We made it to the finish line! After what can only be described as an unforgettable year, we all deserve some holiday cheer and merriment this December — even if it is from the confines of home.

But before we start looking ahead to greener pastures in 2021, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your finances are in tip-top shape to round out the year. Here are five ways to improve your finances in December.

  1. WRAP UP YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING
    Everyone’s holiday is going to look different this year, which is why it may be especially important to set some spending expectations so your family and friends know what's in store. If you still have some gifts to buy and are on a budget, these ideas can help you take care of everyone on your list. And for some inspiration for celebrating with your family this season, here are new takes on holiday traditions.

  2. REDUCE YOUR TAXES
    One of the best financial moves you can make at the end of the year is to start thinking about your taxes. To ensure you’re making the most of your refund, this guide is a good starting point to give you an overview of the different things you can do. If you’re more of a take-charge kind of planner, the IRS’ tax withholding calculator can give you an idea of where you stand. And if you want to get a head start on next year’s tax returns, here’s what to know if you’ve been working remotely for most of this year.

  3. MAXIMIZE YOUR RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS
    This is another way to help lower your taxable income. Throughout the year we’ve talked about the importance of saving for retirement, whether you’re 26 or 46. If you’ve been able to save some money this year, consider putting those extra funds toward your retirement. If you have a 401(k), you can contribute up to $19,500, or $26,000 if you’re 50 or older. If you have an IRA, you can contribute up to $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re 50 or older.

  4. USE UP YOUR FSA MONEY
    Depending on your health care plan, you might have some extra flexible spending account, or FSA, dollars lying around. Unlike a health savings account, the money you set aside for your FSA typically does not roll over (in some instances you may be allowed to carry over up to $550). But generally speaking, if you have any remaining funds, you’ll want to use them up by year’s end. Luckily there are plenty of medical and dental expenses you can use this money for — this list can help you find out which ones qualify.

  5. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
    It’s been a tough year for everyone. So once you’ve finished up these end-of-year tasks, take some time to review your financial plan. Acknowledge how far you’ve come this year, and if you have room, treat yourself to a well-deserved splurge. You've earned it, and balancing both the now and later is what financial planning is all about. Here’s to a brighter 2021.

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