Time to Check Your Finances
A quick mid-year check on your finances will save you later.
Nashville, Ark. – Inflation, back-to-school, higher than average gas and grocery bills. Sound familiar? For many Americans, learning to make their budget work is a challenge in today’s world. Now is the time to set aside a few hours and look at the budget you made earlier in the year to see if you are on track and where you can adjust before the end of the year.
If you work with a money manager, tax professional or investment firm, schedule a time to meet and discuss your plans so they can guide you to any specific money issues you should be doing. Are there changes that need to be made?
When was the last time you checked your credit report? Credit reports can be checked for free one time a year. There are three reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Think about breaking the year into three sections of four months and plan to check one of the reporting agencies during that time. By following this plan, you will be able to check your report for free three times a year. The idea is to make sure your credit balances are accurate and to check closely for any irregularities that might signal identity theft.
Scammers are very good and are constantly developing ways to get your money. By checking your credit report, you can see if accounts were opened or for fraudulent charges. Then take steps to correct any irregularities you may find. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a step-by-step guide to help you take action.
Next, look at your budget or start one if you’ve never made one before. Having a budget is the best way to track your money. Phantom charges, a dollar here and a dollar there, add up fast.
Looking at your budget helps you determine if changes need to be made, such as, allowing more of your budget to go to groceries or gas, and finding alterative ways to cut back on entertainment and clothing. This midyear review may help you see where adjustments can be made to save more or pay off debt sooner. Interest rates are on the rise. While minimum credit card payments may not change, it will definitely take longer to pay off the balance.
Review your retirement and whether you’re maximizing your contributions at work or in your own personal retirement accounts. The stock market has taken a lot of hits lately. There may be some different options on investment accounts. Discuss those options with your financial planner.
Midyear is also a good time to check the adequacy of your emergency fund. Emergency funds help keep you from tapping into your credit or savings balances in a sudden cash emergency. The amount of money you keep in your emergency fund should fit your needs, but most financial planners suggest having a balance of four to seven months of everyday expenses in case there’s a short-term job loss or an emergency repair. At some point, we all can expect the refrigerator, washer or car will need repairs or replacement. This fund helps to cover those expenses.
Make sure your tax withholding levels are correct. This is especially important if your income has changed in the first six months of the year and your tax bracket has changed. Discuss this with your tax preparer to see what changes should be made before the end of the year.
Finally, make sure all your record keeping is up to date. Now is a good time to look over all your spending, saving and investment records to make sure the numbers add up and the paperwork is in order. There are several free apps to help you organize your spending. Take advantage of online banking, investing and bill payment as a way to save more time and money.
The bottom line is taking a mid-year break to review your finances gives you a thoughtful opportunity to spot errors, adjust your budget and save on taxes.
For more information on financial matters, contact the Howard County Extension Office and ask for our free fact sheets on a variety of issues. All of our information is research based. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Recipe of the Week
Bell peppers are plentiful now in home gardens and at grocery stores. Here is a tasty recipe the whole family will enjoy. This recipe is prepared in the microwave, so there is no need to heat up the oven!
Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 1-pound lean ground turkey or extra lean ground beef
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 (15 oz. can) no salt added tomato sauce (divided)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup uncooked instant rice
- 4 medium green peppers
Crumble meat into a 1 ½ quart microwave safe bowl; add the onion.
Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until meat is browned; drain.
Stir in ½ can of tomato sauce, water, salt and pepper.
Cover and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.
Remove tops and seeds from the peppers; cut in half lengthwise.
Fill pepper halves with meat mixture.
Place in an ungreased, microwave safe, shallow, baking dish.
Spoon remaining tomato sauce over peppers, cover and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes or until peppers are tender.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: 4 servings.
- Nutrition information per serving: Calories 260, Fat 7g, Protein 24g, Carbohydrate 24g, Fiber 3g, Sodium 410mg. Excellent source of iron and vitamin C. Good source of Vitamin A.
By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need
materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other
appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
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