Things You Need To Do Before The End Of December To Make For A Better New Year
Hurry! The end of the year is almost here. And while a change in the calendar can bring about some good results, some things are better done before the clock strikes Midnight on December 31.
Some of those items are obvious (hello, tax-related stuff) while others are less top-of-mind. Here's a list to get you ready for 2017 - in no particular order.
- Maximize your insurance plan. Taking deductibles into account, you stand to save in a big way if you need some form of medical care and you've already achieved your amount. In addition, some of the insurance you carry offers you the chance to use your benefits once a year (think eyeglasses and dental work); if you're paying for the insurance already and stand to benefit from making an appointment for annual services, you'll want to do this before the calendar rolls over to January.
- Spend any remaining money in a Cafeteria-Style Health Plan or Childcare Savings Account. If your employer allows you the option of having money taken out of your paycheck for a "cafeteria-style savings account", make sure you're not leaving any of it on the table when the calendar year flips. These savings accounts are yours to use - but - they don't roll from year to year; if you leave a remaining balance when 2016 becomes 2017, you'll lose those funds.
- Make a charitable donation. There are many reasons for making a donation to a worthy cause. One of those is the tax benefits it can bring. If you have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard amount, then it's in your best interest to maximize those deductions in your favor. The holiday season is a good time for purging unused items in your household; while you decorate for Christmas, take stock of what's tucked away in those closets and garages and donate what you can to a worthwhile charity - and make sure you ask for a receipt.
- Increase your IRA or 401(k) contributions. There are a couple ways to make an additional investment in a retirement account work in your favor this time of year. If you belong to a company-sponsored 401(k) that includes a company match, do some research to make sure you've contributed the full amount you can to achieve that match; your employer is under no obligation - the onus is on you personally. Additionally, if your retirement savings account is IRA-based, you should be aware of the $5,500 annual maximum; if your contributions are falling short, you should consider making an additional deposit to achieve the tax savings.
- Review homeowners and vehicle insurance policies. Many auto and home policies come up for renewal at the end of the year. If it's been a few years since you've shopped around, make this the year you do it. Often, you can save hundreds of dollars for just a little looking around. Combine policies. Decrease coverage. Review and readjust your limits.
- Update your resume. Many employers look for new hires in the first quarter of the year. If you haven't updated your resume in a while, take the time now to make it current. That way - even if you don't apply for a new position somewhere - you'll have a resume that properly reflects where you're at in your career.
- Review cable TV / phone / internet plans. Too often, we sign up for these utilities and then fail to check the monthly bill when it arrives. Chances are if you've been a customer with one of these companies for a while, a review might benefit you. First step - look at your statement; maybe you don't use some of the services you're paying for. Then, call the provider and ask for a better rate or better services.
The December holiday season may seem like an inconvenient time to perform some of these tasks, but in reality it's a great time for review. Many people burn up additional vacation time towards the end of December and if you're looking for something productive to do inside when the weather turns cold outside, these steps can pay off.