End of Year Financial Checklist

by David Sung

In the event that the world doesn't end on December 21, 2012, it’s a good idea to start setting your financial goals for 2013. People often start the New Year with resolutions to improve their lives in one way or another. There is nothing wrong with these good intentions but if you want to make your goals stick, now is the time to lay a foundation for a successful year.

If You Have It, Spend It!

December 31 can mean the end of many programs that you have opted into like a Flexible Spending Account and healthcare expenses. Funds in these accounts are subject to expiration dates depending on the provider. If you have not met your deductible or there is still money left over, try to use it before the year is over. This rule also applies to your insurance benefits. Try squeezing in an appointment before deductible requirements start over. You've spent all year paying for it, so why not use it?

Preparing for Uncle Sam

Tax season is not far away and if just thinking about it makes your head hurt, you’ll want to jump out in front of it as quick as you can. Make a list of any major financial changes in the last year such as car or home purchases, college expenses, or adjustments in your income. Start organizing important documents and information so when it comes time to file your taxes,  you've already eliminated the hassle of finding what you need.

How’s Your Credit Health?

If one of your goals for 2013 is to make a big financial purchase, review the health of your credit score first. This will not only help you put your goals into perspective, but you can also use it as a way to set benchmarks that can keep you on track. There are a number of services that you can use to check your credit score. Don’t let a low credit score keep you from moving forward next year when you can do things to change it now. Who Do You Owe? After you’ve done an evaluation of your credit health, look at who you owe. While debt can indicate to lenders that you are financially responsible, too much can have a negative effect. Make a list of how much you owe and try to outline a repayment schedule for the year. It’s important that you’re honest with yourself when you do this and it may involve small sacrifices. Michelle and Jefferson over at SeeDebtRun.com are a great example of how to stick to debt reduction goals year round. The couple’s debt is down to $6,800 from more than $20,000 at the beginning of this year!

Holiday Saving and Donations

Sticking to a budget during the holidays seems impossible, but it is manageable if you set some expectations that you can fulfill. If you’re rewarded with a bonus from your job or find great deals on all of your gifts, save the extra money and start next year with some cushion. Donating to charitable organizations is another alternative to high spending during this time of year. You can do this on behalf of someone, which is a great gift idea and can be tax deductible. Many organizations receive most of their operating budgets now, and it’s a gift that gives year round.

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