Month-by-Month Money To-Dos
Want to set up your 2021 for exceptional financial self-care without getting overwhelmed? We’re serving up one actionable step for every month of the year to help you build healthy money habits. They’re bite-sized and not too painful to accomplish; even for people who don’t consider themselves budgeters.
The entire year’s worth of steps is listed here. If you want to get ahead, go for it. Otherwise, we’ll announce each month’s to-do on social media to remind you to take your self-care moment.
January – Do a money lookback
The best way to set the year off in the right direction is to take a look at your previous year’s income and expenses with a financial checkup. Ensure you’re spending your money on the right expenses (including things that bring joy and value to your life), that you’re working on saving and investing, and that all extras, like vacations and splurges, are covered. And while you’re reviewing your accounts, make sure to check in on your credit score through a free tool like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma to see if there are any important changes.
February – Pick a helpful app
Want a set-it-and-forget it but still detailed way to manage your money? Prefer something you check in with more often? Choose a budgeting app that works with your money management style to track and avoid any financial missteps. Try Mint, YNAB (You Need a Budget), Quicken, Pocket Smith, Goodbudget, Personal Capital, Clarity Money, Mvelopes, PocketGuard, or Money Patrol. Bonus: Set up automatic transfers from your main checking account to a savings account so you can save toward your goals without having to lift a finger.
March – Start your emergency fund
Setting up a “rainy day fund” or “in case of emergency account” is another step toward healthy finances. From unplanned expenses like medical bills and accidents to repairs and surprise fees, having a cash savings account you can access when you need to means you’re prepared for uncertain times. Set up automatic transfers each month from your checking account to this savings account so you don’t have to think about collecting cash, and you’ll offset the financial burden of an emergency.
April – Have a tax moment
It’s tax month, which can be quite a task in itself, so we’re not giving an extra to-do this month. But do your taxes with extra care. Are you sure you’ve made all possible deductions? Ensure you’ve covered everything, and didn’t miss out on any new tax break savings, by reviewing your taxes this month. Don’t forget to look into your investment (401k, IRA, HSA) accounts, evaluate tax-deductible donations, and if you’re self-employed, plan for the upcoming year’s quarterly tax payments. If you end up with a refund, consider portioning some into your savings, emergency fund, or fun money accounts.
May – Plan for vacays
Use the month of May to get ahead of summer and holiday travel plans by figuring out what you can spend over the next few months so you can enjoy time off without worrying about money. Look at flight, hotel, and rental car fares, set aside funds for holiday gifts or a pet sitter, and consider any expenses you may have from traveling. It can help to work backwards from your typical holiday travel costs to cover those expenses first, then pencil in summer or spring break trips. Know which accounts your travel funds are coming out of as well. Don’t miss out on fun time off because you didn’t plan to save now so you can spend smart on travel later.
June – Check in on your debt
How are you doing with paying down your debts at the year’s halfway point? With six months left, you want to know whether you’re on track or if you’ve racked up more debt. Wrangle your loan and credit card debts and take a look at how you’re doing paying them down. This can make it clear whether you need to refinance or consider a balance transfer to a zero percent APR credit card. The amount of debt you still have at this point also indicates how well you’re doing when it comes to financial health. If you need to be stricter with how your money flows in and out, think about what you can cut down on and where you can move money around to pay it off.
July – Cut monthly costs
Now that you have a better picture of your debt, it’s time to see if there are any places where you can reduce spending to save more. Truebill is a service that can shed light for you! Or, take a look through your statements and evaluate on your own. Maybe you don’t watch all the TV streaming services you signed up for, or you’ve been dining out or spending more on groceries than expected. Can you switch cell phone or internet providers to save some cash? Or lower your utility costs or move apartments when your lease ends to reduce your rent? Review your fixed and variable monthly expenses for any gap areas where you can negotiate down bills or lower your budgeted amount.
August – Prep for the future
Have you thought about your estate plan at all this year? Before school starts and the holiday season gets underway and it falls to the backburner, plan or reexamine your estate plan. If you’ve added a child, gotten married or divorced, had a death in the family, or been laid off, this could affect your assets and will. Explore your options and make sure if anything unexpected happens, your family is protected by future-proofing your finances now.
September – Remember why you’re saving
With the holidays and the last quarter of the year approaching, where would you like to have fun between now and next year, and do you have any exciting goals for the coming year? September is a wonderful month for reviewing what you’re saving for and why, if you want to keep saving for it, and if you’re on track. Maybe you don’t really want that new car anymore, but would rather take a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If your funds are falling short, consider whether you’ve cut all the costs you can (from July’s to-do) and if there are new ways you might consider adding a side hustle (this list from Entrepreneur has tons of ideas).
October – Look at your investment accounts
Take the time this month to look at any investment accounts you’re paying into, like your 401(k) or personal Roth IRA. Have you taken advantage of all benefits provided with your 401(k) and other investment and retirement accounts? Did you take up your employer on their matching contribution, or optimize your investments to deal with market changes or change your savings if you want to retire early? Think about if you’re getting the most out of every dollar you make, and if anything’s changed, make sure your investment accounts are adjusted, too. Plus, consider diversifying your portfolio more, getting lower-fee accounts, or altering the risk level of your investments to rebalance your funds to your current circumstances.
November – Do an insurance check
Because open enrollment for health insurance often begins in November, this is the perfect time to review all your insurance from dental, vision, disability, and health, to pet, home, renters, auto, and life. With new annual insurance plans rolling out, you could save big by switching policies now. Even if you adore your current policy and provider, it’s worth asking if there are any new discounts or ways to save money like lowering your deductible, bundling policies, or switching from monthly to annual billing.
December – Give to your favorite organizations
As the last month of the year begins, think about giving rather than receiving. Consider your favorite organizations and charities, and pull from a savings account, or see if you can split extra funds for the month for charitable donations. If you’d like to make a larger contribution in the future, decide whether or not it makes sense to set up a charity savings account. Remember to find out if your employer matches gifts, too. Giving to others can be a great nudge for your own financial health as well.