Can you believe it's 2013?
If you're reading this, we can just go ahead and assume the world didn't end. Unfortunately, this means that you haven't been excused from your financial responsibilities. There's always a downside, isn't there?
Keeping in mind that we're entering the post-holiday doldrums, we've put together five bright, simple financial to-dos to get your year off on the right foot.
1. Set Your Goals
Deadline: Thursday, Jan 3
"Resolution" is such a loaded word. Let's go with "goals" instead. Take advantage of New Year sales and promotions--not to mention the collective hive mind--to kickstart your goals for this year, whether they're financial (max out my IRA), career (negotiate for a raise) or lifestyle (clean out my closet). Write down your goals, and post them where you'll see them every day.
2. Reassess Your Budget
Deadline: Thursday, Jan 10
Look over your spending from the past month, and decide how you’d like to change your budget, based on such new goals as saving for a big purchase or paying down debt more quickly. When drawing up your budget (you can do this in the Money Center), make sure that you look ahead to any spending "surprises" this month, like gifts or donations.
3. Set Up New Savings Accounts
Deadline: Thursday, Jan 17
What are your goals for 2013? Do you want to start saving for a house or a new addition to the family? What about a fabulous trip to Europe? Figure out how much you need to save, and then create a separate savings account for these goals, so you can track your progress--and hold yourself accountable.
4. Automate Your Retirement Savings (or Change the Amount)
Deadline: Thursday, Jan 24
If you’re not automating your retirement contributions, start now. Seriously. It's the easiest way to make sure that you get on track for retirement, and you won’t be tempted to spend the money if it’s automatically transferred to your account.
And if you were maxing out your Roth or Traditional IRA or your 401(k) last year, change your automated contribution amount, since the limit has increased for 2013 by $500 for all three types of accounts. For your IRA, change your contribution amount to $458.33; for your 401(k), increase it to $1,458.33.
5. Use Your Year-End Bonus Wisely
Deadline: Thursday, Jan 31
We believe in rewarding yourself for hard work. So if you receive a year-end bonus, use 10% of it for something fun—and then use the remaining 90% wisely, putting it toward a financial priority, like building emergency savings. If you didn’t max out an IRA this year, you have until April 15th to do it, so consider this, too.
And check out what to buy this month: