So much happens emotionally during the rush of the new year that it is hard to imagine that life goes on post-January — but it does, and all 11 months after seem a lot more stressful and a lot less hopeful than the clean slate of January. But that’s why I think we’re so lucky that January exists — it is a month made entirely for planning. Much like a dreary Monday at the beginning of what is sure to be a long, stressful workday, you can use January to advantage by using it to plan — and plan, and plan, and plan — to make sure a lot of your most stressful and tedious loose-ends are tied up before we even hit February 1st.
If you do nothing else this month, try to take care of a few of these “housekeeping” things — that way, you’ll 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.
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) birthdays (because truly, if you don’t have these written on your calendar before anything else you do this year, you’ll 100% forget them all when they roll around) and any other things that you already know the dates of so you don’t plan for anything else on those days (things like weddings, 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 birthdays and keep them stashed so you don’t find yourself running out to Target for a birthday card each month 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 birthday cards in their homes.)
3. Important pet-related responsibilities.
An important January-thing for a pet owner is to make sure you’re all set on what the upcoming year will hold for your beloved animal. Obviously, things will come up — but having a general idea of when you should take them for their yearly checkups and vaccinations (if applicable), and marking the date each month that they will get their medications (like heartworm or flea and tick meds) will ensure that you never let it slip your mind. Of course you love and pay attention to your pet — but they are often silent, and might not remind you that you’ve forgotten to give them their heartworm pill this month, so having that little note on your calendar is majorly helpful. I like to put them all on at once so the second I flip to a new month it is the first thing I see.
4. A list of goals.
Cheesy, and New Year’s Resolution-y, but still a really good idea. It isn’t always necessary to give yourself a list of rules and resolutions 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.
5. A detailed plan of attack for achieving those important financial goals.
Which is a broad and obvious statement, but January is the perfect time to project how you’ll meet your savings 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 holiday gifting, 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.)
6. Clean your oven.
Which isn’t money-related, but it is so annoying, and you probably don’t do it all too often (even though you probably should.) And okay, you’re technically supposed to do this every three-to-six (ish) months, but I feel extremely creatively boxed-in by that rule, so I say do it in January and then put it out of your mind at least until the oven is visibly filthy again, which hopefully isn’t as soon as three months. Just get it done so you can say you did it, and move on with your year.
7. Take stock of medicine cabinet and pantry, and toss expired things.
It is up for debate whether or not all expiration dates are important or necessary to live by, but if you prefer to err on the side of caution, 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 1998.
8. 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.)
9. 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 (yasss), 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. 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.
Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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