The freshness of the new year may be fading away, and now you’re getting down to business. Although February has the fewest number of days, there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in a few financial tasks. Here are five ways to improve your finances in February.
1. Focus on little steps toward big goals
Setting goals and resolutions for the new year is exciting – it’s fun to think big. But sometimes big goals can feel out of reach. If you’re worrying about major goals like how much more you need to save for retirement, how little you’ve done to save for college, or how much of a boost your emergency savings needs — take a deep breath. It can be easy to get discouraged by how far you are from where you want to be, but the good news is: Big changes are often made a little bit at a time. Stay focused on what you can do today – right now. Small steps like reducing debt by a certain amount each month or making regular, automated retirement contributions will add up, bringing you closer to those larger long-term goals that may seem so far off. Stick to the plan, and you will get there.
2. Reframe your view on budgeting
One small thing you can do today to keep your long-term goals on track is to create a monthly budget and monitor it regularly. Many budget-line items – like rent/mortgage and savings contributions – are easy to track because they’re fixed costs. However, staying within your discretionary spending can be a little harder because it can feel restrictive.
Adjusting your mindset can help. Whether it’s a big financial goal or a small one, the key is to be intentional about what’s important to you. That way, instead of thinking that you have to say no, you know that you’re saying no to something that’s not as important to you so you can say yes to something that is.
3. Get on the same page with your partner
You and your significant other may be looking forward to a special date together on the 14th. A romantic evening can be a great time to talk about your big goals. Discuss all the things you want to do. Then, make time this month to check in on your progress toward your goals (and how your day-to-day spending is contributing).
If you’re getting serious or engaged, you may want to focus your conversations on what your financial future together will look like. Developing a financial plan together, deciding if you’ll combine finances into a joint account, and determining how you'll manage your money together are all topics to cover.
4. Prepare to file your taxes
Although your filing deadline is still two months away, you can start filing taxes as early as now. It may be easier to get in with a tax preparer now, and you’ll likely be able to meet at a time that’s convenient for you. A tax preparer can also prep you on any changes that may impact your filing, like 2023’s new tax brackets.
If you’re preparing taxes on your own, you can start purchasing and downloading software, organizing your paperwork, and working your way through the return. Many software solutions now allow you to save your progress, so if questions come up as you’re filing, you can take a break to track down the answer or consult a tax advisor.
5. Think about what to expect before you’re expecting
More babies tend to be born in August than in any other month, which means new arrivals may be popping up on more families’ radars now. If you’re in that boat, congratulations!
You’ve probably talked about where the crib could go and what type of stroller you want, but you also want to make sure you’re thinking about how you’ll financially prepare for a baby. Chances are, your monthly expenses and savings goals will change, so it’s a good idea to revisit your financial plan while you’re still sharp and getting nights of good, uninterrupted sleep. While adjusting your plan, don’t forget to account for periods of reduced income during maternity leave.