It’s year’s end — once the last champagne bottles are thrown away, and the confetti vacuumed off the carpet, most people put in a bunch of time making New Year’s resolutions. Why not use that time more productively? Try one or more of these basic tasks, and you’ll have a headstart on making 2014 an even better year than before.
Get a 2014 calendar. Before you throw your old one away, write in family and friends’ birthday and anniversary dates, as well as any planned trips — vacation as well as cousins’ weddings, plans to spend Christmas back with the folks, and so on. (Good incentive to start saving for them!)
Bonus points: Double-check your license renewal and property tax due dates, and add them on. No more paying late fees, or driving with an expired license, which is even worse.
Don’t spend your Christmas bonus — add it to your emergency account, instead. What…part of it’s already spent? No worries. Deposit what’s left.
No emergency savings…and no bonus this year? (I got one — Husband didn’t.) Start an account, and fund it with the loose change you’ve got laying around. Add some of the folding money in your wallet. Accounts at our local credit union can be opened with as little as $5.
|Even a little money can be the start of something big.
Plan to use your time better. For one, there’s even a free (and helpful) e-book out there on time management. The same site (Money Saving Mom) has links to a host of free household planners and calendars to download, as well.)
If you’re going to make a large purchase, like a tv or washer/dryer, hold off at least a few weeks. For one thing, clearance prices are especially popular this time of year. For another, waiting will not only give you a chance to find the best sale price, as well as research the most reliable brands (try Consumer Reports ) — you’ll have time to consider whether you really need it at all.
Going on vacation? Start planning now. It gives you time to find discount tickets for everything from planes to cruises. (Look for a post on this subject in the next few weeks.) This is especially helpful, if you know there’s a wedding or special anniversary celebration coming up. (And you will, thanks to Facebook and your notated calendar!)
Bonus points: Check on general hotel prices, so you know what to expect…but consider not making reservations. It saves a surprising amount of money.
|This can be yours for a lot less — if you’ll take time to search.
Health insurance — you’ve only got a few weeks to apply for this, via Health Care.gov, otherwise known as Obamacare. The process is anything but easy — but if you don’t have it, come January, Uncle Sam will penalize you. (Here’s one guy’s trudge through the process.)
Have the oil changed on your car. Check the transmission and power steering fluid levels, too, and don’t forget the windshield washer fluid. (You can actually make this at home, if you’ve a mind to.) While you’re at it, wash your vehicle, to get rid of dirt and road salt that damages its finish in the long run.
Throw away a dozen things. This is a favorite truism from Suze Orman, and it works. Find a dozen items you no longer need, from broken toys to stained clothing, and throw them away. Your life is slightly less decluttered, and that feels wonderful. (Repeat as needed throughout the year.)
Bonus points: For every new item you bring into your home in 2014, one item needs to disappear. Throw it away, or…
Sell something. (Make it twelve somethings, if you want to follow Suze’s rule out to the max.) Craigslist makes it easy to do this without a fee, but Ebay gives you a wider audience. Put the money in that new emergency account you’ve just started.
Bonus points: Give some of those items away to a friend who needs them, or your favorite charity.
Make a donation. We have so much; others have little, in comparison. Even a small donation to a place likeCompassion International helps kids, like those shown below, get an education and better food.
Money helps. Donated items help. But so does your time and energy. Many different organizations, including charities, schools, senior centers (including programs like Meals on Wheels) can use a few hours of your time, as little as once a week, every other week, or even monthly. They’re waiting for you to volunteer, either by phone or e-mail. Why not do it today?
Good luck, and best wishes for this brand-new year!