We’re in week three of 2015, so I am assuming that by now you have all dropped a couple of pounds, gotten your finances in order and stopped smoking.
No? That’s OK. No stones from me. I live in my own glass house full of broken resolutions.
But even if you didn’t start the year off with the bang you wanted, there’s no time like the present to start making some positive changes. Let’s start with a recent video about sticking to resolutions.
Now, here are 10 things to stop procrastinating about in 2015.
1. Making a budget
You might think we’re harping on the issue. After all, we’ve told you how to painlessly create a budget, how to develop an effortless budget you’ll stick to and the reasons why your budget will never work for you.
There’s a reason we spend so much time talking about budgeting: It serves as the backbone for everything related to your finances. You won’t know if you can afford a new car payment if you don’t have a budget. You can’t be sure you’re putting enough away each month for retirement without a budget. And you risk racking up massive credit card debt if you don’t budget and somehow (surprise!) end up running short on cash each month.
I signed up for PowerWallet to help make budgeting easier, but you can certainly use a spreadsheet, pen and paper or whatever other method you prefer.
2. Canceling subscriptions
While creating your budget, you might notice some subscriptions or services you no longer need. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones you plan to cancel every month but never get around to it. Stop procrastinating and stop paying for services you don’t use.
In my case, that means dropping Netflix, which we haven’t watched in months, and canceling the hot spot service on my cellphone that’s no longer needed.
3. Getting out of debt
You may feel overwhelmed by your debt, but avoiding it isn’t the answer. Every month you put off addressing your debt problem is another month you are falling further behind.
Maybe you think you’re doing OK because you can make your minimum payments, but check out any credit card calculator, and you’ll find making minimum payments on a $1,500 balance with a 19 percent interest rate translates into taking 96 months to pay off a balance and spending $2,898 on interest in the process.
That calculation assumes a very low minimum payment requirement – only $30 – on a balance. Bump up that monthly payment to $55, and you could be done with the debt in three years and pay only $480 in interest. Better, right?
4. Saving for retirement
Another thing you don’t want to delay is saving for retirement. Because of the power of compound interest, every month you procrastinate could mean you’ll lose out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
We’ll use this calculator from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to illustrate. Let’s say you’re 40 years old and invest $10,000 in a retirement account that compounds interest once per year and earns 7 percent annually. Let’s also assume you never add another cent to that account. By the time you’re 65, your retirement account will be worth $54,274.
Not bad, right? Well, if you had invested that same $10,000, under the same conditions, at age 30, you’d have more than $106,765.
With retirement savings, lost time equals lost money.
5. Refinancing your house
As of this writing, 30-year fixed mortgage rates are hovering around 3.7 percent. That’s lower than a year ago.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been underwater on your mortgage and unable to take advantage of recent low interest rates, you may be in luck as property values have continued to rise in most of U.S. markets, albeit not as quickly as a year earlier.
According to Freddie Mac, U.S. home prices rose an average of 5 percent in the first three quarters of 2014. Depending on your local housing market, in some states the growth was as high as 8 percent, that jump may be the boost you need to qualify for refinancing.
6. Planning meals
Meal planning might seem a little out of place next to refinancing and retirement savings, but stay with me for a minute.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average household spent $2,625 on food away from home in 2013. That means that all those nights when you stare blankly into the fridge and then pack up the kids to eat out really add up. What’s more, you may find you are regularly eating breakfasts on the go and having your lunches out, too.
So sit down and create a meal plan; it’s good for your waistline and your wallet.
7. Buying health insurance
It’s now year two of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires most people to have health insurance coverage. If you plan to buy it on one of the government-run exchanges, you only have until March 31 to sign up.
Procrastinate too long, and you’ll be hit with a tax penalty, which has now increased to the greater of 2 percent of your 2015 income (over a certain threshold) or $325 per person for the year ($162.50 per child under 18), up to $975 per family. That penalty is slated to rise to 2.5 percent of your income or $695 per person in 2016.
8. Buying life insurance
While you are thinking about insurance, go ahead and get that life insurance policy you know you should have. A 2013 study from New York Life estimated only 20 percent of Americans have adequate life insurance coverage, and among the study’s survey respondents, the average gap in coverage was $320,000.
That may sound like a lot of coverage to buy, but if you’re young and healthy, life insurance coverage can be really cheap. Check out term life policies, or see if you can buy supplemental coverage through a workplace group plan. Just because you’re young and healthy today doesn’t mean you can’t die tomorrow.
9. Securing important documents
How many important documents are stored on your computer? What would happen if the hard drive were to crash and burn tomorrow?
Hopefully, you said it’s no problem because you have a backup of everything. If you didn’t, then it’s time to stop procrastinating and create a recovery system. You can use an external hard drive, or it may be more convenient to sign up for a cloud-based backup provider.
While you’re at it, make sure your paper documents are secure as well. That means birth certificates, titles and anything else that would be a massive pain to replace. Store items in a fireproof box or move them to a safety deposit box.
10. Practicing gratitude
Finally, let’s wrap up this list with something nonfinancial: gratitude.
All the number crunching that comes with managing your money is apt to make you feel a bit out of sorts, especially if your finances are shaky. You may feel a little green with envy over your neighbor’s bigger and better toys, or you could feel depressed that there is seemingly no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Make 2015 the year you don’t wait until Thanksgiving to count your blessings. Take stock of what you do have and make a point to be grateful for those things. In addition to feeling better about your situation, research suggests practicing gratitude can keep you healthier, give you more energy and help you attain your goals.
What are you procrastinating about in 2015? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.