Creating a Quarterly Financial "To Do List"

Making financial “check-in’s” part of your regularly scheduled programming can be a colossal benefit for your financial life right now, and it can set you up for success in the future. When I talk to people about their financial habits, I hear a recurring theme:

You’ve tried the latest budgeting app. You’ve done weekly “allowances” for you and your spouse. You’ve made a lot of strides in a few short months - only to fall off the wagon again.

You’ve gone through the recommended next-steps - and you’re tired of seeing your day-to-day money habits continue to backslide.

I hear you! Here’s the thing - I think that too many people overcomplicate their finances. By checking in weekly, or tracking where every single penny goes, you are much more likely to burn yourself out. Similarly, when you try to tackle too much progress at once in your financial life, you’re more likely to give up on all of it rather than sticking with a few key, game-changing habits. The key is to find balance, and develop habits that are positive and easy to stick to.

Review Expenses or Budget

If you’re working to stick to a budget, or you just want to keep spending low in a few key expense areas, now is the time to check in. Where did you overspend over the course of the last quarter? What areas will need to be adjusted in the budget moving forward into next quarter? Don’t spend a ton of time beating yourself up if you had an “off” quarter, and overspent. Reviewing your expenses and your budget is just a way to keep yourself honest, and to evaluate whether the budget you’ve set for yourself is actually working - or whether you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and your spouse or partner.

Track Your Progress

Do you have big financial goals this year? Whether you’re paying off debt, building savings, or working toward a major purchase (like a home or a car) - track your progress toward those goals quarterly. The reason for this is two-fold:

  1. If you check your savings account every week to watch it grow, you might be disappointed to find only small “wins”! Checking quarterly allows automated contributions to savings to accumulate, and helps you to feel more accomplished - and therefore more motivated!
  2. You’ll have a better idea of whether or not you’re successfully moving the needle. It’s easy to dismiss the fact that you didn’t put your bonus toward your mortgage last month if you’re checking in weekly or monthly, and aren’t looking at the big picture. When you know where every dollar went, can justify it, and quickly move on, you’re less likely to see a recurring pattern. For example, maybe it isn’t just that your bonus check didn’t go to the mortgage last month - but that bonuses have gone into savings, and haven’t gone toward your mortgage for the past year. Seeing the big picture is incredibly helpful.

Remove Stumbling Blocks

What’s standing between you and success? If you’re struggling to meet your goals or stick to your budget - why is that? Maybe the answer is as simple as your budget needs to be adjusted to really reflect how much you’ll spend at the grocery store each quarter.

Or maybe it’s that you struggle to put extra windfalls that come your way toward your big financial goals - so contributions to savings or extra payments toward your debt need to be automated and scheduled in advance. You have the power to take the stumbling blocks out of your own way so that you can start achieving the financial success you’re working toward.

Look Ahead

Once you’ve evaluated your progress toward your goals, taken a hard look at your recurring money habits or patterns, and removed the hurdles that are in your way, you’re ready to look ahead! Keeping your eyes on the path ahead of you can help you to stay organized and motivated to keep up the good work. Take the time to think through what you want the next year of your life to look like - what do you want to achieve? What money goals or habits do you need to put in place to get there?

Don’t be afraid to think bigger, too! If you can envision 5-10 years down the line, or you want to imagine your retirement - go for it. The more specific you can get with the vision you have for your life, the better. Checking in with this vision every quarter is the perfect way to end your financial “to do” list. It helps to keep you motivated, and you’re more likely to stay on track when you know the “why” behind all of the hard work you’re putting in.

Ready to start looking ahead? Let’s put your financial strategy in place together. Contact us to learn more about how financial planning could be a good fit for you.

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

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