It feels like 2017 was starting yesterday and we had the whole year ahead of us with financial adventures. Since then days are just passing by and it feels like months are like weeks, we can confirm one thing, time does not slow down. It is therefore important that we once in a while take some time to stop and think about what we have actually been doing and highlights of the year. Otherwise 2017 might just become another blurry year in our lives.
Today we will take that time to think about our finances of 2017 in order to close our financial 2017 and be able to properly open a new, exciting 2018.
Let’s Look at the Numbers!
The beauty of finance is that even though it mainly consists of numbers it can tell many stories about your year. If you’ve been keeping a budget throughout 2017 you have good material to look back at your financial year. The other good part with finance is that it is what it is, you can only change your numbers in the future and it’s a direct consequence and feedback to your actions. It is therefore not a problem to go back in the history to pick up some numbers for your review in case you didn’t have a budget. You can do this in different levels of detail.
First off you need to go to your bank statement and select the period of 2017. If you want a detailed review you can take the numbers and fill in a budget for each month. It will take a bit of time but it’s not a huge time investment, some numbers are a bit harder to identify since the clues in the bank statement aren’t always that clear, just create a category called “unknown” and place all those expenses there.
If you want to do a lighter version you can take out the result of each month. Start by writing down the total result of the year, take the incoming balance, the amount you had on your account 1st of January, take the outgoing balance, the amount you have on your account 31st of January (if you do it earlier take the amount of today), and the difference is what you’ve saved. Remember to take into account other bank accounts, if you have savings for example to add them into your result. Then do this for each month to see your results throughout the year.
Now that we have our numbers we can start looking for our story. Take a look at the numbers of each month, are the expenses higher or lower any month? What kind of expenses had increased/decreased? What did you do that month that influenced your finances? If you don’t have a budget just go back to the bank statement when you have an interesting month to find out what kind of expenses or income that may have caused it.
Write down a short summary of each month based on these questions.
After all the financial memories after looking at your numbers it’s time to review what you’ve liked and what was less good. Make two lists and write down based on your year “what was good” and “what was bad”. You can write things you’ve done or that has happened which has affected your finances that you liked and disliked. Remember that every big expense is not bad, you might have spent a lot of money on something you really loved and you still feel that it was one of the best decisions of your life. If it didn’t put you in a financial risk it is for sure classified as a good investment.
Take a look at your list and think about your financial highlights of your year.
2018 is about to start and to make it an even better financial year we can benefit from what we’ve done and learnt during 2017. In order to prepare ourselves let’s take a look at the good and bad lists and think about what behaviours and actions that has caused this. Take these thoughts and put down actions of what you will do and what you will avoid doing in 2018 to create more effects from the good list and avoid outcomes on the bad list. This will be your financial actions and behaviours to focus on during 2018.
Before we start off our new exciting 2018 there is one last part to do, our savings! I love savings because it’s direct feedback to your financial strategies and actions, if you’re doing well your savings keep growing. At the end of the year you finally get to see the result of each month and the total of the year. Start by writing down your savings for each month and add the total. If you don’t have a budget we already prepared these numbers in the beginning (don’t forget to take into consideration your savings account or other accounts if you have).
Take a look at these numbers and ask yourself if you feel satisfied. Combined with your good and bad list think about if you could’ve done better or if you want to do better. Which actions or behaviours have influenced your savings? Which actions and behaviours should you keep doing and which should you stop doing?
To give your savings a new perspective calculate your total income for one year. Out of that number how much would you want to save in one year? Remember to be realistic, we still need to afford living and eating. Then calculate how much you need to save each month in order to achieve this. This is great material for preparing your budget for 2018!
The last step of this process is to take all the insights and learning from 2017 and combine it with our ambitions of 2018 to create our financial dream. We have identified how much we want to save and what actions and behaviours that we like and don’t like. Let’s put all of this together and dream about how our life will look like in 2018. What does a typical day look like for us in 2018? What are we doing to achieve our savings goal? Which special activities are we investing our well-earned savings that brings us happiness? How do we feel when we take control of our finances instead of letting them control us? How do we feel each month when we look at our total savings? What do we want to do with all that money in the short term and long term future?
Just dream about everything you can do and want to do when you’re living the financial life that you want to live. Everything from everyday behaviour to what you want to use your money for.
We are now prepared to properly close our financial year of 2017 and take all the good from it and bring it into 2018. When time pass by as fast as it does every day it can be hard to focus on our dreams. To make sure that we don’t get off track and that we stay aligned with our dreams we should revisit these notes and thoughts of today to refresh our memory and get a small motivational boost.