As we approach the new year, you might be wondering whether it’s time to add “hitting reset on your money” to your to-do list.
We say: Yes. Heck yes.
Maybe now’s the time to seek out a few smaller money wins to boost your confidence and get you feeling excited about your future again — wherever you are in your journey. Here’s a roundup of seven things that could help you organize your personal finances.
1. Start. Wherever you are, start.
Sometimes, the hardest part is just getting started.
Taking that step is important because if you’re not in control of your own money, you’re not in control of your own life. Nearly three-quarters of women who outsource the management of their money to male partners find themselves with a negative financial surprise after divorce or widowhood, and nearly three quarters are single — either never married, divorced, or widowed — when they die.
Here’s a list of 31(!) ways to practice financial self-care to help you dive in. It’s good for your money — and for other things too, including managing the emotional stress around money. And here are 10 small money habits that might feel festive to kick off in January (but they’ll work any time, obv).
Here’s what to do if dealing with money feels overwhelming — basically, break it down into small, achievable wins to give yourself “mood momentum.” And here’s some guidance to help you kick any lingering feelings of spending guilt to the curb.
And finally, depending on how much help you think you’ll want: Ellevest clients have access to a free 4-Week Money Reset email course. Plus, anyone can check out our 30 Minutes with a CFP® Pro financial planning session, which can get you feeling good about your next steps into 2023.
2. Set yourself a spending plan (aka budget).
Financial wellness is a big deal around these parts. And one of the three main components of financial wellness is your financial foundation — which includes learning your spending habits and designing a monthly budget that works for you. It starts not with a spreadsheet, but with an exploration of what’s important. Here’s how to explore your values so that you can make spending decisions that feel easier, more intentional, and more meaningful. And here’s our Budget How-To workshop, which will help you get started on a budget that works with your values in under an hour.
Next comes your actual spending plan. We often recommend the 50/30/20 rule. It’s a high-level, flexible budgeting framework that can help you control where your money’s going without having to count every penny. (If you need some guidance, we’ve got a fun lil template worksheet that can help you break it down initially.) Or you might choose the one-number approach, which is dead simple to follow — you’ll literally create one number to have in mind as you make spending decisions. (We’ve got a template worksheet to help with that method, too.)
Finally, it’s about making your spending plan work in real life. Here are a few tips for battening down the hatches for this period of economic volatility. Here are some tips to avoid overspending. Here’s a rundown of ways you can cut back to an essentials-only budget if you’re financially challenged right now. Here’s our best guidance on how to stop living paycheck to paycheck. And if you’re in a relationship, here’s our advice on splitting expenses with your partner.
Want some help with all of that? Anyone can sign up for a one-on-one budgeting and planning session with an Ellevest financial planner. Ellevest clients get big discounts on those, plus access to all of our workshops, worksheets, and email courses, including a free one on intentional spending.
3. Set smart money goals ...
Wondering what your money goals should even be at your age? (Let alone in this economy?) We hear this all the time — so often that we made this question the second component of financial wellness. Check out our roundup of the money moves to make in every decade, starting with your 20s. We’ve also got more specific advice for single moms, LGBTQIA+ people, new college grads, and recent widows. We also have advice for where, exactly, you might want to put the $ you’re saving toward those goals — one size definitely does not fit all!
Need more specific advice? Here’s a bunch of financial planning sessions that could help you get clear on your goals and your priorities for the year.
4. … and give yourself a boost wherever you can.
Some boosts are mechanical — things like setting up autosave or round-up features on your banking account(s) or opting for credit cards that offer cash back.
But boosts can be psychological. (That’s why improving your money mindset is such a crucial part of your financial wellness practice.) Check out this article on how naming your money goals can help you achieve them. Here’s how working with a financial planner can help you with money stress. And here are some thoughts from CEO Sallie Krawcheck on how your money goals can boost your happiness.
And here’s why celebrating every single small win is such a powerful way to get to the big ones (and how you can do that).
5. Make a plan to pay down the debt.
If you want to start paying down your debt, you’ll need a game plan. Here are two common approaches. And here’s how to prioritize paying off debt vs investing — because there’s a difference between “good debt” (relative term) and “bad debt.”
We offer a financial planning session that’ll help you deal with debt andfit that plan into your overall budget. You can also join a workshop (free for clients!) led by our financial planners. (We also get it if you’d prefer to do it on your own time — that’s why we have a debt planner, too, so you don’t have to totallyDIY it.)
6. Build a cushion for emergencies.
In years past, we used to recommend getting rid of all your credit card debt before starting on your emergency fund, which in total should be three to six months’ worth of take-home pay. We know people feel a lot better having a little bit of emergency cash on-hand before paying down credit cards (especially if you want to avoid adding to those balances).
Nowadays, we often suggest starting with one month’s take-home pay as a mini-emergency fund, then finishing the rest after you’ve taken care of the high-interest debt. Here's how much you need to save for emergencies and what you should do with those savings. (We also have this emergency fund calculator you can use to figure out how you want to get there.) And check out this article on when you should (and maybe shouldn’t) use your emergency fund.
7. Make investing a habit.
Yes, even — dare we say “especially”? — in this economy. (We have some thoughts on that — big fans of dollar-cost averaging over here.) We suggest starting with retirement. Learn why it’s important to take advantage of your 401(k) employer match, and check out this flowchart to see which retirement account might be right for you. Clients also get access to our free Get Started Investing in 5 Days email course, and everyone can take advantage of our not one, but two separate investing workshops — think of the first one as a 101 intro course and the second as a 201.
Whatever your money goals for 2023: Set your intentions, make a plan, and celebrate the small wins along the way. We’re here to help with all of that.
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