LV Moms’ December Financial To-Dos

December To-DosIn December, we’re looking forward to lots of family time: our sister's famous eggnog pie, our group singing sessions around the piano and our kids' giggly reunion with their cousins.

Of course, if you know anything about eggnog pie, you know that it requires our full attention.

To give help you give that pie the attention it deserves, we bring you the top monthly financial to-dos to help you get your metaphorical house in order (even when your literal house is full of relatives). This month, we bring you a cheat sheet to the financial to-dos that deserve your consideration before the new year strikes 12.

Get these done, and you’ll be free to eat all the pie you want. If your kids don't beat you to it.

Reassess Your Family Holiday Budget. Deadline: Monday, December 5

Everyone knows December is a red alert for budgets. When you’re buying gifts for family, extended family, colleagues, friends, friends’ kids and more—on top of your other usual expenditures—it can be hard to stay on track. Since you've probably already started buying presents (as we suggested in our gift guides), make sure you haven’t gone over your total holiday budget. The LearnVest My Money Center allows you to watch transactions as they add up, to make sure everything is accounted for.

If you still need to make a holiday gift budget, check out our handy new gift budget calculator.

Teacher Gifts & Holiday Tipping. Deadline: Thursday, December 8

Make sure you don’t forget anyone this year—and that you leave enough room in your budget for these little shows of gratitude. Chart out gifts for teachers, nannies, caretakers, housekeepers and anyone else you’ll give a gift or a tip to. Figure out how much that will cost, all told, and whether you need to cut back on some other part of your total budget to make room.

Max Out 529 College Savings Plans. Deadline: Monday, December 12

We've included this in our list because it's important to have on your radar, but note that you should max out your retirement savings before your 529 plans. For more on that and the employee benefits to max out before the new year, check out our LV Daily's December To-Do List.

When we talk about “maxing out” your 529, we’re referring to the cap most states put on the amount you can claim for a tax deduction each year. The maximum amount will vary by state, and Colorado, New Mexico, South Carolina and West Virginia actually have no annual limit! So, make sure you’re getting the highest possible tax benefit for this year … and doing it before the clock strikes 2012. All but a few states treat December 31st as their deadline (the others give you until April 15th of next year), so contribute now to be safe. Find your state’s policies here.

For four mistakes to avoid when choosing a 529 plan, read this. 

Evaluate Your Spending Choices. Deadline: Friday, December 16

Now that you've bought presents and reassessed your family holiday budget, take a minute to step back and evaluate your spending choices. Are your dollars being spent where they mean the most? Of course, not every purchase around the holidays is something you need, but make sure your holiday budget is full of the purchases that will have the biggest impact for the money. For help analyzing your own spending patterns, read this.

Enjoy Undisturbed Family Time. Deadline: Monday, December 26

After you've spent a couple days out of the month tackling this to-do list, set aside everything else that's been nagging you. Focus the rest of your energy solely on enjoying your time as a family. Studies have actually shown that taking time off can make us better at our jobs, happier with our family lives and even physically healthier. All the money and obligations in the world can’t bring you the happiness you gain from the ones you love.

Create a Gratitude List. Deadline: Saturday, December 31

At LearnVest, we want to help you live your best life. We recognize that that often means having enough money to accomplish your goals and dreams, so we're here to help you with that. All the same, the end of the year is a good time to reflect on everything we do have and our hopes for the future. Before the end of the year, create a gratitude list with everything you're thankful for (we showed you how to do this back around Thanksgiving). Then create a second list with everything you hope to accomplish in 2012. For a dose of inspiration, hang it on your desk or in another place where you'll see it regularly.

Print out your full to-do list, plus what to buy now, here.

What To Buy When

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Winter Boots, Clothing and Coats:

Get in on winter sales now for the best selection

Suits:

Around the new year, stores discount their fall suits

Perfume:

A popular holiday gift, perfume is often on sale after the season

Home Furnishings:

Retailers are making room for new inventory

Calendars:

Just after the new year, prices are drastically reduced

Carpets and Flooring:

Many people spruce up their homes during the holidays, so prices plummet afterwards

Big Appliances:

Stock not sold during the holiday rush is now heavily discounted

Linens and Bedding:

Ever-popular "white sales" make January the best month for these items

Holiday Supplies:

If you're willing and able to store cards and wrapping paper for a year, you can find them now for up to 80% off

Office Furniture:

Retailers cater to home businesses starting around the new year

Video Games:

New games are released for the holidays, but you can get them marked down afterwards

Winter Boots, Clothing and Coats:

The selection is sparser, but the sales are steeper

Perfume:

Score a deal after Valentine’s Day

Homes:

Bad weather keeps buyers at bay, so competition is weak, and sellers are eager

Home Renovations:

You’ll pay less and get more attention from contractors, because few people renovate so early in the year

Bicycles:

Retailers mark down older models to make room for new inventory in February and March

Cameras:

New models come out in January and February, so buy last year’s version at a discount

Home Entertainment Systems:

The best TV and home theater sales come just before the Super Bowl

Video Games:

New games are released for the holidays, so you can get them marked down after the rush

Chocolates and Candy:

Buy after Valentine’s Day, of course

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Prices can be reduced by as much as 25% to 40% from the end of March through April

China and Flatware:

Get in on inventory left over from the holidays

Air Conditioners:

Don’t wait for the weather to get hot; demand is low now, as are prices

Gas Grills:

As with air conditioners, demand and prices are low

Gardening Tools:

Rakes, hoes, shovels and other gardening implements are as much as 50% off

Frozen Food:

It’s National Frozen Food Month, so supermarkets celebrate with sales

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Stock up now on next winter's sweaters with steep sales

Sneakers:

In spring, stores entice warm-weather runners with sales

Vacuum Cleaners:

Retailers slash prices now to make room for new models in June

Snow Blowers:

Come April, demand is low, so scoop up one for next year

Office Furniture:

Retailers cater to home businesses starting after tax season

Cruises:

This is the season for repositioning cruises, which have fewer ports of call but are cheaper and of great value

Electronics:

After the Japanese fiscal year closes at the end of March, retailers make room for new models of Japanese electronics

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Prices can be reduced by as much as 25% to 40%

Vacuum Cleaners:

Retailers slash prices now to make room for new models in June

Cookware:

Graduation and wedding promotions mean you should buy pots and pans now

Refrigerators:

New fridges come out during the summer, so stores are clearing space; negotiate a deal

Big Appliances:

Stock not sold during the holiday rush is now heavily discounted

Patio Furniture:

Warm weather means newer models, so buy last season’s styles now

Grilling Supplies:

Get charcoal and lighter fluid before summer kicks into high gear and prices go up

Small Kitchen Appliances:

Get your mixers and blenders now, when there are sales for wedding and graduation season

Party Supplies:

Whether or not you’re throwing a graduation party, stock up on disposable plates, cups, etc.

Electronics:

After the Japanese fiscal year closes at the end of March, retailers make room for new models of Japanese electronics

Mattresses and Box Springs:

Stores want to make room for new models, so negotiate a good deal now

Men’s Suits:

Father’s Day sales mean low prices

Tools:

Father’s Day strikes again

Cookware:

It’s not only wedding bells that are ringing—registers are ringing with sales of pots and pans

Paint:

When it’s hot out, no one feels like painting … which is why it’s cheap at this time of year

Butter:

Butter production is at its best in June and July, so prices are accordingly low; freeze for up to six months to make it last

Champagne and Sparkling Wine:

There are usually deals for bubbly during the holidays and before June weddings

Gym Memberships:

The outdoors beckon, so gyms are offering deals

Suits:

Get a spring suit—in the middle of summer

Furniture:

Retailers are clearing space to make room for new inventory

Big Appliances:

Take advantage of Independence Day sales

Paint:

When it’s hot out, no one feels like painting … which is why it’s cheap at this time of year

Butter:

Butter production is at its best in June and July, so prices are accordingly low; freeze for up to six months to make it last

Flip-flops:

Ever-useful flip-flops are harder to find later in the year; buy them now when retailers still have them in stock and they’re on sale

School Supplies:

Back-to-school sales!

Trees, Shrubs, Plants:

Nab end-of-summer deals late in the month, and store your plants according to instructions until next spring. Alternatively, buy bulbs, which you can plant whenever

Lawn Mowers and Swing Sets:

Stores discount these summer items now to make room for fall products

Computers:

Capitalize on back-to-school sales

MP3 Players:

Stores want to get rid of old models before October when new styles come out and the holiday rush begins

China and Flatware:

Get in on the inventory left over from wedding season

Wine:

The harvest is coming in, so you can find eclectic wines from smaller wineries early in the season

Computers:

Upgrade yours during back-to-school sales

Jeans:

The remainders from back-to-school season are now available inexpensively for kids and adults

MP3 Players:

Stores want to get rid of old models before October, when new styles come out and the holiday rush begins

Cars:

Next year’s models have arrived, so dealers want to sell the current year’s leftovers, giving you negotiating leverage

Holiday Airfare:

It’s about eight weeks before Thanksgiving, so make travel plans before flights book up and prices skyrocket

Jeans:

The back-to-school sales continue, with sparser selection but steeper discounts

Swimsuits:

Cash in on swimwear sales now through November

Big Appliances:

Buy last year’s models now; shop during Columbus Day weekend, because stores celebrate even small holidays with sales

Air Conditioners:

Temperatures are cooling, and so are prices

Gas Grills:

Pick these up now for next summer

School Supplies:

Back-to-school sales!

Toys:

Retailers lower prices as early as October in order to maximize holiday sales

Cars:

Next year’s models have arrived, so dealers want to sell the current year’s leftovers, giving you negotiating leverage

Health Insurance:

Open enrollment may be your one chance to sign up for insurance for next year

Wedding Dresses:

Wedding fever is at its lowest pitch now

Swimsuits:

Swimwear is as much as 90% off, but selection is low

Cookware:

Kitchenware becomes cheaper as the holidays approach

Christmas Trees:

For the best selection, get your tree right after Thanksgiving; it’ll stay good for at least a month, and trees later in the season have been cut weeks earlier anyway

Frozen Turkeys:

Buy one immediately after Thanksgiving, when grocery stores still have a glut

Toys:

Retailers are slashing prices to maximize holiday sales

Electronics:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer great deals on everything from TVs to computers

Wedding Dresses:

The beginning of December is the slow season, so get in before holiday engagements

Televisions:

In the run up to the holidays, stores have big sales on TVs

Pools:

Off-season, you’ll find the cheapest prices, though maybe not the best inventory

Small Kitchen Appliances:

Get your mixer and blender during holiday sales

Champagne and Sparkling Wine:

Although these are in high demand, prices are also more competitive than usual

Frozen Meat:

Buy this immediately after Christmas, when grocery stores still have a glut

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