As the new year approaches, now is the perfect time to think about an end-of-year financial checklist before the holiday season begins. There’s plenty to consider with your end-of-the-year personal finances: financial goals, yearly taxes, and debt payments, among numerous other things. While each household’s financial checklist may look different, we’ve gathered our best tips and considerations to finish this year strong and set up the next year for success.
Review Your Budget
Though tedious, the best way to start your annual financial review is to look at where your money has gone this past year. If you’re not already tracking your expenses, review your spending through your bank transactions and receipts. Then consider the following questions:
- Were you able to keep within your budget?
- Did you meet your financial goals for the year?
- Where did you prioritize your money?
- Where did you overspend this last year? Why?
- Did you have any unexpected life events or purchases this year?
Check In on Your Savings
The key to a strong financial plan is having savings to fall back on. As the last several years have taught us, you never know what to expect year to year. Now is the perfect time to create a plan to grow your savings. The general rule for savings is to have three to six months of expenses saved in case of emergency. However, you may want to work toward more or less, depending on your financial circumstances, insurance, and so on. And while this might not be a goal you can work toward in one year, you can break it into smaller benchmarks in your financial plan.
Contribute to Your Retirement
Whether you’re looking to retire soon or just starting your career, it’s always a good time to save money for retirement. Since we’re limited in how much we can contribute to retirement every year, try to max out this amount by the end of the year. If you receive a holiday bonus, you can earmark that money for this purpose ahead of time. Over time, this will massively benefit your financial future, especially if your employer matches your contributions.
Make the Most of Your FSA
A flexible spending accounting (FSA) is a tax-free account that helps cover special services outside of your health care coverage. With the end of the year approaching, check with your benefits office if there’s a deadline to use these flexible funds. You never want benefits you’ve paid for going unused. Look into purchasing new glasses, buying child care supplies, and booking doctor’s appointments.
Donate to Charity
As you evaluate your end-of-year financials, you may want to consider making a charitable donation. A donation may also be able to help you with your yearly taxes. Ask yourself:
- Have you donated cash or assets this year already?
- Could you benefit from tax savings by donating more?
- Is there a charity or cause you would like to support in their mission?
As you think about donating, consider also how you can maximize its impact. During the holidays, there are often specific days when donations are matched. For example, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, nicknamed GivingTuesday, is a time when organizations may fundraise in this capacity or with other benefits.
Decide What You’re Working Toward
Every year, it’s important to evaluate the purchases we intend to make in the future. After all, a home down payment isn’t gathered in a day. First, record what purchases you know you’ll have in the next year. You might have smaller, more immediate purchases on your mind like a new household appliance or car repairs. You may also have some long-term goals you’d like to work toward, like a college savings plan or debt repayment. As you think about these goals, calculate what you hope to save for these purchases and how long you have to save for them. This should provide a framework for how to save regularly for these bigger expenses.
Build a Better Budget for Next Year
After reviewing these points, consider how you want to adapt your budget or way of life to serve your financial goals better next year. You may find there are areas you want to trim spending and other areas where you may be expecting a bigger expense. While budgeting for all these things might seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. More than anything, setting a budget is about being intentional with your resources. Ask yourself the following questions: What are my essential expenses? What do I need to be saving for right now? How can I prevent overspending in the same areas as last year? How do my goals and budget align? From there, make adjustments to better fit what you hope to accomplish. When it comes to planning for the future, you’ll find that a little financial literacy goes a long way.
Invest in Your Future With Landmark National Bank
While there are many things to do before the year ends, there’s nothing more valuable than securing your financial future. Get set up for success with our dedicated team, helpful resources, and personalized banking services.
Recognized by Bauer Financial with its highest 5-Star rating for financial strength and stability, Landmark National Bank will help you achieve success with your financial goals each and every year.
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