Year-End Money Checklist

Your Year-End Money Checklist: 7 Things to Do With Your Finances This Month

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The month of December is infused with holiday cheer. Candy canes, Christmas music, and twinkling lights saturate our surroundings, so it's no wonder we want to spend this month celebrating the moment with friends and family. But December is also a time for reflection and preparation, and many of us will (and should) organize our lives before heading into the new year. That includes our finances. Nobody wants to pay extra taxes, lose money, or miss out on major cash bonuses or rewards. So add these 7 money moves to your end-of-year checklist, and enter the new year with your finances in order.

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1. Manage your holiday budget.

This year, consumers will spend an average of $1,000+ on holiday spending! That's enough to derail many of our budgets and even put some of us into debt. So before you embark on your holiday shopping spree, create a holiday budget. Then, use technology to maximize every purchase and ensure you get the best deal. This guide to budget-friendly holiday shopping dishes everything you need to know.

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2. Check your credit report.

This is something you should do at least once a year, every year. Especially in a world where identity theft and credit card skimmers are rampant. Let me break it down. When you borrow and repay money, your activity is reported to the three credit bureaus. Each bureau aggregates this information onto your credit report. Then, your credit score is calculated from that data.

You can download and review all three of your credit reports for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. This enables you to monitor your credit history, but it will also help you spot errors. Credit report mistakes can negatively impact your interest rates, insurance premiums, safety deposits, and your ability to take out a mortgage or lease an apartment. So go set your annual calendar reminder, and check your credit reports every year!

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3. Spend your health insurance FSA before you lose it.

Depending on your health insurance plan, you may have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA). These are employer-sponsored accounts that allow you to save money tax-free for medical expenses.

The important thing to note is that an FSA does not roll over into the new year. So if you have an FSA (go check!), make sure you spend it before you lose it. Since you have to use it for medical expenses, my favorite way to spend an FSA is by visiting the FSA store, which only sells FSA and HSA-eligible products. Stock up on over-the-counter meds, vitamins, sunscreen, first aid kits, feminine care products, baby essentials, etc. The FSA store even carries high quality, trendy brands like Coola and Supergoop! SPF products! I wear these Coola tinted lip balms every day (great stocking stuffers) and love this Supergoop! antioxidant sunscreen mist.

PS: All of this health insurance jargon is super confusing, so I broke down the difference between an HSA and an FSA (and which one is right for you).

FSA store
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4. Contribute to your retirement accounts.

If you have a 401(k) or an IRA through your employer, they probably offer a matching program. Let's say you make $100,000 per year, and your employer matches up to 4% of your salary. If you contribute $4,000 per year to your 401(k), your employer will also contribute $4,000 per year. Free money! But if you only contribute $3,000, your employer will only contribute $3,000, and you're giving up $1,000. This is an important part of your well-deserved compensation package, so don't give up free cash! Plus, every dollar you contribute today is tax-deductible.

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5. Plan how you'll spend your year-end bonus.

You've worked hard all year long, and you're finally receiving a token of your employer's appreciation. And you deserve it! But instead of spending your bonus impulsively as soon as it hits your bank account, start thinking about how you want to spend it now. Maybe you can stash 50% in savings, use 25% to pay down student loans, and 25% to buy yourself a little something. However you decide to cut it, being intentional with how you earmark your bonus will ensure it doesn't go to waste on something impulsive. Here are some ideas for how you can spend your bonus wisely.

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6. Take advantage of credit card rewards before they expire.

Many travel rewards credit cards offer a whole portfolio of annual perks and bonuses. And many of them expire at the end of each calendar year. If you have more than one credit card, it's so easy to lose track, and nobody wants to miss out on a freebie. So take a moment to review every benefit of every credit card in your wallet. These are some that I'll make sure to use before year-end:

American Express Platinum Card:

  • $200 airline fee credit (expires December 31).
  • $50 semi-annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit.
  • $35 December Uber credit ($15 every other month).

American Express Gold Card:

  • $100 airline fee credit (expires December 31).

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • $300 annual travel credit (expires at the close of your December statement if you got the card before May 21, 2017; otherwise tied to your card member year).
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7. Set financial resolutions for the new year.

As we approach January 1, it’s natural to think about how we can better ourselves in the year to come. Some of us want to detach from technology. Others want to up their fitness game. I, personally, would like to take some online courses to further my career. While these are all legitimate and admirable ways to enhance our well-being, there is one major bucket that most of us neglect in our new year’s resolutions: financial health. Healthy finances empower us to live well in all other aspects of our lives, so they deserve our focus too. Here are some money resolutions you'll definitely want to keep this year.

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Subscribe to ModMoney, a Personal Finance & Lifestyle Blog

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