It’s the last month of 2016, the year that has worn out its welcome. Instead of waiting for 2016 to pass, begin working on 2017 today. If you are serious about changing your life in the New Year, getting started on January 1st is too late. One of the reasons why 92% of New Year’s Resolutions fail is because people fail to plan. Lay the groundwork now. Here are six things to do before the end of 2016 to get a running start on 2017.

1. Protect your stuff

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Image courtesy of CreateHER stock

A major unexpected expense can quickly derail your finances. The American Red Cross reports almost 47,000 fires occur during the winter holidays, costing over a half billion dollars in damage. Although not as devastating as a fire, damage caused by bursting frozen pipes averages $5,000, according to The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Unfortunately, theft also increases during this time of year.

Although many of these losses are unavoidable, you can lessen their impact with proper insurance. If you own your home, homeowners insurance is paramount. If you rent, your landlord’s insurance only protects his or her investment, not your personal belongings. Thankfully, renters’ insurance is relatively cheap and can be bundled with your car insurance for extra savings.

2. Protect your credit

I recommend checking your debit and credit card statements monthly. But the holiday season requires more vigilance because ‘tis the season for credit card fraud. If you notice suspicious activity, notify your bank or credit card company immediately. The longer you wait to report, the more likely you could be stuck with the charges. Instead of using your debit card for online shopping, consider using a credit card and imposing a strict budget. If your debit card has been used fraudulently, it could take weeks to recover your cash.

Also, if you haven’t already, consider getting your annual credit report through annualcreditreport.com, “the only source for your free credit reports authorized by Federal law.”

3. Clexit (Clutter Exit)

I’m a fan of double duty tasks. This year I reduced clutter and increased my cash by selling on eBay and Poshmark. For clothing that is still good but not necessarily sellable, consider donating to your favorite charity. If you itemize your deductions, make sure this is done before the end of the year so you can deduct your contribution on your 2016 Tax Return. 

4. Holiday shopping budget

To avoid regrettable credit card bills in January, make an overall holiday spending budget for family and friends and stick to it. Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have passed, there are still deals to be had, if you do a little research.

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Image courtesy of CreateHER stock

5.  Everyday Budget

Without a budget, many people end up wondering where all their money went or how their credit card balance got so high. If you currently have a budget, review it to make sure that it’s still working for you. Get rid of unnecessary expenses; monthly subscriptions tend to be a major culprit.

To assist with the budget creation process, Certified Financial Coach and Author, Del Shawn Hayes, recommends mint.com, everydollar.com, and vertex42.

6. Take advantage of your employee benefits

On December 31st, many employee benefits expire. Most flexible healthcare spending account (FSA) balances expire at the end of the year with only a handful of employers allowing withdrawals up to March of the following year. Additionally, healthcare deductibles also reset at the beginning of the year, so if you can squeeze in a last minute appointment, your pocket and body will thank you.