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Follow This Calendar to Make 2021 Your Best Financial Year Ever

By Elizabeth Aldrich - Dec 19, 2020 at 6:00AM

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There's something you can do every month to stay on top of your finances.

A desk calendar with the pages flying open in the wind.

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There are some financial tasks you should do regularly, such as going through your bank statements to make sure you're staying on track. Getting a budgeting app that automatically categorizes your expenses will give you a consistent snapshot of where you're at financially.

However, there are other financial to-dos that only need to be completed once every quarter, or even once each year. How do you remember to do them all on time? Follow this financial calendar to hit all your money goals in 2021.

Quarterly: Evaluate your spending and pull your credit report

Once each quarter, spend an hour or two doing a more extensive analysis of your spending and checking in on your financial goals. Average your monthly expenses from the past quarter and check to see if they're in line with the budget you set up for yourself. If not, make any necessary adjustments, such as vowing to cut back on dining out or canceling subscriptions you haven't been using.

You may also want to pull your credit report and go through it to make sure everything looks right. You're legally entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year, which you can access at AnnualCreditReport.com. That's three credit reports per year, so it can be smart to space them out and pull one every four months or so. Keep in mind that each one might look slightly different, but it should give you a good picture of where your credit's at.

Financial tasks for every month of the year

Now, follow this month-to-month guide to have a plan for your whole year.

January: Make a plan

The first month of the year is all about planning for the future. The first step is to set your financial resolutions. After that, look back on your spending from the previous year, figure out what adjustments you need to make, and create a budget for the upcoming year. Help yourself achieve your goals by setting up automatic retirement contributions and recurring deposits into your savings account.

February: Start planning for summer vacation

If you plan to take a vacation over the summer, February is a good time to start planning it out and saving up. You'll want to start making reservations soon before prices go up. It's also a good idea to look into getting a good travel credit card so you can collect points or miles. If you open the card in February, that should give you enough time to earn a sign-up bonus by summer, which can easily save you hundreds on your travels.

March: Use up your flexible spending account

If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) that allows you to roll over funds to the following year, the deadline to use that money is March 15. Different FSA plans cover different services, but for the most part, your funds can be used to cover any medical expenses or day care that isn't covered by your healthcare plan. Schedule in some annual exams like a physical, eye exam, or dental cleaning so that money doesn't go to waste.

April: File your taxes and make your final IRA and HSA contributions

Ideally, you should try to get your taxes done earlier in the year. However, if April rolls around and you still haven't gotten them in, remember that April 15 is the deadline. Get those taxes in, and while you're at it, consider making any last-minute contributions to your IRA or health savings account (HSA) if you haven't hit your annual limit. As long as the contributions are made by tax day, they'll be counted as a contribution from the previous year.

May: Adjust your tax withholdings

Now that you've filed your taxes, you might realize you need to make some adjustments to your withholding by filling out a new W-4. If you ended up owing a lot, you'll want to increase your withholding by decreasing the number of personal allowances on your W-4. If you got a huge refund, you may want to increase the number of personal allowances on your W-4 so that less money is withheld on each paycheck.

June: Do some spring cleaning with your budget

With summer approaching quickly, the beginning of June is a great time to cull your expenses by going through your bank statements and finding items you can cut out or cut back on. One of the most common culprits is monthly subscriptions, so look for recurring charges and cancel any services you don't use often. This is also a great time to negotiate any services you pay for on a monthly basis, such as cable, internet, or insurance and shop around for a better deal.

July: Overhaul your bank accounts

If you're paying monthly fees for your checking account or not earning interest on your savings account, it's time to get new bank accounts. There are plenty of free checking accounts out there, and a good high-yield savings account can help you earn interest on your savings.

August: Double down on debt

If you're paying off debt, take the month of August to develop a strategy for paying it down faster. If you're a homeowner, refinancing your mortgage can help you save money on interest. If you're paying off credit card debt, a good balance transfer credit card can help you do it without interest for a limited time.

September: Book holiday travel

November and December are notoriously expensive months to travel, and prices only go up as these months approach. If you plan to travel for the holidays, you can save money by booking your trip well in advance. Start scouting for deals in early September and try to book your trip by the end of the month. While you're at it, now is a good time to start saving up for the holidays, especially if you tend to spend a lot.

October: Update your estate plan

Estate planning is an important but often overlooked aspect of financial planning. National Estate Planning Awareness Week is in October, so it's as good a month as any to review your estate plan, especially if it's been a while. If you've had any major changes in your life, there's a good chance your estate plan needs updating.

November: Consider a new health insurance plan

Whether you need insurance or want to get a new healthcare plan, open enrollment -- the period when you can enroll in a health insurance plan or make changes to your current plan -- runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Go through your annual spending on healthcare to determine whether a different plan might suit you better.

December: Check in with your retirement savings plan

At the end of the year, it's smart to go through your retirement savings plan and check on your progress. Determine how much you have saved and whether or not you're on track to retire on time. This is also a good time to rebalance your portfolio, especially if you're nearing retirement age. Asset allocation -- that is, how much money you want allocated to stocks vs. bonds -- is personal, but a common rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 100 or 110. The number you're left with is the percentage of your portfolio that should be allocated to stocks. For example, if you're 30, you'll allocate 70% to 80% to stocks and the rest to bonds.

By following this financial calendar, you can make 2021 your most financially successful year thus far.

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