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New Financial Intentions For A New Year

New Financial Intentions For A New Year. New Attitude.

Welcome to 2021, Creative Financiers!  We have rounded the corner into a new year of new possibilities and intention.  We’re off to a very rocky start geo-politically, which serves as a sobering reminder that even as we “turn the corner” into a new calendar year, we’re very much the same as we were on December 31st, 2020.  I’d like to offer some new financial intentions for a new year.

Let’s not beat around the bush.  For those of us who call the United States of America home, we have been rocked mentally and emotionally by the violent insurrectionist attacks on the US Capital Building last week.  We were attacked by a hate that has been longtime simmering just below the surface here in the US- and the great challenge of 2021 has already revealed itself to us.  We must find ways to reconcile this hate and heal these wounds.  

On that note, let’s let the first word of 2021 be Accountability.  In the macro sense, we must hold accountable those that would seek to harm us, either physically or spiritually.  I hope every insurrectionist and terrorist that took part in January 6th’s attack faces the full force of the law in the name of the greater safety of our country.

Now let’s look at Accountability in the micro lens, and how it applies to you with regards to personal finance.

If I could offer an exercise to begin the year: grab a pen and piece of paper, and I want you write down 5-10 words or phrases that might express what Money means to you.  Look at these words when you’re done.  Are they words of optimism? (Passive Income).  Are there words there that scare you? (Credit Card Debt).  

Let’s set an intention for the year based around these words.  Think about which of them you’d like to lean into, and which you might hope to erase from your financial vocabulary this year.

You Are, More Than You Deserve

When I was a junior in undergraduate studies at The Boston Conservatory, we had the privilege of a campus visit from the late and wonderful Barbara Cook, who led a program wide workshop with senior students.  At the core of every bit of feedback Ms. Cook offered the students was the simple mantra, “You are enough.”

Barbara Cook
“You are enough.” RIP Barbara Cook

-Y

The same is true of personal finance.  You are enough.  Whether you are financially where you want to be or not, you are here in pursuit of knowledge, and that’s amazing.  

I truly believe every person has the tools inside of them already to manage a successful path to financial independence.  My continued hope is that regular visits to this blog might enhance and activate the dormant tools for those that need them.  And it starts in two small and simple ways:

1) Pay Yourself First – You must adopt the mindset that you are worthy of your hard-earned money!  Learning to pay yourself first is one of the pillars of financial independence.  And I don’t mean treating yourself to drinks at the bar, or pulling the trigger on that fancy new “MUST HAVE” you can all of sudden afford on pay day.  I mean setting money aside for your future.  The bedrock of your eventual freedom and late life prosperity.

2) Value Your Time and Ask For Your Value – In the same vein, know thy worth!  It’s so important to learn early that no one can define your worth except for you.  Most employers will try to do this first, in order to box in expectations and create a perception that they are in control of your value.  But at the end of the day, you have the ultimate power in saying Yes or No.  Try saying No to something you know is an egregious evaluation of your time and energy, and watch the other side come back with more.  It’s the best feeling in the world.  You will never get what you want in life without asking for it.  And sometimes that means asking yourself what you desire, and the balance required to attain it.

Take these two principles to heart, and that’s a good start on new financial intentions for a new year.

A random example I love- TV & Internet Bills.

More than likely you have some kind of service provider that is specific to your region, from whom you are paying for Internet and/or TV service.  Do you get the sense that these prices never really make any sense?  You get an amazing introductory rate that disappears after year one, followed by random periodic increases.  

I called my particular service the other day and kindly asked was there anything that could be done in terms of offering a discount on services provided?  Otherwise “I might need to discontinue this service due to cost.”

I received a nearly 30% discount on my service.  This will amount to hundreds of dollars in savings for 2021.

Do you like extra hundreds of dollars in your pocket for what amounted to 15 minutes of time?  Cool, cool, me too.  Just checking.

Be kind, be direct, ask for what you want.  Let this be one of your new financial intentions for a new year if you’re not subscribed already.

“Zero To Hero” Dollar Days

We’ve talked time and time again about how important budgeting is for your financial well-being.  I’m not going to tell you make that one of your new financial intentions for a new year, as it’s something you should already be doing…

And if you’re not already doing that in some capacity, c’mon Herc, let’s get going.

New Financial Intentions For A New Year

I’m in the midst of doing an analysis of my 2020 spending I’m going to share highlights from- but before even going that far I want to introduce you to one of my favorite little micro goals that keeps me on track month by month.

Zero Dollar Days.

I first adopted a version of this concept during my summer stock acting years at the historic Barnstormers Theatre of Tamworth, NH.  Tamworth is the most beautiful and idyllic little town you can imagine- and for a direct shock to your metropolitan consumerism spirit, there are only TWO stores in town.  The Lyceum, and The Other Store.  And The Other Store actually came first.  A little bit of New Hampshire small town history for your beginning of year.

While I spent weeks lodged up in Tamworth with not much to do, or rather not many ways to spend money, I adopted a concept in my head called “Ten Dollar Days”.  I would try and last the whole day without spending more than $10, which afforded me enough for an afternoon coffee and chocolate chip cookie.

I’ve gone a step further nowadays and throughout the year I strive to achieve multitudes of “Zero Dollar Days”.

I marked 15 Zero Dollar Days (ZDD’s) in 2020.  Or 4% of the days in the year.

Frankly, I’m not happy with that number.  I had 0 ZDD’s in January and February to start the year.  How is that possible that 60 days can pass and I spent money on every single one of them?  I’m not pleased with myself, but what this data gives me is a starting point.

One of my new financial intentions for a new year I’d like to set for myself is more of these, please.  I find that if I focus in on this intention, I’m actually able to parse out my spending in a more responsible way, and it forces me to seriously evaluate every purchase.

I’m happy to report that on the 11th day of January 2021, I’ve already clocked 2 ZDD’s, representing 18% of my year so far.

Try it out!  This helps cement discipline in spending, and it’s a gentle reminder that you can & will survive a 24-hour period without money leaving your wallet to do so.

$600 Stimulus Check, Where Do You Belong?

In creating new financial intentions for a new year, I wanted to bring up the Stimulus in the room- and chat on those Stimulus checks!

I can recall talking to folks back in March/April 2020 about what they might do with their $1,200 stimulus checks.  Those that seemed to be in reasonably stable financial shape hypothesized on what they might like to spend that money on.

“$1,200 can buy me a new laptop!  Or a Peloton bike!  Or a this!  Or a that!  Gadgets & Gizmos a ‘plenty!”.

I’m not here to tell you that you can’t spend money.  But I do want you to think consciously about the way you choose to do so.

Pay yourself first.

My advice in this moment, take half of that money and pay yourself first.

Beefing up your emergency fund will never, ever hurt.  You should be carrying 3-6 months expenses for an emergency of any kind.  The peace of mind that comes with that security blanket will always be worth it.

Now you have $300 leftover.  What are some of your goals for the year?  Do you hope to take a big vacation later in the year once vaccination is fairly widespread?  Maybe you’ll take $200 and put it in a Dobot account which will help you save for that goal over the course of the year.

Maybe you have your emergency fund set, and it’s time to focus on your Roth IRA and long-term security.  

And then you might have $100 left.  Spend it on yourself.  If you stashed away $300 for emergencies, and $200 for other savings goals- you’ve actually earned it by this point.  And most of all, you paid yourself first- which is the best long-term investment you’ll make in my humble opinion.

(Hint: if the government ends up sending us another $1,400, treat it the same way.  Even $500 invested TODAY is likely to become $1,000+ in ten years’ time with average market returns in a low-cost index fund.)

Finale Thoughts

I hope today’s post will inspire some exciting new financial intentions for a new year.

We’re still months away from creeping back towards the normalcy we once knew- so take this time to reset the mind and create some specific and realistic financials expectations for yourself.

This is the time now, without the “pressure” of “let’s go get drinks!”, “let’s go shopping!”, “let’s splurge and go see that hot new show!”.

Create a system for yourself that works, and you can afford absolutely anything.  Most of all, you’ll have tranquility, happiness, and intention that isn’t tied to constantly finding money to fill the holes in your life.

Create new financial intentions for a new year.  That’s what new years are for after all.  It’s a symbolic turning of the page- but what appears on the next page is up to you.  It’s a New Attitude.


For those who enjoy following along my title by title ode to Musical Theatre- New Attitude by Patti LaBelle is certainly not a song from theatrical canon- but it WAS in fact the finale of my freshmen year revue at The Boston Conservatory, so there’s that.  Thanks for reading today!

new financial intentions for a new year

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