So long, 2017. You ... well, let's face it, you were hard. So we're hoping to make 2018 easy. To start, here are five things you can knock off your money checklist in five minutes or less.
1. Make a budget
What was that? Making a budget takes more than five minutes? Well, not if you use this simple spreadsheet, created by Policygenius' Alex Moore. Download the sheet. Enter your cash-on-hand, monthly take-home pay, fixed expenses, discretionary spending projections and — viola! — you have a budget. Track and tweak as you go.
2. Retrofit your 2017 taxes
Fearing April 15? Believe it or not, there are still ways to reduce your taxable income. You can deduct contributions made to certain investment accounts through April 17, 2018 retroactively. These accounts include:
Traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs), in which you're allowed a maximum contribution of $5,500 or, if you’re age 50 or older, $6,500, for 2017.
Health savings accounts, in which Americans with high-deductible heatlh plans can contribute up to $3,400 for individuals and
$6,750 for families in 2017.
Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESAs), in which you can contribute a maximum of $2,000 a year.
529 college savings plans, in which seven states — Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Wisconsin — allow late tax-year contributions. Contributions can't exceed the amount needed to pay for the beneficiary's education. (Nebulous, we know, but consider the unofficial limit $14,000 a year because any higher amount has gift tax consequences.) The maximum amounts you can deduct vary by state.
3. Apply for life insurance
A daunting task made easier, thanks to the internet. Seriously, Policygenius can help you compare life insurance quotes online in two minutes. And, if you have no idea how life insurance works, well, we can help with that, too. We've got answers to 20 questions about life insurance you're embarrassed to ask here.
4. Check your credit reports
Also easier than you think: Knowing where your credit stands. You're entitled to one free credit report from each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months, which you can request from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Why check your credit? Well, because that's one of the best ways to spot identity theft. Plus, credit scores are used to price pretty much everything, from loans to insurance policies, so if yours is in rough shape, you want to know. And then work on those numbers.
5. Set your bills to auto-pay
Round up your January statements, pop open your checking account and arrange to have fixed expenses debitted by the due date each month. That'll preclude any missed payments — and, more importantly, late fees, service loss and damage to your credit score. Continue to check statements, though. You don't want to miss erroneous fees or upcharges.
Looking for more life hacks? We've got plenty in our Moneygenius magazine.