A Fresh Start to the New Year by Bob Lowry

A Fresh Start to the New Year y Bob Lowry

For more years than I’d like to count, I tend to kickoff the new year the same way. It is a five step process (I’m very organized!) that has worked for me before and during my satisfying retirement. Since we are less than 2 weeks away, it is time for me to get started. See how closely this matches your approach.

Develop a budget

This is always first. Without knowing (or making an educated guess) what my income and outgo is likely to be I can’t make any plans for vacations, home repairs and new furnishings, charity donations, and all the things that keep the Lowry household functioning. Usually I draw up a rough budget based on the current year’s situation by early December. Once I know about any health insurance cost increases I start to get serious.

For most years I start with the goal of keeping overall expenses no higher than the year just ending. I know how much I want to withdraw from savings and investments so I simply work backward from that figure. If I reach zero before all categories are taken care of, out comes the red pencil until expenses are slightly below income.

In some years, because of added expenses I will adjust the income by increasing the investment withdrawal rate to make the expenses work. Then, the following year we will adjust back down again to keep things in line. Betty and I will get together on New Year’s Eve and decide the final look of the new budget…not very exciting but we avoid the craziness of that night.

Betty starts Medicare next year so our medical categories can shrink a bit. As things often happen, any savings will be absorbed by higher real estate taxes and the likely need for a new car.

Clean out my office

All old receipts and files are boxed up and moved into the attic. Next year will be the last year I am handling the wrap up of my parent’s estate paperwork, though I will hold onto all the tax files forever. New files and envelopes are begun for 2019. My computer to-do list program has the previous year’s information archived and a fresh slate is started.

As one year’s worth of receipts and papers go into storage, the oldest box of similar stuff gets taken to a shredder. Everything that is older than 5 years, except tax returns, paid up mortgages, or other important papers, is destroyed.

I look for books and other items that can be given away or go into recycling so the office is as clean and empty of clutter as I can make it.

Put Away holiday decorations

If I had my way the Christmas stuff would be boxed up and back in the storage shed on December 26th. But, the family likes seeing everything all festive until New Year’s Day. So, sometime on January 1st or 2nd we’ll take down the lights, decorations, angle tree, and garlands, and put the holidays behind us.

Since we will not have the whole family at our house for Christmas this year there is much less than the normal amount of things to clear out. Once the lights and decorations are packed away, 2018 will be officially over.

Develop our vacation calendar

Betty and I usually discuss the next year’s vacation plans each fall. We have a general idea of our budget and where we’d like to go. After our European River Cruise in May and a scheduled trip to take everyone to Disney World at the end of January, the coming year will have no additional vacation plans. Long weekends now and again will have to do.

Betty has church commitments that keep her pretty busy on various projects each spring. This year I have volunteered to help so that will keep us close to home until June.

Purge the house & backyard area

Betty and I are happiest with minimal clutter. I am also am tired of trying to maintain so many flowering plants around our yard so I plan to downsize the number of pots I have in the backyard: the fewer plants to water and maintain the better.

Even though we had a big garage sale just last week, there are nooks and crannies in the garage and in several closets that need to be thinned out.

I’ll go through the books in my office and bedroom that are no longer needed and donate them to a charity. Usually at the beginning of the year I review my clothing situation. I get rid of things that are worn out or haven’t been used for at least a year. Off they go to the trash or Goodwill.

2019 may be the year I part with a few of my ham radios. For various reasons they are getting very little use. I should be able to sell them and allow someone else to enjoy them.

That is my approach to starting a new year. But, I am always looking for new ideas and suggestions. What do you do to kick off the new year? How do you organize and prepare yourself, your home, and your mind for a fresh start?

By Bob Lowry

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