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7 Ways to Take Control of Your Finances Before the End of the Year

Did you know “saving [more] money” was one of the top three New Year’s resolutions in 2018? Chances are, it will rank among the top resolutions for 2019 as well. No matter how comfortable we are financially, most of us can do more with our money.
If you’re among the many people considering a financial resolution in 2019, there are plenty of things you can do before the ball drops. Addressing your finances now to set yourself up for success in January. Here are seven things to consider doing right now:

Check Your Credit Report

You can check your credit report for free, with no penalty to your credit, once every 12 months. Take advantage! The end of the year is a great time to order a copy of your report from the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Get yours online at annualcreditreport.com (the only authorized website for the job, according to the Federal Trade Commission), or call (877) 322-8228. Check first for any errors, and then make a plan for how you can increase your credit score in 2019.

Shop With Intention

The holidays can bring out the consumerism in all of us. It’s fun to buy gifts for the people you love. And it’s easy to get carried away. But while the thrill of watching someone open a gift is fleeting … the debt you incurred to buy the gift could stick around a lot longer. Before you start holiday shopping, make a list and make a budget. Avoid impulse purchases and remember a “good deal” on something nobody needs isn’t really a good deal after all.

Optimize Your Credit Limits and Interest Rates

If you have any bank accounts, savings accounts or credit cards they have been in good standing for a while, call to make sure you’re maximizing what you’re getting from them. Often, an increased credit limit or bank account perks (such as overdraft protection or higher interest rate on savings) are just an ask away.

Make the Most of Your Medical Investments

Have a deductible medical insurance plan? If you’ve hit your deductible (or even if you’re close), try to schedule as many medical appointments as possible before the end of the year – if you wait until next month, you’ll pay a lot more. Do you have a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA)? If you have the FSA, make sure you use the money in it before you lose it.

Download a Saving or Budgeting App

If you’re serious about making financial changes in the new year, it’s a good idea to know where you stand sooner than later. An app that tracks your spending and reports back against a budget can be an eye-opener when it comes to deciding where to cut costs and save money. If you struggle with the discipline required to save more, an app that automatically saves small amounts without you knowing could mean the difference between resolution failure and success.

Re-evaluate your Insurance Needs

If you get health insurance through your employer, they communicated your open enrollment period recently. If you get health insurance through the government, you have until December 15 to enroll in a plan for 2019. Once your health insurance is squared away, reevaluate your life insurance needs. Did any major lifestyle changes happen in 2018, or do you anticipate any in 2019? Make sure you have the right amount of coverage for the life you live now. Not sure what the right amount of coverage is? Our calculator can help you figure it out.

Maximize your Pre-Tax Contributions

One of the best ways to owe less to the IRS in April 2019 is to sock away as much money as possible in pre-tax accounts before the end of 2018. You can contribute $18,500 to a 401(k) this year (or $24,500 if you’re over 65), and $5,500 to a Roth IRA ($6,500 if you’re over 65). Long-term savings opportunities like these can feel like a challenge if you’re already on a tight budget, but any contributions you can make will help you in the future – not only will you owe less in April, but compounding interest means small amounts now could grow exponentially by the time you retire.
New Year’s resolutions are exciting – there’s such potential in January 1. But if you’re serious about saving more money and making better financial decisions in 2019, start in 2018.
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