It’s been a long year of reelections and declining rates, but 2012 is finally coming to a close. We know that all you want right now is to finish the year with endless champagne, but as a personal finance site, we do suggest you look into a couple of things to prep yourself financially for the year ahead. Then you can have your fizzies.

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First, have you taken care of loose ends from the current fiscal year? Consider the following:

  • Every company is different, the important flexible spending account motto is: use it or lose it. You either use your remaining balance by the year’s end or the money is gone. Yes, you can try to file an extension to use the funds after the deadline has passed, but not every company allows this and it can altogether be a hassle. So check over whether or not you still have a good amount of money left on your flexible spending account and then use it before the year’s up.
  • Have you made a contribution to your 401(k) yet? Of the tax-favored retirement plans, your 401(k) is the one with the earliest contribution deadline for your contribution to count towards the current tax year. (You can put money into your other retirement plans retroactively until April the following year.) If you plan on giving your 401(k) a boost, do so before Dec. 31.
  • Here at MyBankTracker, we like to remind you that you should be keeping track of your credit score. If you’re not as diligent as you’d like to be — meaning, grabbing a copy of your credit report every four months or so — you should at least do that before the year’s over. Being knowledgeable of how you’re doing credit-wise is important, especially if you’re planning on making a big purchase or starting a new venture in the new year, and potentially need to defer to your credit for finance options.
  • The outcome of the upcoming fiscal cliff discussions is TBD right now, but there’s a chance that pre-Bush era tax rates are around the corner for high earners. If you’re expecting any payouts (like bonuses) early next year, try to get them now so that they can be counted towards the current tax year and taxed at this year’s rate.
  • In addition to the last point, if you have investments, now is the time to see whether or not it would be beneficial to cash in on profits that your investments have made. Tax rates on capital gains are set to rise sharply next year, and if you’re in the upper tax bracket, you and your gains will be affected by those tax increases.

Now that you’ve gotten those loose ends tied up, plan ahead for the coming months. This is the year to stop procrastinating…or so we hope for you anyway. So try to lessen your New Year’s resolution of doing All the Things in the Universe by getting some processes going now.

  • Prepare for tax season. Yes, that’s right, now! The first few months of the year can be a sort of receipt and document hell if you leave everything for the last minute. The cosmic ways of the universe also dictate that when you leave everything for the last minute, you will be missing something and you will have only 1.5 days to get it all sorted out, so why not save those nightmares and get started now? You should already have a sense of your income from your past year, but take some time out to organize your pay stubs and consult your bank statements for any deductions you plan on taking.
  • There’s no harm in getting a head start on your finances for the next year, and in the name of the new year, consider trying alternatives to your current financial options. If you’re trying to get a project started or just need some money, look into peer-to-peer lending instead of relying on the usual bank loan. Peer-to-peer lending isn’t for everyone, but if your bank options are limited, head on over to our discussion on how peer-to-peer lending may help you.

All of this may seem daunting, but it’s worth it to go into the new year knowing that you’ve already made some headway on preparing your finances. It makes resolution keeping all the easier by cheating, just a little.

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