Hourglass

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Deadlines get a bad rap. People dread them, shirk them, and skirt them. But deadlines can also be your friend, prompting you to get things done so you can later kick your feet up with a clear conscience.

You know all about the obvious financial deadlines -- pay this bill by the end of the month, file your taxes by April 15, and so on. But there are some less obvious financial tasks that merit a deadline, and the end of the year is a logical focus for some of these tasks.

Here are five things to make sure you do before the end of this year.

1. Eliminate checking account fees
According to the latest MoneyRates.com Bank Fees Survey, 2014 saw a continued disappearance of free checking accounts. Consider them an endangered species -- but not yet an extinct one. Finding one of these rare creatures can save you over $150 a year, so if you're paying checking account fees, start searching for a free checking account now.

2. Boost your retirement fund contributions
If you contribute to an employer-sponsored plan, you have two reasons for boosting contributions before year-end. One is to boost your tax deduction for 2014, and the reason is that annual contributions to these plans are capped. If you have been meaning to ramp up your contributions, there is still time to get a higher amount in for 2014 and then continue these higher contributions in 2015. Plus, if you are over age 50, you can make an additional "catch-up" contributions in 2014.

3. Run some numbers on a refinancing
The economy seems to be at a crossover point: Growth has improved enough for housing values to rise, while current mortgage rates are still relatively low. That has created new refinancing opportunities for previously underwater home owners -- but do not expect that combination of factors to last.

4. Opt out of overdraft protection
It's a ruthless dynamic: As more and more customers opt out of overdraft protection, banks keep raising overdraft fees to make up for the lost revenue. Therefore the longer you stay in overdraft protection, the more this burden will fall on your shoulders.

5. Shop for savings account rates
Interest rates on savings accounts have yet to improve, but Federal Reserve policy is going through a transition that could eventually lead to higher rates. Banks that have established themselves as rate leaders now are likely to lead the movement of rates upward, so why not get at the head of the parade?

Don't let important financial decisions become New Year's resolutions. Instead, get a jump on your financial obligations by taking care of them before the end of this year.

This article originally appeared on MoneyRates.com.

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