The beginning of the new year can be a fresh start for many things: Your fitness routine, your eating habits, and maybe even your finances. But good financial health doesn’t have to be limited to January. By knowing where you stand with your money, you can get in the best position possible to meet your financial goals well into the year — and beyond.
But how do you start? Take a day-by-day approach to make changes to how you handle your finances. Here are some ideas for goals to complete throughout the month of January, February, or even March. Then, see your hard work pay off all year long.
Day 1: Deposit any holiday cash gifts you received, and put 15% into savings.
While it may be tempting to splurge with your holiday gift money, putting a percentage of any type of income into savings is a healthy habit to build. Experts agree that saving 15% or more of your earnings over time creates good habits for the future.
Day 4: Check your credit score and your credit history.
Your credit history and score can affect your mortgage, your bills, and even your car insurance. It’s important to review this information and look for red flags indicating identity theft.
First, check your FICO® Credit Score. It’s free for eligible Wells Fargo customers when you sign into your account. Next, request free copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) via AnnualCreditReport.
Day 7: Set up auto-pay for your bills.
Missing a bill payment can result in costly fees and also hurt your credit score. Make it a point to set up and use online Bill Pay, and schedule your payments ahead of time to avoid the hassle of late payments.
Day 10: Devise a plan to put your year-end bonus to smart use.
Last year, 75% of employers said they planned to give a bonus check around the end of the year, so you may be sitting pretty on some extra cash right now. Use it wisely — the beginning of the year is a great time to pay off debt or pad your emergency fund.
Day 13: Categorize your spending for the past 3 months.
Getting a clear picture of your spending habits helps you see where you may need to cut back. Make it easy to categorize and track your spending with a tool like My Spending Report. Every dollar you spend is sorted into familiar categories automatically, and you can adjust as needed.
Day 14: Set a new monthly budget, with max spending for each category.
Use what you learned about your spending on Day 13 to create a new monthly budget. Set a spending goal for each category and work to stick to it throughout the year. Using tools like Budget Watch can help you create a personalized budget and keep track of your expenses.
Day 17: Review your retirement plan, and max out your contribution.
Contributing to your retirement plan has multiple benefits — you’re investing in your future and getting a tax break at the same time, since your contribution is taken out of your paycheck pre-tax. In addition, your employer may offer a match, which can significantly increase your contribution. A whopping 23% of Americans don’t take full advantage of employer matching — make sure you do!
Day 20: Create a plan for getting rid of debt.
Put a plan in place to cut down your debt, such as paying off debt with the highest interest rates first, consolidating student loans, or quitting credit cards until you’re debt-free. Writing your plan down can help you stick to it. Remember to be realistic when setting your goals!
Day 22: Strive for a $0 day.
Cook meals with what you have at home, don’t do any shopping, and take advantage of free entertainment like going for a run or spending time at home with friends. You may find your $0 day so easy that you challenge yourself to a no-spend month.
Day 25: Use your calendar to predict expenses.
As you start to fill out your calendar with events and activities for the year, take note of the expenses that go along with them. If you’ve been invited to six weddings this summer or want to go on a big vacation next fall, start saving specifically for those anticipated expenses now. My Savings Plan® can help you create goals and track your progress.
Day 31: You’ve had a successful month! Celebrate with a good book — finance-related, of course.
After a month of tackling everyday finance tasks, you’re on your way to becoming a personal finance expert! Deepen your knowledge by reading a finance-related book on a topic that interests you, like investing, battling debt, or entrepreneurship. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties, by Beth Kobliner
- Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back, by Kimberly Palmer
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich, by Ramit Sethi