I love January. Life can give us so much stress whether it's our job, health, the heavy weight of responsibilities that you feel are on your shoulders, the list goes on and on. But when the year starts over again, I feel that it provides a clean slate for me mentally to start over and re-organize and re-prioritize my life.
If you do nothing else this month, try to take care of a few of these “housekeeping” things — that way, you will hardly have to think about them again until next year.
1. Your taxes.
If possible, file as soon as you get all of your tax papers (which should hopefully be real soon). The earlier you file, the earlier you’ll get your refund, and the more chance you’ll have to correct any possible mistakes before it is all actually due.
I highly recommend using Turbo Tax. I've used their services for over a decade except last year (which was a mistake). Here is an article I wrote about 6 reasons why I plan on filing my taxes using Turbo Tax in 2018.
2. Write out your yearly personal calendar.
Meaning mostly annual checkups (including dental, a visit with your primary doctor, a visit with your gyno, and any other specialists you regularly check in with) and any other things that you already know the dates of so you don’t plan for anything else on those days (vacations, work trips, or any of the 100 events related to someone’s wedding that they plan months and months in advance).
Bonus points: Buy cards for all the special occasions you will be attending and keep them stashed so you don’t find yourself running out to Target for a wedding card each month in the spring and summer as another one pops up. (This is a tip taken from basically every grandparent in the world, but they’re totally on to something stashing cards in their homes.)
3. A list of goals.
Cheesy, I know, but it's still a really good idea. It isn’t always necessary to give yourself a list of rules that you force yourself to stick to for the year, but it is a good idea to set some sort of intention for the year and have an idea of the big-ticket things you’d like to accomplish, especially if the goals are money-related and need to be chipped away at slowly over the course of the year.
4. A detailed plan of attack for achieving those important financial goals.
One of my personal long term goals is to retire before the age of 50. Here is a post I wrote on 5 easy steps on how to retire at 50. Every year in January I try to align my monthly goals so I know that eventually I would be able to retire sooner rather than later.
January is the perfect time to project how you’ll meet your financial goals. The new year makes everything feel a tiny bit more achievable — seeing that you have 52 weeks exactly to reach a goal is somehow comforting.
Whether you’re hoping to have your emergency fund finished by end of year, want to have a dense chunk of savings by December for a vacation, get started now by planning out week-by-week how much you’ll be aiming to set aside to reach those goals. Once you have a written plan of how much you’ll need to put aside each week to get to where you want, the actual saving part feels easy and happens without having to think too hard about it. (Bonus points if you automate the transfers to your savings account — then you really don’t need to think about it.)
5. Take stock of medicine cabinet and pantry, and toss expired things.
I know this isn't money related, but it is important because we don't do it often. How many times have you opened up your medicine cabinet only to find a whole bunch of junk in there? And more than half is probably expired. It is up for debate whether or not all expiration dates are important or necessary to live by, but if you prefer to be on the safe side, January is as good a time as any to get rid of the jar of pesto that expired two years ago and the bottle of Ibuprofen from the drugstore that closed down in 1999.
6. Do a password overhaul.
Although you should probably be doing this pretty often, it is hard to justify a password change unless the site we’re trying to log into forces us to change it because it detected funny activity. I hate changing my passwords (because I hate the moments when I just want to log in to an account but am struggling to remember what I changed my password to a month ago) but I think January is a good time to give yourself a bit of a clean slate and update all of your accounts, especially if you’re going to be like me and basically ignore the fact that you should be doing it every few months. (Bonus points: create a filing system where you safely store all of your usernames, passwords, and other account information — that way, you can update it often, and refer to it if you ever get confused.)
7. Get a budget template ready in accordance with new goals/financial situation.
The new year brings a lot of new money-things, like goals you hope to achieve, and possibly even raises that came out of your end-of-year review at work, so it is a good idea to take a look at the budget you’ve been working off of and outline yourself a new template to use in the coming months.
Here is an article I wrote on how to easily budget your money using the 50/20/30 rule. Hopefully this helps you take the first few steps if you dont know where to start.
Obviously, do this all bearing in mind that your budget is a living, breathing thing that will very likely change monthly, and possibly as often as weekly — so at least having an outline that can be tweaked and changed along the way is a great way to keep on-track without boxing yourself in to a set of rules that may soon become unrealistic for you.
I challenge you to try and knock just one of these items a day. Sit down in the morning with a big cup of coffee and check one item off a day. Within one week you will have accomplished all your housekeeping! Feel free to shoot me a message if you're stuck and need some assistance. I am here to help! :)
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