You’re making your list and checking it twice, but did you maybe forget to include someone? Like yourself?
Full disclosure: The gifts on this list are not necessarily the traditional ones you might think, like a massage or a cheese of the month club membership. Instead, we at Credit.com decided to highlight some of the smartest gifts you can give yourself -- tools to help you manage your money more efficiently. All of the gifts on this list (with the exception of one) are free, so you can start the new year with a new outlook on your money.
1. A Planning Day.
Whether it’s in the days before Christmas, after Christmas or in the new year, you should take just one day to give yourself the gift of good organization. As Gerri Detweiler, Director of Consumer Education for Credit.com, knows, having a plan for managing your money can not only help you earn more with it, it can also prevent you from making costly mistakes.
“Keeping your finances organized can save you a ton of money in late fees, overdraft charges and more,” Detweiler says. “Even more importantly, it can save you time -- and you’ll be a lot less stressed out.”
This planning day can consist of outlining your financial strengths and weaknesses and setting up things like automatic bill pay, calendar reminders for credit card payments, or even a filing system -- digital or otherwise -- for your important financial documents.
OK, so maybe 2012 wasn’t exactly a banner year in your household. You didn’t put aside that extra money you wanted to save for a home or you signed up for too many store credit cards while shopping this holiday season. Don’t let it get in the way of making the positive money changes you can accomplish. Just renew a few small commitments to making your money management better in 2013, no acts of contrition required.
3. A 401(k) or IRA.
The best gift you can give yourself is a nice nest egg that you can rely on one day. If you haven’t already signed up to participate in your company’s 401(k) program or if you haven’t set up an individual retirement account of your own, now is the time. Even if you can only contribute $20 from every paycheck, that money adds up and can compound interest for decades, depending on when you want to retire. Also, many companies now match employee contributions, so if you aren’t saving you’re actually leaving some free money on the table.
4. Your Credit Report Card.
The best part about this gift? It’s free! Our Credit Report Card gives you a full analysis of what’s holding your credit score back from being among the super elite, using a simple grading system that gives you a clear understanding of where your hard work is paying off.
“Checking your credit report can give you the peace of mind that everything is fine, and if it’s not, the incentive and motivation to make it better,” Detweiler says.
5. A Shredder.
The one gift on our list that requires a little cash is definitely worth it, especially since it can save you thousands by preventing identity theft.
Shredders start at around $50, and get more expensive depending on the amount of work you want it to do and the materials you want it to shred. However, a shredder is vital for disposing of any documents containing your Social Security number, financial account numbers or health information. It’s also important for disposing of old debit or credit cards, since identity thieves can dig through your trash and rack up lots of debt just using these old pieces of plastic. And just remember, sometimes even going the extra step of shredding your documents isn’t enough.
6. A Twitter Account.
The status of your finances can change rapidly these days, with a U.S. economy that’s still in recovery mode and a government dealing with its own money management issues (aka the fiscal cliff). Some of the best financial experts can be found on Twitter, with people like Jean Chatzky and Suze Orman answering questions from fellow tweeters all the time. And if you ever have a credit question, our Credit Experts are happy to help as well!
7. A Deadline.
You might have heard the phrase “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” That couldn’t be more true than when you’re talking about money goals. Good financial management means setting goals to help you achieve your dreams, whether it be your perfect wedding, an early retirement or owning a home. Make sure you give yourself the gift of a deadline -- it can help you track your progress and ensure that you’re setting new financial goals next year and not just repeating the same ones.
--Kali Geldis Credit.com's Deputy Managing Editor. Kali writes on a wide range of personal finance and credit topics. She previously ran MainStreet.com, the personal finance website powered by TheStreet. She has also worked for The Wall Street Journal as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern and at The Huntington Herald-Dispatch as a reporter. Have a question for our experts? Get the answer in the Credit.com Forum.