How to work toward your financial goals for 2024: A 12-month planning guide

January 10, 2024

From January through December, here are the steps to getting your financial house in order, one month at a time.

This probably sounds familiar: The new year comes around, you celebrate, you feel hopeful about the future and…you make grand resolutions that you’re probably not going to stick to. But don’t worry, it’s not just you.

Researchers have found that within one week of setting a new year’s resolution, only 77% of people have maintained their pledges. Many of those lost pledges included goals to save more money and invest wisely.

One great way to help you change your money habits is to take baby steps and set one goal for each month of the year. With more specific tasks, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate — and the sense of accomplishment you get from achieving a monthly task can motivate you to tackle the next one.

It also helps to set “approach-oriented goals,” according to financial therapist Amanda Clayman. Most of us come up with goals from a place of pain, she explains, “so we’re motivated to get to an outcome we think will hurt less.” These resolutions are what psychologists call “avoidance-oriented goals.” For example, you might resolve to get out of debt because you feel ashamed. But that doesn’t always work. Instead, studies show that approach-oriented goals, where you are striving toward something you want rather than avoiding something you don’t want, are significantly more successful.

Here’s a month-by-month guide for you to try:

January: Bolster accounts

What you do in January is going to set up your whole year. With that in mind, look at your 401(k)s, IRAs, savings accounts, etc. and see if you can afford to boost your recurring contributions.

Even increasing your contributions slightly can go a long way — so if you discover you have some extra cash to spare, put it towards a retirement account or increase an automatic transfer to a savings account. If you received an end-of-year bonus, merit increase or promotion, that’s even more reason to adjust those contributions accordingly.

Note: You’ll likely need your budget in front of you to figure this out, so if you don’t have one yet, make creating a budget your goal instead.

February: Review beneficiaries

If you’ve gone through a major life change, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, the beneficiary designations on your retirement plans, life insurance policy and other financial accounts may be out of date. Or you may never have gotten around to naming a beneficiary in the first place. That means that when you die, your assets may not go to the person you intended. So, check all your beneficiary choices in February.

Even if you haven’t undergone a big change, periodically reviewing your estate plan is a good idea. Do you have a will, power of attorney and healthcare directive? Have you considered a trust and have you created a plan for your digital assets?

March: Check credit reports

Once every 12 months, you can request a free credit report. This summary of your credit activity and your history of paying bills and making loan payments on time comes from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). This is not to be confused with your credit score, which is the number calculated based on your credit report. (If you’re a U.S. Bank client, you can get your score for free online or on the U.S. Bank Mobile App.) lets you get your free credit report from all three bureaus.

Regularly checking your credit report will not only ensure that you catch any incorrect or incomplete information, but it will also help you understand what lenders see, and your report can highlight aspects of your financial life that need your attention.

April: Adjust withholdings

Whether you receive a large tax refund or owe money on Tax Day, April is the time to adjust your withholding. Each paycheck, your employer withholds a portion of your pay for federal income taxes (and possibly state income taxes). If you have too much withheld, you may receive a large refund. If not enough is withheld, you may owe money when you file your taxes.

You can calculate the correct withholding amount using the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator tool and then adjust your withholdings by filling out a new W-4 form with your employer.

May: Set up a college savings plan

May is graduation season, so why not get in the spirit and set some money aside for future college expenses. The money you contribute to a 529 plan grows tax-free, and you don’t have to pay taxes on withdrawals used for qualified education expenses.

No kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews this will benefit? No problem. You can contribute to a 529 plan for your own future educational needs. If you end up not needing the money for school, there’s good news, you have options for how you may be able to use leftover funds.

June: Work on long-term goals

Mid-year is a great time to assess how you’re doing thus far — and your progress toward big-picture goals. Look to see if you need to course correct so you can better prepare yourself for reaching those goals — whether that’s buying a house, switching careers, launching a small business or taking an international trip.

It’s also an ideal time to check how much money you have contributed to your tax-advantaged retirement accounts and see if you can increase your contributions for the second half of the year (especially if you didn’t already do so in January).

July: Evaluate recurring subscriptions

Ongoing subscription charges cost consumers an average of $219 per month, according to a 2022 analysis by C + R Research — and most people aren’t even aware of just how much they are spending.

That free, three-month streaming service you signed-up for is likely showing as a monthly charge now because you forgot to cancel. Or remember that magazine subscription you gifted to your high schooler…who is now 45, living across the country and only reads articles on his phone?

The point is, it’s hard to keep track of all your subscriptions, trial periods, automatic renewals and the like. Use July to review your credit card and bank statements to find recurring charges for subscriptions you don’t use — and then cancel them.

August: Analyze auto and home insurance coverage

If you’ve been driving the same car for nearly a decade, are you still paying for comprehensive and collision coverage that you may not need? And if you’ve done renovations on your home, does your policy offer enough coverage to rebuild if disaster strikes?

It’s time to review your coverage levels to make sure you’re not over- or under-insuring your car or home. That way when your next renewals come up, you’ll be prepared.

September: Start holiday planning

September may feel way too early to be thinking about whose hosting this year’s family gathering and getting your decorations out from storage, but it’s not too early to start planning out your holiday spending. According to a Deloitte holiday survey, Americans planned to spend an estimated $1,652 per person on gifts and events in 2023, up 14% from 2022.

Making a budget now will not only give you time to save money for gifts, entertainment, food and other holiday expenses, but it will also likely help you save money on holiday travel when you book early.

October: Do a home energy audit

An energy audit can tell you how much energy your home uses and where you may be able to conserve — and save money in the process. While you can hire a professional home energy assessor, it’s also possible to pinpoint energy inefficiencies with a DIY audit.

During the assessment, check for air leaks (such as gaps along windows and doors); inspect insulation levels in floors, ceilings and walls; examine your heating and cooling equipment; and check out the lighting and appliances you use to see if you can make some efficient swaps.

Doing this in October will help you determine what to focus on before winter rears its icy head.

November: Take advantage of open enrollment

If you get your health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, open enrollment runs from November 1 to January 15 each year. Many employer-sponsored healthcare coverage plans allow you to make plan changes in fall for coverage beginning January 1.

During this period, you can enroll, unenroll and change your selections. Use this opportunity to review your premiums, deductibles and network of medical providers. If you have one, it’s also a good time to review contributions to a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA), which are pre-tax accounts you can use to pay for healthcare related expenses.

Need help picking the right plan for you and your family? Here are some things to consider before choosing a plan.

December: Look at annual spending

At the end of the year, look at your spending over the last 12 months to see what budget tweaks you might want to make for the coming year. And as with the beginning of the year, Clayman recommends ending the year with a sense of curiosity and self-compassion.

“Identify how you want to use money to meet the needs of today — and balance those current needs with wanting to take care of yourself in the future,” she says. If you leaned a little too heavily on your current needs this year, acknowledge that and see if you can focus more on your future self next time to even the playing field.

Working towards financial goals becomes easier when you reflect on your intentions. Continue reading for tips on how to set financial goals.

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Bull and bear markets: What do they mean for you?

What applying for store credit card on impulse could mean

Credit: Do you understand it?

What types of credit scores qualify for a mortgage?

Test your loan savvy

Webinar: Mortgage basics: What’s the difference between interest rate and annual percentage rate?

How to manage money in the military: A veteran weighs in

How to roll over your 401(k)

4 times to consider rebalancing your portfolio

A beginner's guide to investing

Credit score help: Repairing a bad credit score

How do I prequalify for a mortgage?

Can you take advantage of the dead equity in your home?

Home equity: Small ways to improve the value of your home

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How much house can you afford?

8 steps to take before you buy a home

Is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) right for you?

Webinar: Mortgage basics: 3 Key steps in the homebuying process

Webinar: Mortgage basics: Buying or renting – What’s right for you?

How to use your home equity to finance home improvements

Webinar: Mortgage basics: What is refinancing, and is it right for you?

Should you get a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit?

5 things to avoid that can devalue your home

6 questions to ask before buying a new home

What is refinancing a mortgage?

What is an escrow account? Do I have one?

Quiz: How prepared are you to buy a home?

10 questions to ask when hiring a contractor

What to know when buying a home with your significant other

Webinar: Mortgage basics: How does your credit score impact the homebuying experience?

What is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) and what can it be used for?

Dear Money Mentor: When should I refinance a mortgage?

Building a dream home that fits your life

Are professional movers worth the cost?

First-time homebuyer’s guide to getting a mortgage

Beyond the mortgage: Other costs for homeowners

How I did it: Bought my dream home using equity

Get more home for your money with these tips

Saving for a down payment: Where should I keep my money?

4 ways to free up your budget (and your life) with a smaller home

How I did it: Built living spaces to support my family

Community activist achieves dream of homeownership

Bringing economic opportunity to underserved communities one home at a time

Managing the impacts of appraisal gaps in a hot housing market

Is it the right time to refinance your mortgage?

Spring cleaning checklist for your home: 5 budget-boosting tasks

Overcoming high interest rates: Getting your homeownership goals back on track

Is it cheaper to build or buy a house

Starting your homebuying journey

Home improvements with the best ROI

PCS moving checklist for military spouses and families

Webinar: Buying a home in 2022: what to expect

Home buying myths: Realities of owning a home

Webinar: 11 insider tips for student debt

House Hacks: How buying an investment property worked as my first home

How we did it: Converted to solar power

How to maximize your credit card rewards

How to use credit cards wisely for a vacation budget

Which debt management technique is right for you?

Should you buy a house that’s still under construction?

Dear Money Mentor: How do I begin paying off credit card debt?

10 uses for a home equity loan

Know your debt-to-income ratio

Best travel credit card perks for family vacations

Your guide to breaking the rental cycle

Understanding your military GI Bill benefits

Webinar: How to pay for college

Is a home equity loan for college the right choice for your student

Travel for less: Smart (not cheap) ways to spend less on your next trip

How to apply for federal student aid through the FAFSA

Things to know about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Should you buy now, pay later?

Steer clear of overdrafts to your checking account

U.S. Bank asks: Do you know what an overdraft is?

Tips and resources to help in the aftermath of a natural disaster

Tips for working in the gig economy

Which is better: Combining bank accounts before marriage — or after?

Tips to overcome three common savings hurdles

Money Moments: 8 dos and don’ts for saving money in your 30s

Save time and money with automatic bill pay

A passion for fashion: How this student works the gig economy

Money Moments: 3 smart financial strategies when caring for aging parents

Helpful tips for safe and smart charitable giving

Growing your savings by going on a ‘money hunt’

Why a mobile banking app is a ‘must have’ for your next vacation

Tips to raise financially healthy kids at every age

How to avoid being the victim of a digital payments scam

Is it time to get a shared bank account with your partner?

How I kicked my online shopping habit and got my spending under control

How to financially prepare for a military PCS

How to set yourself up for success in your first job

How to stay positive when searching for a job

Friction: How it can help achieve money goals

It's possible: 7 tips for breaking the spending cycle

What to consider before taking out a student loan

Earning in the gig economy: Gladys shares her story

Financial checklist: Preparing for military deployment

Here’s how to create a budget for yourself

Common unexpected expenses and three ways to pay for them

Webinar: Common budget mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Checking and savings smarts: Make your accounts work harder for you