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Your financial to-do list for December
Try not to blow that holiday bonus all in one place
Go beyond a few dollars and re-evaluate charitable donations.
Go beyond a few dollars and re-evaluate charitable donations. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)


With the holidays fast approaching, December is full of to-dos.

But is making financial progress on your list?

It's the perfect time to take stock of your finances: End 2013 on a strong note and set yourself up for success in the new year.

We've taken your hectic holiday schedule into account with this month's to-dos: All five painless tasks below can be completed at home, while you're cozied up by the fire, sipping a glass of eggnog under the holiday lights.

1. Review your retirement and brokerage accounts
Log into your retirement and brokerage accounts and perform our investing check-up in five painless steps. If it looks like you'll need to rebalance — or even just need a reminder of what exactly that entails — consult our guide to rebalancing an investment portfolio. Check in with your accountant to see if there's any action you need to take before the end of the year.

2. Make any charitable contributions
Maybe you've been giving throughout the year — or maybe you choose to show your generosity in one fell swoop. Either way, use this time to decide which causes you'll gift (sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar.org can help you make a smart choice). For added guidance, follow in the footsteps of the Oracle of Omaha himself with Warren Buffett's four steps to giving to charity. If you're itemizing your taxes this year, large deductions may reduce your year-end tax bill.

3. Be smart with your holiday bonus
If your company doles out bonuses around the holidays, now is the time to make sure you use that money wisely. Review which areas of your financial picture could best use that little boost: Does your retirement account need maxing out? Do you need to pay down any debt? How about padding that emergency fund you've been working on? Since you may not have budgeted for a windfall, use it to give your finances a leg up.

4. Re-evaluate your budget
We're in the home stretch: How is that budget looking? If your finances took a bit of a beating during the month, sit down and take a "Money Minute" to figure out how you can improve in the new year. Is there one section in your Money Center that has a pattern of going overboard? Is there anywhere that needs a little more room? Review our 50/20/30 guide to budgeting — and set yourself up to start 2014 on the right financial foot.

5. Pinpoint your money goals for 2014
Use those quiet days after the holidays to sit down and think big picture: Are you hoping to buy a home in 2014? Renovate the real estate you already have? Maybe you'll be walking down the aisle with your partner this year or even welcoming a little one. Whatever your dream for the new year, make sure you have a clear idea of what you're aiming for. With a little planning, you'll be celebrating your successes at this time next year.


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