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Somehow, we’ve reached the last three months of 2021.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the year and my financial goals, which I haven’t wanted to do for a while. In the first year of the pandemic, I delayed thinking about the future because the present was too stressful. Maybe you felt the same.
While I am not too far off the wagon – I have kept my investment contributions and have not accrued any debt – I also know that I would feel less anxious if I returned to some sort of routine and refocused on my short and long term financial goals.
Three months may not seem like a long time, but starting to rebuild the habits now will make it easier to maintain them in 2022.
With that in mind, here’s what I plan for the rest of the year.
1. Rethink priorities
Like just about everyone I know, the pandemic has changed my view of what is important in life in the future.
An example: While I was ambivalent about homeownership before, now I know I want a house with a backyard in the next few years. (Twelve months largely confined in a two-room apartment light up, to say the least.)
To make this a reality sooner, I redirected the 401 (k) contributions I made on top of my employer’s correspondence to a brokerage account that I can access for a down payment.
What you can do: Set aside a distraction-free evening after work this week to explore your own priorities. Personally, I think better when I write a journal by hand. If you’ve ever written down goals, review them. Then reflect on the past year. What made you feel the most anxious, the happiest, and the most relieved? What kept you from sleeping at night? These questions will help you inform your priorities for the future.
2. Save more
I was fortunate enough to remain employed during all the turmoil, but most of the time, thinking about the amount of money in my emergency fund (or rather the amount not in my emergency fund) made me anxious about what to do if I lost my job.
In order to save more, I reduce my social commitments and I put more effort into cooking at home. I’m also ruthless when it comes to subscriptions I don’t need, planning on attending No Spend November, and listing clothes on Poshmark to try and earn a few bucks.
My goal is to have six months of essential spending in my savings account by the end of 2022. Right now, I have about half of what I need.
What you can do: Here’s a simple activity that can help you start saving a little more: Go through your bank statements for the whole of 2021 and, most important to least important, categorize the purchases you make regularly that aren’t essential, like a gym membership or streaming service subscription. Then, cut out the expenses that rank at the bottom.
Of course, this strategy won’t make you a millionaire overnight. If you want to tidy up more, you have to make bigger sacrifices or find a way to supplement your income.
3. Reconnect with sustainability
While it might not seem like a financial goal at first glance, doing what’s right for the environment is, in the end, good for our personal finances.
Being more sustainable is also important to me on a personal level. One thing that remains a constant priority for me is to do what I can to limit my environmental footprint.
In order to reduce both my overall consumption and food waste, I am cutting back on my online shopping at companies like Amazon, and for most of my holiday gifts, I plan to give experiences rather than things.
What you can do: I requested a compost bin for my building across New York City (I also left a note for my neighbors encouraging them to do the same to increase our chances of receiving one. Yes, I am that neighbor). In the meantime, I collect my waste from the freezer and drop it off for a weekly composting pickup. Search for “compost collection service [your city]”to see if there is something similar near you.
The above steps may seem unimportant when compared to the drastic, company-wide changes that need to be made. Yet while individuals alone cannot change global business practices, climate scientist Daniel Swain of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability previously told CNBC Make It that pushing lawmakers to rethink systems transportation and making environmentally friendly policies easy to adopt and access across the socio-economic spectrum can make a big difference in our lives.
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