1. Review your budget: did you stick to it this year? Do you need to make any adjustments? If you consistently ran over budget in one area, you may have been too strict when you planned your spending. Or if you were always over budget across the board, you may want to recommit to sensible spending – unless you had a lot of unanticipated expenses in 2015.
2. Evaluate your progress: did you meet your savings goals? Whether you were focused on building your emergency fund or stashing money for a dream trip, be sure to evaluate how far you’ve come and determine your new savings goals for 2016 early on in your financial checklist.
3. Prioritize: what would you like to do this year? Perhaps you’d like a weekly date night with your spouse, a new car, a renovated kitchen. Or your goal might be to get out of debt or go back to school. Choose the one wonderful thing that you’d like to accomplish financially this year, and create a plan that will help you to achieve that goal.
4. Cut the fat: think about the ways you can painlessly reduce your spending. Subscriptions to services or magazines that you don’t use or read, high interest and fees on your credit cards, accounts that now charge way more than the nice “special introductory offer” monthly payment – all of these should be canceled, switched, or downgraded to a more affordable package.
5. Check your credit score: you should be looking at your scores from the three major agencies at least once a year to understand your credit profile. You also want to look for any incorrect entries or other problematic entries – such as incorrect addresses or unauthorized credit checks – in your report. Spot a problem? See our post on how to fix credit report mistakes here.
6. Review your insurance: If your life has changed this past year, your insurance may need to change too. Review your policies to ensure you have the right coverage. You may want to purchase or sell a life insurance policy. You may be eligible for discounts on your auto insurance policy if you got married, moved, or have maintained a clean driving record.
7. Holiday spending assessment: If you’re shopping for gifts, consider how you can stick to your spending limit. It’s all too easy to get carried away by special offers or stocking stuffers. You may also want to set up a savings plan to cover next year’s holiday shopping, and you may wish to factor birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions into the plan.
8. Track your daily spending: whether it’s for a month or two, or the entire year, tracking what you and all the members of your family spend daily is an excellent practice that may reveal some big ways to save. Whether you use a notebook, set up your own spreadsheet, or use an online app or program, tracking expenditures will provide an eye-opening look at where your money goes.
9. Automate it: If you forget to pay your bills, or delay because you want to keep the money in your own account a little bit longer, signup for automatic payments through your own bank account or on the websites of your utility, cable, phone, insurer, etc. If you don’t have to think about making reoccurring payments, chances are your bills will be paid on time.