Nine Great End-of-Year Money Tips

By Mike Peterson
In December 24, 2014

The holiday season is just getting underway, and chances are good that things are about to get much busier around your house.  But before you find yourself completely wrapped up in shopping, menu planning, and making travel arrangements, it’s a good idea to take a few moments to yourself and do an end-of-year financial review.  It’s one great way to prepare for a new year and take some of the money-related stress out of the season.

Not sure where to start?  Here are nine easy ways you can get on top of your finances this holiday season:

  1. Talk about money. Has it been a while since you’ve discussed finances with your spouse or partner?  The holiday season is a great time to sit down and have an honest conversation about your household finances.  Discuss your goals for 2015 – do you want to buy a house?  Pay down a high-interest credit card?  Beef up your emergency fund?  Cut unnecessary spending?  Take some time to set a few goals and discuss your attitudes toward spending, saving, and debt.
  2. Review your spending for the year. With a new year right around the corner, the holiday season is a great time to step back and look at your spending habits.  Take an afternoon and sit down with your bank statements.  This should give you a good snapshot of how you spend your money – and some ideas about where you may want to cut or eliminate spending altogether.
  3. Get a credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report a year from annualcreditreport.com – and if you haven’t gotten yours, now is a great time.  You will be able to obtain a free report from all three major credit reporting agencies. Evaluating these annually will tip you off to any potential issues such as late payments or fraudulent charges.
  4. Use your bonus wisely (if you get one). If you have the good fortune of receiving a holiday bonus, it’s probably tempting to go on a spending free-for-all.  But I recommend putting some thought into what you do with the extra cash.  My recommendations?  Make a larger-than-usual credit card payment if you’ve got debt.  Use it to start an emergency fund or put it in your savings account.  Just don’t blow it.
  5. Put your savings on autopilot. Online banking and automated transfers make it easier than ever to save money.  You just pick a day and an amount, and your bank will automatically move money to your savings account.  Could it be any simpler?
  6. Change your passwords. Most online security experts recommend changing your passwords for online banking, credit cards, and e-commerce sites every two to three months.  If it’s been a while since you’ve created new passwords, now is a great time to mix things up.  For some great tips on creating tough-to-hack passwords, check out my post from last month.
  7. Use FSA funds before you lose ‘em. If you participate in a flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer, your funds are probably set to expire in early 2015.  That means the clock is ticking:  If you have unused FSA funds, you don’t have much longer to use them.  Consider using the holiday season to schedule dental appointments, order new glasses or contact lenses, and so on.
  8. Review your insurance policies. If you made any big changes in 2014 – for example, if you got married, had a baby, or bought a house — it’s probably a good idea to call your insurance agent and see if you need more, or different, insurance.
  9. Celebrate 2014 accomplishments; set goals for 2015. The holiday season is a season for celebration, so give yourself a pat on the back for what you accomplished this year.  Did you take a big chunk out of a credit card?  Did you start an emergency fund?  Did you finally make a plan for retirement?  Whatever you did, give yourself a big round of applause – and then, start planning your money-related goals for 2015.

Here’s to the beginning of a happy, financially-savvy holiday season!

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.