Personal Finance Checklist: 10 Things to Do Now

For the past year, our Moms Money Clinic column has helped you face your finances one step at a time. Now we're down to the finish line. End strong! 

Cartoon People Holding Signs About Finances
  1. Create a realistic budget. Instead of chopping your entertainment expenses in half, try trimming them by about 25 percent first.
  2. 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.
  3. Always reevaluate your benefits at open-enrollment time; if you check "keep as is," you might miss out on new program features.
  4. Get a life-insurance policy for each parent—even one who doesn't work outside the home.
  5. 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.
  6. Ask loved ones to buy your kids a smaller-than-usual gift at holidays and birthdays and deposit the difference in their 529 plan.
  7. Late payments can ding your credit score. Automate bills for credit cards, loans, and utilities so you never miss a due date.\
  8. Paying down debt is easier when you can't cheat: Create a blog or chronicle your journey on Facebook to keep yourself in line.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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