Last year, I had my goals in place and written out by January 1st. This year has been different though, and I just haven’t felt up to the task. The biggest reason for this has been the life changing cancer diagnosis a personal finance blogger and friend is going through with her son who is just a year younger than my kiddo.
When they have had their entire life and long term plans thrown for a total loop in the past month, my mind has been on them and the support I can offer there rather than what kind of goals and hopes and dreams I can have for the next year. Because really, my number one hope and dream for 2019 is for little Uriah to go into remission and that their little family of three can go back home and get back to the life they were living before this exploded into their lives.
If you want to follow along with their journey and perhaps send a few dollars their way if you are able, Uriah’s mother has set up a website just for that (because she’s a blogger, after all, and way more technically savvy than I am). And if you can’t, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, because they can use as much love and light as they can get.
Life does go on though, for all of us, and having a plan in place is the best way to influence how your life turns out, as much as is within your control. And as I learned through my experience in 2018, I do really well to have set goals that I check in on regularly. I may not have achieved my biggest financial goal for 2018, but we came darn close and doubled our savings rate in the process.
I had been so focused on that one goal that I had pushed aside the rest of the sub goals I had set for the year at the same time, and it felt really good to go through that list in detail and realize I had accomplished so much more than I was giving myself credit for. Overall, I think I set a decent road map for priorities for the year and did a good job of following through on all of them. I do credit blogging with much of that success, because through the accountability of publishing regularly and all of your support, I find that I am that much more focused on achieving the markers I’ve set for myself.
Money, Life, And Blogging: Goals For 2019
A little different from last year, I’ve decided to break these goals out into three categories: money, life, and blogging. Since I found so much success in writing out my financial goals, it only makes sense to include life and blog specific ones here as well so I’m reminded regularly to check in with those as well, and to remember that there’s a whole lot more to life than money.
1. Achieve a 50% savings rate for the year.
This one should be obvious, as it’s the same big goal as last year, and the one I didn’t manage to hit. Doubling our savings rate from 23% to 46% was no small feat, but it still meant that we came up short from that “save half” goal. Instead of pushing the goal posts out even farther as I was inclined to do, I’m going to take the good advice I received in the comments of my October monthly update which recommended I keep this goal as is in order to meet it this year.
Considering 46% was no means an easy accomplishment in 2018, 50% won’t be easy to hit this year either – it means we’ll have to do just shy of 10% better than last year. Doable, yes, easy, no, but I’m confident that 2019 will be the year of the 50% savings rate.
2. Max out my IRA again.
Of course, the year I finally max out my IRA the limit gets bumped up by $500, which is awesome, but it also means I’ll have to again do 10% better than last year in order to max it out. Considering I’ve already started funding 2019 (in a small way), I’m confident this one can be achieved, but it will be a stretch to max out the new amount. I’m kicking myself that it took so many years to finally max it out, but now that I have, I’m not going back.
Along with this goal, I’d like to encourage my husband to contribute even more to his IRA as well, if not to max it out, then perhaps just put in more than he did in 2018. The downside to not sharing finances 100% is that I don’t have full control over this one, so I won’t list it as a specific goal, but I want to keep it in mind.
3. Continue to increase charitable giving.
2017 was the first year that I logged my charitable giving for the year, and I found that as the year went on and I continued to give regularly, the more regularly and larger dollar amount I found myself giving. I upped this amount a bit in 2018 as well, but I want to keep growing that number. I like Revanche’s idea of 10% more than last year – perhaps the theme of 2019 is to do 10% better across the board.
So far, I haven’t included my charitable giving in my expense reports, nor do I calculate that with my savings rate because I haven’t wanted to have a disincentive to push myself here. I’ve been torn whether I want to share those numbers more publicly here or keep it quiet like I have so far. Either way, this number is going up yet again in 2019.
4. Total food expenses under $1,000/month.
To get this down 10% from 2018, we would spend no more than $11,626.08 for the year, or $970 a month. Certainly doable, and we’ll still spend a significant amount of money on food and drink, but I will consider this a win if we don’t keep creeping up. And no matter what, we are well down from our high of grocery spending prior to 2017. The kiddo keeps eating more as he grows as well, so I’ll need to be smart with the meals I cook through the year and pay attention to cost per serving.
5. Travel hack to keep Iceland spending to a minimum.
I debated on whether to include this one in my 2019 goals because it’s possible we may celebrate our anniversary a bit late and go after the new year, but all of our big expenses (flights, lodging, car) will be booked in 2019. I know Iceland is a pricey place to visit and there aren’t a ton of credit card options to help reduce this cost, but I’m going to do what I can to minimize our expenses.
We’re planning on two weeks there, so perhaps we can keep this trip to $4,000 out of pocket? We will be flying an extra adult out for babysitting duty, and otherwise all expenses will be x3. Does this seem like a reasonable price, or can I do better/worse here? Really, this goal is to just keep that trip in check. It’s our tenth anniversary though, and I want to celebrate it in a big way.
6. Make a college funding plan for the kiddo.
While I’ve been putting away some money for our son’s college, I don’t have any real plan here. Like Done By Forty, I’m not sure if I want to go the 529 route and we won’t be covering 100% of the costs, but I feel like I need a better plan in place moving forward.
7. Consider paying off mortgage early.
This is one goal I’m still debating. I go back and forth on whether I actually want to move forward on this, and so for the past year and change I’ve been throwing anywhere between $20 – $100 extra on the principal each payment. Not enough to make a huge difference in the life of the loan (though not nothing), but also small enough to not make a noticeable difference to our budget either.
However, I went back and looked at my amortization schedule and our final payment on the loan has now dropped off from my tiny little overpayments so far, and even seeing just one month drop off at the end was really energizing. It may not be the best use of our funds, and I don’t see throwing all of our savings at it to be mortgage free as soon as possible, but I think I like the idea more and more as time goes on.
For the Seattle area, our mortgage is quite small, but still much larger than many in other parts of the country, so this wouldn’t be a “we paid off our mortgage in two years” story even if we went all out. Because of the simple size of the remaining mortgage, it feels still feels like a daunting amount of money to tackle all at once.
All of this to be said more or less means that I still don’t know what I ultimately want to do moving forward. I do realize that the absolute most “optimized” option would be to pay the minimum and invest elsewhere, but I sure do like the idea of having zero debt to my name.
1. Complete two year clothes buying ban and set parameters in place for beyond.
March will mark a full two years of my clothes buying ban, and if I’m being completely honest with myself, it’s going to be difficult (or maybe impossible) to stretch it to three years. That said, I don’t need to fall back into the mostly mindless habit of clothing accumulation, and there are very few things I’ll actually need to replace when the time comes.
I mean to be intentional about my clothes buying habits moving forward, so I will put a plan in place before I officially break my shopping ban. I really like this idea of a straight limit of twelve items per year or this option of strategic purchases moving forward. I haven’t decided exactly what it will look like for me, but when the time comes, I will be intentional.
2. Have phone free time with the family in the evenings.
Put it away. Just put it away. Oddly enough, finally getting a Fitbit really helped me to put my phone down more because I don’t need to keep it on my person at all times for step counting any more. However, I could definitely do better in the evenings. It’s too easy after a long day of work to put some show on for the kid at dinner and pull out my phone, but we’d all do so much better to go and do something else.
Obviously, not all screen time is bad (hey, I still do want to write thing blog), but I’d like to be intentional about screen-free family time in the evenings, especially on week nights. Perhaps we start our bedtime routine earlier? We tried yoga one night before bed but the kiddo just got so wound up he wasn’t ready to sleep for a good half hour or more. So not that. Still working out ideas, but putting it out here so I keep it on my mind.
3. Get outside at least once during the week, even in the winter.
During the long summer months, we’re outside more or less every day after work, either gardening, hiking, or just spending time outside. The short, rainy days of winter are a lot harder though, and many times we find ourselves inside all afternoon and evening. The days we DO get outside for any amount of time are the days we are much happier though, and I find that winter doesn’t feel so long when we spend more of it outdoors.
4. Lose 25 pounds.
This is the most straightforward of all my goals for the year, but the hardest one. I obviously exercise a decent amount (and love it, so that part isn’t a struggle), but weight has never come off me very easily. I weighed 25 pounds less than I do now when I ran my first half marathon six years ago and I’d like to get back there.
To get there, I’m drinking ZERO alcoholic beverages outside of weekends (or long vacations); a glass of wine or some beer with dinner got to be too much of a habit and it’s really just empty calories. I’m also back to tracking 100% on Myfitnesspal. Some people have weight come off easy if they do things 70% right, but I’ve found it’s more like 90% for me. It is what it is. But I know I feel better at that previous weight (and eating better as a result), so it’s time to get back there.
5. Read 30 books.
I’ve never kept track of the books that I read over the course of a year, but after a number of others who did and shared this past year, I’ve decided I want to keep track and now what – and how many books – I read. Since I’ve never tracked my reading before, I set 2019’s goal to 30 books, including both rereads and new ones. I know I read a decent number of books, but I have no idea if 30 or 50 is a more reasonable goal. I’ll keep track, and next year I’ll have a better sense of how many books I actually do read.
1. Set a future calendar for Monday posts.
My Wednesday and Friday posts are set as far as content goes, but Mondays are all over the board – from monthly financial updates to sustainability to updates on my clothing ban, I have a lot to say but generally don’t figure out what I’m going to write until Sunday. I’d like to have a couple months of content ideas at least planned, so I can have a sense of what I’m going to write ahead of time.
2. Get two posts ahead for Monday content.
As I said above, I generally don’t even have an idea of what I’m going to write for my Monday post until Sunday, or Saturday if I’m on top of things. Not only would I like to have an idea of what I’ll be writing over the next couple of months, but I’d actually like to write a few posts in advance. Having months of content completed ahead of time will likely never happen, but two posts seems like a reasonable goal.
I also know that I need to keep writing regularly to stay in the habit of it, so I’m not sure I’d ever want to get more than a couple posts ahead because it would make it too easy just not to write for a month.
3. Grow the reach of Women’s Personal Finance Wednesdays.
I’m thrilled that these weekly roundups send a decent amount of traffic to the blogs I feature each Wednesday and have quite a few people have let me know that they’ve found new blogs to follow through the posts they’ve read.
One of the most rewarding parts of blogging is honestly seeing referrals going out to other bloggers. Getting traction as a blogger is HARD, and like Our Next Life talks about sometimes, once we have a platform we should be looking how we can pass the mic. I have just a fraction of the reach that she does, but I love that I have a real influence on the content that others are reading – and that they will be reading female money bloggers thanks to these roundups.
4. Continue writing more about sustainability and zero waste.
This one should be obvious due to the name of this blog, but I hardly spent any time on these topics my first year of blogging. Thanks to Budget Epicurean, I kicked off a sustainability/zero waste guest post series last year and continue publishing those posts every month or two as well as writing more focused posts of my own.
5. DO NOT allow this blog to turn into a business.
Perhaps this seems like a silly goal to write down, but as this blog grows the temptation to find ways to make real income from it grows as well. However, I know I don’t want to go the business route with this blog because I simply don’t have any more time I’m willing to devote to it. A big reminder to myself about the true cost of saying yes and why I’ve said yes to as much blogging as I’m willing. I may reevaluate someday, but for now, I need to hold this line for me.
Do you set goals for the new year? How are they going so far?