TV set turned to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve? Check.
Party game to kill time as you wait for the clock to strike midnight? We can help with that.
Gather your friends and family to try your hand at some New Year's Eve trivia:
Times Square Ball Drop Tidbits
Last year, 9.1 million people tuned in to Dick Clark's New Year's Eve show to watch the famed ball drop in New York's Times Square. This tradition has largely carried on since the ball's maiden voyage in 1907. But how many folks know the ball's vital stats?
Times Square New Year's Eve Ball diameter in 2011: 12 feet.
Diameter for maiden voyage in 1907: 5 feet.
Construction materials in 2011: Aluminum, 2,688 Waterford Crystal triangles, 32,256 LEDs .
Materials in 1907 for maiden voyage: Iron, wood, and 100 25-watt lightbulbs.
Bubbly Brain Teasers
What's a New Year's Eve party without champagne? Here are a few factoids on the bubbly that so many Americans chose for toasting in the New Year, as well as on what others drink around the world to celebrate at the stroke of midnight. Cubans, for example, drink an alcoholic cider, and also eat 12 grapes to represent each month of the year, making a wish with each grape consumed.
Champagne with the largest average price pop over the past decade? Cooks Imperial Grand Reserve, with a 65.6% increase.
Champagne with the fastest growth over the past decade based on bottles sold in the U.S.? Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Yellow Label NV -- a 129.8% increase.
Most popular champagne in the U.S. based on bottles sold as of October? Andre Extra Dry.
Favorite New Year's Eve toasting drink in Japan? Sake.
While America and a number of other countries celebrate New Year's Eve on Dec. 31, many countries use a different set of dates to signal the start of a new year. Some of these dates go back to ancient times, when spring was selected because blooming flora and fauna signaled new life, while the fall was selected by some cultures because it marks the time when people are grateful for the crops that are harvested. The website GoalsGuy Learning Systems has an extensive list of when other countries celebrate New Year's Day. Among them:
Bengal: April 13 or 14.
Burma: On or around April 16.
China: Yuan Tan falls between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, depending on the lunar calendar.
Thailand: From April 13 to 15.
Pakistan: Nowruz falls on March 21.
Whether you celebrate New Year's on Dec. 31 or another date, the meaning of the new year is pretty much the same from country to country: a clean slate and hopes for better times ahead.
Motley Fool contributor Dawn Kawamoto is heavily invested in the spirit of the holidays.
As an added incentive, some employers and insurers are offering rewards in the form of gift cards or discounted deductibles for employees with healthy habits and fewer sick visits to the doctor.
Vicky Oliver, in her column Eight New Year's Resolutions for Frugalistas, advises trying to stay one step ahead of the retailers who are forever luring us with clever marketing strategies. "BOGO" sales (Buy-One-Get-One), she points out, only save you money if you actually want the second item. Ditto for "loss leaders," -- items the store under-prices so far that it loses money on them, in the hope that once you're there to buy them, you'll also pick up some higher-margin items that will allow them to turn a profit on you. Using special promotions and loss leaders only when they can really supercharge your savings -- and shunning them otherwise -- is the best frugalista formula, Oliver says.
She also recommends becoming a "groupie." Take advantage of the power of group buying sites, like Groupon and LivingSocial, that offer deep discounts, and special promotions from social sites like foursquare.
What's complex can be intimidating, and therefore tempting to ignore. Vow to simplify your financial life.
For starters, put bill-paying on auto-pilot. If you're still writing and mailing checks, set up online accounts so that bills are paid automatically. In addition to giving you easy access to your bank and credit-card accounts and spending history, going paperless has an unexpected benefit: People who pay bills online are happier.
Automate savings too. To the extent your cash-flow permits, max out your contributions to tax-advantaged savings vehicles -- 401(k)s, traditional or Roth IRAs, and 529 plans for college savings, advises Benjamin Sullivan, a financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group. Also, reduce the number of retirement accounts you have by consolidating 401(k)s from former employers and any other traditional IRAs into one rollover IRA.
If the last few years have taught us only one thing, it's that you can't afford to be in the dark about money matters. Make 2012 the year to focus on your financial education.
The more knowledgeable you are, the more active you'll be in planning to reach your financial goals, says Bob Stammers, director of investor education at the CFA Institute, a nonprofit organization of investment professionals. Consider joining an investment club, or take advantage of any investing help that may be offered by your employer, such as one-on-one professional advice or educational workshops.
For most of us, it's less a matter of if an emergency will arise than when. And anyone who's been out of work for any length of time at all knows how quickly you can deplete your resources.
Start an emergency fund if you don't already have one. According to Susan E. S. Howe, a Philadelphia-based CPA and a member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, your emergency fund should have enough cash to cover at least three months of basic expenses.
It make take a while to reach that goal, but keeping track of where you spend your money even for a week can help you identify ways to cut back and start saving. Put all your change in a bucket for a month to see just how much money you could be saving rather painlessly, says Luke Vandermillen, vice president of retirement and investor services with the Principal Financial Group. Consider using that spare change to build or add to an emergency fund. If you're paying someone to mow your grass or wash your car, do it yourself and stash the extra cash. Not only will having a safety cushion help you when personal emergencies arise, it will also help you feel more comfortable during ups and downs in the economy.
Here's a risk-free place to put your money with a surefire return on investment of well over 10%, suggests Michael Kresh, president of Creative Wealth Management: Pay off your high interest debt. If you're getting charged 12.99% on your Visa account balance, and you're earning 1% on your money market account, take money out of the money market to pay off the credit card -- you'll end up with an 11.99% return.
Try to pay more than the minimum each month. Bankrate.com's credit card minimum payment calculator can show you how paying just a little more each month can dramatically reduce overall payback time.
One key to getting financially fit is a creating a household budget. You don't have to get too granular, so skip the complicated categories and subcategories. While having all those details may seem like a great way to help you understand your spending, a budget designed that way is unrealistic to maintain for the long term, says Devin Miller, CEO of Balance Financial.
Automate the tracking process as much as possible. Look for budgeting tools that do the work for you -- aggregating disparate accounts into one place, downloading data nightly, categorizing/memorizing transactions and more.
Monitor your progress. "No one gets it right on the first try, so check in regularly to make sure you have a clear understanding of how much money you have spent or have left, and adjust your budget accordingly," says Miller.
Be transparent. A household budget isn't a state secret. Keep your spouse or significant other up to date on spending, remaining funds and what the priority expenses are to ensure you're on the same page.
The New Year is a fresh start. Learn from last year's mistakes and move on. As for this year's resolutions, don't mean to change, do change.