If you’ve had ‘sort finances’ floating around your to-do list for far too long, I’ve got you. A new year is the perfect time to start fresh and begin working towards financial confidence, and you’re absolutely not too late.
I subscribe to the notion that the year really starts on February 1 – and that means you’ve still got time to put together a bulletproof money game plan for 2023. Here’s how.
1. Step back from the numbers and think about how you feel
Before you do anything with your numbers, step back. Check in with how you feel about your finances right now.
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There’s great power in reflection when it comes to setting goals and action plans, so give some thought to what went well and what didn’t, and any areas that come to mind for improvement.
The way we feel about our finances can provide a strong indication on where to start. Often we intuitively know that we want to spend less in a certain area, or that we want to start being more strategic with our finances, or finally build up some savings to reduce our money anxiety or to put towards a big life goal.
From these reflections, you can start to pull out some broad goals you’d like to work towards.
2. Look back at your transactions from last year
Looking at your financial behaviour from a bird's eye view is incredibly powerful, and the new year is a great time to do that.
Break down your spending by category to get a clear view of where your money went in 2022. Some banking apps will do this for you, or you might have to allocate a few hours to getting cosy with a manual spreadsheet. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
What can feel confronting at first can actually be incredibly motivating. Say you’ve decided you’d like to save $5,000 this year, for travel or an emergency fund or perhaps towards a wedding. Goals like these can feel overwhelming when you don’t know where that money is going to come from.
When you look back at your consolidated 2022 spending, you can see at a macro level the areas you can pull that money from. Suddenly, lofty goals like ‘save $5,000’ become a lot more grounded in reality, with a clear view of where you can pull that money from.
3. Look at your year month by month
Now you’ve looked back, it’s a great time to look forward. Take a macro look at your year, and take note of anything that could be financially significant. Weddings, events, busy periods at work, holidays, house moves, etc.
It’s also worth taking some time to plot out larger bills or expenses for the year ahead, and factoring these into your broader goals and plans. Taking stock of your year as a whole can prevent you losing out on progress when unexpected costs pop up.
4. Set a fresh budget that aligns to your goals
If you’re shooting for a different outcome, you can’t keep relying on your old system. New year, new budget. It pays to refresh your budget at the start of a new year – or start one if you don’t have one already.
Start with getting clear on what’s coming in and how often. Then, break down your expenses into essential and non-essential, prioritising your essential expenses first. Don’t forget to factor in your savings goals, too. Pay yourself just like you pay your bills.
5. Build in milestones and motivational boosters
At the beginning of a new year, it’s easy to think our roaring motivation will last forever – but it rarely does. Building in milestones and rewards can keep you motivated and moving towards your goals.
Plot out checkpoints and ways to reward yourself along the way to keep you on track and engaged. Plus, it’s a great way to practise delayed gratification.
6. Create a monthly money routine
When it comes to new year changes, routines trump resolutions. Setting a routine around your money goals is key to keeping on top of money leaks and misalignments.
Underestimations and blindspots in your budget can sabotage your system – but when you keep your finger on the pulse, you’re far more likely to spot these issues before they cause a flood.
Checking in with how your budget feels each month is equally as important as the numbers. If things feel too restrictive, you’re on a highway to budget burnout. If things aren’t smooth and simple, you could be experiencing budget overload.
A regular check-in routine could be the difference between hitting or missing your money goals in 2023.