Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Five: {5} Things I'm Doing to Start the Year Right

Besides that fresh start feeling at the beginning of the year that I just L-O-V-E (because it makes me want to clean out all my closets and cupboards)....I also kinda like the whole process of starting fresh with a new year.  I realized I have quite a few things that I'm doing every January-ish to roll over the calendar (literally) to a new year.  I find this strangely enjoyable after the hustle and bustle of Christmas to just settle in, get things ready for a new year, and start on a "I can do this all!" note!

1) Addressing Cards
I wrote about this last year and did it again this year!  I drug Luke along to the Dollar Store (it was literally dragging by the end, he was NOT thrilled to be waiting while I picked out over 50 cards) and bought most of the cards I'll need for the year.  That included birthday, anniversary, bridal showers, weddings, graduations, baptisms, and new babies.  I bought $38 of Dollar Store cards.  And then addressed, return addressed, and put them in chronological order so at the start of each month I can pull out the ones I'll be sending that month, just add a stamp!  Now, I'm in trouble if anyone moves (besides my little sister who is getting married and didn't have her new address when I did the cards...she's the only one!) or if they do it'll just be hand delivered (likely late).  But it feels good to have these at least started (I write notes before sending)!

2) Filling in the Calendar
My aunt has been doing family picture calendars for many years and I so love seeing all the extended family hanging on my wall all year.  It's a large family (70+??) and so there are a lot of dates filled with birthday and anniversary pictures but I don't mind fitting in our other dates around those (although, maybe we can have babies some time other than April?  It's very birthday heavy on all sides of the family!).  I quiz myself in adding all my in-laws' birthdays to the calendar (missed 1 of 50+) and this year I took it a step further and color coordinated things which I was/am pretty excited about.  Birthdays in one color, my work in another, wedding activities get their own (we have 4 this year, including my baby sister), and a few other categories.  Makes it so much easier to look at the calendar at a glance!

3) Wrapping up the Photobooks

I keep feeling like I'm new to this photobook thing and then realize I'm about to order I guess I have a little experience.  I do keep up with ours and Luke's throughout the year but at the end I still have to do the title page, the cover, do the Instagram collage for the back, make sure all the pages are filled and that I didn't miss any month-end summary pages.  I do final edits and read through everything I wrote.  It's not super time consuming since I do so much work on these through the year but still always feels good to get it ordered!

4) Back-up and format memory cards
I keep very regular with backing up pictures, probably obsessively so.  I pull pictures off memory cards/phone almost immediately and other than vacation pictures (which take a few days to go through), things are curated, sorted, and tagged right away.  I back-up our digital picture files ~3 times a month and clean off (not completely) my phone camera roll once a month.  We take a lot of pictures in a year - in 2016 it was 5,379 taking up more than 17 gigs (Luke was, shockingly, only in 45% of those...but still 2,451, thank you super tagging system).  Anyways, every January I format the memory cards on our two (non-phone) cameras.  We mostly use those on vacations but we can still get close to running out of space by the end of the year.  I find it kinda exciting to clear those off and start all afresh in January!

5) Taxes & Budget

At the beginning of the year I go through my Money software (so handy for so many reasons!) to figure out our deductions - things like charitable donations and property taxes paid.  My years at a public accounting firm taught me about using Excel worksheets to cross-check to my completed tax forms, something I still do.  I fill in the deductions that I didn't during the year (I add in auto excise tax and others as we pay them).  I add our interest earned for the year from the December bank statement.  Then I'm pretty much just waiting on W-2s to file.  We haven't itemized since paying off the mortgage so it is a pretty quick process but one I'm glad to have done so as soon as we get those W-2s I can file and, hopefully, get some money back. 

I also tweak our budget every year.  Somethings go up (health insurance, hopefully our incomes), some just change year to year (vacation budget based on number of trips and destinations, house projects planned), some pretty much stay the same (gas, groceries).  I look at what we spent in each category the year before and adjust accordingly.  I leave some unbudgeted money for various surprises (usually car repairs or house projects that don't go quite to plan...i.e. all of them).   Then we try to stick with it.  Some categories we're really good about (groceries!) others, not so much (household expenses). 

Getting those things all taken care of makes me feel decently ready to start a new year on the right foot.  Helps with the whole "start as you plan to go!" thing or maybe just appeals to my "loves crossing things off the to-do list" thing...  What do you do to start the year right?

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