Welcome to our second edition of the Personal Financial Checklist. Each month we will bring you a checklist of financial to-dos to help keep you on track to achieve financial freedom. Be sure to download and print the checklist for your personal use! (Click here for past checklists.)
Review Your S.M.A.R.T. Goals
How did you do in January? Are you roughly 1/12th of the way to achieving your goals set last month? What do you need to do differently to make yourself successful?
Adjust Your Budget Based on January Spending
The #1 reason budgets fail is because people don’t adjust them every month. There’s no such thing as a normal financial month. Each one is different and your budget should be adjusted accordingly, instead of being thrown under the bed until next January.
In January, you spent some time creating a budget for what you planned on spending in each category. How did that work? Did you spend more in gasoline than you anticipated? Did you decided to cancel your home phone and have extra money in the category?
Now is the time to adjust those budget categories to better reflect your spending and make sure you are still spending less than your are making.
Budget Your Valentine’s Day Spending
- Gifts – If you plan on buying gifts for that special someone, how much are you going to spend? Set an amount so that you don’t go overboard when you go shopping. Talk to your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, fiance, etc. about what is an acceptable amount for each of you to spend. THEN STICK TO THAT AMOUNT!!
- Date Night – What events do you have planned? Dinner & a movie? A scavenger hunt? A night in without the kids? How much will all of it cost? Will dinner be $10 or $60? Are you going to the cheap theater, or watching a new release in 3D? Don’t forget to include the babysitter’s fee too. Get an idea of what you will be spending and put that into your budget for the month.
Insure Your Love
Life insurance is one of the foundations of personal finance. Most of us don’t like to think about dying, or losing our spouse. Unfortunately, this is a reality that people deal with all the time, and many do it without the protection of life insurance. Life insurance is cheaper than most people think, and the process to get life insurance is easier and not as scary as you think!
If you already have life insurance coverage, don’t take for granted the importance of an annual review of your coverage. Call the agent that helped you apply for the insurance (you did go to a local agent, and not a website, right?!?!), and ask him/her when all of you can sit down and review your coverage. This could end up saving you money. Term insurance rates have been going down over the last ten years, and chances are, even though you are older than when you bought the insurance, you could still qualify for a lower monthly rate. Isn’t it worth it to talk to someone about your options?
Double Check Tax Documents for Errors
Grab your tax folder (you did put all those tax documents that came in the mail last month into a folder together, right?). Take a few minutes and scan over the numbers and make sure they are correct. Does your income look correct on your W-2’s and 1099’s? Check your charitable giving records with the statement that they sent you and make sure the numbers match up. Better to catch an error now, then be audited in five years for something that only takes a few minutes to verify.
Find a Tax Professional
One other note about tax professionals. Find a company or individual that is open all year round. I personally would not trust the many tax places that pop up this time of year only to be gone in 4 months. Use someone who will be there if an issue comes up next October about your tax return filed by a guy that’s harder to find than Waldo. And please, please, PLEASE, do not let the local check cashing shop or J.D. Byrider do your taxes for you!