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10 ways to boost financial health

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The start of a new year is a perfect time for couples to re-evaluate how they manage their money. We offer for your consideration 10 New Year's resolutions that may help you and your spouse achieve peace at home.

1. Swap financial chores with your partner for a month or two. The cross-training will help ensure that both of you are fully acquainted with all the details of your financial picture. And each of you may come away with more appreciation for what the other does routinely.

2. Linger over a quiet dinner and muse about your next 10 to 30 years together. The number crunchers would call this an exercise in setting goals, but you can call it dreaming about your future.

3. Automate bill-paying as much as you can. If your bank doesn't offer online bill-paying, check www.quicken.com, which offers a free three-month trial and charges $6.95 per month afterward to handle up to 20 bills a month.

4. Cash in your coin jar. If your bank won't take unsorted coins, dump 'em into a Coinstar machine at the grocery store (check www.coinstar.com, or call 800-928-2274 to find one nearby). Coinstar keeps 9 cents on the dollar.

5. Review overlap in your mutual fund investments, including those in your 401(k) accounts. To get a free look at where you stand, check the portfolio "instant X-ray" feature at www.morningstar.com. For a deeper analysis, try software from Overlap Inc. (800-683-7527; www.overlap.com. A one-year subscription, with quarterly updates, is $158.

6. Inventory everything you own. Then take photos or a video of everything you can and record account numbers for those you can't. Store the list away from home to prevent it from being lost in a fire.

7. Grab a copy of your credit report. For $8 you can get a copy from Equifax, one of the major credit bureaus, either through the mail or on your computer screen (contact 800-865-1111, or go to www.equifax.com). Correct any errors you spot, then ask creditors to close lines of credit you're not using.

8. Audit pocket money for a month to take stock of where that walking-around cash goes — even if you don't choose to share the gory details with your spouse.

9. Look for ways to cut $25 from your monthly budget. Switching to a different cell-phone plan or auto-insurance policy could do the trick.

10. Donate to a new charity, perhaps one you seek out, instead of one that finds you first.