finances

How to do a Semi-Annual Financial Check-In

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When a new year begins, it’s very easy to get excited about resolutions and goals. While this may be good for your finances at first, eventually life can and will get in the way. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do a 6-month check in with any of your goals, be they financial or otherwise.

Today, we’ll help guide you through your semi-annual financial check-in to make sure you’re still on track, or to get you back on track.

Gather up all your accounts and statements

First, you’ll want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row by getting all your financial account statements. This includes your bank statements, credit card statements, investment statements, any debts or loan repayments you’re doing, real estate/mortgage, and anything else you can think of that falls into this category. You could also include your credit score statements, but just be careful you aren’t checking these scores too often in one year, as this can affect your score.

Having all the documents laid out will make sure that, when you evaluate them, you aren’t forgetting anything. Make a check-list if you want to be extra-organized!

Re-evaluate your goals

A lot of the time, people will feel as though they are trapped in their goals and have to see them through before making a new one. This doesn’t have to be the case! Sometimes our values or expectations change, which means that our goals will also change. Don’t be afraid to admit if your goal doesn’t align with your beliefs or lifestyle anymore, and change it accordingly.

If your goal is still relevant to you, however, take a look at what steps you’ve accomplished so far, and take time to congratulate yourself. Even if you aren’t quite where you want to be yet, acknowledging that you’ve made progress at all is a great way to keep yourself motivated.

Write down your action plan for the next six months

It’s one thing to think about what your next steps are going to be - it’s another thing entirely to write them down. According to a study at the Dominican University of California, you’re at least 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down and revisit them consistently.

By taking your plan and writing it down step-by-step, you’ll set a clear path for yourself to make sure you will reach your financial goals, and you will also be able to know when you complete certain steps!

Do a quick check-in every month to stay on track

When it comes to my finances, I check my statements every single day to make sure I haven’t missed anything and that I’m on the right track. You don’t have to be as crazy as I am, but make sure you check in with your progress at the very least once a month. Once a week may be even better! That way, you can figure out immediately what has worked, what hasn’t, and change your plan accordingly.

Goals, especially financial ones, can be daunting if you don’t have a path or you’re unsure what to do. Follow these steps, however, and you’re much more likely to be successful!

What are some of your financial goals for the next six months? Have any of your goals changed from January? Let us know in the comments!

How Tracking My Budget Has Changed My Life

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By Amy Lancaster. Originally published in the October 2018 Issue of the Milborn Newsletter.

Like most people my age (I'm assuming), most of my 20's have been less about financial freedom, and more about stressing about where my next dollar was coming and going. My adult life so far has been filled with nights of staying home, dodging plans, and not getting any sleep, rather than going out, partying, and traveling. Even more so, there were no saving habits to be found. Being almost 30, I knew things had to change.

Budgeting was something I knew I had to do - and wanted to do - but it wasn't until I started working at a financial firm and seeing the ins and outs of money and investing that I became truly interested in fixing my financial situation. From only two months of keeping track of my spending, I've managed to not only finally open a savings account, but I've tucked away over $700 that I just assumed I didn't have lying around otherwise. Here are a few more things I've discovered since tracking my budget:

1. I spend way too much on eating out. Lattes, sushi specials at the market, an alcoholic beverage or two - it adds up, and quickly. I'd always defend my eating out habit with "Well, I can spend $100 a week on groceries, or I can spend $5 a meal three times a day for seven days, which comes out to be the same amount." Oh Amy, you are so naiive. I'm still struggling with this, but being able to see how much I do spend on eating out (and so far, it's been 2 for 2 on being more than groceries a month) helps me curb this habit and see that I could be putting that amount towards something way more necessary (say, a new computer. I'm tired of living this USB keyboard life since my laptop's keyboard broke).

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2. I discovered automated payments I didn't even know I had. The very first day I started tracking my spending, I noticed a $40 monthly payment for a resume website I used once. Immediately I canceled it, and thanked myself for tracking my spending, otherwise who knows how long I would have paid $40/month for something I didn't even need or use. 

3. My financial goals are more tangible. I haven't had a car since February of 2017. While I've been able to mostly get around and have had wonderful people in my life be so gracious to give me rides or loan me their car, I do miss the freedom of having my own vehicle. Now that I am tracking my budget, I can stop thinking "One day when I graduate and have a high-paying job I can finally get a car", and start putting away x amount every month and physically seeing my money grow towards that goal. That trip to Japan that I've been wanting to take for years? It doesn't seem so far fetched of an idea anymore.

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4. It makes me excited for the future. One of my biggest fears for a while now has been being a financial burden on whoever my long-term partner ends up being. It's hard to admit, but in order to fix yourself, you need to admit what your problems are, and be candid with yourself. Now that I'm with that person, the last thing I want to do is put myself in that situation. I don't need to earn more than him (let's be real, I probably won't, He's a scientist, and I will brag about that at every opportunity), but rather have us spend our money on something for both of us - a spa day, a dream trip, our future home - than have him spend money on bailing me out of a bill or loan or a debt situation. By fixing my financial situation now, I can guarantee the future will be better for us - and it makes me look forward to it in a way I never have before. 

5. I can sleep at night. If that isn't financial freedom (or at least freedom from stress), I don't know what is.