What I like about the start of new year is that it signifies a fresh beginning for me. It’s a time to prioritize, to set new goals, and to work on unfinished business from the year before. If you’re like me, your to-do list piles on faster than it is being checked off.
To organize everything, I have four lists on my iPhone’s reminder app: to do now, family tasks, to do when I have time, and to buy. To do now are things that require immediate attention, like paying a special bill or ordering lunch for my son’s preschool. The family task list is one that I share with my husband. I put important projects that we are working on as a family. This includes unfinished house projects, researching investments, and earthquake preparedness. To do when I have time is the most neglected list. It includes organizing our closet, changing passwords, and buying and editing my music collection. Finally, the to buy list helps me to keep track of all the things we are running low on. I even have separate lists for different stores so I wouldn’t have to sift through my list when I’m at a particular store.
There are so many distractions from our daily grind that we tend to overlook the significant things. I’m talking about buying life insurance, setting up a separate savings account for rainy days, funding your child’s college savings plan, and setting up a living trust. I will be the first to admit that I neglected these things for the first two years after having kids. I was working five, sometimes six days per week, and barely had time to shower, let alone think about my last will and testament. Luckily, I made some important life decisions and was finally able to tackle some of these projects that had fallen to the wayside.
Here are some tips to help you get started on undertaking your big projects:
- Read this book. I received this book from one of my favorite faculty members four years ago and I finally finished reading it recently. It will give you the information you need to take responsibility for and control of your financial life.
- Write it all down. When you read something inspiring or think of an idea, write it down. Write down your specific goals for the month, for the quarter, for the year, for the next five years. Write down books that you want to read or skills that you want to hone. When you accomplish something on your list, it will feel so good to cross it off. I carry this note book and this pen in my purse at all times. You never know when inspiration will hit.
- Tackle parts of each project on a daily or weekly basis. Take advantage of the little pockets of time you have during the day to get work done. For example, during my lunch break, I called my bank to set up a new savings account. My husband and I went into the branch on the weekend to sign the papers. I asked the bank to automatically withdrawal a set amount of money I specify from my checking to savings account every month. I use this special savings account for my rainy day fund.
- Work smarter, not harder. Have you heard of companies that help you to do biweekly payments for your mortgages? By doing so, you end up making 13 payments per year instead of 12, which allows you to pay off your mortgage approximately 6 years sooner (based on a 30 year loan). You don’t have to pay a company to do this for you to take advantage of the benefits. It takes 30 seconds to do the math and a phone call to set it up with your own mortgage lender.
- Math: Say your monthly mortgage is $2,400. Divide $2,400 by 12 months and you’ll get $200. This is the extra amount of money you have to pay in addition to your regular mortgage payment each month.
- Call your mortgage lender and tell them you want to add $200 extra to the principle each month for principle curtailment. You should set this up as an automatic withdrawal each month. So you would want to pay $2,600 each month instead of $2,400. Paying off your mortgage six years sooner should be a great motivation for you. I am using this method to pay off my hefty student loans faster.
- Download audio books for your commute and set aside time for reading. The more you learn, the more you will realize what you don’t know. The whole point is to take control of your life and take responsibility for your actions and inactions. The things that can make a big difference in your life are easy to do but they are also easy not to do. I believe this is what sets the achievers apart from the people who are waiting for their luck to change. You can be the little sail boat in the big ocean that lets the changing waves rock you to and fro, or you can set your sail and actually go somewhere. Where do you want to go in life? If you need some motivation, read this book, which I recommended in my new year’s reading list.
- Find mentors who can help you navigate new challenges. You can learn from just about anyone if you’re willing to ask the right questions. Remember that mentors need not be your friends or acquaintances. There are experts in just about every field who have given lectures or written books. Don’t forget to pay it forward and help others too.
- Simplify and automate. If you can sign up for automatic bill pay or contribution to your retirement account or child’s college savings fund, do it. This also rings true for things that you need to buy on a regular basis. I use the Amazon subscription service for things I need to buy on a regular basis, like diapers and wipes. You can save up to 15% for signing up for the subscribe and save program. I used to buy things like toilet paper in bulk from Costco, but it has become increasingly difficult to go to a big warehouse store with two kids. I started using this online bulk store and have been pleased with the prices and speed of delivery. There is no annual membership fee and the shipping is free for purchases over $50. The real reason why I save more money shopping online is because I only buy what’s on my list and not get suckered into buying random things I didn’t know I needed while cruising down the aisles at Costco.
What are your big life projects? Do you have unfinished tasks you are trying to wrap up?
Thank you for reading!