Smart SpendingSmart Spending

8 steps for a midyear money checkup

We're halfway through the year. Do you know where your money is and whether it's working for you? Here's how to find out.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 20, 2012 3:31PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWe're halfway through the year. Are you halfway to reaching your financial New Year's resolutions? I thought I was, but a quick check on my money proved me wrong.

I have some catching up to do before I can meet my financial goals by the end of the year. If you do too, we need to talk.

In the video below, Stacy Johnson has six quick steps to give your money a midyear tuneup. Check them out and read on for more details, as well as two more smart steps you can take.

Review your goals

Image: Couple paying bills in living room (© Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty ImagesYour money should always be working toward something. If you set a financial goal at the beginning of the year, now is the time to check on your progress. For example, my goal was to add $1,800 to my savings account this year. Since we're halfway through the year, I should have $900 added to my savings account. I'm a little shy at $750, so I'm playing catch-up.

If you don't have a goal, set one -- like adding to your emergency fund, paying down debt or saving for the down payment on a house. Once you have a goal, start tracking it. I use Mint's Goal Tracker to keep track of my progress, but a pen and paper work too.

Check your investments

Pull your recent statements and check on both your retirement and nonretirement investments. Do you have a good mix of stocks, bonds and cash savings? The right mix for you depends on your age, investment plans and risk tolerance.

If your investment portfolio could use an upgrade, there are ways to invest without much money, such as mutual funds. You no longer need $1,000 up front to get in; many funds will let you invest for $50.

Don't forget to check on your savings account. My bank lowered the interest rate three times over the past two years, so I switched to an online savings account. It's linked to my checking account, and transfers are automatic.

Check on your 401k plan

If your employer has a 401k plan, make sure you're enrolled and contributing at least enough to get the full company match. (If your company doesn't, or even if it does, make sure you have an individual retirement account.)

Update your tax profile

If you've gotten married or divorced, had a child, changed jobs or suffered a pay cut, your tax withholding could be off and you could be paying too much. Like my dad always says, "Taking too much out of your paycheck is like giving the government an interest-free loan."

To calculate a new withholding, use the IRS Withholding Calculator. If you need to adjust, ask your employer for a new W-4.

Pull your credit history

Visit, get a free copy of your credit reports and do a midyear checkup on your credit history. There are lots of ways to increase your credit score, starting with your free credit report:

  • Check for errors. If you find any, dispute them with the credit bureaus.
  • Pay down your debts. Aim to get your balances below 30% of your available credit limit (or paid off entirely).
  • Pay any past-due accounts and keep them current. That's 35% of your score.
Check on your FSA

Do a quick review of your flexible spending account. Find out how much you've contributed this year and tally up how much you've spent so far.

Since we're six months into the year, you should be halfway through your FSA account by now. If not, make a plan to get through that money by Dec. 31, since you'll lose any money you don't spend by the end of the year. Here are a few FSA spending ideas:

  • Teeth cleaning.
  • Physical exams.
  • Prescription glasses and contact lenses.
  • Prescription medications.
  • Medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, first aid kits and braces.

To make it easier, visit a site like's FSA Store. Common eligible items are listed there, you can track your FSA spending, and you may qualify for free shipping and other deals.

Track your recent spending

I'm at my financial best at the beginning of the year. It's after New Year's Eve, I've made my money resolutions, and I'm watching every dime I spend. A few months into the year, I start to slip. I've forgotten all the plans I made, and I'm back to my old habits.

To get myself focused again, I track my expenses for 30 days around June or July. Every dime I spend (including cash purchases) is tracked by category. Then I go through and see where my money leaks are. This year, it's dining out. I'm already $130 over my restaurant budget this month alone. But now that I see it in black and white, I can stop overspending and plug the leak.

Update your budget

If you created a budget at the beginning of the year or several years ago, it may need some fine-tuning. For example, I realized I overestimated my monthly grocery bills by about $75. Now that I know, I can reallocate that $75 to my savings goals.

After you track your spending, add up the categories and compare them with your budget. Adjust your budget for any overages and put that money to better use, like padding your savings or paying down debt.

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Jun 30, 2012 4:50AM
Savings? Are you joking us? Seventy five percent of our community is under water with bills piling up or just barely making it. Without going out or using credit, buying the cheapest possible food and clothing, we're clearing debt with a hand full of singles left in our pocket. We have jobs, but those jobs pay ridiculous wages and an economy that is several decades inflated past any increases. The job maket has become a cruel place to look and work. Put a smile on it, work harder or hit the curb. They call it performance based companies who's motto's are coach up or coach out. A select few can manage a savings.
Bravo to daydreamer1958 for injecting some reality into all the fake progress and fake rebounding prosperity stories that the regressives and their media propaganda wing keep churning out because they hope to fool the little people a little longer and keep their little tin savior in in the fall.  Fact is that on top of the four fake progress stories about nonexistent new jobs, nonexistent new home loans, nonexistent retail spending and volatile stocks whose fundamentals have been gutted by top management looting the companies and now safely away in their life rafts from the Titanic (so there's surely no real net earnings or net savings by the people, but the opposite),  this week also brought the largest tax increase since the 1930s Great Depression via the anti-health act, so the misery index for the little people just shot up far more. This is all a giant ponzi scheme.  Why not simply turn out the lights on Amerika and call it a day.
Jun 30, 2012 7:25AM
Obama keeps taking my money so can't save it.  And make sure you buy health insurance now because we dont want to get taxed, can't save it there either..??? Lottery maybe
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.