Personal Finance Checklist: 10 Things to Do Now
- Create a realistic budget. Instead of chopping your entertainment expenses in half, try trimming them by about 25 percent first.
- Adjust your tax withholding so that you take home more of your paycheck during the coming year—rather than waiting for a refund from Uncle Sam.
- Always reevaluate your benefits at open-enrollment time; if you check "keep as is," you might miss out on new program features.
- Get a life-insurance policy for each parent—even one who doesn't work outside the home.
- Before saving for college, pay off your student loans, and (if you can afford it) set aside at least 10 percent of your salary toward your retirement.
- Ask loved ones to buy your kids a smaller-than-usual gift at holidays and birthdays and deposit the difference in their 529 plan.
- Late payments can ding your credit score. Automate bills for credit cards, loans, and utilities so you never miss a due date.\
- Paying down debt is easier when you can't cheat: Create a blog or chronicle your journey on Facebook to keep yourself in line.
- Aim to put down at least 20 percent when buying a house or a car. This will enable you to get the best terms and avoid extra fees.
- Get preapproved for a loan if you're shopping for a car or a home. This makes it easier to haggle on the car price independent of the financing and raises your standing among house sellers.