New Year Money Checkup – 20 Ideas To Put On Your Checklist
It’s a new year! Which means it’s a great time to do a new year money checkup.
Perhaps you’ve set some goals for the year, or maybe you just want to make this year even better than the previous one.
Whatever your reason may be, a new year money checkup can help you find places to improve your financial life and make changes for the future.
Think of this checkup as a to-do list.
No, you don’t have to do everything on this to-do list, but this list will give you ideas for improvement. You may also find some things you would normally forget about or overlook.
The new year is a great time to do a financial health checkup because you can set goals, and it’s also a natural time to start planning for the future. You should use it as a time to look forward and plan money moves that will help you for years to come.
I personally like going through a financial checkup checklist at least once a year. I typically do one around the new year because it’s simply an easy time to remember to do it.
But, you can go through this list any time of the year — just remember to do a checkup at least once a year.
However, if you are getting ready for a major life change, I recommend going through the items in this new year money checkup more than once a year. This could be if you’re thinking about starting a family, buying a new house, quitting your job, etc.
Checking in on your finances before you do anything major will help you identify areas you may want to improve first, and it can also help you make a plan.
Now, not everything on this list will apply to each of you, but this list is a good starting point. If anything, these financial to-dos will get you motivated to start taking control of your finances this year.
Here are 20 things to do during your new year money checkup:
What is a financial check up? Why is a financial check up important?
Before we get started, I want to make sure you understand exactly what I’m talking about.
A new year money checkup is kind of like a physical checkup, but it’s for your financial health. You go over different aspects of your finances to evaluate and review where you’re at.
A financial checkup is important because it helps you keep track of your goals, see what you may be forgetting or missing out on, and more.
It’s a simple list of tasks, both big and small, that may help to better your life.
Below are 20 things to do as part of your new year money checkup:
1. Review your budget
When was the last time you looked at your budget?
The beginning of the year is a great time to look at your budget and make any changes. I recommend looking to see if you need to:
- Update/change your income or expenses
- Re-evaluate your spending
- See if your budget is realistic and if it is currently working for you
If you don’t have a budget or need help getting on track with yours, please read The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works.
2. Make sure you’re signed up for your company’s 401(k) match
Does your employer offer a company match?
If so, I hope you are taking it!
A company or employer match is when your employer contributes to your 401(k). And, a 401(k) is a type of retirement account that you get through an employer.
Because a 401(k) match is basically free money that will help you grow your retirement savings, this is one of the best money moves right now. I highly recommend taking advantage of your company’s match if you can!
It allows you to invest a portion of your paycheck before taxes are taken out, and the amount in your 401(k) can grow tax free until you withdraw. Once you reach retirement and take money out of your 401(k), the amount you withdraw from this account is taxed.
Your 401(k) is an account that holds investments, similar to how your bank account holds your money. You may choose to place investments in your 401(k) such as stocks, mutual funds, and more.
Each company offers its own kind of match. For example, an employer may match 100% of your contribution, up to 5% of your salary.
If you’re not signed up for your company’s 401(k), take this as a reminder to contact your company’s human resources department to learn more.
3. Begin compiling your tax return documents
Tax time will be here before you know it, which is why I recommend starting to gather anything you need for your tax return as part of your new year money checkup.
This is much better than waiting until April to start and complete your tax return.
Starting early will prevent you from frantically trying to complete things at the last minute. You’re less likely to miss anything important, and/or miss out on any money that you may be owed.
4. Find life insurance
If you don’t have life insurance yet, your new year money checkup is a good time to consider signing up for it.
Life insurance is most likely an expense that you can afford. I did a quick search through PolicyGenius, and I was able to find a $1,000,000 policy for 20 years, for less than $27 per month.
Life insurance is money for your family if you were to pass away. Whether you are the sole earner or if you do not have a job but others rely on you, life insurance is a necessity for most households and families.
You can use life insurance money to pay for funeral expenses, day-to-day bills, pay off debt (even if you are single, if your parents have cosigned on your debt such as student loans, life insurance is so important!), etc.
5. Get your complimentary $10,000 accidental death insurance policy
My friends at Safety Net have partnered with Making Sense of Cents, and they would like to give you a $10,000 accidental death insurance policy to encourage you to build your own personal safety net.
This company is simply trying to introduce themselves to more people, which is why they are giving away a complimentary policy. I share lots of free things on Making Sense of Cents – this is just another item that I’ve negotiated for my readers. You have to be a U.S. citizen, though, to sign up.
You can click here to sign up to claim your policy today! It takes less than 5 minutes.
This policy is slightly different in that it covers you in case you die in an accident – such as a car crash. Accidents are the number one cause of death for people ages 1-44, according to the folks in our government that track that sort of data.
6. Read your free credit report
Reading through my credit report has always been part of my new year money checkup, and I recommend that everyone do it at least once a year.
You can receive one annual free credit report from the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
Yes, this means that you get one from each, so three each year. I recommend spacing them out so you can get one every four months.
You can learn more about this here.
7. Shop around for more affordable insurance
There is a good chance that you are overpaying for insurance, and that’s why shopping around is part of my new year money checkup.
You’ll want to do this for both auto and home insurance, and you may be able to save over $1,000 annually by simply comparing insurance rates.
You’d be surprised by how many people never shop around for insurance, and how much money it can cost you.
In fact, a family member of mine has been paying around $2,200 a year for car insurance, and when I found out, I was absolutely shocked! I helped them easily find car insurance with better coverage for just $600 a year. Yes, they were able to save around $1,600 in literally less than 30 minutes.
You can shop car insurance rates through Get Jerry here.
Get Jerry will make this an easy one to check off your new year money checkup because they provide you with quotes from up to 45 companies. Switching your coverage is also very easy to do.
8. Have a money meeting
A new year is one of the best times to have a money meeting. In fact, doing a new year money checkup is a great topic for a money meeting.
Plus, there is a good chance you spent a lot this past holiday season, so it’s a good idea to see where you’re at and keep your partner updated.
In your money meeting, you may want to talk about topics such as:
- Completing an annual financial checkup (such as going through this list!)
- Evaluating your debt and seeing what can be done to eliminate it (if that’s your goal)
- Looking over your goals and seeing how you can make them a reality
- Going over the family budget together
- Talking about retirement, and how you’re progressing towards it
- Planning a vacation, including how much it will cost and how you’ll pay for it
- Anything other major expenses that may be coming up in the near or long-term, such as buying a house, a car, paying for school, and so on
- Any financial issues that you or your family may be experiencing
Every family and household is different, so you may talk about different topics.
There is no exact outline of what you should talk about in your money meetings because every financial situation is different.
9. Start an emergency fund
If you don’t have an emergency fund yet, use your new year money checkup as a time to start one. No matter how little you start with, emergency funds can be so very helpful.
An emergency fund is money that you have saved for when something unexpected happens.
Your emergency fund can be used for something such as paying your bills if you lose your job (or if your hours or pay are cut), paying for a car repair, a medical bill, or something like a surprise leaking roof.
You can learn more at Why You Need An Emergency Fund and How To Start One Today.
10. Start investing
If you haven’t yet, I recommend that you start investing as soon as you can.
Investing is important so you can:
- Retire one day
- Prepare for unexpected events in the future
- Allow your money to grow over time
If you want to learn how to live your best life in the future, investing is a great way to do so. And, you can even start investing with little money.
I’ve added investing to my new year money checkup because it’s a money move that helps you save for and protect your future. If you weren’t investing, your savings would just be sitting there and not earning a thing.
This is important to note because $100 today will not be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a checking account. However, if you invest, you can actually turn your $100 into something more. Investing for the long term means your money is working for you, potentially earning you an income.
For example: If you put $1,000 into a retirement account that has an annual 8% return, 40 years later that would turn into $21,724. If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505. If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at that same percentage rate, that would then turn into $3,015,055.
11. Figure out what’s impacting your credit score
I’ve already added reading your credit report to this new year money checkup, but this step is specifically for those who want to improve their credit score.
Did your credit score go up or down this past year?
Your credit score can impact the interest rate you receive on a loan or a mortgage, finding a rental home, attaining certain jobs, your insurance rates, even your cell phone bill, and more.
A credit score is a three digit number that shows others your creditworthiness, and is often used as an indicator to show how risky you are. A good credit score is usually over 720.
You can check your credit score with Credit Sesame for free.
Here are some of the actions you can take to increase your credit score:
- Pay your bills on time
- Regularly check your credit report
- Keep your balances and utilization rate low
Learn more at Everything You Need To Know About How To Build Credit.
12. Get rid of your expensive TV bill
We decided to get rid of cable over five years ago. Occasionally, we pay for Netflix, but that is it.
And, we haven’t missed cable one bit.
I know of many people who spend $100 each month on cable TV, some spend over $150 a month, and I even had someone tell me that they spend over $300 each month on cable.
If this new year money checkup has inspired you to cut cable, here’s a list of alternatives: 16 Alternatives To Cable TV.
13. Start tracking your money
The beginning of the year is a great time to start tracking your money.
There is a free, easy tool that allows you to do this, and it’s probably the most popular one out there today.
Personal Capital is free personal finance software that allows users to better manage their finances.
You can connect accounts, such as your mortgage, bank, credit cards, retirement accounts, and more, and it is all free.
With this tool, you can track your cash flow, spending, savings amount, investments, and more – it’s really helpful to see everything in one place.
14. Assess your debt
Between your mortgage, student loans, credit cards, and any other loans, there is a good chance you have a lot of debt. In fact, the average American has $90,460 in debt according to Debt.org.
The new year is a great time to go through and see where you stand with all of your debt.
Making a plan to pay off high-interest rate debt, like credit card debt, can be a really good place to focus your attention. It’s also a great goal to make for the new year! The reason is because this debt ends up costing you so much more money in the long run, making it more difficult to achieve other financial goals.
The article, Learn How To Become Debt Free — Stop Living With Debt For Good!, explains the steps to take to start paying off your debt.
15. Refinance your student loans
If you have student loans, this new year money checkup is a good time to think about refinancing. Student loan refinancing is when you apply for a new loan that is then used to pay off your other student loans.
This is usually a good option for people with private student loans, especially those who have a better credit score now than when they originally took out then loans.
By refinancing your student loans, you may qualify for better repayment terms, a lower interest rate, and more. This is great because it may help you pay off your student loans quicker.
The positives of refinancing student loans include:
- One monthly payment to simplify your finances
- Lower monthly payments
- Lower interest rates, and more
Companies, such as Credible, help you refinance your student loans. With refinancing, the average person can save thousands of dollars on their loan, and that’s incredible! You can save a lot of money with student loan refinancing, such as with Credible, especially if you have high interest federal or private loans.
Before refinancing a federal student loan, though, you will want to think about different federal benefits that you may be giving up. You may give up income-based repayment plans, loan forgiveness for those who have certain public service jobs (including jobs at public schools, the military, Peace Corps, and more). By refinancing your federal student loans, you may be giving up any future options for these loan forgiveness programs.
However, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans means you may receive lower monthly payments, lower interest rates, and more. This may help you pay off your debt much faster. For me, I didn’t qualify for any loan forgiveness, so refinancing would have definitely helped me if I knew about it back then.
Even if you don’t refinance your student loans, your new year money checkup is a good time to research repayment options, make any updates, and see where you’re at with your payoff plan.
16. Go on a cheap vacation with travel rewards credit cards
One way to make this year fun is to go on a cheap vacation by using credit card rewards.
Using a travel rewards credit card means that you earn points that can be redeemed for free or cheap travel. You can earn airline tickets, gift cards, hotel stays, cash, etc., all for simply using your credit card.
If you are going to pay for something anyway, then you might as well get something for free out of it, right?
If you travel a lot and/or already use credit cards, then signing up for the ones with the best rewards can help you earn free travel.
Two cards I recommend include:
17. Find an online job
If your new year money checkup makes you think it’s time to find ways to make extra money, there are lots of options available.
Finding a new job or a side hustle can help you make more money to put towards your goals, such as paying off debt, starting an emergency fund, investing, and so on.
Here is a list of online jobs that may interest you:
18. Start an emergency binder
An emergency binder is a way to store financial information, like bank account numbers and passwords. You can store insurance information, personal details about you and each member of your family, information about bills, and more.
Having an emergency binder is so very important, and I highly recommend starting one as part of your new year money checkup.
I know there are many, many families who would be very lost if something were to happen to the person who usually manages their finances
Accounts could get lost, passwords would be unknown, bills may be forgotten about, life insurance may be hard to find, and more.
It’s best to keep a family emergency binder just in case something were to happen, even if it’s something no one ever wants to think about.
I recommend having an emergency binder if:
- You have a family
- You have children
- You are single – this is because someone will have to handle your affairs if something were to happen to you, and they’ll most likely have no clue as to where to start. The binder can guide them.
Yes, pretty much everyone can benefit from an emergency binder!
This can be useful in non-emergencies as well. Creating a binder like this organizes all of your family’s information in one place. It makes finding any piece of information quick and easy, and you’ll probably refer to it often.
My top tip is to check out the In Case of Emergency Binder to help you with creating your own emergency binder.
This is a 100+ page fillable PDF workbook.
19. Update your will
If you have a will already, then it’s a good idea to re-evaluate it once a year during your new year money checkup.
Your personal situation may have changed, like having a child or adding new accounts, and you should update your will to reflect those changes.
If you don’t have a will yet, please read Do I Need A Will? What You Need To Know About Wills & How to Create One For Free.
20. Set goals for the new year
It’s not a new year money checkup if you don’t think about your financial goals for the future.
You can start by thinking about what you’d like your life to look like at the end of this year. You can even go further and think about the next 5 years, 10 years, and so on.
Maybe you have goals to:
- Pay off your student loans by the end of the year
- Max out your IRA this year
- Start a side hustle
- Buy a home in the next five years
- Start trying to have children
You can learn more about setting financial goals at Setting Goals For The New Year.
What should I do with my money in 2022?
As you read above, there are probably several different money actions you can take this year.
Think about what’s important for you and your future as you work through the list of actions in this article.
Remember, what you decide to do with your money is personal. You may want to take steps towards quitting a job you don’t love, plan a vacation, donate more to your favorite charity, and so on.
What’s on your new year money checkup?