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Start With Cold Water For Better Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are easy: boil some potatoes and mash them. Starting the process with cold water make sure the potatoes cook evenly.Most of the time when you're cooking vegetables, you want to start with hot water. Potatoes, says The Kitchn, are an ex...
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Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Yearly checkups and other things we should do regularly—but not necessarily that often—can easily be forgotten over the other 364 days' full of events. Put these ten sites (or types of sites) on your calendar for your yearly visit, though, and you can save money, make sure your information is secure, and otherwise check if you're on track.

10. Get Your Free Credit Report

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

By law, everyone in the US is entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com (make sure you don't go to similar-sounding sites, but only this official site). You can grab all three at once or spread out your requests so that every four months you can check your report for errors. More than 25% of people have potentially damaging errors on their credit reports, so make this at least an annual habit.

9. Check Apps' Permissions and Security Settings

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

This is like spring cleaning for popular online accounts. Every so often, you should check the security and permissions setting you've given accounts like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so on—as well as the third-party services that connect to them. Previously mentioned MyPermissions and Notification Control are launching pads to these site's settings pages, making it easy to do a yearly audit.

8. Adjust Your Withholding So You're Not Giving the IRS a Free Loan

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Even if you have a professional do your taxes, you might want to give IRS.gov a yearly visit to check how much you're withholding and make sure you're paying just enough in taxes. Huge refunds sound great—except when you consider you could have had that money earning interest in your bank account throughout the year. It's probably easiest to remember to do this when you get your tax refund or bill.

7. Select Your Health Insurance and/or FSA Contribution Amounts

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Open enrollment season—when you can set up a flexible spending account and make changes to your health insurance plan—only rolls around at a certain time of the year, which is right now, late fall/early winter. If your employer offers more than one plan, you'll want to check your options every year (even if you're happy with your current plan), just to make sure you have the best and most affordable coverage to date. Similarly, if your employer offers an FSA and you want to participate in it (for healthcare or dependent care tax breaks), you have to enroll every year. You'll get a notice from your HR department about your eligibility, but might want to mark the deadlines on your calendar just to make sure you don't miss them.

6. Check Your College 529 Plan Investments

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

If you're saving for your kids' college education with a state-run, tax-advantaged 529 plan (or, frankly, any other kind of investment), you'll want to make sure each year your investment is on track. Some plans offer age-adjusted investments (like lifecycle funds for retirement, but adjusted for college goals for your kids), which balance automatically, but if yours doesn't or you have a more hands-on approach to investing for college, make sure you're reviewing your investment plan at least once a year.

5. Check and Rebalance Your Retirement Investments

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Likewise, at least once a year—maybe the same time you're reviewing your taxes—check to make sure you're still on track for your retirement plan. Compare how much you should be saving with how much you've actually saved and make sure you have a diversified portfolio with the right asset allocation. Even if you have a lifecycle fund that automatically adjusts the investment allocation for you, it's a good idea to check up on your retirement account at least yearly.

4. Challenge Your Property Taxes

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

This one's for the homeowners: Once a year there's a special season when you can put more money in your bank account (no, it's not home selling season). It's the timeframe in which you can appeal your property taxes, the second biggest expense for homeowners. In some areas, there may be a risk to filing an appeal, but if your town won't potentially raise taxes if you challenge the tax assessment, the money you can save might be worth fighting for. Check your town notices for when you can appeal your property taxes.

3. Check Your Social Security Benefits

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

The Social Security Administration is keeping tabs on how much money has been taken from your paycheck (or contributed by you, if self-employed) to calculate your total benefits should you file for them (whether because you're retiring or get disabled). Even if you're naturally a trusting person, mistakes do happen. A visit to your Social Security statement at the official Social Security website every year to compare how much your W2 (or tax return) says you're paying to Social Security and how much they say you have is quick and painless. It could give you peace of mind that you'll get the benefits you've earned. (Easiest to do this each year when you get your W2 and are doing your taxes.)

2. Compare Insurance Rates

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Some car insurance companies offer more discounts than others; some are holding back on lower rates you could have unless you speak up. Either way, you should check each year for better car insurance rates and other types of insurance like home insurance. "A 15 minute call could save you 15% or more on car insurance" is actually true.

1. Find Out How Much of a Raise You Can Negotiate or Ask For

Top 10 Web Sites You Should Visit at Least Once a Year

Finally, there's the issue of your paycheck. You want your salary to go up at least enough to cover inflation—and, more importantly, to get paid you what you're worth. Opportunities to get a salary bump usually happen once a year, so you'll want to time your raise request and how you present it strategically—especially if you're long overdue for one. Remember, you don't get what you don't ask for, and raises are one of those things that are expected and planned for in company budgets, but you might have to be proactive about bringing the subject up. To prep, figure out how much your job is worth with yearly visits to sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Salary.com.

Photos by Alex Millos (Shutterstock), OpenClips, RMPH, Arvind Balaraman (Shutterstock), carroteater (Shutterstock), Images_of_Money, 410(K) 2012, Charles Schwab.

Lifehacker's Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

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