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I always find early January is a good time to really think long and hard about what I want for the upcoming year. The weather is bad, so it’s the perfect time to curl up with your journal and a cup of tea and map out your year. Here are 6 key things you should do now so that you can make 2015 the year that you stay organized, save money, and reach your goals.
1. Write down your goals for the year.
It’s the beginning of a new year, which means it’s the perfect time to think about what you did last year, how far you’ve come, and what you want to accomplish this year. Once you’ve pondered your goals long and hard, write them down. There is something so powerful about writing things down. Maybe in your journal, or your planner, or on a little notecard pinned to your wall. Write them somewhere you’ll see them often, so that you’ll stay focused and on track.
It takes more than just figuring out what you want, though – you’ve got to learn how to set goals that are realistic and reachable. Make sure you make some smaller goals and some larger ones. For your bigger dreams, plan out a road map of smaller stepping-stones to reaching them. People who write down their aspirations and create road maps to success are much, much more likely to reach their goals. Where do you want to be in 2016? Now’s the time to start on your way there.
2. Make a budget and stick to it.
Too many of us coast through life from paycheck to paycheck, trying not to pay too much attention to how much we spent the other night when we went out and not knowing exactly how much our shoe habit is costing us. This year, that all stops. It’s time to sit down, look at your finances, and set a realistic monthly budget for yourself. Using a program like Mint can really help you get a realistic view of what you’re actually spending your money on, and then you can use it to create a budget to help you avoid wasting money on unnecessary expenses. And of course, budgeting doesn’t mean cutting fun out of your life – if your Saturday night girls’ nights are absolutely CRUCIAL, then by all means create a budget category for them. Budgeting is about being realistic about how much money you have, and then planning where to spend (and save!) it.
3. Organize your digital life.
Let’s face it, most of what we do on a day-to-day basis these days is stored in some sort of digital device. If organizing your closet and your bathroom still leaves you with a nagging sense that something’s not done, then you probably need to get your digital life organized too.
This means going through your documents and files, deleting things you don’t need, and creating organized folders for the things you do need. It means finally getting your backup system in order so that if your hard drive crashes you won’t be up a creek without a paddle, so to speak. It means finally downloading that software update, for the love of God.
It means throwing out that old laptop that’s been giving you nothing but problems and keeps shutting down randomly and finally getting a new one – the timing is good, because stores like HP and Toshiba are offering deals on many of their most popular laptops and tablets.
4. Start getting your tax situation in order.
Waiting until the last minute is just generally not a good idea, no matter what the project is. Make sure you’re not waiting until the last minute with your taxes by getting started now. Start gathering whatever paperwork and information you need, and get the program (like TurboTax) that you need, now. That way when the end of March rolls around, you won’t be scrambling.
5. Get rid of things you no longer need.
This is the best time of year to get rid of things you don’t need anymore, because you probably did plenty of shopping (and gift receiving) over the holidays and have lots of new goodies. Start by going through your closet and getting rid of things you no longer wear. My usual rule of thumb is, if I haven’t worn it for 6 months or more, it goes. Do the same for shoes.
Make sure you also go through things like books, toys and games (if you have kids), DVDs, and other clutter you have around the house. If no one is using it, you’re better off without it. Plus, if you donate your old clothes, toys, and books, they’ll probably get plenty of use by someone who really needs them.
6. Resolve to save more this year than last year.
Having a solid savings fund simply gives you more freedom in life. It gives you freedom from worrying about what you’ll do if something unexpected happens. It gives you the freedom to decide you want to move, or switch jobs, or make some other big life change. It gives you the freedom to travel, or to give really nice gifts, or to invest. Saving is just generally a good idea. If you have no other New Year’s Resolutions, then resolve at least to save this year. You can build your savings into your budget, so that each month you just automatically put away some money into a savings account. You’ll be amazed at how you don’t even have to think about it, and the money adds up.
If you’re thinking you barely make it each month and you don’t have enough extra to start saving, think again. Look hard at what you spend your money on, and you’ll probably find some things that aren’t exactly necessities. If you need a little help, check out my article on how to live more simply and frugally. Once you cut out the expenses you don’t need, saving will be much easier. Even if you only put away $5 a month, that’s something.
Once you’ve learned how to set goals for the year and set them, budgeted and organized yourself, and gotten rid of extras in your life that you don’t need, you’re well on your way to having an amazing year. Look out 2015, here we come!