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Pressing the Reset Button

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 [1], 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 [2].

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m still nowhere close to unpacked from my move [3]. 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 [4] 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.

  1. Revisit outstanding goals: I plan to revisit the goals [5] 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.
  2. 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 [6] is a good format) towards this so that I can look back and see exactly what I am doing right and wrong.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 [7]. 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 [8]. 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 [9] 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!
  6. 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 [10], 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 [11] my portfolio across different sectors and between different assets such as stocks and bonds.
  7. 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 [12] 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.
  8. Revisit my debt repayment plan: My student loan interest rate [13] changed recently, and I also took on a car loan. Living at home also means I have more money to throw at debt reduction [14] – but I need to crunch some numbers to see what I want to attack first.
  9. Close dormant bank accounts: I’ve been moving money around due partially to my move and also to new bank fees [15] 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?