How to Give Yourself a Mid-Year Financial Check-In

Father and son blowing bubbles together in a field.

Ah, summer. Now that the sun is out and the kids are home from school, it’s prime time to enjoy family vacations and backyard BBQs. However, you’ll also want to review your finances to make sure your bases are covered. In turn, it’ll help you stay on track with your money goals.

Here’s what to review during your mid-year financial check-in:

Make Tweaks According to Life Changes

If you’ve recently experienced a life change that affected your financial situation — got married, had a baby, received an inheritance, or got promoted at work — you’ll want to adjust your spending plan so that it reflects these changes.

Let’s say you just got hitched and and moved in with your significant other. How has that impacted your monthly living expenses? And if you just had a baby, how has the new addition to your family bumped up your monthly costs?

Budget for the Second Half of the Year

Besides tweaking your budget based on any life changes, go through your spending plan to make sure it includes one-off expenses and periods when you’re making more purchases. Common “spendy times” are when the kids are gearing to go back to school and during the holidays.

If you want to get nitty-gritty, consider creating separate budgets. For instance, a holiday budget might include traveling to see family, attire for festive gatherings, hiring a pet sitter, gifts, wrapping paper and holiday cards. Your spending plan is a living, breathing thing. And when life changes you’ll want to make adjustments to your budget accordingly.

Replenish Your Emergency Fund

Did you have to dip in to your emergency fund in the first half of the year? By June of last year, I pulled $800 from my emergency fund for car repairs, $2,500 for a new computer, and $200 for a new phone. These unexpected expenses would’ve thrown me into a lurch had it not been for my reserves.

The general rule of thumb for emergency funds is anywhere from three to six months of your normal monthly living expenses. But it really depends on your needs and lifestyle. As a self-employed freelancer, I aim to keep at least six months of basic living expenses in my emergency fund.

If you need to shore up funds for your reserves, look for ways to free up money. You can do this in one of two ways: either by cutting back on your expenses or by earning more. To bring in more cash flow, consider taking on a side hustle. Or ask for more money from your current boss or clients.

A pro tip: Ideally your emergency fund should be housed in a separate place than your main bank account. That way, you’ll be less tempted to tap into it without good reason. Plus, you can figure out how much you exactly have at a single glance.

Check Your Credit

Check your credit health by ordering a credit report. You’re entitled to a free report from each of the three major consumer credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — during a 12-month period. All you need to do is order one from AnnualCreditReport.com. Note that that’s just for your credit report. To access your credit score from one of the three major credit bureaus, an additional charge might apply.

If you want to just check your score, a handful of credit monitoring agencies offer free credit scores. Plus, some credit card networks and banks also offer free credit scores. Note that some of the scoring models might be slightly different than the ones used by FICO®, but your score should pretty much the same for the most part.

Reassess Your Tax Withholdings

If you find yourself feeling cash-strapped and struggling to cover your bills, the answer might be right under your nose. If you want to receive a smaller refund, which means a larger paycheck, consider claiming more allowances and make sure you aren’t having additional money withheld.

On the flip side, maybe you’re in a place where you would be fine financially with getting less each paycheck, and prefer a larger tax refund to use on whatever you please. If that’s the case, you might want to claim fewer allowances. In turn, you’ll have a greater chunk of money withheld, and a smaller paycheck.

To change your tax withholdings, you’ll need to update your W-4 form and submit it to your employer.

Monitor Your Debt Situation

How much debt do you currently have? And if you have been making payments on existing debt — credit cards, student loans, personal loans, car loans — is your debt repayment method (i.e., avalanche, snowball, or blizzard) working for you? If it’s not as effective or motivating as you would like, you might want to try a different approach.

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to come up with a plan to start making progress on your debts. You have plenty of options, so you may want to research before making a decision. 

One option? A debt management plan from MMI. It's a great way to work with a trusted nonprofit and save money in the process. Learn more to see if a debt management plan is right for you.

Tagged in Budget tips, Understanding your credit report

Jackie Lam - author photo

Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based personal finance writer who is passionate about helping creatives with their finances. Her work has appeared in Forbes, Mental Floss, Business Insider, and GOOD. She blogs at heyfreelancer.com.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.8/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Consumer Federation of America Consumer Federation of America
    MMI is a member of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.