How To Crush the Next 11 Months: A Month-By-Month Guide
Looking for goal-setting help that’s a bit outside the box? Ditch the New Year’s resolutions and build a plan for each month of the coming year.
January 12, 2022
At the start of a new year, there’s typically a ton of focus on New Year’s resolutions.
There’s only one problem: New Year’s resolutions don’t necessarily work.
In fact, statistics show that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. That means that only around 20% of people actually stick with their goals throughout the year.
Is there a more effective method of goal setting? It all depends on your personality and your plans, but some people may find better success by breaking the year down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
In this unique guide to goal setting, you’ll discover a month-by-month approach to crushing 2022. Combine these strategies with a SMART goals template by making your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented.
If you’re looking for some concrete goal setting help, this is the guide for you.
February: Complete a “no spend” challenge
If you’ve got a financial hangover from the holidays, it’s understandable. It can be difficult not to overspend on gifts, travel and holiday festivities.
For a financial reboot, consider a “no spend” challenge.
As the name suggests, this is a period of time in which you cut out all unnecessary spending. You’ll continue paying rent and necessary bills, but you won’t go out to eat, buy coffee to-go or purchase anything that’s not absolutely essential.
If you’re up for the challenge, cutting out spending for the month of February can help you evaluate what you actually value in life.
And, at the end of the month, you’ll probably have a good chunk of extra money. Here’s what you can do with it.
March: Start budgeting
Budgeting can feel like no fun, but it’s one of the best ways to get ahead financially. And considering 44% of Americans list saving more money as a top priority, this is a very common challenge to tackle.
So, how do you budget? Here are some resources to help you get started:
An overview of types of budgets
An overview of the EveryDollar budget
An overview of the 50/30/20 budget
April: Tackle your debt (or invest)
April may be a good time to pay off some of your debt. Why April? Because you can utilize your tax refund for a quick boost of cash.
In 2020, the average tax refund was $2,827. That’s a substantial chunk of change that can give your debt-payoff strategy a big boost.
If you’re already debt-free, you can consider investing the money instead.
May & June: Tackle your fitness goals
When it comes to goal setting, improving fitness or doing more exercise tends to be the #1 goal among Americans.
As a result, everyone on earth heads to the gym in January, but many people fizzle out and stop going a few months later. By May, the gym is practically empty — and some gyms may even be running specials on signups.
Plus, the weather is starting to get nicer, making it more enjoyable to exercise outside. Whether you want to start hiking, pick up jogging or continue to hit the gym, spring is a great time to start working on your fitness.
Fitness doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Here are some budget-friendly ways to increase your physical activity:
Go on hikes nearby
Follow along with workout videos on YouTube
Pick up jogging or speed-walking
Buy resistance bands to start strength training at home
Do pushups or other bodyweight exercises
July: Enjoy your summer
Many goal setting lists will tell you to keep crushing it at all times. But life is about more than just grinding out the next objective.
This July, try to kick back and enjoy.
To get the most out of the summer, be intentional about how you spend your time. Get outside to enjoy the nice weather. Plan a getaway for a change of scenery. Sprinkle in intentional periods of rest and relaxation to “recharge” for the months ahead.
And, if you’re planning any summer travel, here are some resources to help you stay on-budget:
August: Conquer “back to school” season
If you have kids at home, August is all about “back to school” season. While some clothing and school supply shopping is likely in order, that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. Check out our guide on how to find the best price to save money on all the essentials.
If your children are at an appropriate age, this is also a great time to start teaching them financial literacy topics. The simple act of giving children money to purchase their own school supplies (with supervision, of course) can teach them some powerful lessons about how money works.
September: Revisit your student debt
The average student loan debt is at a whopping $37,693. If you have student loans remaining, consider revisiting your payoff plan this September.
This could be as simple as making an extra payment or two towards your debt. Or, it could include altering your payment plan to help pay off the loans faster.
Tackling a financial challenge starts by understanding it. Here are some resources to help you with your student debt:
October & November: Make extra contributions to retirement
Saving for retirement is vital for long-term financial success, and it’s wise to contribute part of your monthly paycheck to your retirement fund throughout the year. Many financial planners recommend saving 10 to 15% of your income towards retirement.
You can give your savings a further boost by making some extra contributions. And for many households, October and November can be a good time to take action.
These months often see a “lull” in spending. Your summer travel is over and your holiday spending has yet to begin. Thus, you may have more room in your budget to contribute to retirement savings.
Here are a few retirement resources to help you out:
Investment order (what to prioritize)
Guide to employer matching on your 401(k)
December: Wrap up year-end financial planning
As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect and wrap up any lingering financial to-dos. This could include several tasks:
Maxing out your retirement contributions for the year
Contributing to your HSA
Utilizing your flexible spending account if you have one
Making year-end charitable contributions
Meeting with your CPA for year-end tax planning
This is also a great time to start thinking about goal setting for the following year. Maybe you want to get an early start on next year’s resolutions?
Related reading: How to finish your financial year strong.
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