Though we all know resolutions can sometimes be more aspirational than attainable, many of us still set them in earnest every year, only to be disappointed in our progress (and in ourselves) after a few months. But we don’t have to set ourselves up for failure. When we develop smaller, manageable, more bite-sized goals, we can succeed — even when it comes to meeting our bigger goals. This is true for all areas of life, but it seems to be particularly resonant with our financial goals, which we can track and measure with concrete numbers.
When we set our sights high, it’s beneficial to break out our goals into multiple micro-goals to understand exactly what we need to do to stay on track, explains certified financial planner for SoFi, Lauren Anastasio. Plus, when we can see we’re progressing toward a goal — when we realize we’re on track toward achieving something — it boosts our confidence, making us ultimately more successful.
Here’s a look at how to plan some small monthly financial resolutions for every month of the year. At the end of the year, you’ll be oh-so-very glad you did.
January: Give Yourself A Financial Audit
Before you can make any real progress, you need a firm vision of where you are right now. That’s why Colleen McCreary, a financial advocate and Credit Karma’s chief people officer, suggests spending time in January auditing your personal finances, including your spending habits, income projections, current debt, subscriptions, and other money-geared responsibilities. “From there, set a weekly or monthly budget for yourself that will help you stay on top of your expenses while also allowing you to pay off any debts and add to your savings,” she explains.
February: Set A Money Date (With Yourself… And Destiny)
No, it doesn’t need to be on Valentine’s Day, but you do need to make sure you love yourself enough to secure your future with smart financial choices. So, in honor of cupid’s date, set up a “money date” with yourself, your partner, your roommate, or whoever you make purchasing decisions with. During this session — which pairs great with some wine or cocktails! — talk through where you are currently, where you’re headed, what you’re doing to get there, and how you feel about your progress. Getting more comfortable talking about your income, budget, and overall emotions toward finances will make you more comfortable and self-assured. Money shouldn’t be a taboo topic, rather one that helps you grow.
March: Don’t Make Your Accountant Hate You
If you use an accountant, McCreary says to give them a call ASAP since this is their busy season, and you’ll want to make sure they can fit you in. Or, if your taxes aren’t complicated, there are many free or inexpensive services available online. The point is to start the paperwork process now, so you aren’t scrambling until the last minute when tax day arrives. Even if your taxes are something you must do, that doesn’t make this month’s small financial goal goal any less important or impactful. Being ahead of the curve and knocking an item off your to-do list early opens up more space for other activities and investments.
April: Clean Everything… Including Your Finances
As McCreary puts it, we clean our garages and yards in the spring; we might as well add our finances into the mix. “Take a few minutes to see if you’re staying on top of your finances. Look at your spending habits over the last few months and look for areas where you may have overspent, and where you can cut back moving forward,” she recommends. “Purge any categories that are putting you in the red, and get yourself back on track.”
April signifies the start of the second quarter, and we still have plenty of time in the year to make meaningful shifts in our routine if we’re falling behind on savings or spending above our means.
May: Look Into Your Interest Rates (And Find Out If There’s A Better Interest Rate For You)
Part of being financially savvy is keeping an eye and ear out for deals. And sometimes, this includes exercising the fine art of negotiation. Chelsie Moore, CFP, CFA, the director of wealth management and financial planning for COUNTRY Financial, suggests taking the month of May to dig into the interest rates you’re currently paying on credit cards, your mortgage, or any other loans. In most cases, all it takes is picking up the phone and asking what your rate is, and if there’s a way to get a lower rate, or bring your rate down by refinancing.
“Paying a lower interest rate saves you real money and can help you pay down your debt faster. It’s something that’s really easy to do and puts more money in your pocket,” she shares. “It can also help you identify where you want to focus on paying down debt. You are in charge of your financial life! It’s a quick and easy way to win, with minimal effort.”
June: Remind Yourself What’s Most Important To You
As you close out the first six months of the year, make June the month where you prioritize your financial goals. Maybe this means saying ‘no’ to an extra cocktail, opting for the economy seat on your vacation, or another cost-savings choice. For every smart money decision you make, remind yourself of all the reasons you’re critical with your purchases. Perhaps you hope to buy a house, you are ready to start your family, or you need a nest egg so you can quit your job and pursue your passion. “Prioritizing your goals helps put things into perspective, as well as reach your goals faster,” Moore explains. “It teaches you that you’re not going to get everything at once, but eventually, your goals can be accomplished.”
July: Christmas In July (No, Really!)
Though holiday-lovers would gladly put up their decorations as soon as they close out summer, others wait until mid-December to hang their tidings of joy…Regardless of which team you’re on, one thing we can all agree on is that we need to start the holiday savings process in July, McCreary says. If you save $75 a month starting in July, you’ll have $450 come December. “That’s a big chunk of change once the holidays arrive,” she continues. “You can, of course, save more or less than that, but start to think about the holidays in the middle of the year, so you don’t overspend later in the year.”
August: Acknowledge The Rainy Days Ahead
Having a steady paycheck isn’t always in our control (as much as we might wish it were!) However, one thing that is completely within our grasp is building an emergency fund. Having the recommended three-to-six months of cash in an emergency fund will help us to feel less anxious. “This ensures you can continue on the financial path you are setting for yourself. It allows us to live for the future,” McCreary says. And while you’re at it, look into insurance coverage to see if it’s a smart fit for your lifestyle and savings goals. The goal of this month is to make sure you’re protected should a tragic, expensive or unpredictable event occur.
September: Give Yourself Some Credit
As summer comes to a close and we head into a new season, McCreary recommends checking your credit score, so you know exactly where you stand. “Not only is it good to know what your score is and how it tracks throughout the year, but checking your reports regularly will help you spot any errors,” she shares. “Disputing those errors can help you improve your credit scores and get back in good standing.” This is especially important should you have plans to buy a home or car anytime in the next year or so. You’ll want to make sure your credit score is trending upward, and report any inaccuracies ASAP.
October: Circle Back To That Budget (You Know You Missed It)
Is your grocery bill at a new high? Did you spend more than you expected on back-to-school clothing and supplies? Are you close to your end-of-year savings goal, or have you surpassed it? With only three months left in the year, Moore says October is a smart time to revisit your budget and make adjustments, so you don’t fall off track in the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays. “If you do change your spending and stick to your budget, you can accomplish your goal by the end of year,” she shares. “It may just require discipline and allowing yourself to make harder choices.”
November: Automate Everything, If You Haven’t Already
Whether it’s debt payments, bill pay, or recurring transfers from checking to savings, automated systems take some day-to-day financial decision-making away from us — and that’s a good thing. At this point in the year, you likely have a good idea where you stand financially, and where you might be able to add more to your savings and investment accounts — instant transfers and payments can make the process much more intuitive and less stressful. And it will help you save more since it’s harder to spend it once you’ve already allocated your funds, Moore reminds. “Automatic payments may help you avoid late payment penalties, which are a waste of money, and automatic savings can add up without effort or feelings of sacrifice,” she adds.
December: Check Yourself Before You Wreck… Literally All Of Your Progress
While it’s always a good idea to be informed about your spending, December is often when our shopping and impulse-buy swiping gets a little out of control, says Anastasio. Though she doesn’t recommend anyone become obsessive with numbers and checking their savings and investment accounts 24/7, the idea is to always be in-tune with your purchasing, so you don’t overdo it. “Implementing this behavior, even temporarily, will help establish money vigilance and improve your awareness moving forward,” she adds.
READ MORE ON HERMONEY:
- 4 Couples On How Working Together To Meet Financial Goals Brought Them Closer Together
- 3 Tips For Setting And Reaching Your Financial Goals
- How To Set Financial Resolutions, Based On Your Goals
- Top 11 Financial New Year’s Resolutions And How To Fulfill Them
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