Deep Dive

How to review your finances for 2023 and set goals for 2024

January 16, 2024

With festive socialising in full swing, the last thing you probably want to think about is your finances. While I encourage reviewing your finances regularly throughout the year, looking back on the year is important too because you can take a step back and look at the bigger picture. 

So, let’s look at how to review your finances from this year, and how to use that to set goals for the coming year. As we go through reviewing the numbers and our emotions in relation to money, make sure to jot down your thoughts somewhere. You’ll be using them to set some goals.

Reviewing your 2023

Pick two to three areas to review

Let’s focus on the numbers first. Choose two to three areas that either have the biggest impact on your overall financial picture, or that are worrying you the most. A common one is debt, but you might want to use this opportunity to review your spending habits too.

Dig out bank statements, your debt payoff tracker or any other spreadsheets or apps that can help you. You don’t have to go through your bank statements line by line, but these will be your sources of truth and take any guesswork out. Here are some points to consider: 

  • Are there any spending patterns that surprise you?
  • Review any subscriptions and recurring bills that could benefit from shopping around for a better deal.
  • Are there any particularly big spends that make you feel uncomfortable?

Think back on your favourite moments of the year

Now, it’s time to look at how you felt about your spending this year. This can help you to align your spending with the areas in your life where you get most value. Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • What are the standout moments when you look back? 
  • What are the top 5 things that come to mind when you think about what you spent using the discretionary part of your budget (the non-essentials)?
  • What do you wish you could have done differently with your finances?

How to set goals for 2024

Set SMART goals

Now that you’ve taken the time to reflect, it’s time to take that and turn it into some goals. Do you have a big holiday you want to save up for? Adapt them into SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound), and make sure they align with the life you want to live, not what others are doing. For example, instead of “I’m going to save towards a three-week holiday to Australia”, you could say, “I’m going to save £100 every payday until December 2024 towards my holiday to Australia.” 

Align your spending priorities with your values

Now, let’s look at how you can align your non-essential spending with your values using the answers from the reflection exercise. Let’s say that your standout moments were seeing your children growing in confidence with their swimming, and the meals around the table with your family. And perhaps, when you think back on your spending the surprise party for your Mum stood out the most, but you can’t remember which items in your wardrobe you bought with the £500 you spent on clothes. Chances are you can’t remember because they all blur into one, and none of the items really did stand out to you as purchases you love. Use this information to map out some non-essential spending priorities - as this is where you’ll get the most out of your money. 

Be realistic with what you can achieve

When the narrative of ‘new year, new you’ becomes rife, it’s very easy to set lofty goals. But being realistic about what you can achieve will not only mean you’re more likely to meet  your goals, but it’ll also keep you motivated. Consider any plans already in place that might affect your finances significantly.

Finally, our goals don’t automatically reset with the start of a new year. There may be goals you’ve been working on for the last few years that still need to be worked on. Don’t forget these when you’re setting your goals - you don’t have to set brand new goals every year.