The holiday season is over, my house guest has gone home and I’m not due at work until Monday! A prudent and frugal householder would eat all the leftover cheese and crackers and finish off the whiskey so it wasn’t wasted, don’t you agree? I have set myself up in the lovely courtyard of my new home to do just that (in the background you may see the beginnings of my veggie garden – a lone tomato plant looking less than happy to be here).
Since it is the start of the year it is normally the time when I would make some annual goals and review how I did on last year’s goals. Unfortunately last years goals all went out the window when I moved back to Melbourne and changed careers so reviewing them seems pointless. In fact, this year instead of making goals I have decided to follow the lead of Matt Cutts and take up 30 day challenges. For the sake of expediency I will make these monthly challenges though and start my first one today. Last year I was trying to start something new each month and I found that was a great way of trying out things and doing them enough times to know whether I liked them or was good at them. So this year I will slightly adapt this approach and try to focus on one area of my life, or one thing I want to make a habit, or one new thing I want to try each month.
January just has to be finance month. After the excesses of Christmas I really need to sit down and work out a budget, plan my holidays and major expenditure for the year and get some control over my money. I’ve had a copy of Your Money or Your Life on my bookshelf only half read for years but after picking it up the other day I’m now keen to follow Joe and Vicki’s advice and work on financial peace and independence. This will require quite a bit more than just reading one book though, I will also need some budgeting tools and motivation to keep focussing on finance for a whole month.
I’m starting off by working out roughly what my expenditure for the year should be for almost everything and what my savings goals should be. For the last few years I have been using the wonderful free personal finance tools and advice on MoneySmart, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s website for personal finance. This is without doubt the best government website I’ve seen, it is really well designed and the advice and tools are very simple to use, written in very accessible language and general enough for everyone to find them useful. The savings calculator and budget planner will get me started on my planning.
Then I plan to use YNAB (You Need A Budget) to budget my income to meet my savings goals and planned expenses. I have had a copy of YNAB on my Mac for some time but have never really used it well so this month I am going to setup a budget, track my spending on the mobile app and review every week to make sure I am putting my money where my goals are, rather than where other people (or companies) would like me to put it. YNAB have some great online videos and free live webinars on all aspects of using YNAB to budget so I will watch one or two of those a week this month to make sure I am getting the most out of the software and app. Hopefully by the end of the month I will be able to adjust my budget to be a realistic base monthly budget for the year.
I’m also planning on using Lift to remind me to track my expenditure daily and review my budget weekly. With daily reminders and some daily reading through the personal finance feed on Zite I should be well and truly focussed on personal finance every day! Hopefully all these reminders and tools will help me get my finances sorted and by the end of January I will not only have a good idea of where all my money is going but also be well on the way to making sure I am in complete control of when and where my money is spent.