Monthly Financial Checklist and Calendar for January

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Want a calendar of events for your wallet? Look no further. I've created a monthly financial calendar. Here's what you need to do to stay financially fit in January.

Jan 1 - Set a Resolution!

I know, I know - the cliché says that New Years Resolutions are meant to be broken. But why does that have to apply to you? Set a New Years Resolution that's SMART - specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

For example: "This year I want to contribute $12,000 to my retirement account."

  • Specific - "$12,000," "this year," and "retirement account" are all specific.
  • Measurable - This is easy to measure.
  • Attainable - Saving $12,000 a year ($1,000 a month) might seem like a stretch, and that's fine. Budgeting can be like exercise - it's supposed to be a little strenuous.
  • Realistic - This is a very realistic goal. A goal that says, "I want to repay $8 million in debt in one week" is not realistic (unless you REALLY earn a lot!)
  • Timely - Without a time frame, you're less likely to accomplish the goal. You can improve your odds by giving yourself lots of small deadlines. Try re-framing that goal to: "I want to repay $1,000 per month" or "$230.76 per week."

First Week of January: Review Your Holiday Spending

Review your holiday spending. Did you spend more than you intended to? Did you stay within budget?Reviewing your spending now -- while December is fresh in your mind -- will help you set a more clear holiday spending budget for the upcoming year.

(Use this worksheet to save for annual expenses)Besides, you'll have to review that holiday spending in order to have cash on hand by the time your holiday bills are due.

First Week of January: Make a Budget for the Year!

January is a great time to set goals that reflect how much you hope to spend, save and invest this year.

First, ask yourself some tough, honest questions.

  • How much do you want to stash in your retirement accounts this year?
  • How much do you want to set aside for a possible new business venture?
  • How much do you want to set aside for other goals, like buying a house, taking a vacation, attending graduate school, repaying debt or buying rental properties?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to make these goals a reality?
  • In addition to cutting your spending, how can you earn extra money?

Once you've outlined your goals, create a budget that fits. Use this handy guide to creating a budget.

First/Second Week of January: Start Automating

After you've completed the above two steps (setting a resolution and making a budget), put your goals on "auto-pilot" by automatically directing your money to the places you want it to go.

For example: If you decide that you want to stash $416 per month ($5,000 per year) in a Roth IRA, then set up a monthly automatic withdrawal from your bank account to your Roth IRA account.

If you decide that you want to "make a car payment to yourself" in order to save for your next car purchase, set up a monthly automatic withdrawal from your checking account to a savings account earmarked for your next car purchase.

Putting your goals on auto-pilot means that you're more likely to stick to it.

Second Week of January: Tax Prep!

Organize your tax documents. The forms you'll need (1099-DIV's, 1099-INT's, W2's, etc.) will probably trickle in slowly over the coming month or two.

Designate a file folder or a small box where you stash all your tax-related items as they come in. Similarly, create an electronic folder where you stash all the tax-related electronic statement you'll receive.

Create a checklist of the tax forms you expect (such as interest statements from your banks, and dividend/capital gains forms from your brokerage firms). As each form arrives in the mail (or in your Inbox), check it off the list.

Anytime in January: Check Your Credit Report

There are three major credit-rating agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Each agency allows you to view your credit report for free once a year. The best way to schedule this is to view one credit report every four months. Check one in January, one in May, and one in September.

For example, you might check:

  • Experian = January
  • Equifax = May
  • TransUnion = September

Or you might check:

  • TransUnion = January
  • Experian = May
  • Equifax = September

The order of agencies doesn't matter. The most important thing is that you check one credit report every four months. If you see any errors on your report (incorrect information), file a report with the agency immediately. Each agency offers instructions on how to file a claim for incorrect information.

Check out the End-of-Year Financial Checklist for December -- and make sure you remembered to check these off the list!