By Hanniz Lam

February is here! Gong Xi Fa Cai for those celebrating this week. As the excitement of meeting our relatives over sumptious meals and reminiscing over the good times slowly fades and we mentally prepare ourselves to face another work week, here’s something you can do over the weekend while eating Chinese New Year cookies.

Last week we shared the personal finance calendar.

Now you can begin taking action.

When was the last time you had a money date? How long has it been since you sat down, checked out all of your accounts (loans, investments, all of it), paid your bills, and scrutinized your spending?

Most of us would have spent more than usual during Christmas and Chinese New Year and might be facing the “I can’t I believe how much I spent on makeup, mandarin oranges and seafood”.

Here’s the thing: avoiding that feeling — and our money problems — will only make things worse.

When you avoid your ever-growing credit card balance, unpaid bills, and recurrent subscriptions that you don’t use, you’re losing the money you worked your ass off to earn.

When you miss minimum payments on your credit cards, you may be charged late fees, and your credit score may suffer as a result. Bills may be sent to collections agencies, lowering your credit score once more. When you try to overdraft your account, certain bank account providers actually charge you money.

To manage the cold sweat that you might be feeling, we’re going to start taking charge this weekend:

Get comfortable. Switch on the aircond (the Chinese New Year heat is here), put on your favorite sweats (ironic since we’re just switched on the aircond, right?), and grab a coffee or a cup of tea.

Get organized. Hunt down any bills or other financial paperwork you’ve lost track of. Log into your credit card, bank, and investment accounts online. Face your money.

Prioritize. What feels like the biggest concern for you right now? Assess your spending, saving, debt paydown, and investment habits. What are the pain points?

Decide what you’ll address first. Generally, putting a bit of money away in your emergency fund is a good place to start (yes, even before paying down debt — we want to be cash flow positive).

Make a strategy for carrying these actions out. Maybe you’ll schedule some time to think about how you’ll ask for a raise (after successfully exceeding your KPIs last year, you deserve it!).

Set spending restrictions on a weekly basis may be a better option. Maybe all you need to do is set up autopay for your bills and cancel a couple of subscriptions.

Celebrate! No matter the progress you made today, it’s worth being proud of. Reward yourself with something cheap that feels luxurious (I’ll be drinking homemade milk tea and reading one of the many books my father-in-law has shared with me).

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