I hate snow. I have always hated snow. I experience the same childlike wonder as I'm sure everyone does as it falls, but then you're left with cold, wet slush everywhere and you're trapped in the house.
A snow day can be an opportunity, however. Being cooped up is a great excuse to take care of some of the less exciting financial chores you've been putting off. Here are a few things you can accomplish during your next snow day.
Haven't gotten started on those New Year's resolutions yet? There's still plenty of time to set yourself up for success in 2018, and a snow day is a perfect time to get started. A good first step is to assess your current financial situation and compare it to past years, said Melissa Sotudeh, a certified financial planner and wealth adviser.
Calculate your net worth by adding up your assets and liabilities. Your assets include things like the market value of your home and car, plus investment accounts, bank accounts and any cash value from insurance. Your liabilities include your mortgage, loans for cars or school and credit card debt. The difference between your assets and liabilities makes up your net worth.
Then ask yourself: How are you doing compared to last year? Have you shrunk your debts or do you need to make changes? And remember what factors you control, like your spending and saving, versus those you can't control, like market performance, Sotudeh said.
If you want to meet your financial goals, you have to track your finances. We made a spreadsheet to get you started measuring your income against your expenses. Just remember: Your budget should be based on your priorities and goals. If that means going on a big Cancun vacation, go for it — just know you might not be able to eat out every night as a result. Making a budget is way of acknowledging that your money is scarce and using the funds you do have in a way that fits your goals.
"Whether it’s family, new experiences or a feeling of security, this is what drives the decisions you make," Sotudeh said. "Always be aware of this and don’t let yourself stray in a direction that leads you farther away from these core values."
If you've got a budget, you know what your regular unavoidable expenses are. Things like utility bills and credit card payments. It's a good idea to automate these expenses to avoid late payments. While you're at it, automate your savings too. Here's our guide to automating your finances.
Speaking of bills, it's a good idea to pick up the phone every so often and see if you can negotiate a better deal. Being put on hold forever might suck, but what else are you going to do? Shovel? No. Throw on some Netflix (something with subtitles), pick up the phone and call your car insurer, cable company, phone company and anyone else you feel like haggling with. If you can't get a better deal, a snow day is also a good time to shop around for better pricing on these services.
How's your 401(k) doing? If you haven't checked in a while, now's the time. See if you need to rebalance your investments and, now that you have a budget, whether you can increase your contributions a percentage or two. This is especially important if your company matches your contributions. While you've got growing old on the brain, you may also want to shop for life insurance and make other end-of-life plans.
You can get a free copy of your report from the three major reporting agencies once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure there aren't any errors that could be dragging down your credit score. If there are, hop on the phone or dispute the error online.
They hackin' everybody out here.
To help protect your personal data, it's a good idea to regularly change your passwords. Here are a few tips for creating a strong password. If you need help, consider using a password manager like LastPass or Keeper.
Look out your window. It's cold. Grey. All the trees are dead. Of course. It's tax season.
Doing taxes is so, so, boring. But you have to do them. Lucky for you, we've put together a guide to filing your 2018 tax return. Even if you plan on dumping them off on your accountant, a snow day is a good time to gather any documents you might need: W-2s, 1099s, receipts, tax statements from investments, student loan interest statements, mortgage interest documents, medical saving account contributions and possibly moving expenses.
You might be tempted to relax with a cup of hot chocolate on your snow day. You can still do that, but you should also get some of these chores out of the way so you're not stuck doing them when it's actually nice out.
Image: Zoran Zeremski
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