Financial To-Dos for January

Allison Kade
Posted

The holidays are behind us and the chilly January wind may be nipping at our nose, but we’ve got a secret weapon hidden underneath that fuzzy scarf: resolve.

2012 is here, and we’re planning to kick its butt.

After all the New Year’s resolutions we made a couple weeks ago, we’re ready for business. There’s no time better than now to take control of your finances, and we’ll help you get there.

So, take a seat, swill that hot cocoa and knock these to-dos off your list:

New Year To-Dos

Make Your Financial Resolutions. Deadline: Monday, January 2

Studies have shown it takes 21 days to form a solid habit. If you create and stick to your resolutions now, by February you will be on the road to serious financial improvement. Your resolutions could include anything from paying down your credit card debt to starting an emergency fund or bringing your lunch to work three times a week. One of the keys to keeping your resolutions is understanding your own money baggage, so take a half hour today to dive into the hidden money beliefs driving your behavior with our quiz.

Reassess Your Budget. Deadline: Tuesday, January 10

A new year calls for a new, revamped budget. Look at your spending patterns from 2011 by linking your accounts and logging in to the LearnVest My Money Center to see the different categories of your spending, like nights out on the town and groceries. How does your spending in those areas compare to what you thought you were spending? Use the budget calculator in the My Money Center to craft a new budget for 2012—this is extra important if you’ve had any recent life changes, like getting married, going back to school or planning for a baby.

Check Your Credit Score. Deadline: Tuesday, January 17

Ring in the new year error-free. Check your credit score to make sure that there haven’t been any errors on the part of credit reporting agencies. This is so important that we recommend you do it once each season. Your credit score is a magic number that helps lenders decide whether you’re worthy of their credit when applying for a credit card or a mortgage. In addition to making sure that there haven’t been any unexpected issues, it’s good to check your score a few times a year to make sure you’re on track—besides, it’s fun to watch that number go up and up. For instructions on how to check your own number, read this.

Start a “Time Journal.” Deadline: Friday, January 20

Modern life isn’t just about budgeting money–it’s also about budgeting time, which means spending your resources in the way that gives you the most fulfillment. For the next month, keep track of the best and worst time you spend every day. At the end of the month, review those moments to find patterns. Are you consistently unhappy when you spend more than an hour doing the same task? What haven’t you been able to make time for? Here’s a chance to overhaul the way you spend not just money, but something equally as important: Each of the hours in your week.

Compare Your Interest Rates. Deadline: Monday, January 23

Interest rates fluctuate, so make sure you’re getting the best value by comparing your savings account to others out there. Although interest rates are very low right now (even many of the best savings accounts offer less than 1% nowadays), make sure your rate is reasonable. Some big banks’ savings accounts are offering as little as 0.05% unless you have a huge balance. It might not be worth switching banks unless the difference is big, but it’s important for your money to work for you. Here’s how to know if it’s time to switch banks or brokerages.

Organize Your Taxes Now. Deadline: Tuesday, January 31

Keep an eye on your mailbox throughout this month so you don’t miss any tax forms as they roll in. In particular, look out for your W-2 and 1099 forms. As you get them in the mail, save them in a safe and secure place, whether that means keeping them in a manila folder in your desk or scanning the papers so you have a digital copy. If you haven’t received these forms by January 31st, call your employer(s) to inquire.

Print out all of your to-dos and the full list of what to buy in January!

What To Buy When

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • Aug
  • Sept
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec

Winter Boots, Clothing and Coats:

Get in on winter sales now for the best selection

Suits:

Around the new year, stores discount their fall suits

Perfume:

A popular holiday gift, perfume is often on sale after the season

Home Furnishings:

Retailers are making room for new inventory

Calendars:

Just after the new year, prices are drastically reduced

Carpets and Flooring:

Many people spruce up their homes during the holidays, so prices plummet afterwards

Big Appliances:

Stock not sold during the holiday rush is now heavily discounted

Linens and Bedding:

Ever-popular "white sales" make January the best month for these items

Holiday Supplies:

If you're willing and able to store cards and wrapping paper for a year, you can find them now for up to 80% off

Office Furniture:

Retailers cater to home businesses starting around the new year

Video Games:

New games are released for the holidays, but you can get them marked down afterwards

Winter Boots, Clothing and Coats:

The selection is sparser, but the sales are steeper

Perfume:

Score a deal after Valentine’s Day

Homes:

Bad weather keeps buyers at bay, so competition is weak, and sellers are eager

Home Renovations:

You’ll pay less and get more attention from contractors, because few people renovate so early in the year

Bicycles:

Retailers mark down older models to make room for new inventory in February and March

Cameras:

New models come out in January and February, so buy last year’s version at a discount

Home Entertainment Systems:

The best TV and home theater sales come just before the Super Bowl

Video Games:

New games are released for the holidays, so you can get them marked down after the rush

Chocolates and Candy:

Buy after Valentine’s Day, of course

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Prices can be reduced by as much as 25% to 40% from the end of March through April

China and Flatware:

Get in on inventory left over from the holidays

Air Conditioners:

Don’t wait for the weather to get hot; demand is low now, as are prices

Gas Grills:

As with air conditioners, demand and prices are low

Gardening Tools:

Rakes, hoes, shovels and other gardening implements are as much as 50% off

Frozen Food:

It’s National Frozen Food Month, so supermarkets celebrate with sales

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Stock up now on next winter's sweaters with steep sales

Sneakers:

In spring, stores entice warm-weather runners with sales

Vacuum Cleaners:

Retailers slash prices now to make room for new models in June

Snow Blowers:

Come April, demand is low, so scoop up one for next year

Office Furniture:

Retailers cater to home businesses starting after tax season

Cruises:

This is the season for repositioning cruises, which have fewer ports of call but are cheaper and of great value

Electronics:

After the Japanese fiscal year closes at the end of March, retailers make room for new models of Japanese electronics

Sweaters and Cashmere:

Prices can be reduced by as much as 25% to 40%

Vacuum Cleaners:

Retailers slash prices now to make room for new models in June

Cookware:

Graduation and wedding promotions mean you should buy pots and pans now

Refrigerators:

New fridges come out during the summer, so stores are clearing space; negotiate a deal

Big Appliances:

Stock not sold during the holiday rush is now heavily discounted

Patio Furniture:

Warm weather means newer models, so buy last season’s styles now

Grilling Supplies:

Get charcoal and lighter fluid before summer kicks into high gear and prices go up

Small Kitchen Appliances:

Get your mixers and blenders now, when there are sales for wedding and graduation season

Party Supplies:

Whether or not you’re throwing a graduation party, stock up on disposable plates, cups, etc.

Electronics:

After the Japanese fiscal year closes at the end of March, retailers make room for new models of Japanese electronics

Mattresses and Box Springs:

Stores want to make room for new models, so negotiate a good deal now

Men’s Suits:

Father’s Day sales mean low prices

Tools:

Father’s Day strikes again

Cookware:

It’s not only wedding bells that are ringing—registers are ringing with sales of pots and pans

Paint:

When it’s hot out, no one feels like painting … which is why it’s cheap at this time of year

Butter:

Butter production is at its best in June and July, so prices are accordingly low; freeze for up to six months to make it last

Champagne and Sparkling Wine:

There are usually deals for bubbly during the holidays and before June weddings

Gym Memberships:

The outdoors beckon, so gyms are offering deals

Suits:

Get a spring suit—in the middle of summer

Furniture:

Retailers are clearing space to make room for new inventory

Big Appliances:

Take advantage of Independence Day sales

Paint:

When it’s hot out, no one feels like painting … which is why it’s cheap at this time of year

Butter:

Butter production is at its best in June and July, so prices are accordingly low; freeze for up to six months to make it last

Flip-flops:

Ever-useful flip-flops are harder to find later in the year; buy them now when retailers still have them in stock and they’re on sale

School Supplies:

Back-to-school sales!

Trees, Shrubs, Plants:

Nab end-of-summer deals late in the month, and store your plants according to instructions until next spring. Alternatively, buy bulbs, which you can plant whenever

Lawn Mowers and Swing Sets:

Stores discount these summer items now to make room for fall products

Computers:

Capitalize on back-to-school sales

MP3 Players:

Stores want to get rid of old models before October when new styles come out and the holiday rush begins

China and Flatware:

Get in on the inventory left over from wedding season

Wine:

The harvest is coming in, so you can find eclectic wines from smaller wineries early in the season

Computers:

Upgrade yours during back-to-school sales

Jeans:

The remainders from back-to-school season are now available inexpensively for kids and adults

MP3 Players:

Stores want to get rid of old models before October, when new styles come out and the holiday rush begins

Cars:

Next year’s models have arrived, so dealers want to sell the current year’s leftovers, giving you negotiating leverage

Holiday Airfare:

It’s about eight weeks before Thanksgiving, so make travel plans before flights book up and prices skyrocket

Jeans:

The back-to-school sales continue, with sparser selection but steeper discounts

Swimsuits:

Cash in on swimwear sales now through November

Big Appliances:

Buy last year’s models now; shop during Columbus Day weekend, because stores celebrate even small holidays with sales

Air Conditioners:

Temperatures are cooling, and so are prices

Gas Grills:

Pick these up now for next summer

School Supplies:

Back-to-school sales!

Toys:

Retailers lower prices as early as October in order to maximize holiday sales

Cars:

Next year’s models have arrived, so dealers want to sell the current year’s leftovers, giving you negotiating leverage

Health Insurance:

Open enrollment may be your one chance to sign up for insurance for next year

Wedding Dresses:

Wedding fever is at its lowest pitch now

Swimsuits:

Swimwear is as much as 90% off, but selection is low

Cookware:

Kitchenware becomes cheaper as the holidays approach

Christmas Trees:

For the best selection, get your tree right after Thanksgiving; it’ll stay good for at least a month, and trees later in the season have been cut weeks earlier anyway

Frozen Turkeys:

Buy one immediately after Thanksgiving, when grocery stores still have a glut

Toys:

Retailers are slashing prices to maximize holiday sales

Electronics:

Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer great deals on everything from TVs to computers

Wedding Dresses:

The beginning of December is the slow season, so get in before holiday engagements

Televisions:

In the run up to the holidays, stores have big sales on TVs

Pools:

Off-season, you’ll find the cheapest prices, though maybe not the best inventory

Small Kitchen Appliances:

Get your mixer and blender during holiday sales

Champagne and Sparkling Wine:

Although these are in high demand, prices are also more competitive than usual

Frozen Meat:

Buy this immediately after Christmas, when grocery stores still have a glut

Allison Kade

Posted