With the year winding down, now is a time when many of us start to think about how we’d like to improve next year. The New Year has always been a natural time to make changes — and the holidays offer an opportunity to reflect on what we’d like to change while enjoying time with friends and family. That’s how we convince ourselves that this is the year that we can finally lose a little weight or shave that excess spending out of our budgets.
But before we write off all of November and December, there are a few important steps to take before the calendar flips to 2016. Here are three questions to get you started:
1. What has fundamentally changed in your life this year?
A lot happens in the course of one year. People get married, have children, change jobs, maybe even switch careers. However, with all this change it is important to not lose sight of how it impacts your finances.
Whenever big events happen (or at least once a year), it’s important to review financial documents, confirm beneficiaries and make sure that your will and life insurance reflect your current situation. And of course, if you don’t have any of these documents or protections in place, now is a great time to cover your family’s risk.
2. Do you have a holiday budget?
The holiday shopping season can be a strain on all of our wallets. According to a Bankrate survey, 66 percent of Americans do not prepare a holiday budget. Women performed better than men — but not by much. Among women, 63 percent did not have a budget.
So, even if you think you’ll go over budget, set one. That way, when you make those New Year’s resolutions to spend less and save more, you’ll be starting from higher ground.
3. Can you make one change this year?
Why wait until the New Year to get a jump-start on your financial goals? And though it’s unrealistic to start a brand new gym routine in the midst of holiday meals and events, you can make one change by the end of the year.
Some last-minute ideas: adjust your savings, get a jump-start on tax documents, donate to charity or spend more time with the people you love.
Since studies show that it takes six to eight weeks to set a habit, changing something now will give you some confidence when the calendar rolls over on Jan. 1. And, it will make one less thing for you to do.
If you ask these three questions and honestly answer them, there is no doubt that you can start the New Year with a solid financial strategy. You just have to take the first step.
Abby Reddy is a Chartered Life Underwriter and the vice president of marketing and web at Quotacy, an online life insurance agent. Quotacy offers a free life insurance calculator and accurate quotes on term policies, all without requiring any personal contact information.