being withheld from your paycheck, and sign up for TSA Precheck if you’ll be traveling.
Read on for more details and other financial to-do’s this month.
Make Air Travel Easier
If you’re planning a summer vacation, applying for TSA Precheck or Global Entry could make it a breeze to get through the airport. The TSA designation promises that you’ll clear domestic security in about 5 minutes. Global Entry includes TSA Precheck and allows for expedited service through U.S. Customer and Immigration.
TSA Precheck costs $85 for a five-year membership and Global Entry is $100, but you may not have to pay for them. Many credit cards and loyalty programs cover the cost, or provide a statement credit toward the application fee.
To apply for either program, you must be a U.S. citizen and a lawful permanent resident. To get started, fill out an online application and bring proof of identity and citizen status to an enrollment center.
Review Your Student Loans
If you graduated from college in the spring and you have federal loans, your first payment is due six months after you leave school. That gives you some breathing room, but it also means you should have a strategy in place for repaying your student loans before the grace period expires.
Rather than simply going for the plan with the lowest monthly payment, you’ll want to choose the one that lets you pay the lowest total amount based on the monthly payments you can afford. The default option if you do nothing is the standard repayment plan, which requires equal monthly payments over 10 years. If you can afford the payments, this is typically the least expensive option over the long term.
Regardless of which plan you’re in, there’s no penalty for paying down your loans ahead of schedule. While your payments may not officially be due until September or October, getting a head start can help you adjust your budget as needed and reduce the total amount of interest you have to pay.
Double Check Your Tax Withholdings
It’s always smart to check in mid-year on your withholdings to make sure that you’re not paying too much or too little in taxes, but it’s particularly important this year given the huge changes to the tax code. The new law repealed personal exemptions, and if you haven’t updated your W-4 form to reflect that change, you may get slammed with a higher tax bill in April.
Your tax obligations may also have changed if you’ve celebrated (or plan to celebrate) a big life milestone in 2018, including having a baby or getting married or divorced. Adjusting your withholdings now can still have a big impact on what you owe (or the size of your refund) in the spring. Make the change by filing an updated W-4 with your human resources department. Talk to your accountant or use this withholding calculator from TurboTax to figure out the right amount.
Test-Drive a Car
End-of-season sales on cars tend to take place in late summer, so if you’re thinking of buying a car, you should start doing your research now. Choosing your trim and options and setting a budget before you start talking to a salesperson will put you in a good position to bargain. You’ll have the best pricing transparency if you can negotiate the price of the car separately from the financing.
In addition to shopping around for the best car at the best price, you’ll also want to look for the best loan to fit your needs. Compare quotes from at least three lenders, focusing on the total price, rather than your monthly payment. Once you’ve got an offer you like, see whether your dealer can beat it.
Check our new-car buying guide for helpful advice.
Buy Products on Deep Discount
Research by Consumer Reports’ product experts, who track prices year-round, shows July is the best month to buy a number of products. You’ll find discounts on summer must-haves like gas grills and dehumidifiers, as well as several household appliances.
Amazon Prime Day also takes place in July. Look out for an announcement so you know when its annual “Christmas in July” discount day begins.
Have any Summer Financial To Do List suggestions for us? Let us know! Send an email to Outreach@ConsiderTheConsumer.com, find us on Twitter or Facebook, or even connect with us directly on our website! We look forward to hearing from all of you.