12 Day Financial Wellness Challenge
The end of the year can be rough on the budget: gifts, travel, maybe some splurges on yourself!—All worth it. But come January you’re paying for it…literally.
Lucky for you, the New Year, is the perfect time to get your financial sh*t together, and while this is not something that happens overnight, with many small wins you can make big changes.
That is what our New Year’s 12-Day Financial Wellness Challenge is all about. To help you kick-off 2023 with your personal finances in order, we have gone ahead and broken down this (somewhat) daunting task into digestible and doable mini tips, starting January 9th.
Most importantly, you’re not alone in this! Do this with your partner, co-workers, or a group of friends!—And share your experience by tagging @whalesfund in your story!
After these 12 days, you should feel empowered and in control, with a clear path forward on how you are going to tackle your 2023 financial goals! Sign up here to be the first to know about our upcoming financial wellness challenges and get simple daily tasks sent straight to your inbox!
Now, here’s what to expect…
Day 1: Download a budgeting app
First things first: Understand your financial landscape.
What is your checking account balance? How much do you have in your savings? Are you on track to paying off your debt? What is your net worth?
The answers to the above questions are your baseline from which you will make all decisions moving forward.
If you don’t know the answers, don’t worry! A budgeting app takes all of your financial info and consolidates it in one place, so answering these questions is as easy as unlocking your phone. Our personal favorites are Emma and Mint. But we recommend downloading a few to take for a spin, and see what jives with you!
Day 2: Audit your credit card statements from the last 3 months
You spend at least 40 hours a week making money; you can spend a fraction of that time to see where it’s going. Yes, it’s somewhat laborious (and kind of scary), but SO worth it!—And you don’t have to be sitting at your desk, hunched under a glaring light to do it. Think a generous pour of your favorite wine, fuzzy socks, sweatpants, and your couch. Let the wine numb the pain and put in this time:
Are there charges you don’t recognize, subscriptions you forgot to cancel, double charges that don’t make sense? Based on your monthly income, are you over-spending?
On this day, we are not asking you to take any action yet. Just answer these questions as you comb through your statements.
P.S. If you’re spending on your debit card, STOP! You could be earning points for every dollar spent. Our advise? Pick a credit card based on your lifestyle and priorities (Do you want cash back, airline points, travel rewards?), and charge your expenses to this card—seriously all possible expenses, even a pack of gum! While this requires practicing restraint (you should only use 1/3 of your total limit), paying your expenses with a credit card makes even your money spent work for you. Just make sure you pay your balance on time and in full every month.
Day 3: Find one subscription that you can cancel
Forbes reported that in a study conducted on 2,500 Americans, 84% underestimated how much they spend on subscriptions each month. To make matters worse, 27% of those who underestimated, did so by $100-$199—That’s up to $2,388 unaccounted for in one year!
So, it’s time to take action after your in-depth audit of your purchases. I mean do you really need Netflix, Hulu and Peacock? Maybe a free trial ended on a random app you never use that you forgot to delete?
Take full advantage of that new budgeting app, as most of them will aggregate all your recurring charges to view together. So, you can decide what you can live without. Emma even lets you cancel your subscriptions straight from the app!
No subscriptions to cancel?—We bet there was a charge you didn’t recognize from yesterday’s audit that requires further investigation. Most fraudulent charges are intentionally small enough, so that you don’t notice them, or don’t think it’s worth the time required to figure out whether it’s fraud or that mindless self-indulgent purchase you made after bottomless brunch. But today, you make the time!
Day 4: Set measurable financial goals for 2023
Armed with a clear understanding of your current financial landscape and spending habits, you are ready to strategically craft your 2023 financial goals. But before we get into the knitty gritty ask yourself, “What does success mean to me?” Feels like a loaded question? Take 5 minutes to write down where you see yourself in 1 year, 5 years, and 20 years from now, and the answer will materialize.
By being cognizant of your “why”, sticking to your goals can feel easy (even when your bestie is beckoning you to that delish pricey tapas bar) because you know the end game. It’s not about being frugal for sport. It’s about taking the necessary steps to reach your goals and realize your definition of success.
Now that you know your motivation, it’s time to set measurable (and attainable) goals, as well as a concrete plan on how you’re going to get there. For example, instead of making your goal, “This year, I am going to invest more money,” it should be “This year I am going to invest $6,000. To do this I’m going to contribute $500 monthly to my portfolio.”
It is these goals, whatever they may be—paying off debt, creating an emergency fund, starting to invest, even saving for a dream vacation—that should be your guiding compass for all financial decisions you make this year.
Write down all your goals, so that they exist in the physical world and put them somewhere visible: your bulletin board, your refrigerator door, even your phone screen saver! That way, every day you know what it is you’re working towards.
Day 5: Create your monthly 2023 budget
Each of your financial 2023 goals has a corresponding plan on how you’re going to get there. Now it’s time to see how all that fits into your living expenses. Your 2023 budget will pave the way to reaching your 2023 financial goals! Our rule of thumb? The 50-30-20 rule where your monthly income is divided into three parts: 50% to needs, 30% to wants and 20% to savings.
Keep in mind, if you cannot allocate 20% of your monthly income to savings (rent has skyrocketed in the last few years!), contributing something is better than nothing! You should save until you have 3-6 months of income. This is called your emergency fund, i.e. money set aside for unplanned expenses or financial emergencies. If you already have your emergency fund set, allocate that 20% to your investment portfolio.
In case you need a little more detail, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Financial Mindfulness that takes you through the ins and outs of crafting a budget using the 50-30-20 Rule.
Pro Tip: Use your new budgeting app to see if you’re on track each month! We recommend checking in at least once a week.
Day 6: Make a plan to pay off debt
If you have any debt, paying off a realistic amount of it should be one of your 2023 goals. The sooner the better really does apply with debt (unless it’s good debt) since interest accumulates every day and often compounds, making the amount owed bigger and harder to pay off!
What is the maximum amount you could contribute monthly to chip away at your debt? The 20% of your budget allocated towards “savings” should go straight to paying this off—If you can do more, great! If you can’t do 20% of your income, the “something is better than nothing” still applies!
Lastly, take this time to earmark any unexpected money: tax refunds, bonuses or birthday gifts. While it is tempting to blow these little windfalls on “treating yourself,” the best selfcare is alleviating the stress caused by accumulating debt!
Day 7: Identify spending habits to change
On Day 7, we reflect: Look around your house, check out your closet, open that budgeting app and scroll through your recent transactions?
Do you really need all this stuff? Is your closet overflowing? Were all your purchases in your transaction history worth it?—Like those pricey jeans you bought, that you’ll wear all the time and you’ll have forever. Or, are there things that you could have lived without?—Hindsight is 20/20!
Beyond taking note of these insights to apply to future purchasing decisions, we challenge you to make another tangible spending change for 2023, and apply those savings towards reaching one of your goals.
What does this look like?—For example, “Last year I spent around $300 on UberEats monthly for lunch at the office. This year I am going to bring my lunch from home and add $300 to my investment portfolio monthly.—Woo!! Just make sure these are achievable.
Just as you did with your 2023 Financial goals, write these savings goal(s) down and decide on a visible place to post them as a reminder to keep yourself in check. You can also download our printable savings planner here!
Day 8: Pay Yourself First (PYF!)
Pay Yourself First or PYF, is one of our favorite quick tips to improve your financial wellness. PYF means transferring the savings amount specified in your brand-new budget the day that you are paid from your checking to savings. This way you are not saving what is left after spending, but instead spending what is left after saving.
We recommend automating these transfers, so you can set it and forget it. Good habits are the secret to success, so why not automate them!
Remember! If you have that high-interest debt, make those automatic transfers towards paying this off first! Or, if your emergency fund is good to go, make these automatic transfers go to your investment portfolio. With School of Whales, you can set-up recurring investments straight from your Dashboard!
Day 9: Master your understanding of compounding
Compounding and time—these two concepts, alone, govern wealth building. Understanding compounding will create that urgency that you need to begin investing (if you haven’t already).
We have several blogs that walk you through compounding and its integral role in making your money grow exponentially: Time is Money and What is the Compounding Effect & Why You Should Care.
Perhaps you’re a “learn by doing” kind of person. In that case, play around with Nerd Wallet’s Compound Interest Calculator, and see for yourself how compounding and time can make you wealthy.
Day 10: Start investing or add to an existing investment
After the compounding run down, you’re probably feeling motivated to get in the investing game. But before you put your money anywhere, do your research. School of Whales’ guiding principles: Invest in things you understand, create a diversified portfolio and think long-term.
Whether it’s stocks or real estate, this is money you should be ready to forget about—Yes, that’s right, literally forget about it. Unless you’re reinvesting your earned interest, or sitting down for your scheduled check-in, you should let your portfolio do its thing.
Don’t believe us? An internal performance review by Fidelity that assessed investor returns in the stock market from 2003 to 2013, concluded that the best investors were dead! Why?—Well, because death removes the emotional human inclination to sell a stock simply because the price of the company went down for a day. Or, in the case of real estate, list the house because the housing market is weak. It’s about the long-game.
If you already have investments, take this day to look into further diversifying or simply add to your existing diversified portfolio.
If you’re specifically interested in real estate, School of Whales is a one stop shop for a diversified commercial real estate portfolio, and it only takes 3 minutes to get started.
Day 11: Invest in yourself
Your finances are shaping up, but what about you?—yeah you! While financial stability is the necessary foundation to build a happy and healthy life, investing in yourself plays just as big of a role.
Today we want you to identify an investment you can make in yourself in 2023. Everyone has the ability to be wealthy. No matter where you are starting your journey, you can grow. Always. So, think—what is holding you back? What can you do to increase your earning power? How can you position yourself to make sound financial decisions?
There are plenty of free courses both in-person and online to develop any and every skill one could imagine! Maybe there is someone in your life that could help you learn something new, and you just need to muster up the courage to ask!
Maybe you want to approach this day as an opportunity to invest in your physical or emotional wellness. You could research affordable gyms in your area, join a free walking or running club, or simply carve out some time in your schedule to do something that revitalizes you—whether that’s a date night with your partner, an outing with a friend or time to finally sit down and read that book you ordered forever ago. Sometimes investing in yourself is as simple as doing something that allows you to be more engaged in your personal and professional life the next day! Now schedule this time and commit to carving out that time for yourself on a regular basis!
YOU are your biggest resource, and investing in yourself pays major dividends in the long run.
Day 12: Money Date—Reflect on progress and set all 2023 Money Dates
A Money Date is the hour of time that you should block off on your calendar every month to sit down and review your personal finances from top to bottom. While you have done this during the past 11 days, periodic check-ins are the key to reaching your goals!
Are you on track to stay within your monthly budget? Are there any 2023 goals you want to revise based on the past few days’ new learnings?
Luckily, you’ve already put in most of the work for this month. So, take this opportunity to block off the time on your calendar for your next eleven 2023 Money Dates, and most importantly, make sure to celebrate the enormous progress you’ve made this month!
It starts with your goals and ends with the small steps you take to get there. Success—whatever that may mean to you—is the result of many small efforts.
Keep your money goals realistic and measurable. The ultimate goal being to attain absolute peace through financial stability.
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