The Christmas long weekend is about to start. Once you’ve drunk the eggnog, sung the carols,  hung all the stockings with care, and carved the turkey, you might want to take a few steps back, assess and analyze the past 12 months, and consider how best to plan your finances for the coming new year. Whether you plan to build your savings and investments, or simply shed credit card debt, you can find peace of mind by setting financial goals to make sure that you are on the right path to a financially healthy 2016.

Here are some year-end tips, and last minute opportunities, to get you thinking about your 2016 financial plan and ways to keep more of your money in your own hands.

Budgeting

Now is the time to sit down and think budget. Take a look at your income over the last year, your fixed expenses on a monthly basis, anticipated variables (grocery shopping, emergency cash, clothing, etc.) and what is left over. It is always a good idea to set a monthly spending budget so that you stay on track with your finances and prepare for the year ahead. Goldhar’s rebalance tool can help you do that. It’s free. It’s easy. You can even set up a folder to save your budget every month. Give it a test drive now.  http://shedthedebt.ca/rebalance tool

Charitable Donations

Make your planned donations before the year-end in order to maximize your tax credits. The more you give, the larger the tax credit you can claim. Donating online is an option and you can, in most circumstances, donate right up until December 31 and get a tax receipt for the 2015 tax year.

RRSP Contributions

Although you have until midnight on February 29th of 2016 to contribute to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), it is a good idea to prepare for your contribution. Unused contributions each year are carried over to the following year. If you did not maximize your RRSP previously, you can utilize those unused amounts this year. Now would be a good time think about what you can contribute for the 2015 tax year. A large contribution by February 29, 2016 could result in a pleasant tax refund.

The benefits of contributing to your RRSP is that you pay no tax on the growth of your investment until the money is withdrawn. This helps your money grow faster. You also can claim a tax credit for your contributions, which reduces your tax payable for each year that you contribute. This can be a great incentive to maximize your contribution each year. If you don’t yet own a home, you can take money out of your RRSP tax-free to help with the down payment on your first house (up to $25,000).

Top up your TFSA

Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) provide Canadians with another the opportunity to grow investments tax-free. You won’t get a tax credit for your contribution. But you pay no tax on the growth of the investments inside your TFSA account, and you pay no tax when you withdraw the money. There are limits on how much you can contribute each year, but your unused contribution room carries forward from year to year. For 2016 you can put up to $5,500 in a TFSA. Now is a good time to think about how much you can budget for your contributions.

RESP Contributions

If you are currently investing in a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to save money for a child’s post-secondary education, make sure to take advantage of free money from government grants and tax-sheltered growth on the investment. You can contribute up to $2,500 per year per child, and the government provides a grant that will match 20% of your contribution, to a maximum of $500 per year. Even if you can only afford to contribute $100 per month, you will still receive the 20% match from the government grant, which is essentially free money coming your way. If your child turned 17 in 2015, this is the final year you are eligible to receive the government grant.

Prepay expenses that are eligible for tax credits

There are numerous tax credits that can reduce your tax payable and put a refund in your pocket come tax time.  You may want to consider prepaying some expenses (i.e. transit, tuition, medical, etc.) before the end of the year. Just be careful that the prepayment will be accepted by the Canada Revenue Agency. You may want to consult with your tax accountant on this one.

…and there you have it… Goldhar’s 2015 financial year-end tips!

If your financial plan is more focused on how to shed the debt and achieve financial stability in 2016, talk to the Goldhar shed the debt professionals. A personal evaluation of your debt position is free with no obligation. With offices across Ontario, there’s a Goldhar office near you. Call 1-855-541-5114 anytime. Or use the easy contact form here. http://shedthedebt.ca/contact/

Here’s to happy and debt-free 2016!