There are just 31 days in December, but the year-end spending can cause a money hangover that lasts well into 2012.
To help stay on course, here are some of the key dates and important money matters to keep an eye on this month.
7: Medicare open enrollment – The period for selecting a Medicare plan ends. Consumers can learn more in “Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods,” at http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11219.pdf .
16: Free shipping day – On Friday Dec. 16, more than 2,000 merchants will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve, see www.freeshippingday.com .
22: First day of winter — Now’s not the best time to buy a winter coat. So if you must buy a coat, be sure to make the most of holiday sales and use shopping comparison websites to your advantage.
26: Ready to spend? — Close out the holiday shopping season by taking advantage of after Christmas and year-end clearances.
31: New Year’s Eve — Among your personal improvement resolutions for the coming year, be sure to vow to get your financial house in order.
Also keep in mind:
— Be careful if you’re making year-end investing moves. If you buy a mutual fund in a taxable retirement account, be sure to purchase it after it has made any planned capital distributions. Otherwise you’ll owe Uncle Sam.
— Take the time to understand a store’s return policy if you’re shopping for gifts. Some stores tweak their policies to make them more lenient for the holidays.
— The holidays are a time for giving. But you’ll want to be sure that a charity is appropriately qualified before making a donation. Further guidance is available on the IRS website at http://tinyurl.com/36syn7 .