I can’t help but be nostalgic.
As the last day of 2014 approaches us, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect on your actions this past year. Each year, I gain more financial knowledge and ways to live a life of minimalism. Did you hit your goals? Were you able to learn something new to set you up in a stronger financial situation in 2015? To start you off on the right foot in 2015, here is a checklist of what I typically plan on completing each year. This checklist continues to grow each year. What financial year end traditions do you have?
- Tax Season – Email/call your tax preparer/service to get an early appointment to complete your taxes. Be sure to ask for a checklist of what you need to bring to the meeting to capitalize on a potential return. Tip: Did you know that you can submit your car registration as a tax deductible purchase? Plan what you will do with your refund. Hopefully, it is to pay debt or save!
- W-2s – If you completed a W-4 for an employer, start organizing and collecting your W-2s from all employers. Make sure you mailing addresses are up to date to avoid delays in delivery. Also, many employers are now switching to online access to your W-2s. See if this is an option for you and you should be able to access it pretty early in January!
- Donate – Now is the time to maximize your tax deductible donations. If you have non profit organizations that you enjoy giving money to, be sure to submit those immediately. It is also a great time to purge your space of clutter. Donate items to your local thrift store i.e. Goodwill. Be sure to save all receipts for proof of donations. Tip: For online donations, I created a “donations” folder. All receipts were transferred into this folder for easy submittals during my tax meeting.
- Declutter – I truly believe if you clear space, you not only invite new things to come into your life, but your mind is clear enough to make smarter decisions. If you took time off away from work, dedicate a little bit of time to clearing spaces you have ignored all year. That includes a shelf in your closet, that junk drawer, that cabinet in the kitchen. Shred all documents you no longer need and if you have not used something in over a year, chances are you will never use them. Get rid of it! Tip: If you get easily distracted, put on music and set your phone timer for 30 minutes. Focus on one area until timer goes off. You would be surprised how much you get done without checking texts, social media, emails, etc.
- Review – Review all of your statements from credit cards, bank statements, and retirement statements. Make sure you do not see any discrepancies. Look at your summaries of finance charges and late fees. Do you feel guilty paying that much? See if you can transfer funds to a lower APR option or pay off as much as you can. If you have been earning reward points with any financial institution, make sure you take advantage of points earned that may be expiring.
- Credit Score – I obtain my credit score once a year. It helps you know if you are on the right track. If your number has lowered, review the details. Do you see fraud or too much debt? How can you change this in 2015?
- Savings – I always thought it was fun to see if you obtained your savings goals. Pull up your January statements for your savings accounts and retirement funds. Compare where you started January 1st to today. Did you save 10-20% of your income this year? If not, why? Plan how you can achieve this next year.
- Evaluate – Did you save enough this year to switch to a Money Market? Are you ready to invest money in stocks or bonds? If you have enough for an emergency fund and extra income, be sure put it towards a way to make extra money.
- Add another stream – Count how many streams of income do you currently have? Do you have an idea to try in 2015? You may be surprised to learn how creative you can be. This year I focused on taking extra money and buying concert tickets that would sell out. I would then re-sell with a markup. If you have multiple ways to grow wealth, you can re-invest more funds towards your future.
- Expense reports – Turn in your expense reports for work! If you keep missing deadlines, what can you do to be better organized?
- Plan – If you earn an annual bonus at work, be sure to use it smartly. If you have debt, plan how much you would like to put towards debt. Instead of a high priced ticket item you want to purchase, take 20% of it to invest or put towards savings.
On a final note, take care of yourself. How you treat yourself is how others will treat you. I believe the Universe will return love to you once you love yourself. Take time to treat yourself before the New Year. You do not have to spend a lot of money. Have a nice outfit picked out (I am sure there is one in your closet) to celebrate the past and upcoming year. Have your hair done, nails done, and eat well. Be sure to surround yourself with people who make you feel great. If you feel like a million dollars, you can definitely earn a million dollars.
About the writer:
Neville (Nev) Bendiola grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, California until the age of 10 before relocating to Sacramento, CA. Growing up in a low income family, he slept on the floor most of his young life until he got his own twin size bed at the age of 10 – a memory he will always remember. Nev relocated back to San Francisco for college where he continued on in a career in Staffing Sales and Recruiting. Achieving financial success, he spent more than he earned using credit cards along the way. He found himself carrying debt through the recent recession. Inspired by friends and reading success stories online, Nev moved into a Studio apartment in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district where he minimized his spending and material items. He is currently focused on saving money and sharing the ride with his readers along his journey to financial freedom.