Finding Your Financial Path in the First Thirty-One Days of the New Year
As we head into a new year with open hearts and minds, we are often ready to create resolutions that will set the tone for the remainder of the year. Yet nearly 80% of all people will fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions each year, often crippled by the large goal they’ve set (NY Post, 20181). Since this seems to be the case, how do we set our financial goals to become a part of the 20% success rate?
During the month of January, break down your outcome goal of being more financially stable into smaller action items. Each week of the month is divided into smaller goals that will eventually lead up to being more aware of your current financial situation and creating a plan of action to move towards future financial stability.
Week 1: Understanding Your Current Situation
January 1: Start the year off fresh. Make a list of all your income streams as well as your expenses. See what amount you have left over each month after all regular bills have been taken care of.
January 2: Do an audit of all monthly & yearly subscriptions. Decide if there are any that can be cancelled. Input all subscription fee due dates into your calendar so you can see when this money will be automatically drafted.
January 3: Take a look at all credit card bills. Are you making the needed monthly payment? What does the interest rate look like on each card? Are there other cards that may have better rewards or lower interest rates? (Money Under 30, 20193)
January 4: Reduce your fixed expenses, such as utilities, transportation fees, cell phone bills, cable, etc. What can you cut back on? Are you being charged extra for things you didn’t know about?
January 5: Craft a budget that will restrict your frivolous spending each month. Take this amount out in cash and when the cash is gone, wait until the next month to get your spending money out of the back again.
January 6: Organize a free date night or family night. Go to the library or park or stay home and watch a movie with popcorn and snacks! Get creative – not all good memories need to come with a price tag!
January 7: Check in with what you’ve done so far to get an idea about your current financial situation. Set some goals for the year for your bank savings account as well as your debt.
Week 2: Creating a Plan of Action
January 8: Review the amount of money you have left over each month after all bills are paid. Now, allocate a certain percent of the remaining money to go directly into your bank savings account without touching it. Calculate this directly as a monthly expense.
January 9: : Decide which debt needs to be paid down the fastest and incorporate a monthly payment into your monthly expenses. (The Simple Dollar, 20184)
January 10: Practice the “30 Day Rule”: rather than making any unplanned or impulse purchases, take the money that would have been spent in that way and deposit it into your bank savings account for all thirty days of the month. If you still want to purchase that item once the thirty days have passed, you still have the money available to do so!
January 11: Check your credit score and see how you can gain points for a better score. (The Simple Dollar, 20184)
January 12: Schedule time to meet with a financial consultant. Bring them all the information you gathered over the past few weeks and discuss what they recommend for your financial situation.
January 13: For three consecutive days, keep a record of all money spent. How much did you spend? Do you regret any of these purchases? Was anything unnecessary or needed because you did not plan well? Identify the pattern in your spending.
January 14: Consider consolidating or getting rid of your credit cards completely. Once you’ve done this you will be much more reliant on sticking with your budget instead of making rash purchases that are charged interest each month. (Money US News, 20182)
Week 3: Creating a New Normal
January 15: Create a list of exactly what you need when you go grocery shopping this week. Don’t stray from the list and try to set an exact budget of what you’re willing to spend and stick to it. Purchase generic options instead of brand names to save some money.
January 16: Try to limit the amount of times you eat out or order take-out food. Try to set a goal for how many lunches you will bring to work or dinners you will prepare at home. At the end of the week, see how much money has been spent on food altogether.
January 17: If you need new clothes during this time, try to shop consignment or second-hand clothing stores. You will be surprised by how many treasures you will find!
January 18: Research stocks and bonds and other investments. See if there are things you should be investing your money in to for future profits. (Money US News, 20182)
January 19: Make your morning coffee at home or if your office offers free beverages, take advantage of it. Saving the few dollars each day will add up over time!
January 20: Get a head start on filing your taxes– and if you’re not sure if you’re getting the best results, work with a licensed accountant to ensure you’re filing things properly.
January 21: Calculate your hourly wage. Once you’ve determined that, start measuring everything you purchase in terms of how many hours of work you would need to complete to make up for it. Some things will automatically not be worth it under those circumstances!
Week 4: Creating a Sustainable Future
January 22: Do some cleaning and post any good items you no longer need for sale. You can use Facebook Marketplace or an online site to advertise your sale. For every sale you make, take two-thirds of the proceeds and put it into your bank savings account.
January 23: Research your pension and retirement plans and get better educated about what you could be doing to get closer to your retirement goals. (Money Under 30, 20193) Manulife’s Financial consultants are always here to answer any financial planning questions.
January 24: Invest in professional development and education. If there are courses that could help you to move up in your career, take advantage of those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to invest in your future.
January 25: Find more ways to save, such as discounts and coupons to take a few dollars off something you were already planning to purchase. If there are bundle deals that make sense, spend the extra to enjoy the additional savings.
January 26: Consider taking on a side hustle or part-time work to increase your savings. Pet-sitting, nannying, or ride-share driving can be great options to earn money with little sacrifice.
January 27: Create an emergency fund that is separate from your bank savings account. Contribute to it when you can but keep it above $1000 at all times just in case!
January 28: Host a swap party with your friends – everyone brings things that they no longer want and exchange it with others for their treasures. It’s like shopping but with no money!
Week 5: Celebrate the Successes
January 29: Review what you’ve spent so far this month. How has your bank savings account increased? How has your debt decreased? Is this a sustainable lifestyle for you?
January 30: Identify what challenges worked for your lifestyle and incorporate more of them on a regular basis going forward.
January 31: Set a reward for yourself at the end of this year – if you grow your bank savings account to $X, then you’ll take a week’s vacation in Bali. Or if you pay down $X of your debt, you’ll purchase that new laptop you’ve always wanted. Incentives to save will pay off in the long run!
Although new year’s resolutions often die before the end of the first month, it often occurs due to a lack of planning and sustainability. By breaking down your financial goals into smaller, bite-sized pieces, you can systematically become more financially aware as the month of January progresses. When February finally arrives, you will have put in enough time and effort each day to create a habit that improves your financial stability for the remainder of the year. Are you ready to take the challenge?