I can’t believe it’s already the end of September. I’ve always thought of this time of year as a chance for new beginnings. It undoubtedly comes from so many years of starting a new school year around this time. But I think it’s also because it’s just a little easier to recommit to goals and plans in the fall. January is cold, post-holiday blues set in and it seems like months until there’s something to look forward to (like…summer). But in the fall, life slows down a bit after the social bustle of the summer. The weather starts to get crisp, and the holidays are just around the corner.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m still nowhere close to unpacked from my move. And I’ve put on more weight than I’d like since returning to the land of Mexican food and driving EVERYWHERE. Finally, despite living at home for the last four months, I’ve spent more and saved less than I should have. So this month, I’m working on a reset: spending some time getting things in order, figuring out how I want to deploy my resources and deciding what I want my life to look like come 2012.
9 Steps to a Reset
If you want to join in my attempt to “start over” this fall, I invite you to follow the steps below – I plan to work on at least two per week for the next month or so.
- Revisit outstanding goals: I plan to revisit the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year to see which ones I’ve accomplished, which are outstanding and which I am no longer pursuing.
- Create a diet and exercise plan: Texas has been good for me in almost every way – the one way it’s bad is its impact on my waistline! I plan to exercise at least 3 times per week, attending at least two yoga classes and doing at least one cardio workout on my own. I also plan to do some research to determine an appropriate amount of calories to consume each day, and track my food intake religiously until I get a handle on how much food that really is. I will document my progress (this is a good format) towards this so that I can look back and see exactly what I am doing right and wrong.
- Organize my room: As I’ve said, I haven’t really unpacked. Doing so properly will mean cleaning out my closet, getting rid of clothes I haven’t worn in years, purchasing at least one additional piece of furniture and deciding what to leave in temporary storage in my parents’ garage.
- Create web and hard-copy calendars: I have So. Many. Things. to do over the next couple of months. A boyfriend and brother living 4 hours away only add to the craziness of weekend plans. To make sure I have a handle on what’s coming up, I need to get everything down in writing, and make sure I duplicate it so that I can access my calendar via my computer or in hard-copy at any given time.
- Develop a daily schedule: I haven’t really mentioned it, but I’m studying for an entrance exam in case I decide to go back to school. I also am trying to add exercise to my schedule, and want to spend at least 30 minutes organizing my room several days a week. Plus…tv is coming back and I’m a sucker for a good reality show. Not to mention, I have a full-time job that seems to be trending closer to 50-hour weeks than 40 lately. All in all, it’s clear that I need a good plan for how I’ll spend the hours between work and bed each night. I plan to write this down and stick to it – it will help me make sure I get everything done while still getting plenty of sleep and keeping my sanity!
- Create an investment plan: My company switched 401(k) providers recently, and I’m not too happy with fund options. I do my own investing in my Roth IRA, and think I should switch around some of those investments to make up for underweighted sectors in my 401(k) investments. Since I’m what my friends deem a “financial type,” it’s probably pretty surprising that I don’t have a very defined strategy for my Roth investments – I use some combination of quarterly research, past performance and intuition to pick my investments. I plan to crunch some numbers over the next month to really get a plan for strategically allocating my portfolio across different sectors and between different assets such as stocks and bonds.
- Revisit my savings goals: I have at least 3 long-distance weddings plus my college reunion coming up between now and next June. I also save for things like Christmas presents and known family vacations in my SmartyPig accounts. I’ve gotten a little lazy about setting up dedicated accounts for each separate item, but that really is the best way to manage these expenses. So I need to spend some time creating a budget for each planned trip or other goal, and then set up the goals in SmartyPig.
- Revisit my debt repayment plan: My student loan interest rate changed recently, and I also took on a car loan. Living at home also means I have more money to throw at debt reduction – but I need to crunch some numbers to see what I want to attack first.
- Close dormant bank accounts: I’ve been moving money around due partially to my move and also to new bank fees at two places where I previously held accounts. That means I have lots of dormant accounts out there that I need to close.
The financial impact
Obviously numbers 5 – 9 are directly related to my finances, but I think that 1-4 will also be helpful toward improving my overall financial health. A good calendar of upcoming events will make sure I am saving appropriately for upcoming expenses, and budgeting properly for day-to-day expenses. A daily calendar will leave me less idle time in which to spend money. A diet plan will mean less money on restaurants, snacks and late-night desserts. And a commitment to exercise will mean that I finally start USING the gym membership I’ve been paying for since June. All in all, I might spend and save similar amounts to what I’m doing now – but the outlays will be more targeted, deliberate decisions. I also know that the reset in general will make me feel a little better about life in general – and when I’m happier I always spend less money!
I’ll try to post an update later this fall, but in the meantime you tell me: what would you like to reset this month?