11 End Of Year Traditions That Will Make Next Year Amazing

Looks for an end of year tradition that ISN'T writing a resolution or singing Auld Lang Syne? These 11 end of year rituals will make your home cleaner, your heart free-er, and even benefit your bank account. Click through and choose a few that work for you!

What end of year traditions do you take part in? Deleting texts from your ex? Smooching a good-looking stranger on New Year’s Eve? Going to bed early so you can start the new year bright eyed and bushy tailed?

I love any excuse for a fresh start and/or making a list. Birthdays work. The mid-year point works. New jobs, new homes, new relationships work. I’ve only got two tried-and-true end of year traditions so I asked you guys on Facebook to share yours and you gave me tons of great ideas!

11 end of year traditions to try this year

Take stock of this year + ask yourself these 4 questions

Oh, I love nothing so much as a good bit of journalling and self-reflection. Let’s pour ourselves a big glass of something delicious and ask ourselves these four questions:

What worked really well?
What didn’t work?
What am I going to do about it?
What do I need to plan for in this area next year?

I ask myself these questions about every area of my life: professional, financial, social, marriage, family, health, beauty + style, domestic, travel. It may seem a bit laborious to examine so many aspects of your life, but I find this is a great way to notice + celebrate my successes and prevent myself from making the same mistakes year after year.  
For what it’s worth, here are a few things that worked really well for me this year:

  • Making smoothies for breakfast every day (I’m obsessed with my Nutribullet!)
  • Getting serious about Pinterest
  • Understanding why I make regrettable purchases
  • Eating meals on the patio when the weather’s nice
  • Having a ‘special show’ Kenny and I watch together (we’re watching Friday Night Lights right now and it is so good!)
  • Making Sunday night chore night
  • Switching to this eyeliner
  • Taking a ‘just us’ vacation to a place neither of us has been and where we don’t know anyone

Related: after many recommendations, I downloaded Susannah Conway’s free (!!) 37-page end-of-year workbook Unravelling and it is lovely.

Declutter + Deep clean

GOD I LOVE GETTING RID OF THINGS. I also love cleaning out the fridge, eating up all the random stuff at the bottom of the freezer, and re-discovering the sweaters I put in storage last year.

Outer order leads to inner calm. The vast majority of us feel lighter, happier, and more productive when our living spaces are empty of meaningless clutter and filled with things we love.

And you don’t have to do it all at once! Set aside an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon, put on your favorite album, pour yourself a huge cup of coffee and power through it. You’ll be amazed by how much you can accomplish in two hours!

Pro tip: those bags you just filled with things bound  for Goodwill? Bring them there today. Otherwise you’re going to drive around with them in your trunk for three months. Not that I’ve done that. Cough. 

Related: How to clear out your closet without losing your mind

Looking for an end of year tradition that ISN'T writing a resolution or singing Auld Lang Syne? These 11 end of year rituals will make your home cleaner, your heart free-er, and even benefit your bank account. Click through and choose a few that work for you!

Sas’s Instagram is one of my favorite accounts.

Clean up your social media

Are you part of Facebook groups you never take part in? Do you follow people on social media who bum you out with their constant negativity? Are half of your Facebook ‘friends’ people you don’t even recognize?

In case you need it, here’s your official permission to unfollow and unfriend. Leave the Facebook group that’s constantly sending you updates you ignore and unfriend that person you met at professional conference seven years ago.

Did you post any photos or updates you kind of regret? Delete ‘em. Are you tagged in any photos you wouldn’t want your family or employer to see? Untag yourself.

If your social media feed has become an echo chamber of people who think exactly like you or Kardashian memes, take a few minutes to ‘train’ the Facebook or Instagram algorithm to show you more things that will challenge, inspire, or hold you accountable.

Who should you follow? Follow the Facebook page of your gym or a favorite writer (I love Anne Lamott and Shaun King). Follow Instagram acconts that are doing or making things you want to do or make. It sounds too-easy-to-be-true, but just seeing daily reminders of what you want in your life can have a huge affect on your choices and behavior.

Change your settings so their stuff will always show up in your feed by ‘following’ them on Facebook (in addition to ‘liking’ their page) or signing up for notifications on Instagram. If that seems like too much work, just ‘like’ or comment on a few posts and the algorithm with start showing you more of what you like and less of what you don’t.

Related: An insanely easy way to stick to your resolutions

Write down what you want to leave in the previous year and burn it

What heartaches do you want to leave behind? Which mistakes or missteps? What do you wish you could take back?

Write it all down, one idea on each slip of paper. Then build a fire in a fire pit (or put a candle in the kitchen sink) and slowly feed those ideas into the flame. If you’re near a lake/river/ocean, you could write these onto paper airplanes and fly them out over the water or ice!

Bury your hopes for the new year in a potted plant

Let’s continue the metaphor, guys. After you’ve burnt the worst of 2018, write down a few hopes for 2019. Do you want to change careers? Get into your first choice school? Start a family? Move across the country? Write it down and then tuck it among the roots of a potted plant. SO YOU CAN WATCH YOUR WISHES GROW AND THRIVE GET IT?

If you’re really ambitious, you’ll plant your wishes in a Hawaiian Ti plant (early Polynesians believed it had mystical powers) or a ‘Money Tree.’ Keep it somewhere you’ll see it everyday so you can be reminded of the wishes you made for yourself and your life.  

Plan for your big expenditures for the coming year

If cracking open your bank and credit cards statements doesn’t sound like fun, add a pizza and some wine and a decent soundtrack. We all feel a million times better when we’re prepared. Understanding how much money you’ll be spending in 2016 will make you feel so smart and on-top-of-it and awesome.

When you know where your money will be going, you can make sure you have enough saved so when your trip to Mexico rolls around, it’s already paid for.

Questions to ask yourself:

Will I be taking any trips?
Are there any home improvements I need/want to make?
Are there any big medical expenses coming up?
Do I anticipate making any big changes to my car?
Will my family structure be changing? (Are you trying to get pregnant? Moving in with a partner? Is your kid is going to college?)

Not quite sure what to do next? Ask yourself:

How much will this cost?
Call around for estimates, Google average prices, talk to friends who have done something similar. When in doubt, estimate that it will be more expensive. (Obviously.)

How much discretionary income do I usually have each month?
And knowing that, how long do I have to save to cover the cost of this? If you have about $500 of discretionary income each month, and your trip to Mexico is going to cost $1,500, estimate that you’ll need to save for four months to pay for it. Because it’s unlikely that you’ll save 100% of your discretionary income for three consecutive months. 

Do I need/want to make any changes to accommodate this purchase?
Want to save up faster? You could rent out your spare room on Airbnb, cancel your gym membership, stay at a cheaper hotel on your trip, take extra shifts at work. You get the idea!

Related: How to stop buying shit you don’t need

Connect with far-flung friends

It’s easy to feel like we know what our friends are up to because we see their Instagram stories and read the occasional Facebook update. But as we all know, social media does not reflect reality and few things can match face-to-face conversations.

Schedule a Skype date or Facetime with friends in other time zones. If you’re really, really not the phone type, send them a postcard or an actual handwritten letter. How retro!

Organize and backup photos + do something with them

Do you have one million photos on your phone? Yeah, me too. Let’s doing something about it.

Let’s delete all the bad ones and download the rest to a hard drive or Dropbox folder. Let’s edit the best ones and put them somewhere – in a Facebook album, a picture frame, or make a slideshow to share.

If you had a particularly fun or picturesque adventure with a friend, get a photo printed and send them a copy. So few people get photos printed these days – they’ll really appreciate it!

Write a “Dear Future Me” letter

Where will you be at the end of 2017? Finally quitting that job you hate? Living in a new place? Smooching someone new? Will you finally have your bangs figured out? Write a letter to your future self using Futureme.org. You can write an email to yourself and choose any date in the future to send it!

Re-read your diary. Or your gratitude journal. Or just your social media updates!

The days are long but the years are short. Life can blend together into a blur of meetings and Netflix and housework. It’s easy to forget that perfect dinner party or the afternoon you spent hiking with your mom.

Spend an afternoon re-reading your diary, your gratitude journal, or even just looking at your social media updates. This also serves as a great reminder that most of the things we get worked up about don’t matter.

It’s oddly freeing to re-read an irate tweet about a coworker who doesn’t work with you anymore or a grumpy Facebook update about a skirmish you’d completely forgotten. 

Related: 11 ways to practice gratitude without a gratitude journal

Buy something that will help make the coming year amazing

Two caveats:

1. Do not confuse Buying Something with Taking Action
Buying a gym membership is not the same as going to the gym. Buying a bunch of books about career change is not the same as changing careers. My friend Anthony calls this The False First Step and we should all watch out for it.

2. Don’t spend more than you can afford
If you can’t afford the $150 ski pass, don’t buy the $150 ski pass.

That said, most of us spend this time of year lavishing money, time, and energy on other people. Our entire budget goes to presents for other people and flights/gas to see said people. We’re left with $5 and seven minutes.

Make a (small, sensible) investment in yourself and in 2019. Maybe it’s a planner that will help you stay organized, better running shoes, or an appointment with a therapist. You know what you need and what your budget will allow. Gift yo’self!

How do you say “out with the old and in with the new”? Leave your ideas in the comments so we can try them ourselves!

P.S. If you want help making next year amazing, you might like my free, private Facebook group Money & Happy! Click here to join us.

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

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  1. Kate

    Awesome article! This might seem dorky, but thank you for publishing your “get ready for 2017” article earlier in December so I have time to do all of it! Sometimes I read really great ideas on, like, December 28 and never have time to do them and because I love planning, it makes me feel terrible. So thank you! I’m particularly excited about cleaning up my social media (and all the clutter I have on my computer! weird saved links on the desktop and unorganized documents!).

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, I love that you appreciate that, Kate! I know *I* need more than one day’s warning to wrap up a year!

  2. Manisha

    Love the idea of burying hopes in a potted plant! I listened to the podcast yesterday and thought there was really good tips in it. I like hearing your voice!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Thanks so much, Manisha! I’m hoping to do more podcasts and add video to a lot of my content in 2017 🙂

  3. Maureen Wiley

    Hi Sarah,

    I love these ideas and plan to spend a good chunk of time on each point before we hit 2017. The first week of January 2017 is a big deal for me: I’m turning 30, leaving my hometown, moving to Mexico City, and leaving a job I’ve loved for the past 6 years. This article is so helpful to get my mind wrapped around all that!

    I wanted to add something else I like to do. I write an email draft to myself of all my “Accomplishments Great and Small” from the previous year. It’s kind of like your “New Things” list, but with anything I’ve done that I’m proud of, even as small as trying out a curry recipe. It really helps me to remember the good stuff from the past year, which I think will be particularly important in 2016.

    Here’s to a great 2017!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Best of luck on your new adventures, Maureen!

    • Ailsa

      I love your email draft idea!

  4. Samantha Lee

    This post was made for me. Like you, I am obsessed with making lists/goals/manifestos, etc. etc. Saving this to come back to and work on mine for the new year. 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Wonderful! I think these things would be great to do for a birthday, too!

  5. Libby

    LOVE the idea of leaving certain things in 2016 and burning them. Thinking about having a bunch of women over to do this. There’s a lot… of 2016 I want to leave behind.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I think that’s true for all of us, sadly :/

    • Stephanie

      You speak truth, Libby.

  6. Zoe

    Along the lines of your first tip, but with more detailed questions, last year I did this workbook and it was a good exercise for thinking things through http://yearcompass.com/ It comes as a printable workbook though I ended up just doing the questions in my regular journal. Definitely doing it again, probably with the addition of some burning, since this year definitely needs it…

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ohhh, sounds great! Thanks for the link, Zoe!

  7. Stephanie

    “What didn’t work?”

    2016. 2016 didn’t work, Sarah. It took David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince (among others) and left us with The-President-Elect-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

    And as much as I like the Cubs World Series win, I’d still trade it for a loss if it meant getting rid of that last item on the list. Harrumph.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      It has DEFINITELY been a heartbreaker of a year – for all of us. These exercises, however, are meant to focus mostly on the personal aspects of 2016, not the political ones or current events 😉

  8. Nurul

    Love the ideas, Sarah! I’ve written letters to myself using Future Me for a few years now and it’s always interesting to see what my past self thought and felt and hoped for the future.

    On another note, I’ve planned a solo trip next year and already bought a flight ticket to Tokyo – and… I was laid of the next day. I was worried at first but later realized it’s nice to enter 2017 with a truly blank canvas 🙂

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      That’s a great attitude, Nurul!

  9. Shanon

    Have you ever tried flying wish paper? It’s become a New Year’s tradition for me as a way to set an intention or wish for the year ahead. It’s also a fun party trick (if your ceilings are high enough).

  10. Charmaine Ng

    I love your suggestions. They’re not the typical pointers I’ve been all over blogs. I am totally going to clean up my social media. It starts with deleting Snapchat cos it’s so hopelessly addictive and a waste of my time AND it gives me FOMO!

    – Charmaine

  11. Stacey

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of burning what didn’t work in 2016 and then burying my hopes for 2017 in a potted plant! Like I need a reason to buy another plant… 😀

  12. Elizabeth @ Silver's Reviews

    What an absolutely amazing post. THANK YOU.

    So many wonderful ideas.

    I will love burning 2016 as well as having hopes for 2017.

    I LOVE to throw things out too, but my closet is the worst for me. I think maybe I will wear that in a few years or when I am older and won’t want to go shopping. 🙂

    I did de-clutter my office of all the papers that don’t need to be there…it did feel good.

    THANKS again so much. Found your link on Tanya’s post.

    Great blog.

    Silver’s Reviews

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Fun! Welcome to the party, Elizabeth! 🙂

  13. Kristie

    SO many great ideas. I loved this post! Will definitely pick out a few to implement for myself. The main tradition I’ve had for the past six years or so is to fill out my yearly workbook and planner by Leonie Dawson. You can find it here: https://shiningacademy.com/2017-workbooks/?utm_expid=103880907-19.HLCuhTDVQwmccDk_YWlxAw.0 It really has been the best investment for me. This one is a bit hippy dippy,but I think everyone should find a planner that works best for them and do it!

  14. Heidi / Frantic But Fabulous

    Love the idea of re-reading your gratitude journal. I keep one but I never look back. I’m looking forward to spending the week between Christmas and New Year re-rooting myself and getting ready for 2017.

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