7 Things to Do This December

Mom and daughter baking holiday cookies

It's easy to let the holiday spirit carry you into 2014 without paying attention to much else. Before you rush into the next year, be sure to do these seven things in December:

Give Yourself a Break
A lot of people take extra days this time of year, and there's no reason you shouldn't be one of them. Use some of your banked vacation time to spend with family and friends, and take time for you to reflect on the year that's coming to a close.

Request Vacation Time
The holidays are a popular time for travel, so put in your request for time off now if you haven't already. When it comes to getting approved, it's usually first come, first served, so up your chances of getting days away from the office by emailing your supervisor immediately.

Maintain Spending Spreadsheet
It's hard to stay organized during the busy holiday season, so you need to make a point to keep your spending in check. When you arrive home after purchasing any gifts, update your spending spreadsheet to reflect who you can check off your list and how much you spent.

Look Ahead
If you wait until January to think about what you'd like to accomplish or do differently in the New Year, a month will pass before you've made any changes. Start thinking about your resolutions now; I like to begin by making one personal and one professional goal.

Plan For Upcoming Expenses
It's hard to think of January as being right around the corner, but the first month of 2014 is just weeks away. The holidays can distract us from upcoming costs that don't include holiday-related expenses, so plan ahead to enter the new year more financially prepared.

Prepare Homemade Gifts
Avoid having to pull last-minute crafting sessions by starting to prepare your homemade gifts now. Check out our list of over 100 of the best DIY homemade gift ideas. You'll do a better job making presents for hostesses and others if they're not done in a rush, and you're less likely to go buy something out of budget when you've already made progress on homemade gifts.

Make Your Tax Deductible Donation
Donate to your favorite nonprofit before the end of the year so that you can claim your contributions as a 2013 tax deduction and help to lower your tax bill.

Make sure the charity is a qualified organization and you can look it up on the IRS website.

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