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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

January Update: Happy New Year 2023!

Happy New Year my Financial Fives fanatics!

Did you miss me? I know it's only been a few weeks, but I'm sure some of you have been having over-dramatized panic attacks since our posts are no longer going to bless your inbox every Thursday morning as we've done in the past (Who knows what the future holds, maybe one day with enough reader requests we'll be back!).

Kidding of course. I hope all of you have had some time for some digital detoxing, relaxing, and getting back to the basics. Maybe you've taken this holiday season to spend more time with your parents, have hours-long FaceTime conversations with friends from across the country, or talk to your live-in partner about your vision for next year and beyond.

Usually, we are so busy in the day-to-day routine of life, work, eating, and sleep, that we don't get to just stop and think slowly. When the weekends and vacation finally rolls around, we are so worn out that we just want to get out and bike, hike or turn our minds off and stream some comedy movie.

Forget the Mall, Head to the Library!

With the holidays, I always take the week between Christmas and New Years off. I've done it since graduating from college, as it's always slow at work anyways, and I've also found it's a time when many friends are off as well, allowing for Wednesday afternoon meetups and Friday morning hikes.

In addition, it's also a great time to work on year-end errands that we never get around to. I go through and print photos to put into my albums, discard and shred documents I no longer need, organize spreadsheets for taxes, clear out and follow up on emails that require more attention, and audit my credit card transactions.

It's also a great time to rebalance your accounts. Some of you may have gotten fancy and gone to a managed money platform or use an auto-rebalancing tool, which is great! I just like to make sure my allocations line up with the goal and vision I have for that account, and that I'm not paying too much in fees or overexposed in any one area.

Finally, I like to review things like insurance policies and estate planning documents, making sure nothing needs to be updated or changed, and that my policies are still cost-competitive with the market. Don't forget to check those beneficiary designations, and that your disability policy is still covering your current income!

A Fresh Start for the New Year

Another way I like to welcome the new year is with a fresh practice of minimalism.

What have you accumulated through the year that you no longer need or have space for in your life? I know for me, during the holidays we get lots of stuff we don't really have a use for, like wine bottles, chocolate candy baskets, gift bags, questionably tasteful home decor, and other items. I also pack a bag full of clothes I haven't worn and don't like anymore, plus old towels, socks, and other garments.

Then move to the garage. Not only can this practice enable you to finally park your car inside (or even better, make space for an e-bike!), you can make some money as well. Last year, I sold a treadmill, nightstand, Sega Dreamcast (shoutout to my fellow 90's kids) and a dresser we inherited. Total profit: $560. Not bad for a few hours of work on stuff we wanted to discard anyway!

Goals for January

Since this is the first month of the year, I like to go a little ambitious to set a strong precedent for the year. My 3 goals for this month are:

1) Finish 5 books

I usually rent a book on the Overdrive app from our library every 3 weeks and try to finish in 2. Then, I usually rent an audiobook each week. Given the fact that I clean the house and do laundry for 3-4 hours every Monday night, I usually finish one audiobook per week.

I've made a habit of going to an independent bookstore and possibly a Barnes and Noble each month if I don't make it to the library, where I try to peruse the new nonfiction section to find new titles in the business or self-help genre. It's no surprise that I love books, being an author, but honestly, how could you not love books!?

2) Increase my income by at least 10%

I reached my income goal last year by maxing out all of my variable compensation at work, so can't go above that right now. I am now eligible for a merit raise, so I will keep you all posted on how that works out!

What about side hustles? I hope to spend at least 2-3 hours a week on marketing and leads for California Box Rental, and also work with a few freelancers on Upwork and Fiverr to help me get more publicity for the blog.

It's probably no surprise, but I don't blog for income. I hope to sell books, but that's because I think it's the best book out there of course, and can save a reader tens of thousands of dollars over the years, so a much better investment than another recycled content book on recent politics.

3) Block Out Time Off for the Year

Every January, when I get back to work, I request all my time off for the year. I'm immensely lucky and grateful that my employer has a "responsible time-off" policy, in that we can take as much time as we need, given that it does not impact our job responsibilities. I don't abuse this, I just take the same time off as I was given by my previous employer (30 days).

Doing this allows me to think about the year. Are there any weddings I am going to that I need to plan a gift for or book travel for? Are we taking a friend's trip in the summer and need to make sure I have a few days off after to recover and clean up? Is my birthday on a weekday this year? (Yes, I take my birthday off like a kid).

Given the fact that I didn't even get on a plane this year (the crowds, delays, and crazy prices turned me off), I may also organize any points, rewards, or travel credit I have to use in order or priority before they expire.

I'll check to see if I have any rental car promo codes. I'll map out my route for my road trip, book campgrounds, and organize my itinerary. I also write reminders on my calendar for the whole year (yes I use a paper calendar on my wall, it's from Porsche so, of course, it gets priority).

Doing all this planning not only helps you get ahead of the travel rush and snag available accommodations, but it also gives you something fun to do during the long winter nights, and look forward to things all year long!

Next month's update will be exciting and hopefully more organized with some visuals and numbers.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?


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