Welcome to 2017! Many of us take the time to create resolutions in the new year. Some want to lose weight and get into shape. Others want to make this the year they find the love of their life. And others vow to have better finances and get their financial lives in order.
Unfortunately for many, we give up on our goals by the end of January and go back to living life the way we were before. But this year is different. At least when it comes to your finances. I am going to walk you through 12 months of goals. Each month, you will have a different task to do in order to improve your finances.
The great thing about this list is most of the things are easy. You won’t have to fight urges every day of the week. In fact, for many of these goals, all you have to do is take 15 minutes one time a month. I know it sounds too good to be true, but hear me out.
Follow along and your finances will be in better shape in 2018 than they are now. Let’s get started.
12 Months of Goals For Better Finances
January: Increase 401k Contribution
Your goal for January is simple. Increase your 401k contribution. The amount you increase it is up to you but I would encourage you to stretch yourself and contribute a little more than you think you can. If you are thinking 1%, then bump it up to 2%. If you were thinking 5%, increase it 6%.
We tend to doubt ourselves. In the long run, we won’t notice that money not in our paycheck. Go a little higher than you think you can.
In order to increase your contribution, reach out to your human resources department. They will either email you a form to fill out or send you to the website where you can make the change yourself. In either case, doing this will take 5 minutes. Once you submit the form, your goal is reached and you are done for the month!
If by chance you don’t contribute to a 401k plan, then make your goal to start contributing.
February: Build a Cushion Automatically
No, we aren’t building a sofa here. We are making sure we have an emergency fund. In order to complete this goal, we want to set up an automatic transfer to our savings account. To do this, figure out when you get paid and then set up a transfer with your bank each time for a set amount.
As with the first goal, you decide the amount to save. Try for at least $20 per paycheck. If you have trouble setting up your transfer, reach out to human resources at work. In many cases, you can split your direct deposit between accounts.
Just update your instructions to have a small amount of your paycheck transferred into your savings account.
Setting up your transfer will take 10 minutes max. And once you do, you are done! It’s an easy way to build your emergency fund.
March: Challenge Yourself
This month, we are changing things up a bit. Instead of doing something that will take a few minutes to complete, you need to do something all month long. I want you to go on a spending challenge. Take a category that you spend money on and eliminate it from your budget for the month. Skip These Expenses to Cut Your Spending.
For example, let’s use dining out. For the month of March, try to go the entire month without dining out. You might struggle a little but this builds confidence. It also helps you to find ways to use the food you have in your pantry too. To get started see Frugal Foodie: 6 Alternatives to Dining Out.
Obviously you can’t pick to not pay your mortgage or rent, so it has to be something that you decide to spend money on each month.
What are you to do with the “extra” money you have from not spending? Transfer it over to your savings account.
For April, we are going to follow in the footsteps of March and have you work a little for this goal. I want you to go around your house and find things that you no longer use, want or need. We are going to get rid of them. Turn Your Spring Cleaning into Extra Cash!
For now, just collect them all and pile them up somewhere. When you are done, take a minute to look at everything. The idea is to realize how you spend money foolishly sometimes. Once you do this, you are to separate the pile into 3 smaller piles – donate, sell, and trash.
Take the trash pile and throw the stuff away. Take the donate pile to your local charity. Make sure you get a receipt and keep it in case you itemize your deductions.
For the sell pile, take some pictures and post the items on Craigslist. When you sell some things, put the money into your savings account. If after awhile the item doesn’t sell, you can either donate or trash it.
May: Stop And Think
This month, we are building off of the goal for April. Remember the feeling you had when you looked at the pile of stuff you spent money on and don’t use? You want to take that with you into May. Whenever you are about to buy something, I want you to stop for a minute and think.
Ask yourself if you really need this item. How will it help you and your family? What is the benefit of it? If someone was standing in front of you and in one hand he had the item and in his other hand he had the amount of money it costs in cash, which would you choose?
The goal here is to not buy things on a whim. We do this a lot and end up regretting purchases. By stopping for a minute and thinking things through we avoid many of the regrettable purchases and keep more money in our wallet. Also see How to Figure Out Whether Or Not You Can Afford It.
For June, we are switching gears. I want you to take some time and think about the things you enjoy doing. You can spend a weekend thinking or take a little bit of time each day to think about this. The goal here is to find ways you might be able to turn a passion or hobby into a small income stream.
For example, if you read resumes all day long and enjoy it, you might be able to make some money on the side helping people out with improving their resumes. Or if you enjoy playing guitar, maybe you can give a few lessons.
Your goal isn’t to start making money this month, it is just to come up with some ideas and see if they make sense for you to try to earn some extra income from. If you find something, then by all means start making money now. But don’t feel like you failed if you aren’t making any money come the end of the month.
July: Make More Money
This month, the goal is to turn that passion or hobby into an income. Don’t get caught up with how much or little you might make. Any money is helpful. See 14 Ways to Make Extra Money.
I remember when I started to run my website on the side. I was working a full time job that paid my bills and allowed me to save some money. When I began making some extra money on the side with my sites it was incredible.
I put that money into savings and quickly watched my savings balloon in value. It was a great way to get ahead and in the long run, it opened up a lot of doors for me.
August: Review Your Finances
We are over half way through the year and it is time to look over our finances. Take a couple of hours and see where your checking and savings account balances stand. How much debt are you in? Are your investments allocated to match your risk tolerance?
By looking over these things, we can make sure our finances are in order and there are no surprises. Once you look things over, I want you to then create a net worth statement.
Divide a piece of paper in half. On one side list out your assets and on the other side list out your liabilities. Total them each up and subtract your liabilities from your assets. The goal is to have a positive number. This means you have more money than you owe.
If your net worth is negative, then aim for reducing your debt and getting it into positive territory.
September: Reduce Debt
Speaking of debt, we are going to start to tackle it this month. For all debts you have, I want you to round up. Whatever your statement says you owe this month, I want you to round it up. For example, if it says you owe $354.95, I want you to round up and pay $360. If you really want out of debt, round up to $375.
By paying a little more each month, you get out of debt faster and you save on interest charges.
October: Prepare For Winter
With winter coming, we need to take a little time now to make sure our house is ready for the cold so we can save some money.
First, we want to tackle the easy things. Check your doors for air leaks. With the door closed, run your hand around the edge of the door and see if you can feel and cold drafts. Alternatively, you can have someone shine a flashlight around the edge from outside while you look to see if you can see any light from inside. If you can, you need to replace the foam insulation around the door.
Next, check your windows. Again, run your hand along the trim and see if you can feel any drafts. If so, get a caulk gun and close the gaps.
From there, we want to check electrical outlets. You only need to check the ones on exterior walls. Take the face plate off and see if you feel cold air. If you do, buy some of the outlet insulation covers and put them behind the faceplate to stop the draft. If the outlet isn’t used, you can also buy the plug cover as well.
Finally, consider adjusting your thermostat. Try to set it for 1 or 2 degrees lower than you currently have it set for. If will feel colder in the house for a few days until you get used to the temperature but after a week, you won’t notice it any longer. And if you aren’t using a programmable thermostat, start using one! It’s a simple way to save money and leads to better finances. Check out our Nest Thermostat Review of Savings.
November: Focus On Your Career
Around this time of year, most people have their annual review. It is when you find out if you are getting a raise or not. If you find out you are not getting a raise or if you aren’t getting as large of a raise as you hoped, it is time to take action.
First, sit down with your manager and find out why. Maybe it was a tough year and no raises are being given. Or maybe you weren’t as productive as you could have been. Once you figure this out, you have some options.
First, you could work harder. Find ways to become invaluable. Talk to your boss about things you can do that are above your job description. Also review How to Ask for a Raise.
If you decide that staying at your current employer is not the best long term fit, take the time to polish your resume. Make sure it is updated and then start creating multiple versions. You do this so you can more easily tailor it to a potential job when you find one.
December: Plan Ahead
For December, you want to start planning for 2018. Look at what you spent on gifts this year. Did you go into debt to buy them? If so, make it a point to save more next year so you can pay for the gifts and not end up in debt.
Additionally, are there any big events coming in the new year that you need to save for? The sooner you start, the better off you will be.
Review your net worth again. Look how far you have come this year and use it as motivation to push yourself further ahead financially in 2018.
The more we plan for things and have goals and objectives, the better off we will be in the long run.
You now have a full year of goals to better finances. Some you can complete in less than an hour. Others will take you all month to do. But if you complete each of them, you will see your finances improve over the course of the year. You will be saving more, paying off more debt and be a smarter person with your money.
You can then take all of these lessons with you into the new year and beyond to help you achieve your financial goals.
More on Your Financial Goals