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The year is quickly winding down, and soon we’ll be starting 2011. It’s gone by incredibly fast, and so many things have happened. Fortunately, we’ve been doing well so far and are hoping to end the year on a good note. We’re thus working through our end-of-year checklist to make sure we have everything taken care of.
I’m pretty sure we’re not the only ones who could use it, so I decided to publish our list of tasks here. Do yourself a favor and spend a bit of time polishing up your finances so you’re ready for success next year. If you’re willing to take 15-30 minute breaks every couple of days, you’ll be able to save yourself some serious money and possibly get earn some more.
Check your Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
For starters, make sure you don’t leave any money behind in your FSA. If you’ve contributed to a flexible spending plan you won’t be able to carry your money over from one year to the next, so be sure to use it before you lose it.
Here are some items that typically qualify for reimbursement:
- Annual check-up with your PCP: It’s good to be on top of your health, even if you think you’re doing just fine. Prevention is much more cheaper than waiting until you notice a big symptom.
- Vision check-up: If you wear contacts or glasses and need new ones, you should go ahead and place your order before the end of the year if you have funds left to spend.
- Dental check-up: We love our dentist, but we’re grateful for coverage because it would get expensive quick. If you have the money set aside, go ahead and get your dental work done now.
- OTC medications: For the time being, you can still buy over-the-counter drugs and get reimbursed. That option goes away in 2011, but it’s a good option now if you have money that needs to be spent.
Vacation time and sick days
Do you want to cash in and get some money now? If so, you can try to cash in your vacation days. Double check with your Human Resources to see if this is possible and/or what sorts of limits might apply. If you can’t cash in your vacation time, check to see if (and how much of) the time will carry over to next year. If not, then you may want to use some up before you lose it.
My husband will have a few days left this year (unless he gets sick) that he plans on cashing in. While it’s not a huge amount of money, we can either use it to boost our savings, pay off debt, or have some fun. It’s nice to have some options, and we’ll treat it like a bonus.
You could also use the cash to fund a debt free vacation next year. If you have some financial goals (see below) that you’d like to get a jump-start on, you can use money for them as well.
Get your paperwork together for tax time
Even though you don’t have file right away, save yourself from some stress by starting to organize your tax paperwork now. As additional paperwork comes in January, simply add it to your tax folder. What papers should you wrangle up now?
- Pay stubs (make sure they match what’s on your W-2)
- Quarterly statements for your retirement accounts
- Bank/brokerage statements
- Charitable donation receipts
A little work now will make filing your taxes easier and quicker later.
Reveiw your insurance policies
For some employees, now is the time to switch health insurance and dental plans at work. If you weren’t satisfied with the coverage you had this past year, have you looked into other plans offered at your company? Shop around and ask co-workers if the like the health plan they signed up for. Talk with someone in Human Resources to weigh your options.
Run the numbers again and talk with your insurance agent to see what your options are. I’d also look around with other companies to make sure I’m still getting the best deal around.
Create your 2011 financial goals
Now that you’ve tidied up your financial house, it’s time to plan for next year. After reviewing your progress in 2010, have you discovered areas where you can improve? What goals do you have for 2011?
- Can you finally pay off that last credit card?
- Can you contribute more towards retirement?
- Can you start or fill up your kids’ college fund(s)?
- Have you prepared a will or living trust?
Instead of creating very vague goals, try sitting down and breaking each goal done into specific steps. If you plan on paying down credit card debt, how much money will you put into it each month? What will you temporarily cut down on to get that money? When do you plan on paying it off?
The more specific you get with your goals, the more likely you’ll keep them. If you’re in a family, then you need to sit down together and work out the goals for the family and what everyone’s part is for reaching it.
What’s on your financial task list?
So now that you have some ideas on what we’re doing, I’d love to hear about your plans. What financial tasks do you need to finish up before the year is over? What are you looking forward to knocking out this month? And what are your plans for next year?
Note from Nickel: The end of the year is also an excellent time to make charitable contributions. My wife have a tradition of making the bulk of our annual contributions between Christmas and New Years.
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