-- intro: With less than two weeks to go before the end of the year, both Santa and the "tax man" will be checking their "naughty or nice" lists.
To start, remember that you'll get a better sense of where your money is heading if you know where it's been.
"If you’ve gone a little overboard on holiday gifts or eating out, it might be time to revisit your budget," said Holly Perez, Mint.com spokeswoman and consumer spending expert.
Here's how to enter 2015 without a holiday hangover:
quicklist: title: Develop a debt payoff strategy. text:
"If you have extra cash in the bank, it’s worth making a large payment toward cutting down you debt. If you can’t pay down a debt you accumulated this year, create a debt payoff plan that will get it down next year," Perez said.
If you discover you can't pay off your unsecured debt in five years or less, you may need to talk with a credit counselor or even a bankruptcy attorney, said Gerri Detweiler, a credit expert with Credit.com.
quicklist: title: Automate everything. text:
"The more you can automate, the easier your finances will be in 2015," Perez said. "This is also a good time to review and cancel any automatic subscriptions you aren’t using, such as music streaming services, magazines, newspapers, premium subscriptions, etc."
quicklist: title: Spend your FSA. text: Flexible spending accounts allow employees to set aside a portion of earnings tax-free to pay for qualified expenses, most commonly medical expenses and dependent care.
"So if you have a FSA for qualifying expenses, now is the time to submit any outstanding claims," Perez said. "You can carry over only $500 into 2015, so get those claims in now. This is the perfect excuse to make those doctor appointments you’ve been putting off all year."
quicklist: title: Review your insurance plans and rates. text: Look over your health, life, homeowners, renters and car insurance plans.
"It’s easy to 'set it and forget it,' then end up with the same insurance carrier for years," Perez said.
If you have any changes coming in 2015 that you need to plan for, including getting married, having a baby or buying a home, shop around for some new insurance plans and rates.
quicklist: title: Tidy your tax tasks. text: First, pull out your credit card for tax deductions. Whether it’s a charitable purchase you want to make sure gets counted in 2014, or a business purchase you want made by year end, go online and use your credit card for the transaction, according to Detweiler.
"You’ll have a receipt for this year, but the bill won’t be officially due until next year. And if you get credit card rewards for the purchase, all the better," Detweiler said.
Offset any capital gains by taking losses on positions that are in the red, suggested Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. In addition to the ability to offset capital gains completely, you can also offset up to $3,000 in income with capital losses.
quicklist: title: Make charitable contributions by Dec. 31. text:
And be sure to get a receipt, notes McBride.