Create Your Year-End Money Ritual
Part One: Looking Back

written by Bari Tessler December 18, 2017
Create a Money Ritual Part One

Dear Community,

Maybe it’s my rule-breaker nature, but I’m much more hermit than social butterfly, this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a girlfriends’ soirée. (I’ll have cupcakes and Pinot Noir with the best of them.) And my little family has our own annual Holiday rituals.

But for me, this is mostly a time of year to slow down. To take stock. To reflect and honor. To look back over the year that’s ending … before setting intentions for the New Year.

If you’re tempted to look ahead towards the New Year, it’s crucial to look back at the old, first. Especially in your money relationship.

A traditional financial pro might call this an “annual financial review.”

But since I’m less penny loafers and pantsuits and more wedge sandals and rose quartz, I have a completely different name (and framework) for this mucho-important money practice.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to set the stage for your Money Ritual so it’s right for YOU
  • The simple-but-rich 4 step framework I use and swear by
  • How to reflect on Big Picture themes — not just dollars and cents
  • Real-life examples of celebration-worthy money stuff from my community members (many of whom thought they didn’t have “anything worth celebrating”)

This is a crazy-important practice that I’ve done everysingleyear, for years. And it really doesn’t have to feel hard, boring, or painful. Promise.

Like all things money I teach, this Year-End Money Ritual is all about gentleness, ease, and personalizing it to make it right for you.

How do you feel when you see that row of clean, fresh calendars at the checkout counter?

(You know, next to the confetti and bottles of champers reminding you to “Have a Happy New Year!!”)

You might feel a surge of optimism. Maybe you’re (secretly) considering a New Year’s resolution (or five).

Or maybe you dislike this busy-buzzy-ness of the whole season.

Personally? I love to close out the year in as contemplative, reflective a mode as I can.

It’s so easy (especially in our culture) to get swept up in the energy of new beginnings. But the start of one chapter is always also the end of another.

I’m a huge believer in pausing at the end of things. Savoring the view at the top of that mountain you just climbed. Taking a few deep, heartfelt breaths at the end of that project. Saying a prayer of gratitude to your old house as you leave it for a new one. Taking a moment to honor, celebrate, grieve, and acknowledge what’s happened.

That’s what this time of year is, at its best, for me. It’s a time to slow down and look back … before looking ahead.

In a few weeks, I’ll share with you my favorite framework for dreaming, visioning, and nitty-gritty-planning-out your money relationship in the New Year.

But first things first. Today, let’s look back at the year behind you. Let’s honor the year you’ve just completed and take stock of all the ways you have danced with money.

Looking back on your financial year with love, honesty, and gentleness will help you build a stronger foundation for next year.

When you consciously close one chapter, you can move more mindfully into the next.

You could call this an Annual Financial Review … but that sounds about as exciting as peeling broccoli. Plus, we won’t only be looking at the numbers: we’ll be taking into account your emotions and beliefs and relationships, too. That’s why I like to call this a Year-End Money Ritual.

Step One: Set the Stage + Make it Your Own

Have you ever done a year-end Financial Review or Money Ritual before?

You might have done a dozen of them or this might be your very first. Maybe a stern grandfather dragged you through one once, kicking and screaming — and you’re determined to make this one much kinder and sweeter.

Whatever your history, let’s start by considering how you want this process to feel and what you need to make that a reality.

Slow down. Tune into your heart. What elements do you want to include to make this financial event feel wonderful and supportive?

  • Want it to feel like a sacred ritual? Perhaps you want to create a mini-altar just for this occasion.
  • Are beauty and sensuality essential ingredients for you? Bring on the chocolate, candles, and velvet.
  • Is playfulness the missing element? Start things off with a dance party and finish with cupcakes (don’t forget the sprinkles!)
  • Is this a solo endeavor? Or do you want to bring your honey?
  • Do you want to take a whole, luxurious half-day? Or does setting a time limit of one hour feel better to your nervous system?
  • Where do you want to set the scene? Curled up on the couch with a purring kitten? Out under the stars? At your desk with a fine cuppa oolong?
  • Colored pencils and an assortment of stickers and pens? Or sleek Excel sheets and Google Docs?

Remember: you can’t do this wrong. Decide what feels right to you. Let this be a gift to yourself — instead of a dry, boring, dusty obligation. Make it your own.

This is really an extended version of a Money Date: a time for you to connect with money. YOU get to decide what feels good, here!

And definitely practice Body Check-Ins before, during, and after your ritual.

Step Two: Zoom Out

Before you start squinting at those numbers, let’s zoom out and get a panoramic sense of what this year was about, for you.

Take a few moments and run the year through your mind’s eye. Contemplate. Feel. Consider the Big Picture of your personal money story this year.

  • What were the big events, highlights, and milestones this year? And how did they interact with your finances?
  • Were there any general themes in your life this year? Taking risks, letting go, hunkering down …? What would this chapter of your Money Story be called?
  • What about the “macro” side of money? Did politics, the economy, or other large-scale events impact your personal financial world this year? In what way?
  • Did you kick off this year with a Big Picture plan? Did things change halfway through? Was it a year to go with the flow?
  • Did you have big transitions this year? Marriage, separation, new baby, change of career, loss of a parent, inheritance, or health crisis?
  • Did you make a big investment this year? A car, house, or big vacation?
  • Did you pay off a debt? Take more on? Start or add to your savings?
  • Did you have a money practice this year? Daily, weekly, or monthly? Did you fall in love with some new software? How did your money practice (or lack thereof) affect you?
  • What about your emotional relationship to money this year? Did you peek at your numbers for the first time in ages? Celebrate money healing breakthroughs? Start talking to your honey about money?
  • What really worked for you this year? What are you most proud of?
  • What are you ready to let go of, forgive, or change?
  • What money lessons did you learn this year?

Step Three: The Numbers

OK. Deep breath. It’s time to break out those Income and Expense reports.

Open up whatever systems or software you use — Quicken, QuickBooks, your bank statements, etc. If you don’t use a financial tracking system already, take a deep breath and do the best you can.

Breathe. Add chocolate. And Body Check-Ins. Stay as grounded and heart-open as you can.

For most of us, it’s not easy to look at numbers. If you feel uncomfortable, add a huge dose of compassion and understanding. You are SO brave. Like: ticker-tape-parades and marching bands and high-fives-from-your-favorite-rockstar brave. Feel that. Let it soak in.

Now. Here are a few invitations for you, you courageous wonder!

  • Look at your income. And take a deep breath.
  • Look at your expenses. Take another deep breath.
  • If you set intentions or projections at the beginning of this current year, take them out. Compare what you’d planned a year ago to what actually happened.
  • Were your goals realistic? Did they uplift and empower you? Or did you feel limited, constricted, overwhelmed, or set up for disappointment?
  • Take an inventory. Which goals and values are you living right now? What’s working for you? What’s not?
  • How about your emotions? How are you feeling about this process, right now? How have you grown or changed in your relationship to money this year?
  • What did you learn about yourself?

You did it! Great work. Give yourself a big hug and kiss for being willing to look at your numbers and learn from them.

Please note: if you feel completely lost when you read “income and expense reports,” and have no clue where to look … just do the best you can here.

And: you may want to consider what you need, moving forward, to get better clarity around you numbers. A financial tracking system. A great bookkeeper. New sacred money practices. A loving community to connect you with resources and keep you engaged with your numbers. There’s help.

Step Four: Celebration

This is oh-so-easy to skip over. Go-getters may think, “No time to celebrate! More to do!” Self-improvers and personal growth devotees may say, “On to the next phase! I’m not done growing yet!” And if you tend towards self-criticism, you may dismiss this step, saying, “Nothing to celebrate here,” and spiral into everything you did wrong.

Dig a little deeper.

I promise you: this year had victories. And they’re waiting to be celebrated. I know this. I see it over and over with the people in my Art of Money community. The small baby steps you take — that’s what can add up to huge changes!

This is so essential. Please remember to honor yourself. To remember and name and celebrate all of the little baby steps you’ve taken.

Get them down on paper. Nibble on chocolate. Do a little victory dance. You deserve this!

Need help getting started? Here are some examples of baby steps worth celebrating.

Many of these are from clients of mine who initially couldn’t think of anything to celebrate!

  • Finding and canceling those small expenses you’re not using anymore: gym membership, video rentals, etc. (I call these “money leaks”)
  • Saying “no” to business or personal growth investments from a place of consciousness + empowerment.
  • Saying “yes” to investments, from a place of consciousness + empowerment!
  • Peeking at your numbers more often. Simply looking at your account balances online, regularly, can be a huge cause for celebration!
  • Having Money Dates or check-ins with your honey … and it’s getting more frequent and easy
  • Forgiving yourself around past money experiences or decisions
  • Re-jigging your bookkeeping system to reflect your values
  • Setting up a great system for tracking and reviewing your numbers
  • Creating your own money practice — a regular weekly or monthly money date with yourself.

Got a good list of victories worth celebrating? Keep writing.

Your money story is a living, breathing aspect of you. So it’s always evolving, growing, maturing … unfolding right along with you.

Take time to honor everything that happened in your financial life during this year. Goals met. Lessons learned. Hardships faced. Victories. Baby steps. Disappointments. Fresh starts.

Can you “be with” all of this? Do you have loose ends that need tying? Hurts that need healing? Accomplishments that need dancing?

Thank yourself for the time and bravery and energy you’ve taken to attend to your ever-changing Money Story in this way.

You’ve just taken a big step towards starting your new year with awareness and clarity (and love!) about the year behind you.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this End-Of-Year Money Practice.

I’ll help you look ahead and set intentions and map out your life + money for the next year. It’s coming your way in early January.

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