Five financial gifts to give yourself – Twin Cities

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Amy Lindgren

We’re done with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but that doesn’t mean we’re finished shopping. For job hunters and others seeking a new career path, this season often presents a dilemma: Where to spend one’s precious resources of time and money?

Even so — just in case you don’t have enough on your plate already — here are five (more) things to do in December that count as financial gifts you give yourself.

For the most part, these are small potatoes in terms of their financial impact. But at least one could be life-changing and all of them represent a habit of financial self-care that could become a better gift than any other you’ll give or receive this year. Best yet — no wrapping paper required.

1. Adjust your health insurance. More specifically: Check to see if you’re eligible for insurance subsidized through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare.

You may not have known that the American Rescue Plan has broadened the scope of ACA eligibility and subsidies. This means that individuals and families that weren’t previously eligible for subsidies may be now, including some people with alternate coverage options. By repairing what’s been called the “family glitch,” the ACA can now save families hundreds of dollars over employer-based dependent policies.

If you’re already receiving your health insurance from an ACA exchange, then you can review your current policy for changes while also comparing it against other options. You may be surprised to find new opportunities to save money or improve your coverage. Even if you don’t make any changes, updating your information could result in a lower premium.

On the other hand, if you haven’t used the ACA exchange before, you’ll be reviewing options as a new customer. In this case, you can begin with the federal hotline number or website: 800-318-2596 / This will lead you to your state’s ACA-based program, such as MnSure for Minnesota.

The deadline for open enrollment is Jan. 15, but if you want insurance in January, you need to act in December. The process can be putzy, but the potential payoff is substantial, so it’s worth getting started soon.

You might be wondering how this topic of health insurance would apply to job seekers and career changers in particular. It’s simple: Worrying about health insurance puts a stranglehold on career decisions. Even if you don’t qualify for a subsidy, knowing you can purchase your own coverage lets you consider self-employment, a return to school, or even early retirement. Finding out what’s possible could literally change everything for you and your family.

2. Revise your broadband contract. Or not — sometimes this can be an extremely frustrating exercise. But at least check into the Affordable Connectivity Program that ensures a monthly discount of $30 or more per qualifying household. This is an income-based program that your service provider is mandated to offer. The application process is fairly simple and can usually be done on your provider’s web site or on the phone with a representative.

3. Review your auto-renew subscriptions. Most of us have at least a few of these gremlins nestled deep in our credit card or checking accounts. These are the monthly fees for streaming services, software we don’t use anymore, apps, and even gym memberships and charities.

The question to ask yourself: Is this still something I value? Also take note of the fee itself. Some of these agreements allow for rate changes without notifying you. You may be paying more than you originally agreed to, without even realizing it.

4. Move your money. Ah, dahling, those tens of millions? We just leave them lying about in case we need a new yacht. If that’s not you, then you probably do need to consider where your spare cash is stashed. After years of quarter-percent interest, it’s hard to break the habit of disregarding the offers made by financial institutions. But now that some are offering 3 or 4 percent, you may find that switching accounts will make sense.

5. Buy the bonus cards. Tis the season for bonus cards when you purchase an initial gift card from a restaurant or store. If you frequent a particular establishment already, it’s a good deal to buy a gift card for $100 and receive the bonus card as well (typically $20-$30). Just be sure to check the details, in case there are restrictions or expiration dates on the bonus card. But if it’s a good deal, stock up and you can be enjoying the bonuses deep into the new year.

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