We understand that you might still be sleeping off your Halloween candy binge, but we would like to take this opportunity to gently remind you that it’s November. Yes, already. Before you know it, you’ll be in another food coma, sleeping off Thanksgiving dinner. And by the time you fully recover from that one, it will likely be Tax Day.
As the holidays approach, life can feel like it’s being fast-forwarded like that Adam Sandler movie Click. But don’t skip over your finances. This month especially can make or break your money goals.
To keep you on track, we’ve rounded up advice to help you manage your holiday shopping, make a little extra money and prepare yourself for the funky housing and job markets. We also sprinkled in a couple of PSAs about health insurance and other benefits you should know about this month.
Remember, remember these money tips for November:
1. Plan your holiday shopping wisely
This will be a holiday shopping season unlike any other. With supply chain issues abound, consumers should expect shortages on common holiday items such as toys, turkeys, booze and electronics. Aside from shortages, these supply chain issues can cause prices to spike. For example, TVs this year will likely cost you about $100 more than normal — even with a holiday deal.
So should you start your holiday shopping early this year? Yes and no. Some experts warn certain electronics that aren’t ordered ASAP might not arrive by Christmas. But starting early can have downsides if you’re not careful with your budget: Research from Deloitte shows that consumers who start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving outspend those who wait until after Thanksgiving by about 23%.
To keep spending down, be picky with what you’re purchasing this month, and be aware that even with a Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount, you might not be getting as good a deal as you might think. And on those days in particular, go in with a game plan of what you want. If you simply browse looking for good deals, you’re bound to buy something you don’t actually need.
2. Factor skyrocketing gas prices into your Thanksgiving traveling plans
Visiting family members this Thanksgiving? If so, chances are you’re driving. AAA, the auto-service and insurance nonprofit association, has tracked holiday travel behavior since 2000. Its data show Thanksgiving is a particularly popular holiday for road trips.
If you plan to hit the road this month, be sure to budget for the increased gas prices. According to an analysis by GasBuddy, an app that tracks real-time gas prices at 150,000 stations across the U.S., a gallon of gas is likely to cost you $1.20 more than it did this time last year, with the national average sitting at about $3.36 per gallon.
To conserve your gas, follow this advice from the U.S. Department of Energy:
- Monitor your check-engine light.
- Don’t weigh down your car.
- Reduce your driving speed.
- Cut the engine when idling for 10 seconds or longer.
3. Prepare yourself if you’re buying a home for the first time
Historically, November is the start of the slow season for home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors. Prices are typically lower this time of year, which may pique your interest in buying a home.
In the pandemic era, most of these norms have gone out the window. The housing market for much of this year has been red hot. Some signs indicate that the market is starting to cool, but it’s still a difficult time to buy, especially for first-timers.
A recent report from the real estate platform Opendoor shows what first-time buyers have been going through to find a home. Simply put, it’s an emotional roller coaster that may require obsessively checking Zillow seven times a day, touring more than a dozen properties and putting down five or more offers before finally finding a place.
The best way to avoid this headache is to wait until the housing market cools off, if you can. But experts say that it could take the market some time to get back to normal. And if you’re set on buying now, then prepare for what could be a marathon. For more tips, check out our fall homebuying guide.
4. Enroll in your employee benefits
November means it’s open enrollment season, a roughly month-long period in which many workers have to sign up for benefits offered through your employer. This is your chance to update your selections on core benefits, like health, dental and life insurance.
Don’t just check the box and default to what you currently have, says Marquis Smallwood, vice president of workforce engagement at life insurance company MetLife.
“The last 18 months have been a unique time, and the benefits you selected a year ago may have fit your needs then but might not fit your future plans,” he says.
In fact, a recent MetLife survey found 8 out of 10 millennial employees expect to make major life changes next year. Several commonly cited changes, including having a child, getting a pet or undergoing a major medical procedure they had delayed, tie into workplace benefits.
How can you prepare? Look at what you used — and didn’t use — this year. For your health insurance, for example, look back at how many times you visited the doctor and what you paid for medication over the past year. Then think about what you expect for the upcoming year.
If you’re paying for a gold-plated plan, but never visited the doctor, you could probably scale that back and pay smaller monthly premiums. Alternatively, if you’re in a low-cost but high-deductible health care plan and you expect to have a baby or need a medical procedure, you may be better off choosing an insurance plan that covers more.
People tend to dread open enrollment season, Smallwood says. But think about it this way: It’s technically part of your compensation, and you want to be sure you’re getting as much value out of it as you can.
5. Start shopping for ‘Obamacare’ on the Health Insurance Marketplace
If you’re one of the more than 12 million Americans who gets insurance through Healthcare.gov or a state-run marketplace, it’s also open enrollment for you. Enrollment starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 15, 2022, for coverage that will start in 2022. (You must enroll Dec. 15 for coverage to start Jan. 1, 2022.)
Much of the same advice applies here as it does for those signing up through an employer. If you have a plan through the marketplace and do nothing, you’ll be re-enrolled in the same plan. But you should shop around to ensure that your current coverage is still the best option for your health needs.
6. Land a seasonal job if you need some extra cash
Seasonal jobs can be great ways to recoup some of the cash you may be hemorrhaging with all of the celebrating, traveling and gift giving going on. This year, you could have a seasonal gig lined up within 30 minutes of applying. Really — that’s straight from a UPS hiring announcement.
The ongoing labor shortage has bled into the holiday hiring season, and that has made retail- and shipping-related companies extra desperate for workers. Many companies are currently locked in a game of one-upmanship in hopes to out-do their competitors and attract more seasonal recruits.
If you’re looking for a gig, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Many come with pay starting at $15 or higher, sign-on bonuses and other perks. In fact, this year may be the best year yet for seasonal work. Another emerging trend among employers this hiring season: Many seasonal jobs are permanent. This may sound contrary to the very nature of “seasonal” jobs, but several companies like Target, UPS, Walmart and Amazon want you to stick around long after the holidays are over.