Now that we’re halfway through 2018, it’s a good time to take a moment to assess how your life has gone so far this year and how you want to steer it in the second half. Mid-year checklists can be tedious, humbling, or even frustrating, but you’ll look forward to New Year’s Eve more if you know you won’t spend it thinking how did I let this year slip through my fingers? It’s hard to know if you’re setting yourself up for success if you don’t occasionally glance back to see where you’ve been and course correct if necessary. Here are six items that are on my personal mid-year checklist:
1. Review your budget.
With six months of You Need a Budget, Mint, or other personal finance app data on your side, now is an excellent time to reevaluate your budget. Is your money being spent the way you thought you would spend it? Are you saving as much as you wanted in your retirement and short-term accounts? It’s time to tweak your budget to better reflect what you’ve learned about your actual spending this year and your changing priorities.
For me, this meant I spent almost a month debating my current short- and mid-term savings strategies before deciding to change them. I’ve been funneling $334/month into my house fund and $277/month into my car fund, but my desire to buy a home has skyrocketed this year. I don’t want to wait another five years to buy — I want to do it within the next three. So that means that once I top off my car fund at the next round number, I’m halting contributions to that account and switching the money over to my house fund.
2. Get insurance quotes.
So I have an embarrassing money confession: in the decade I’ve owned my car, I have only gotten insurance quotes twice. The first time was the night before I bought my car, and the second time was when I had six months of insurance due during a period of unemployment. Unsurprisingly, my car situation has radically changed since then. I’m older, take public transportation for most of my commute instead of driving, and live in a different city, just for starters. I hadn’t taken a serious look at what my insurance needs actually were in years.
Instead of just letting the auto-pay go through at the end of July as normal, I decided to comparison shop for auto insurance. There are several websites where you can compare insurance rates from several companies at once (I used TheZebra.com), which is much easier than when I got quotes one company at a time until my patience wore out. If you haven’t shopped around for car insurance recently — or renters insurance, home insurance, etc. — then take some time before your policy renews to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. (As it turns out, I need to cancel my auto-renewal and switch insurance companies.)
3. Make health appointments.
You know what sucks? Having a temperature-sensitive tooth on one side of your mouth. Don’t be like me and wait months to address the problem, discover you have a leaking filling, and then have to wait an additional month to get your filling replaced. If you have dental insurance, make sure you have your routine cleaning scheduled for the second half of the year.
If you have health insurance, schedule your free annual exam. Mine was in February, and I’m glad I did it instead of blowing it off, because I walked out with an adjustment to my old medication and a new prescription. When was the last time you checked the “Cannot Fill After” date on your medication? Will you need to get an exam in order to get a new prescription? Your life will be a lot better if you don’t follow my example (again) and wait until two weeks before your prescription runs out to try to get an appointment.
When was the last time you had an eye exam? (At least three years ago for me, so that’s officially on my to-do list.) Called your therapist? Scheduled a massage? Saw a chiropractor? I don’t know what kind of care you need, but if you need a reminder to schedule these things, consider yourself reminded.
4. Check your credit reports.
Now that I’ve been hit with the house-buying bug, I absolutely need to stay on top of my credit reports to ensure that they’re spotless. It’s an important thing to keep an eye on in general, but it is especially important prior to making any big financial moves that require loans or a pull on your credit report. If you’re in the U.S., you’re entitled to one free credit report each year from Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. You can get them at annualcreditreport.com. While you could get them all at the same time, many people space them out through the year so they can catch any issues sooner. This is the strategy that I will be employing this year.
5. Set a new goal or revise an old one.
Remember all of those goals you set in January? Pull them out again, dust them off, and with your 20/20 hindsight, be honest with yourself about your ambition, your abilities, your effort, and the sheer amount of unexpected, stressful things that life threw your way. And then be compassionate with yourself, because perfectionism will make your life absolutely miserable.
With six months’ additional wisdom under your belt, make modifications to the goals that are still priorities for you but that maybe weren’t realistic or got buried under shifting priorities. It’s better to acknowledge you need a lower bar than it is to give up on something entirely in despair. (Hi, goal to exercise 240 days out of the year.) And if you’re one of the people whose goals are going swimmingly, consider stretching yourself a bit to add on a new one if only because sometimes it’s fun to further challenge yourself when things are going your way.
6. Pick something to look forward to.
Look, sometimes it seems like the world is nothing but a heaping trash fire of awfulness. So pick something good, something happy, or something wonderful to look forward to. It could be something small — I’ve recently started painting my nails on Mondays while watching Elementary, I just went to the local farmers’ market this season, and I’m desperate to read Anna-Marie McLemore’s Wild Beauty this fall — but whatever the size or the budget, pencil in a slot on your calendar for something that will bring you joy. Quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily, just so long as you’ve got something in the future to get you through the day.
Sometime this week, grab your favorite beverage and an assortment of snacks so you can devote a few hours to ensuring your life is on track or making a few course corrections. It’s good practice to regularly check in with yourself about how your life is going and plan to improve it. What’s on your mid-year checklist?
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