NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- One list down, one to go.
With Christmas out of the way, you have just a few more days to begin digging in to that other holiday list: The checklist of financial moves you should make before year's end.
We've surveyed the landscape of financial advisers, brokerages and some of the finest financial minds in the publishing business (hat tip for the adapted line to Mr. Homer Simpson). Most of what we found breaks down into a handful of smart tips that will do you well in 2015.
Category One: Mad Max
No, not your credit cards! We mean it's time to make sure you max out your IRA contributions, use the maximum benefit from your flexible spending account (FSA) and get your charitable contributions into the mailbox. All of these will save you on taxes early next year. To avoid penalties, if you're older than 70-1/2, don't forget to take your minimum required distribution from retirement accounts. If you're in the red on a stock you don't love, selling it now will let you harvest tax losses in time for your 2014 return.
The rules on FSAs have been loosened a bit this year, so you may be able to carry over up to $500, or delay spending the 2014 money you set aside until mid-March. But it's a good time to pay off any outstanding doctor-bill deductibles, or maybe buy a pair of glasses.
Self-employed people might want to max out on the business expenses by Wednesday. If you need a new office chair or an extra computer, now's the time. Let Uncle Sam and your state pay up to half, depending on your bracket.
Category Two: Procrastinate
A very few things might benefit from procrastinating, and one is deferring income into next year if you can. For some workers, that may mean deferring payment of a bonus. For self-employed people, that can mean timing the outgoing invoices to make sure the money arrives in 2015.
The tactic will at least defer the time when you have to pay until you do first-quarter estimated tax returns. If your bracket is going to be lower next year, it can even save you some money over time. But be careful: If you expect to make materially more money next year than in 2014, the smart move may be the opposite -- to pull as much money as possible into this year.
Category Three: Rebalance Yourself and Your Money
Just as this is a season of resolutions, your money can benefit from a little extra holiday-season attention to planning. Some must-dos:
1. Rebalance your portfolio among stocks, bonds and other assets.
Two years of double-digit stock gains may have you more exposed to equities than you want to be. If your plan two years ago was to be split 50-50, for example, you may be skewed 60-40 to stocks by now. The idea is to stick to the plan you made rather than to be seduced by a good year or two for a particular fund, or for stocks in general, that may end in exactly 2,008 tears. More or less.
2. Get ready to exploit trends emerging in late 2014 and 2015.
There's been a bit of news lately. The economy grew at a 5% annual clip in the third quarter, the best in 11 years. Growth in Europe and China has been slowing. Oil prices have been careening downhill even faster than stocks did six years ago. What should you do? Here's some advice from pros.
Think tech, T. Rowe Price Associates equities chief Bill Stromberg wrote in a year-end note to the firm's clients. "Despite their non-U.S. earnings exposure, a number of technology stocks appear attractively valued, given out expectatons for growth in mobile broadband, cloud computing and emerging-market consumer markets."
Putting our money where his mouth is, T. Rowe's biggest tech holdings include Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) in the New America Growth Fund; Amazon, Google (GOOGL) and Priceline (PCLN) in the T. Rowe Price Growth Stock Fund, and broadband carriers like Verizon (VZ) and Comcast (CMCSA) in their Media and Telecommunications fund.
Think oil, but carefully. Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist Savita Subramanian argues there are ways to try to turn the oil drop to your advantage. One is to play names like Chevron (CVX) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) for their dividend potential, since they are financially as big and relatively steady as a tanker. T. Rowe also notes the possibility for "substantial rebounds" in some oil stocks. But stockpicking may be risky: With capital spending by drillers expected to drop, a lot of equipment and services companies might take more losses.
Consumers will save money on gasoline, but they'll be likelier to spend it on staples than consumer cyclical goods, Subramanian says. Historically, staples-oriented companies like Wal-Mart (WMT) , Dr Pepper Snapple (DPS) and Kimberly-Clark (KMB) have done better when oil goes down, she says. She also highlights airlines including Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Southwest Airlines (LUV) .
Think international, BlackRock strategist Russ Koesterich says. With U.S. stocks trading around 17 times next year's expected earnings, they're no longer cheap, he writes. It takes guts, but Japan and some emerging markets may offer better value, he says.
Or think local. Municipal bonds have had a big year, and look good for next year as well, Koesterich said. "Yields for longer-maturity munis rival or exceed those of their taxable counterparts on a before-tax basis, and this only increases the after-tax value,'' he wrote.