The holidays are behind us, and it’s time to step into a New Year. Want to start 2020 off on the right financial foot?
We’ve designed a 12-month financial calendar to help those looking to take back the reins on their finances. Each month, we’ll dive into a different financial theme, giving you a quick to-do list of financial tasks to help you reach your goals this year.
In January, we’re focusing on planning and budgeting – a fresh start to the year means a fresh financial perspective. To make it easier to stick to your financial goals, we’ve provided a calendar printout that you can use to track your progress and keep yourself accountable month in and month out. After all, writing down your resolutions makes you 42% more likely to achieve them.
Download and print out your monthly calendar to stay on track, and check back in with us each month to get your next financial to-do list.
Your January Calendar
Now that you have a calendar view of your financial goals, let’s break down each of your January to-do’s.
January To-Do List
1. Run a financial inventory
It’s time to take a hard look at your financial habits – is your spending out of control? Millennials say they spend an average of $478 a month on “nonessential” purchases like nights out, new clothes, and other “extras.” Do the math and that comes out to a yearly total of $5,736 that could be put toward an emergency fund, vacation budget, or retirement savings.
A basic financial inventory can be used to get some insight into how much money you have and where you may need to rein in your spending. Examine your income and compare to your average monthly expenses. Are you spending more than you earn? Do you have money left over at the end of the month?
By taking stock of your current financial state, you’ll be well-poised to tackle the next task.
2. Make S.M.A.R.T. financial goals for the New Year
It’s time to set financial goals for January – and beyond! With financial inventory in hand, you should have a better idea about where you should focus your energy. Perhaps you’ve found that you’re spending too much money on takeout, or maybe it’s time to focus on paying down student loan debt. Whatever you’ve discovered, it’s important to set your financial goals using the S.M.A.R.T. methodology:
- Specific: Your goal needs to be as specific as possible in order to ensure you achieve the end results you’re after. As you craft your goal, include as much detail as possible. For example, instead of saying “I want to make more money,” you might say “I want to get a second job to make more money.”
- Measurable: How will you know you’ve reached your goal? Make sure your financial goals have clear benchmarks. For example, saying “I want to spend less” should be “I want to save $1,200 this year by spending $100 less per month.”
- Achievable: It’s great to aim high, but don’t create goals that aren’t feasible. By identifying what you hope to achieve financially, you can spot potential challenges upfront. Is your financial goal possible? Do you have the ability to make it happen, and what do you need to do in order to get there?
- Relevant: Is your goal relevant to you? Does it fit with your overall financial plan? If your goal is to save money for a vacation fund, but you already have a robust savings account, you may want to focus your energy elsewhere.
- Time-bound: Set a time limit to keep yourself accountable. By selecting an end date, you can break down your overall goal into smaller, more actionable steps. For example, if you want to save $450 for a new television by the middle of June, set monthly goals to save $75.
3. Download a budgeting app
Keeping your budget close at-hand can help you stay accountable. Up to 69% of smartphone users agree that budgeting apps have helped change their spending habits.
Within a budgeting app, you can categorize your spending, track your budget in real time, and set financial goals. Remember the financial inventory you did in task one? Imagine how much easier that would be with an organized rundown of all of your spending.
Budgeting apps like Mint help you track your spending by breaking down your expenses into categories – at a glance, you can see how much you’ve been spending on your streaming subscriptions, takeout orders, or travel costs. You can also make projections and see how much you can save by cutting down on spending in other categories.
4. Create a monthly budget
It’s important to understand what you can spend each month, but only 41% of Americans say they use a budget. Once you understand where your money has been going, you can create a plan for how you’d like to spend (and save!) it moving forward. If you discovered you’re spending more than you make, cut down on unnecessary spending. If you’ve found you have extra money, you may want to put it towards an emergency fund.
Creating a monthly budget now can help ensure you reach your long-term financial goals.
Note: Learn more about creating an airtight spending plan by reading “Budgeting 101: How to Make a Budget”.
5. Set up auto-payment for all of your bills
In today’s technology-driven world, paying your bills is easier than ever. Automatic bill payments allow you to transfer money from your bank or credit account directly to a creditor, vendor, or service provider on a pre-specified date. That way, you don’t have to initiate the payment every time a bill is due.
Shockingly, only 32% of American’s bills are set up on a recurring basis. Don’t pay late fees for missed bills; set it and forget it with auto-pay options.
6. Take back holiday returns
Over the holidays, you may have received some gifts that didn’t quite hit the mark. As January comes to a close, make sure you take back any holiday returns. Up to 77% of consumers predict they’ll return at least some portion of the gifts they receive this holiday season.
Many retailers provide a 30-day return period, so make sure you head back to the store and turn those unwanted gifts into cold hard cash (or gift cards) that you can use later on in the year.
Check out this roundup of holiday return policies for 31 top retailers from Business Insider.
Make 2020 the year you reach your financial goals. Use our financial calendar to stay on track and make your money go further. Check back in with us at the beginning of each month to grab your new monthly financial calendar.
Prefer to do your financial planning online? Create an editable copy of our monthly template in three easy steps:
- Open our January Calendar Template in Google Sheets
- Select “File”, then “Make a Copy”
- Save in your own Google Drive to make edits