31 Days To Fix Your Finances

Recently, LifeHacker conducted a poll asking readers what their top resolution is for 2007. The second most popular resolution was “Save money and get my finances in order.”

Let’s face it: there are millions of people out there who woke up on New Year’s Day resolving to get their finances in better shape. The vast majority of them will go at it the wrong way: they’ll go about things much like a binge dieter, cutting tons of fat out of their spending for the first few weeks, but eventually they’ll give up and by mid-February, their credit cards will be ballooning again.

Why does this happen? The reason is that revamping your personal finances requires a good foundation, most of which has very little to do directly with dollars and cents. Instead, it requires some careful thinking about not only your specific finances, but also about your life goals and your feelings about money.

Are you willing to spend one hour a day this month to getting on the right financial page and making your resolution a success? If you are, let’s get started. Each day this month around mid-day (in the United States), I’ll post some specific action points for you to follow and think about today. Some of them you can do on your daily commute just by thinking; other ones might require some time at home with a calculator or a spreadsheet (or other things). Each one requires about an hour of your time.

What’s the goal? The overall goal of these posts is to transition you from a New Year’s resolution (or any resolution) to fix your money to a healthy relationship with your money, with a goal-oriented internal philosophy that makes it easy for you to keep going on the right financial path.

What can I do to rescue my money in the interim? Many of these steps (especially early ones) won’t seem to do anything to affect your checkbook. Why? The checkbook isn’t really the foundation of your finances. If you want to do things that will save money in the interim, the best thing you can do is do simple things to trim a bit of spending, such as using the ten second rule. Other than that, let these steps run their course. Do not do anything radical! The plan to fix things must come from within you; integrating someone else’s plan will cause you lots of frustration. My plan is to help you define your true goals and figure out what you can do to meet them.

Without further ado, let’s get started. I’ll add links to all of the steps on this post, so if you want to save them, just bookmark this post.

Day 1: Your Five Main Values
Day 2: Defining Your Goals From Your Values
Day 3: Create A Plan For Each Goal
Day 4: How Much Did You Earn Last Year?
Day 5: How Much Did You Work Last Year?
Day 6: Your True Hourly Wage
Day 7: Work For Your Dreams, Not Your Money
Day 8: Breaking Down Your Expenses
Day 9: Cleaning Up Your Expenses
Day 10: Fitting Your Expenses Into The Bigger Picture
Day 11: Dividing Up The Rest and Finishing Our “Time Budget”
Day 12: A Flexible “Budget” That Reflects Your Reality
Day 13: Pay For Your Dreams First
Day 14: Get Rid of Debts (Slowly But Surely)
Day 15: Coming In Under Budget… And An Emergency Fund
Day 16: Evaluating Your Expenses – Home and Auto Insurance
Day 17: Evaluating Your Expenses – Life Insurance
Day 18: Evaluating Your Expenses – Energy
Day 19: Evaluating Your Expenses – Automobiles
Day 20: Evaluating Your Expenses – Food
Day 21: Evaluating Your Expenses – Housing
Day 22: Evaluating Your Expenses – Monthly Services
Day 23: Evaluating Your Expenses – Bank Fees
Day 24: Evaluating Your Expenses – Entertainment and Hobbies
Day 25: Evaluating Your Expenses – Credit Cards
Day 26: Refining Your Budget
Day 27: Keeping Good Records
Day 28: Preparing For The Inevitable
Day 29: Paying Cash
Day 30: Live What You Love
Day 31: Keeping It Up

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.