7 Things To Do With Your Finances & Household Before 2021
This article is sponsored by Aspiration.
Towards the end of every year here at TFD, we share a lot of tips for reaching your goals and setting yourself up for a successful and fulfilling new year. We don’t subscribe to a specific set of New Year’s Resolutions or arbitrary milestones that make someone “successful.” But we do believe that having some sort of goal framework is key to feeling fulfilled in your own life, no matter what kind of yardstick you measure your own success by.
This year, though, telling you what to do with your life feels difficult when we have no idea what the next few months will even look like. We’re excited about the recent deployment of initial vaccinations, but like you, we don’t have any idea of the timeline we’re looking at for returning to some semblance of normalcy.
But we also don’t need to spend too much time telling you information you already know. If this year has given us anything, it’s perspective about our values and priorities. Even if you’re not going to be able to reach the goals you set for yourself in January (listen — we’re not, either), the end of the year is still a good time to audit your life as it stands. What do you love about your life, even during a particularly tumultuous period? What do you want to change, even if you can’t do so immediately?
Along with our partners at Aspiration, we’re asking ourselves these questions and finding ways to proactively make our lives better, even in nearly-imperceptible ways. Here are 7 things to do in your financial and home life before 2021, no matter how close you are to your long-term goals:
1. Align your money management with your values, thanks to Aspiration.
One simple change you can make today is switching where you keep your money. Many of us know that big banks are responsible for the largest investments in fossil fuels, but especially if we’ve been keeping our money in the same place for years, we often don’t stop to consider other options. Managing your money with a big bank feels like the default, even though there are plenty of more sustainable options.
In order to make your money management match your values by 2021, consider making the switch to Aspiration. Unlike the Big Banks, Aspiration doesn’t use your deposits to fund oil pipelines or exploration — they are committed to 100% clean finance. Plus, they offer socially-conscious and sustainable ways to spend and save so you can make money while helping make the world a better place. For instance, with an Aspiration debit card, you can get up to 5% cash back on socially conscious spending at Conscience Coalition merchants like TOMS, Warby Parker, and more. They also offer a Planet Protection™ feature, which tallies up the carbon output of all of your gas purchases, then automatically buys offsets to help counter the climate impact. You can drive all you need to with a clear conscience.
And it’s not just smarter for the planet — Aspiration makes it easy to make your money work for you, offering up to 1.00% APY on your Aspiration Save balance with Aspiration Plus. They also have a network of over 55,000 fee-free ATMs. Plus, at Aspiration, you pay what is fair, no hidden fees. Click here to open your Aspiration account today, and earn up to $100 cashback when you spend $1,000 in your first 60 days of opening.
2. Rearrange your living space to make it more functional.
It’s possible you’ve reached the pandemic stage of home organization fatigue. Maybe you’ve arranged and rearranged your furniture more times than you can count at this point.
But chances are, you’re going to be spending this much time at home for the foreseeable future, so you may as well make the most of it. If you’ve gotten this far without making a major change to your living space, despite spending more time at home than ever before, some minor adjustments can make a huge difference in your home’s functionality. For instance, adding shelves is a game-changer when you need to free up space — and you can probably pick up a decent shelf and brackets from your local hardware store for about $10. If you have a perpetual problem area in your home, address the issue head on — do you keep tripping over a chair? Find a new place for it. Is the area around your TV a mess of cords? Spend an afternoon organizing them, maybe even with a cord manager.
And don’t be afraid to make some changes even if you’re renting. Thoroughly check your copy of your lease, but you’re most likely allowed to drill holes and hang things on your walls (as long as you patch everything up when it’s time to move out). If you’re working from home and still haven’t made a proper workspace, check out our tips here.
3. Do one thing every week that you keep putting off.
One thing a lot of us have been missing this year is a sense of accomplishment. To feel a little more in control of your life, we recommend taking on some tasks you know you can accomplish, yet keep putting off. Procrastinating stresses us out, while even just making a plan for the tasks we need to get done can help ease our anxiety.
Of course, the tasks that give us anxiety vary from person to person. But here’s your challenge: no matter what big (or small!) tasks you personally procrastinate, make a plan to tackle them by the end of the year. They might be as small as sending out an overdue thank-you note, as big as preparing your nursery for your new baby, or somewhere in between. Just make a list of each thing you’re currently putting off that’s giving you anxiety, and set a time on your calendar for each one. You’ll start 2021 on the best foot possible — with a blank page, rather than an unchecked to-do list.
4. Do a full inventory/cleanout of your closets, cupboards, and digital organization.
Another thing that can cause undue stress is clutter. Here at TFD, we don’t advocate the hyper-minimalist mantra that you should get rid of every single thing that doesn’t “bring you joy” — your toilet brush, tax returns from last year, and extra towels for guests probably don’t bring you joy, but that doesn’t mean you need to get rid of them. That being said, a lot of us likely have more clutter taking up space (literally or figuratively) in our homes and lives than would be ideal. Plan a weekend between now and the end of the year to declutter your most annoying space, whether that’s your kitchen cupboards or your digital organization. Bonus points if this also counts as one of the tasks you tend to put off!
5. Create a flexible savings plan for 2021.
While we do believe in “paying yourself first,” that’s easier said than done in a year that’s left many Americans even more stressed about money than usual. Setting money aside for savings and investments before you do anything else with your paycheck is an amazing habit, but it’s not super feasible for those living paycheck to paycheck.
Before the new year, create a savings plan for yourself that’s flexible, especially if you have an income that fluctuates each month. Perhaps that means aiming to save a certain percentage of each month’s take-home pay rather than a specific dollar amount. Another great savings method is putting leftover money into sinking funds earmarked for specific purposes. If you do have a goal amount you want to save that isn’t feasible in the near future on your current income, perhaps focus on ways to increase your income, if that’s an option for you. Several companies are actually hiring more due to COVID, and there are also some side hustles that can still be lucrative despite our current reality.
6. Start keeping a running document of your workplace accomplishments to reference during future negotiations.
For many of us, 2020 has not been the year to negotiate for what you’re worth. Many people have been furloughed, received pay cuts, or downright laid off. There’s no shame in treading water because you feel fortunate enough to simply have a job in the first place. That being said, this phase won’t last forever. There will be a time when it makes sense to negotiate a raise or promotion, or even start interviewing for new jobs.
To set your future self up for professional success, start keeping a running list of your workplace accomplishments now. It can just be a digital sticky note, notes app list, or Google doc — save it somewhere easily accessible, where you can add to it immediately when something comes to mind. And your accomplishments don’t have to be huge. List anything that could be viewed as a success, whether that’s landing a major client, fixing an operational bottleneck, or getting positive customer feedback on a project. It doesn’t have to be super organized; it’s simply going to be a list you can refer back to when you need to be prepared to talk about yourself and your professional value.
7. Abandon the idea you know you’ll never follow through with.
Finally, many of us are likely upset that we got through a lockdown (and are likely looking at another) with nothing to show for it. Perhaps you thought you’d finally learn a new language, or write the first draft of the novel that’s inside you, or train for a marathon. If you truly want to accomplish any of those things, we highly encourage you to go for it. But if you like the idea of an accomplishment rather than the reality of it, it might be time to let it go. And that’s okay — because then, you’ll have more energy to focus on following through on the things that truly matter to you.
Ready to put your money where your values are? Sign up with Aspiration today and get up to $100 cash back when you spend $1,000 in your first 60 days of opening.
The Aspiration Spend & Save Accounts are cash management accounts offered through Aspiration Financial, LLC, a registered broker-dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC, and a subsidiary of Aspiration Partners, Inc. (“Aspiration”). Aspiration is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Aspiration is not a bank. Visit aspiration.com/disclaimers for additional disclosure.
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