The last thing we want to do right now while preparing for the upcoming holidays, is probably think about money. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right? While it’s tempting to put off your finances until the New Year, you might miss some critical financial deadlines or lose the opportunity to save extra money. An end-of-year financial checklist gives you the opportunity to make changes and save before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.
Here is a year-end financial planning checklist. Use these last few weeks to get your finances organized and under control — a great way to close out the year.
1. Look over your spending.
Ideally, you’ve been tracking your spending all year. What were your spending patterns? Did you go over or under in a certain category? Take a look at what you actually spent vs. what you had budgeted for. Do you need to change your expectations? Review your financial goals from last year and consider whether they will work for you in the coming year and make the necessary adjustments. If you paid off a loan, see if you can redirect that money into a paying off another debt or adding to a savings or retirement account. Don’t let the money get eaten up by miscellaneous expenses. If you don’t have a budget, start one now. Mint.com, Level and Check are all good free budgeting tools with features to help you create a budget from scratch, track your spending, and set financial goals.
2. Order your free credit report.
You’re entitled to one free yearly credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Get a report now so you know where you stand before heading into the new year. Look over your report and check for errors or negative information. If your credit history could use some improvement, make this the year you get back on track.
3. Get your credit cards in check.
That means checking your balances, rates, and cash back or other rewards. Make a large payment if you are carrying debt and have extra money to do so. If you can’t pay down a chunk of the debt you accumulated this year, create a debt repayment plan that will get it down next year.
4. Make an extra mortgage payment.
Making just one extra mortgage payment each year can cut your loan down by years, saving you possibly thousands in interest. Also, making an extra mortgage payment means you may be able to claim an extra month of mortgage interest deductions this year. If you can’t afford an extra payment, try to make January’s payment before the first of the month. If the payment gets credited before January 1, it may still be tax-break eligible.
5. Review your insurance plans.
Look over your health, life, homeowner’s/renter’s, and car insurance plans. Do you need to adjust your coverage, premiums, or add any dependents? Do you need to purchase new coverage, like life insurance or disability? Did you get married, have a baby, or buy a house? Do you have any changes coming in the new year that you need to plan for? Those life events all trigger insurance changes.
PS: If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might need to make changes to your W-2, too.
6. Automate everything.
It’s time to finally automate your bills and savings. The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be. Automating helps you pay your bills on time and maintain a regular savings plan. This is also a good time to cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren’t using: video and music streaming, magazines, premium subscriptions, etc.
7. Make a tax-deductible charitable contribution.
If you are going to itemize deductions on your tax return, consider making a charitable contribution to a cause you believe in. The donation must be made to a qualifying organization and the tax benefit only saves you a fraction of what you donate, but you’ll be supporting a good cause to end the year.
8. Use your Flexible Savings Account.
If you have a Flexible Spending Account for healthcare or other qualifying expenses, now is the time to submit any outstanding claims. This is also the perfect time to make any year-end doctor appointments.
If you get your finances in order at the end of the year, it can only help you get more organized for the coming one!
Don’t forget to stop in to have your annual financial checkup before the year ends, or to kick off the beginning of the new year! Here at First Financial, we encourage our members to come in at least once a year to sit down with a representative at any one of our branches to make sure you are currently placed in the correct Rewards First tier for you, and also that you are receiving the best value, products and services based on your financial situation. Give us a call at 732.312.1500 or stop in to see us today!
Morgan Quinn of Gobankingrates.com, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/10-smart-money-moves-make-before-2015/