Starting Your Budget Fresh for the New Year

December 26, 2022

A tradition our family started celebrating years ago is Sweet & Sour Day on December 26. 

My sister was introduced to it by friends on a church mission trip in Brazil, and it’s become a small but meaningful tradition in the family. 

It’s easy, which is a major bonus the day after Christmas, and doesn’t require any special decorations or preparations. Even though it usually means we just go out for Chinese or Asian food, having it established as a tradition adds significance to the meal and our conversation.

For someone who adores Christmas, it’s “sour” to see the lights and the music and the gift-giving and the magic of Santa Claus and extra focus on Jesus come to an end. 

But as someone who also adores goals and new beginnings and possibilities, it’s “sweet” to think of the new year ahead while there is still time over the break to think about goals and stuff. 

It’s a meal where we symbolically:

  • Say goodbye to months of holiday treats and indulgence, and say hello to better habits.
  • Say goodbye to overbooked calendars and more time in Target than you enjoy, and say hello to a bit more simplicity.
  • Say goodbye to goals that didn’t get any attention in 2022, and say hello to choosing intentionally what you are going to work on in 2023, and how you will.

Whether you do something similar, I’m sure you have traditions for transitioning from one year to the next.   

One major category of New Year’s resolutions is around money, especially since December can be an expensive month and the stress of it can motivate you to get back in the saddle. 

Can you relate to the post-holiday period feeling like an exercise in damage control? The Christmas clutter has been dealt with and life is returning to normal and less busy.

And you know you need to steel yourself (as in “make oneself ready for something difficult and unpleasant”) to assess where you are financially after all that spending. 

The feeling of finding your bank account balance lower, or your credit card balance higher than estimated, can be downright demoralizing. 

You didn’t plan to have that little money or that high of a balance, and yet here you are, trying to figure out how to start the new year on a fresh foot.  

And while it might feel discouraging, I see it as something amazing! Because it’s when you see your accurate financial picture, that you can make a plan for going forward. Even if you don’t love exactly where you are, at least you can do something about it.

And when better to do that than at the changing of the year? It is good news for all of us that we can make fresh starts any time we choose. But since we have a new year here in front of us, I propose we use it to our advantage.

It’s a perfect time to:

  • Look at what is working with money for you and what you are doing well. Chances are, there’s more to celebrate than you think. And taking the opportunity to celebrate that opens you up to the possibility of more of it in the coming year.  
  • Determine what is not working for you. This looks like a gentle assessment of practical points of friction in your money life, exploring what tweaks your current budgeting system might need, and where small adjustments in mindset and behavior could yield dramatically better results.
  • Articulate what you want to change to start winning with money. This includes determining what you’ll experience more of and less of as you refine your system, and why it matters to you. This provides sustaining momentum for moving forward.

You’ve got a brand-new year ahead of you. Having your money system polished up for that year will do wonders to set you up for what’s headed your way—the hard, the routine, and the totally amazing. 

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