A Month-by-Month Guide to Managing Your Money This Year

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Buck Starts Here

A lot of New Year's resolutions involve money and getting finances in shape — and if you made one of these promises to yourself this year or not, it's not too late to plan for a fresh financial start. Whether you want to get your finances organized, save more, spend less, get out of debt, prioritize investing, work toward retirement, or just eliminate money stress, setting ambitious but manageable monthly goals could be the key to success. Here's how to change your financial world in 12 months.

Related: 10 Strategies to Actually Keep Those Resolutions

woman writing in planner


As the first month of the new year, January is the perfect time to get organized, create a budget if you don't have one already, check your credit score and report, set broad goals for the coming months, and lay the foundation for a successful financial year. Sites such as Mint.com are free to use and offer a bounty of budgeting, goal-setting, and financial organizational tools. Physical day planners, calendars, and organizers are all steeply discounted starting the moment the ball drops on New Year's Eve, so if you prefer old-school notebooks and paper over apps, they're on the discount rack right now. Finally, January is also a good time to have the often-difficult but always important money talk with your partner or spouse.

Related: How to Save Your Marriage and Bank Account

tax documents
Darylann Elmi/istockphoto


You should have received all of the documents you need to file your tax returns. You don't have to pay yet if you'll owe a bill, but if you have a refund coming, filing early will get the ball rolling on that cash coming your way — the IRS usually starts accepting returns and processing refunds in late January. Filing early will also get the black cloud of taxes out of the way and prevent surprises in April. Keep in mind that February is a great time to buy mattresses, outerwear, and chocolate, and winter in general is a smart time to buy things associated with the other side of the calendar, such as sunglasses, convertibles, bathing suits, and beach chairs.

Related: Don't Fall for These 20 Common Tax Myths

credit cards


For your finances and home, March is prime time for spring cleaning. That means clearing out financial clutter. Cancel overlapping streaming services, cancel subscriptions to apps you don't use, and comb through your bank, credit, and debit card statements to search for recurring charges for services or subscriptions you might have forgotten about. Charges such as these can also bleed you when you sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel within the trial period, so the subscription fee begins coming out of your account automatically.

Related: 15 Contracts That Can Be Painful to Cancel and How to Get Out of Them

organize papers


Spring cleaning continues in April, but in this case, with physical financial clutter such as paperwork. April 15 is Tax Day, and if you waited this long to file, you likely had to dig out a whole bunch of documentation related to not only your work and income, but your health insurance statements, children's Social Security cards, etc. Use the moment to create an organized physical space that serves as home base for all your physical financial stuff. April is the month to buy things such as gas grills, lawnmowers, windows, and pressure washers.

Related: Too Busy to File a Tax Return? 12 Tips for Procrastinators

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is


You've hopefully either settled your tax bill or received your refund by now, which makes the last month of spring a great time to plant a financial seed. If you don't already have an investment account, open one — just make sure it's with a brokerage firm that's free to use. In this day and age, there's almost no reason for the average investor to pay commissions, transaction fees, trade fees, maintenance fees, minimum balance fees, management fees, or anything similar. There are many free brokerages to choose from, each with different features, pros, and cons. Among the best is M1 Finance, which offers a suite of great features such as fractional share investing, margin lending, and dynamic rebalancing, all free and delivered through a sleek and user-friendly interface.

Related: 20 Fun and Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

good credit score


By now, it's been six months since you opened that Mint account and scratched out a budget in that daily planner — and now 2022 is already halfway over. The midway point of the year is a great time to revisit your credit score, check your credit report for errors, and evaluate your progress with your goals and your budget. You might need to realign those goals accordingly. At the end of the month, plan for July 4 and other summer sales if you need to do any midsummer buying. Also keep in mind that Amazon Prime Day will likely return to July this year after being bumped to October in 2020.

Related: How You're Destroying Your Credit Score Without Knowing It

car insurance


Take the time to renegotiate payments on all the services that make up your monthly bills. In some cases, such as with car insurance, it's wise to compare rates, shopping around once or twice a year just to see what's out there. In other cases, a phone call to your current provider can lead to lower bills — your credit card company, for example, might lower your interest rate or cancel an annual fee just for asking. Your cable company might give you an introductory rate that's supposed to be only for new customers, lower your bill, or upgrade your package for free if you threaten to cancel your service.

Related: 21 Ways to Reduce Your Monthly Bills When Money Is Tight

20 Ways Companies Get You to Spend More Without Knowing It


Plan to take advantage of back-to-school sales popping up throughout the month. Even if you don't have kids, deep discounts are standard on everything from jeans to laptops. Also in August, commit to education and improvement. Read a financial self-help book that you've been hearing about, or subscribe to a top-rated personal finance podcast to brush up.

Related: What to Buy in August

Hiding the Will
bills past due


Even though Halloween isn't even until the end of the month, the arrival of October means it's time to start planning for holiday budgeting, shopping, buying, saving, and spending. With the season of spending on the horizon, it's a wise time to examine your debt. If your credit card balances are high, now might be a good time to consider taking out a personal loan to consolidate revolving balances at a lower interest rate or to apply for a new credit card with a zero-interest introductory rate to transfer your high-interest balances to safer ground.

Related: 32 Credit Card Mistakes You're Probably Making

black friday shopping


With Black Friday and the shopping season heading into full swing, November is as good a time as any to make yourself a more efficient online shopper and discount buyer. Sign up with sites such as Honey and RetailMeNot and install their extensions on your browser. They'll apply coupons and discount codes to the things you buy at checkout and give you price alerts when something you're shopping for gets cheaper or more expensive. ShopSavvy, ScanLife, and NowDiscount are examples of price comparison apps that let you find the best price before you buy.

Related: 37 Things You Should Do to Save Money During the Holidays

checking temperature


Now is the time to close the year out right and make sure you do everything that needs to be done by the start of the new year. That means maxing out contributions to your retirement account, health savings account, and any other tax-privileged investments. It's also time to re-enroll for the coming year's health insurance and make any charitable contributions for the current tax year. In just one month, after all, it will be time to start all over again.

Related: 22 Smart Tax Moves to Make Before the End of the Year