The year is almost over — but there’s still time to make progress toward your financial goals. Let’s jump right in with 30 simple steps you can take in 30 days to end the year on a financially high note.
1. Review your budget.
Make sure you use your budget to help you spend on what you value and cut costs that don’t bring you joy. See if there’s any place in your current budget where you can eliminate expenses and save that money instead.
2. Set your savings goals (or make sure you’re happy with your existing goals).
Do you have your savings goals set for the new year? If not, think about what you want to accomplish and consider what it will take to get there.
If you have existing goals you’re in the process of working toward, take a moment to revisit them and make sure you still feel good about them and are on track to reach them.
3. Increase your retirement contributions.
Set your savings up to keep pace with your earnings. Go ahead and increase your retirement contributions — even if it’s just by a percentage or two. If you’re feeling really ambitious, make sure you max out these accounts!
4. Review your insurance policies.
Do you have the coverage you need? Do you need to update existing policies to provide more protection — or is it time to reduce how much coverage you pay for? Review your insurance so you know you have what you need.
5. Negotiate your bills and go rate shopping.
Speaking of insurance, set aside one day this month to gather all your bills (including what you pay monthly premiums on) and call up your service providers. Ask about discounts or cheaper service options that will help you save a little more money each month.
You can also browse around online and check out the rates of competitors. If someone offers the same service for less, use that as a bargaining chip — or cancel your existing service and get the better deal somewhere else.
6. Evaluate your emergency fund.
Do a quick rainy day fund check-up. If you used some of your emergency funds to take care of an unexpected expense in the last year, make sure you top off the account and replenish the fund. If you don’t have emergency savings yet, make a goal to put aside at least $1,000 for emergencies to start. Then work toward saving 3 to 6 months’ worth of income in your emergency fund.
7. Automate your savings.
If you haven’t put your savings and investment contributions on autopilot yet, do so now! Automating your savings means you can’t forget to fund your goals, or feel tempted to spend that money instead.
8. Think about new ways to save.
Do you have a 401(k) but not an IRA? Open up a roth individual retirement account (if your income allows) and start contributing there, too. Did you add to your family this year? Look into a 529 plan and start your college savings fund now.
9. Make a plan to increase your income.
Savings is (obviously!) important to financial success. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on how much you can save and neglect the other side of the coin: how much you earn.
Before the end of the year, brainstorm some ways you can increase your income in the next 12 months. That might mean negotiating for higher pay at your current job. You might want to explore new career opportunities. Or you can think about a side hustle, like freelancing — or even starting your own business.
10. Keep up your motivation.
Reaching financial goals is hard work. If you feel exhausted just thinking about all your to-dos (or the work you still have to do to reach success), find ways to keep your motivation high. Consider creating a vision board or making a list of your goals and placing them on the fridge so you can remind yourself what you’re working so hard for each and every day.
11. Pay off your debt.
Okay, maybe you can’t pay off all your debt in a single day. But you can devote some time to evaluating your balances and creating a repayment strategy that helps you pay it off faster. Paying off balances starting with the highest interest rate loan first will help you save the most money on your debt.
12. Get help with your student loans.
As part of the process of evaluating your debt, do a quick check into student loan repayment programs. If you qualify for a program that might make it easier for you to repay your debt, consider if it makes sense for you to enroll.
13. Sell your stuff.
A new year means a fresh start, and that can apply not only to your finances but to your home, too. Take a day to go through rooms and closets and declutter. You’ll probably want to trash or give away most of your clutter — but if you come across higher-value items that you could resell, go for it and make a little extra cash.
14. Rebalance your investment portfolio.
You have an asset allocation you want to stick to with your investments. But as the market moves throughout the year, that allocation can drift away from your ideal target (of, for example, 80 percent stocks and 20 percent bonds).
Check out your investments and rebalance your portfolios as needed to get back to the asset allocation that’s right for your goals and timelines.
15. Make use of your FSA funds.
If you have an FSA, make any appointments you may have been putting off now and use the money that’s in your account. FSA funds are a “use it or lose it” benefit, meaning they won’t roll over into the new year. Use them now!
16. Do some tax-loss harvesting.
As I explained for Kiplinger, tax-loss harvesting “is when you offset the taxable capital gains that you’ve had throughout the year on your investments by selling investments that have lost value. The realized capital losses help to reduce the taxes owed on the gains.”
17. Set up money dates with your partner.
Communication is key to financial success when you’re working toward it with a partner or spouse. Go ahead and block off times in your calendar to have monthly money meetings, where you can review your finances, talk about money, and ask important questions or make decisions together.
18. Get a little more for every dollar you spend.
If you know how to use credit cards responsibly, consider getting a rewards card that offers cash back or points you can use on something you value like travel. This will help you get about 1 to 3 percent more for the money you planned to spend anyway.
19. Learn more about money.
Knowledge is power. Check out some important personal finance books that can help you better understand your money and what you want to do with it.
20. Request your free credit report…
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request a free copy of your credit report. You can get the report for free once per year (after that, you need to pay a small fee to access it). Once you have the report, check it for errors. If you find a mistake, you’ll want to dispute it with the credit bureaus.
21. …and check your credit score.
Your credit report and your credit score are two different things. Get both to get a better understanding of the health of your credit. Many credit card companies now show you your FICO score with each statement.
22. Make any last-minute tax planning moves.
A lot of tax-related actions need to be taken before December 31. Call up your CPA and check to make sure you’re caught up on what you need to do to get the tax breaks you deserve when you file next April.
23. Cancel subscriptions and memberships you don’t use.
Yes, you might have paid for monthly passes to that trendy acro-yoga studio with the best intentions. But if you haven’t been to a class in months, it’s time to cancel that subscription and save your money instead. Look at all your recurring charges and cancel the ones that you don’t actually use.
24. Check your bad (and expensive) habits.
This is a good time to pause and reflect on your habits — and what you might want to change. Could you stop smoking or cut back on drinking? Is it time to challenge yourself to learn to cook a few basic meals at home instead of relying on fast-casual food?
The cool thing about dropping some of your bad habits and looking for ways to improve your life is that not only will you likely feel better physically and mentally, but you’ll likely give your financial health a boost too.
25. Know your paycheck inside and out.
If you only care about the number that goes into your bank account when you cash your paycheck, it’s time to get to know your pay stub better. Use this post to help you analyze your pay stub like a financial planner would.
26. Update your apps.
Do a quick review of what apps could help you better track, save, and invest your money in the new year. While you don’t need every app on the market, a simple budgeting app that makes it easy to track your spending can help you become more mindful and aware of how you use your money.
27. Get your estate plan in order.
Yes, you do need one. An estate plan protects your stuff, your assets, and more importantly, your loved ones should something happen to you. Talk to your financial planner to get a recommendation for an estate planning attorney, and start the process of setting up these important legal documents.
28. Determine if you’re better off financially now than you were at the beginning of the year.
Measure your progress by looking at your net worth. Did it increase? You can also ask yourself things like, did I pay off debt? Did I earn more money (and save more)? If you say “yes,” that’s a good sign you’re on the right financial track.
29. Treat yourself.
After all this hard work, make room in your budget for small treats every now and then. It could be as simple as buying a cupcake from your favorite bakery, or you might want to pamper yourself a little more with something like a massage. It’s important to prioritize your savings. But you also need to make some space for the fun stuff, too.
30. Talk to your financial planner — or set up an appointment to consider working with one.
You might want to check in with your financial planner to make sure you’re not missing any important money moves you need to make before the end of the year. Or, if you still don’t have a planner on your team, schedule a session to chat about your options for doing more to work your wealth now.