If you’re reflecting on 2018 and gearing up for the new year, setting a resolution or two might be your focus right now. But before you start thinking about how to improve your life starting in January, ask yourself: What small things can you get out of the way now?
Specifically, what boring financial tasks have been languishing on your to-do list? You know, the thing that would take maybe ten or 20 minutes to do but you keep putting off? Maybe it’s setting up an automated weekly savings, increasing your savings account or calling your auto insurer for a better rate. Whatever it is, wouldn’t you feel so much better if you just did it and were done with it?
Kara Cutruzzula, a New York-based Lifehacker contributor, mentioned something similar in her newsletter, Brass Ring Daily, encouraging her readers to “clear the decks” before the new year. Her thinking: We all have a handful of mundane tasks we continually push off. Why not just get them out of the way before January so we can truly start fresh?
“It means starting the year with a clean slate. So that your resolutions aren’t about fixing what isn’t working or cleaning up last year’s messes,” writes Cutruzzula. “When you clear the decks, you get to leave the lingering detritus of 2018…in 2018.”
With that in mind, try writing out your boring financial to-dos and knocking out one or two before January 1. You might find it’s easier than you thought. For example, I had “open a Roth IRA” on my to-do list for, no exaggeration, two or three years. Finally, this month, I funneled some money in and set up automatic contributions (that’s right, I even had the account open already). It took all of...ten minutes, including researching various funds I was interested in investing in. But the sense of accomplishment is real.
Here are some other simple things I need to do at some point:
Check my credit score
Cancel my Stan subscription
Rollover a retirement account from an internship seven years ago
Send in my fitness reimbursement for December
Decide whether or not I want to rejoin my old gym in 2019 as it is currently waiving the registration fee
Here are some other ideas.
Multitasking is bad for productivity: If you’re in a meeting trying to send out emails while listening to the speaker, chances are one of those tasks is going to suffer. You need to give one task your full attention. But when it comes to your money, multitasking is a necessity.
Close Store Credit Cards
And cut them up, as suggested by The Cut. Sure, your credit score may be temporarily dinged, but it will rebound and you’ll be better off. Store card interest rates are high, and you’re better off getting a rewards card of some sort if you qualify than a store card. Ten per cent off a single purchase just isn’t worth it.
Have That Money Conversation With Your Spouse
Undoubtedly, there’s some conversation you’ve been putting off with your spouse or another loved one because it’s awkward or uncomfortable, and you think you’ll get to it eventually. Plan to have it now and get it out of the way.
Here’s one way to do it, as outlined by CNBC: Make a list of all the financial “secrets” you have, and encourage your spouse to do the same. That could be a large credit card bill, a big purchase you haven’t told them about or even a secret bank account (note: if you have a secret bank account to potentially get yourself out of a bad situation, don’t tell your partner).
Who you marry is one of the most important financial decisions you can make. Financial incompatibility, in fact, is one of the main reasons couples get divorced.
Then, rank your list “from what you are most likely to talk about with a friend, partner or professional to what you are least likely to discuss,” Amanda Priebe, a certified financial planner and wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management, told CNBC. Reverse the order, and talk to your spouse or partner about that topic. “That is almost certainly the one that needs the most urgent attention.”
Document Your Personal Possessions
On that same note, maybe you need to document all of your possessions in case of an emergency (like a flood or fire), like we wrote about here. Take a few hours this weekend and start cataloguing.
Make a Payment Toward the Principal of Your Student Loans
If one of your goals is to get your student loans under control, consider putting some holiday money (or another small amount you’ve put away) toward the principal balance, as opposed to just interest payments. We’ve detailed how to do that here. Sure, $US100 ($142) or so won’t make a huge dent, but it’s putting you on the right path and in the right head space to tackle your debt in the new year. And every little bit helps, right?
If none of these strike you as pressing, here are 13 other suggestions from certified financial planners. Me, I pulled my credit report while procrastinating writing this article and checked it for irregularities. That’s one less thing to do in January 2019.