The year is over. At this point, many of us put off any changes we might be thinking of making until after the New Year. But why wait when you can start now? There's still time left to achieve some reasonable but meaningful financial goals before the calendar flips to 2019.
Check Your Credit Report
If you haven't checked your credit report yet this year, you may want to before the year ends. All three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – offer free credit reports annually. Even if you have checked your credit report at some point during the year through one credit bureau, it's not a bad idea to check another before the year is over.
Checking your credit report is an important habit to get into. It will allow you to get a better grasp on your financial habits and what is affecting your credit score. It will also help you spot any errors. If there is a mistake on your credit report, your credit score may be getting unfairly docked. When you spot a mistake, you should first approach the credit card company to see if it can be resolved. If it can't be resolved, you may want to consider filing a dispute. Checking your credit score at the end of the year is also an excellent way to decide what financial goals you may want to set for yourself in the New Year.
Review Your Budget
You certainly don't need to wait until January to take a look at your budget. Realistically, you'll only need to set aside a few hours to go through it, if that. Again, even if this is something you've done at another point during the year, it's wise to revisit it to ensure you're on track. Spending tends to vary by season, so you may have strayed from your budget since the last time you checked.
First, gather all the materials you will need to track what's coming in and going out each month. Then, decide how you're going to record everything. Go with what you're most comfortable with, whether that's writing things down by hand, keeping digital records, or using an app. Be sure to include everything. If you have supplemental income outside of your primary employment, add that. And on the other hand, be sure to keep track of every bill and expense that's going out. Once you see the numbers, you'll be able to see what your situation looks like and whether there are areas where you can cut back.
Give Your Debt Some TLC
At this time of year, a lot of us are adding to our debt rather than subtracting from it. Instead, take the end of the year to review where you are with debt. How much do you owe? How many different accounts do you have? Are you making progress the way you want to be? By answering these questions, you'll have a better idea of what your situation is heading into the New Year. Then, you'll be able to create an actionable plan going forward.
If you've already had a plan in place, take a look at whether you need to make any adjustments. Additionally, ask yourself if you had a solid plan set and didn't stick to it. How will you hold yourself more accountable in the future? Does the method need to be altered to suit your situation better? Carefully examining and asking yourself questions about your debt will allow you to have a clearer vision heading into the New Year.
Check-In On Your Retirement Savings
If you've been having retirement contributions automatically deducted from your paycheck all year, you may have neglected to check in on how your retirement is actually doing. The end of the year is the perfect time to take a look. Gauge whether you've saved as much as you'd hoped by this point. Ask yourself if you're contributing as much as you can afford. Also, consider whether you're contributing the maximum amount your company will match. If you can manage to up your contribution, that may be an excellent goal to set for yourself for the New Year. The sooner you start saving for retirement – and the more you save early on – the better off you'll be. Because of compound interest, you'll need to contribute less the earlier you begin to save. If you haven't begun saving at all yet, look into the steps you'll need to take to start saving before the end of the year.
We're in the home stretch of 2018. And by nature, the end of the year is a great time to recap how things have gone for the past 12 months – in every aspect of life. When it comes to your finances, you don't need to wait until the calendar flips to start accomplishing things. Many tasks that can improve your financial health don't take much time at all. By taking the time to achieve these goals before the year is over, you can position yourself for a strong start to the New Year. You'll know what your financial situation looks like, and you'll have an idea of what your resolutions for next year should look like.
Being stared at by strangers is something I have become very accustomed to. Not because I am a beautiful, ethereal being that catches everyone's attention (but I will take it if that's what you're thinking), but in the way that I am a Black woman, a Black person, and people tend to notice my presence. I don't think there is a Black person out there that can deny knowing what it's like to be stared at by a random person.