The week between Christmas celebrations and New Year's festivities is perfect for eating leftovers, relaxing with family, and creating new memories. But if you find yourself with a couple extra hours to spare, why not set yourself up for an awesome January by taking care of these nagging tasks before the end of the year?
Scroll to the bottom for a printable copy of this checklist.
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Financial tasks to take care of before the end of the year
1. Settle library fines
By December, I don't even feel comfortable logging into my library account anymore. I can't bear to see what embarrassing sum of fees my four kids and I have amassed over the course of the past year.
Well, let's be really honest here: it's almost 100 percent my fault as our library actually doesn't charge fines for overdue kids books. This is all on me.
This is, in essence, my alternative to Boxing Day shopping: go to the library and pay off your bill. You'll feel so much better when you go in for a stack of books in January. You might even be able to make eye contact with your librarian.
2. Review budget and spending from past year & set new goals
This is not one of my favorite activities, but it's another one that feels amazing when it's done. Maybe you're the type of person who updates your budget and spending data weekly or monthly. If so, this won't take you long at all. If not, I think I've uncovered a potential new year's resolution for you!
I use the Mint app to aggregate my spending from across my various debit and credit accounts, which makes it very easy to go in at the end of each month and assign all my expenses to the correct categories. I've also set up monthly budgets for each category. The app helps me see where I've gone over and where I still have room left (...I think it does this. I'm not sure it's ever happened).
Knowing how realistic your budget was for the past year is a great jumping off point for conversations about your budget for next year. Where do you need to reallocate? Where can you cut costs and increase savings? Involve the whole family in some of these conversations to help kids learn the importance of budgeting, tracking, and assessing their finances.
3. Make your year-end charitable donations
If you have any money left over at the end of the year, this is the perfect time to top up your charitable donations for the year. Not only is it the perfect antidote to the shopping and spending flurry of the Advent season, but it can also help lower your tax bill for next year.
Have a conversation around the dinner table about which causes are most important to your family and then do your research to find charities that align with your values. You can evaluate nearly 10,000 charities at Charity Navigator or talk to friends to see which charities they support.
Aside from our local church, our family chooses to support organizations like Plan International and Kiva because of the innovative approaches they take to transforming the lives of impoverished families around the world.
Things to do at home before the end of the year
4. Clean our medicine cabinets and bathroom drawers
No matter how many times I "Kon-Mari" my bathroom, I still end up with a bunch of products I don't use anymore or can't use because they've expired. Whether it's the free samples my aesthetician sends me home with or the too-heavily-scented lotion I bought on the ferry because my toddler had a rash and we needed something RIGHT THAT MOMENT, there are some things that are just collecting dust.
The end of the year is the perfect time to get rid of those expired or unusable products because, honestly, when else are you going to do it? It's the kind of thing you think about in the mornings when you're madly getting ready to leave the house and then completely forget about for the rest of the day (or week).
There's nowhere to go this week, no makeup to put on or hair to do (hopefully!), at least, not until New Year's Eve. Why not dump those products now (responsibly, of course) so getting ready will be a more enjoyable task in January?
5. Clean out fridge and get rid of old food
I'm pretty good at using up leftovers and nearly expired products in my fridge because nothing irks me more than seeing food go to waste—even if it means we have some really weird food combinations like chili with cabbage soup.
But there's always that shelf full of random bottles and condiments purchased for an experimental recipe or with the best of intentions to learn how to make authentic Indian food. Those bottles and jars that haven't been touched in six months don't need to stay there. It's time for them to move on.
Scoop the unused products into the compost, rinse the containers, and recycle them. Everyone will be happier and you'll have more room in your fridge for all the cleansing smoothies and juices you're going to want to drink in January. Am I right?
6. Organize photos from the past year
So, my husband gave me a used iPhone sometime last year. It wasn't something I wanted or asked for but his friend was selling a pair of them and he wanted one, so I guess I was in the right place at the right time.
I clearly live under a rock because I had no idea that iPhones take such great photos. Here I was spending hours trying to learn how to use a prime lens on my old Nikon while carrying around a phone that took better images in seconds with no special knowledge required.
So I started taking pictures on it. Quite a few, actually. 17,956 to be exact.
And what is one to do with 18,000 photos of their children? I have no idea. But I'm determined to transfer them all to my computer, delete 95 percent of them, and find something meaningful to do with the rest before New Year's Eve. Or at least before our vacation is over. And if not then, by Valentine's Day certainly. I mean it.
7. Return everything you've borrowed
Do you have neatly constructed piles of stuff all over your house waiting to be returned to friends and family? Books people have lent you that you haven't finished reading yet? Tupperware containers from that time you were sick and all your friends brought soup? Clothes from your nephew who slept over on Christmas Eve and wore his new pajamas home?
Now is the time to let them go. Even if you've had someone's Little Green Machine for nine months and you still haven't used it yet, just give it back. You don't need to feel guilty for keeping it so long and getting no value out of it. They were probably happy to have the extra space in their house. If they'd missed it, they would have asked for it back by now.
Just kindly return it on New Year's Eve with a plate of leftover Christmas cookies and all will be forgiven.
8. Declutter even more
Can there ever really be too much decluttering? I'm not sure. I haven't hit that limit yet. I feel like my life is one endless cycle of decluttering and then buying more clothes for my kids because they literally just grew another two inches in their sleep. It's unbelievable.
Also, people give us a lot of stuff. We have the best neighbors who are constantly giving us all this stuff they think we can use. Sometimes we actually can use it so we always accept what they give, but then we have to go through the time-consuming process of sorting everything and re-homing the vast majority of the hand-me-downs.
Even with this stringent process, we still end up with much more than we need by the end of the year, so now's the time to let it go. Clothes that we don't wear and that don't fit: upcycle them or take them to the thrift store. Things that need mending: mend them or take them to the thrift store (or recycling depot).
Donate old toys and books that aren't getting the attention they deserve at your house. File, shred, or recycle unnecessary papers. Recycle containers and lids who haven't learned to appreciate the single life.
You'll feel a lot lighter heading into the new year without all this extra baggage.
10. Clean up Christmas decorations
I know this is super-controversial. I hesitate to include it here because I know there will be backlash. Please don't persecute me!
Even if you feel it's impossible to take down your Christmas decor before mid-January, there may be some middle ground. Are there some things that could go in their boxes a little earlier? Maybe it's a gradual deconstruction process that takes place throughout the week.
Either way, putting the Christmas stuff back in storage and making space for all the gifts received is an important part of launching into the new year successfully. I'm sorry, but someone had to say it.
11. Create a January meal plan
Eating healthier is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions and clearly one worth going for. But the key to developing a healthier diet or lifestyle isn't just setting the intention, it's following through, and that requires good planning.
Meal planning isn't just an end-of-year task. It's a good thing to do on a monthly or weekly basis, but if you haven't tried it yet, the end of the year is the perfect time to start.
Begin browsing through healthy recipes online and in your favorite cookbooks and think about what you'd actually like to eat. It's pretty difficult to stick to a plan full of foods you hate, but a bit of research and strategizing can set you up for clean eating success.
Reflection and Planning for the New Year
12. Read through your journal
Reading through your journal from the past year is an awesome way to reflect on the time that's passed, the lessons you've learned, the goals you've accomplished, and the journey you've taken.
Life moves quickly and we often forget the details of what we've been through. I love to look through my journals from the year past and make a little summary at the beginning of my new planner or journal to help me remember where I've been and what I've done.
13. Review goals and set new ones
As part of that reflection process, I also look back to the goals I set the previous year and evaluate the progress I've made. I'm usually a bit too ambitious when it comes to setting goals so there are often many left unchecked at the end of the year. But that's okay.
The important thing is that we set goals, break them down into tasks, and work toward them throughout the year. If we prioritize the things we want to achieve and tackle the most pertinent ones first, we'll make steady progress towards those dreams.
At the end of the year, as we look back over our goals and accomplishment, we can ask ourselves whether the unchecked goals are still relevant to us. Have they increased in priority? Is there a reason why they were ignored last year? What needs to change for us to achieve them this year.
Then, after evaluating the progress of the past year, set some new goals for the new year. Dream big. Where do you see yourself a year from now. Push yourself to aim a little further beyond that vision. Set realistic goals to move from where you are now to where you want to go and then start breaking those goals down into smaller tasks.
14. Start a new planner or journal
The perfect place to write down all those reflections is in a new planner or journal for the new year.
One of my favorite tasks in December is choosing a new planner for the next year and getting it all prepped and ready to go. Yes, I have a major obsession with planning. I know that. I'm working on it. (Sort of).
Actually, this year I designed a custom planner for myself to capture all the different information I like to track on a weekly basis such as my goals, what I'm reading, what I'm learning, and my prayers. Instead of tracking these in multiple places, I've now got them all in one book.
15. Start or join a Bible reading plan
Our family has an annual tradition of starting a Bible reading plan on New Year's Eve. Our kids bring their Bible journals out and tell us what they've read about this year, how many days they skipped, what they learned as they read.
We set new goals for studying the Bible in the year ahead and print out checklists for keeping us on track. While we don't always try to read the Bible in one year, we always like to have some kind of plan (no surprise there) so we know where we're headed.
And that's it! That wasn't so bad, was it? Excuse me for a moment while I crack open the wrapper on the next box of Ferrero Rochers...
But in all seriousness, the end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on the year past, let go of the things that are no longer serving you, make space for new things and experiences, and dream big for the year ahead. Whatever that looks like for you, I hope you enjoy yourself the rest of this holiday season.
Click the image below to open a printable version of this list.