A new year is right around the corner, and while you may be preoccupied with end of year plans, trips, and shopping, setting yourself up to thrive in this upcoming year requires a little pre-planning. Getting an early start will help you come up with a solid plan for your income, debts, savings, and ensure that you are continuing to make progress on your short-term and long-term financial goals.
6 ways to get your finances ready for a new year
Consider using any downtime you have before the new year to get your financial house in order. A few easy moves to consider:
Dust off your budget
Reexamining your budget ahead of a new year can help you figure out where you’ll need to make adjustments. Say your income has changed since the last time you checked in on your budget, or you’ve taken on new debt or paid off a loan. Taking stock of how much you’re spending and how you expect that to change in the new year can help you stay on track to reach your goals and make sure that you’re setting enough aside to cover your expenses and hit your goals in a timely manner. If you spent quite a bit on gifts or holiday expenses, it’s also a good time to consider how you’ll replenish your savings or pay down any debt you’ve taken on as a result.
“If there are changes to your compensation, it is wise to revisit your budget and determine how the change may impact your cash flow,” says Patrick Marcinko, certified financial planner and associate financial adviser at Bogart Wealth. “Pay increases are opportunities to increase savings, pay down debts, and set aside more funds for personal things like entertainment and vacations.”
Try to plan ahead for any major expenses you’ll have in the upcoming year so that you can start saving for them now and not throw your budget off course. “Expenses such as annual insurance premiums or tax payments can sneak up and be a drain on your cash balances,” says Marcinko. “By having an idea for when larger expenses will occur, you will be better prepared for how you will pay them and avoid having to use debt or credit cards.”
Maximize your retirement contributions
While saving for retirement may not be top of mind on a day-to-day basis, it’s important to keep track of your savings and increase your contributions as you get older so that you can benefit from potential employer matches and continue to grow your nest egg for the future.
“It generally takes one to two payroll cycles to see any changes in your 401(k) contributions. If you don’t think you can make these changes in time, there’s good news—you have until Apr. 18, 2023, to make any 2022 IRA contributions,” says Morgan Veth, vice president and financial adviser at Bogart Wealth.
Make plans for your holiday bonus
If you received a year-end bonus from your employer, you may be tempted to blow it on an end-of-year trip, gifts, or some other impulse buy. Try to practice restraint and make a plan for that money; think about where it will have the greatest impact. Maybe you’re close to paying off your auto loan and that extra boost can help you get to the finish line. Maybe you have lingering credit card debt that is costing you hundreds in interest charges month over month. Using that money wisely now can pay off in the long run and help you save.
Replenish your emergency fund
If it was a rough year for you and you had unexpected expenses crop up, you may have dipped into your emergency fund a little…or a lot. That’s what it’s there for, after all. But the most important part of using that safety net is to have a plan in place for how you’ll replenish those funds. Less than half of Americans have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a Bankrate survey. And over 30% of those surveyed said they would finance their emergency using a credit card or a personal loan, or by borrowing money from family and friends. Taking on high-interest debt is a risky move, but by planning ahead and keeping at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund, you can ensure that your bigger financial goals aren’t derailed by short-term financial emergencies.
Use up any FSA funds that will expire soon
If you’re making contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA), it’s important to note that those funds typically have a “use it or lose it” provision and may not roll over from year to year. Your employer, however, may offer you a grace period that gives you some extra time at the start of the new year to spend a portion of your money. You can use these funds to cover the cost of certain medical expenses, dental expenses, personal care items, and more. Consider making your doctor’s appointments in advance so that you can save on any costs that might pop up as a result.
If your financial situation is still a work in progress, use this time before the new year starts to figure out how to course-correct. Small tweaks to your budget, savings contributions, debt repayment strategy, and spending habits can all add up to major progress toward your money goals over time.