The Ultimate Monthly Savings Plan For 2017

The New Year is a perfect time to finally take serious control of your finances (instead of letting them control you). This month-by-month money plan includes simple and straightforward tasks to help you steadily move toward financial freedom in 2017. Ready to get started? Get out your calendar!

01
January: Get a handle on that holiday hangover
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January: Get a handle on that holiday hangover

Ah, January, the time of year when most of us tend to start spouting out "new year, new you" speeches and paying for overpriced gym memberships (because this year will be different, you guys, duh). And while those are awesome ideas, the first place that needs your focus at this time is your money.

It's time to get over your holiday hangover by repaying any debts you owe as soon as possible. Start by setting up automatic payments that go directly onto your credit cards each payday so that your holiday spending (that went a little overboard) can be taken care of without much stress.

02
February: Prep your annual expenses
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February: Prep your annual expenses

Prepping for annual expenses is a valuable financial trick to keep you from going over budget on planned events or holidays. The first thing to do: review your spending from previous years.

If you know you are heading off on a Summer vacation, try to make a savings plan now. If you know you’ll be spending roughly $800 on Christmas gifts, parties, and decor, start putting away a small amount each month. This keeps you from panicking one month before the occasion because you don’t have enough saved and also avoids overuse of credit and a potential collection of unsecured debt. Not only does this include vacations and holidays, but also insurance, property tax, and vehicle maintenance.

03
March: Time to prepare for tax season
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March: Time to prepare for tax season

We know what you're thinking: "Taxes aren't due until April." And while April 15 is the deadline, the best way to prepare for your taxes is to get ahead of the game. Start to put your paperwork together and get a rough idea of whether you will be getting a refund or will owe.

Not only is it beneficial to know whether you need to come up with extra cash (or start to plan what to do with your refund), you'll also ensure that there will be no overdue assignments or missed signatures (trust us, the punishment isn't as small once you're out of college).

04
April: Use your refund for something savvy instead of something silly
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April: Use your refund for something savvy instead of something silly

Now that we're officially in tax season, it's time to face the music. Do you owe money? At least you had a head start in preparing for this expense and can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Do you get a return this year? Plan to use your refund on something financially conscious as opposed to an extreme closet makeover.

We recommend putting your refund toward upcoming travel, your retirement, or any other money goals you have on the go (such as homeownership or a new vehicle). Not only is April tax time, it is also Financial Literacy Month. Spread your best financial tips to friends and family members in hopes that it will be easier to discuss money in the future.

05
May: Get ready for the warmer months
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May: Get ready for the warmer months

As things (finally) start to heat up, that's a sign that your finances will be heating up as well. In fact, according to American Express, the average person spends $1,145 on Summer vacations alone. Not to mention the four (uncommonly common) seasons: wedding, patio, beach, and swimsuit. Now is the time to start adjusting your budget for higher entertainment expenses.

The best way to change your budget is through percentages. If you were hibernating all Winter (like we were) and only had your entertainment category as 10 percent and your grocery budget as 35 percent, it might be appropriate to subtract 10 percent from your grocery and add that to your entertainment, now leaving you with 20 percent for entertainment and 25 percent for groceries. These small changes will make a world of a difference come July.

06
June: It’s the halfway point! Where do we stand?
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June: It’s the halfway point! Where do we stand?

Can you believe it's already halfway through another year? OK, metaphorically speaking it's halfway through another year. The six-month point is a great time to check in on your financial goals and spending habits. Have you been sticking to your annual expenses plan? Have you been living within your means?

If you find you are continually overspending on certain areas of your life, don't be afraid to review your expenses and switch things up. After all, it's perfectly natural to make money mistakes when you're just starting to live life with a budget.

07
July: Check in on your retirement plans
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July: Check in on your retirement plans

As Summer is in full swing, try to remember that your money should never stop working for you. Now might be a good time to take an evening away from the chaos and sit down to review your retirement progress. Are you allocating enough money? Do you need to be saving more?

Check out this retirement calculator to see if you are on the right track. Every dollar you save toward your future is going to allow you to subtract one day from working any longer than you'd like to. Haven't started saving yet? That's OK, too. Use this time to set up a 401(k) or whichever tool you think will fit your lifestyle.

08
August: Automate and update any savings goals
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August: Automate and update any savings goals

One thing to try this month (if you haven't already) is to automate all savings goals as well as any online payments you make. If you're already automated, then consider kicking things up a notch to prepare for the upcoming holiday season.

Automating is a great tool for people who struggle to save money, are always late to pay bills, or who just plain hate online banking. Don't be afraid to ask your bank which options it has for automated savings if you're new to the game.

09
September: Refresh your money skills by taking a free online course
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September: Refresh your money skills by taking a free online course

It's that time of year again! Back-to-school is here. Whether you're going back or not, now is a great time to refresh your money skills by taking a free online course or reading some awesome content.

Want to learn the bare-bones basics of investing? Try this course from Half-Banked. Want to learn how to tackle your debt load? Read this piece (like a boss).

10
October: Try a money saving challenge
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October: Try a money saving challenge

Before things start to get busy with your money (yet again), take October to test yourself with a good old-fashioned financial challenge. A financial challenge is a good way to control and revisit some spending habits you haven't been able to get a handle on yet this year.

Some of the best financial challenges include tracking your expenses for 30 days straight, like a "no-spend" challenge that stops all spending on anything other than necessities or a round-up challenge that includes rounding up each expense by putting the remainder of the amount into a separate savings account.

11
November: Check that credit score
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November: Check that credit score

As the year comes closer to ending, one important thing you've been holding out on is checking your credit score. It is highly recommended that you do this once a year to ensure there have been no signs of identity theft, that you are in good financial standing, and whether or not you need to do more with your credit.

The best part? Experian now offers your score for free (which means you have no more excuses).

12
December: Put your year’s worth of planning to the test
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December: Put your year’s worth of planning to the test

We bet you can remember the feeling of arriving at Dec. 1 without a single dollar saved for every person you know (because they were all on the nice list). How much of a difference does it make knowing that you tackled this huge expense without even batting an eye?

Whether you put $20, $50, or $100 away each month to prepare for the holiday season (remember February when you prepped for this?), you are likely miles ahead of the pack. Knowing that you can avoid a credit card bill in January because you took time last year to prepare makes money seem a lot less threatening, doesn't it? Now that we're coming up on yet another new year, just go back to the beginning and repeat the savings plan all over again. You're unstoppable!