We are now just about a quarter of a way through the year, and I realized the other day that I only had a vague sense of the goals I had set for myself for the year. While I knew some were on track, I knew I needed to go through the list again to make sure I kept up with everything I said was important for 2019.

Also, to be honest, I had nothing planned to post today, and as much as I would love to write an update on the garden, there isn’t much to say yet that I haven’t already mentioned in past Friday posts: it’s been too cold and too snowy to plant anything yet like I would in a normal year. I could update on the few seeds I’ve purchased for planting, but right now we are in wait mode. Next month will be much more interesting for a garden update, but you can read last March’s if you’re curious about how far behind we are weather wise this year.

So since there was to be no garden update post this month, I reached out to Twitter for other ideas instead. Thanks to Josh’s suggestion, today will be an update to check in where I’m at with my goals for this year. Like I said, I knew I needed to spend some time thinking about them, but hadn’t re read my original goals without the incentive to write about it. Once again, this blogging thing really keeps me accountable to myself by being accountable to all of you.

First Quarter Goals Check In: March 2019

Unlike last year, when I had one main goal that I really focused on, I’ve decided that having a full outline for where I want my focus for the year to be will help me to be intentional with how I spend my time, money, and energy. As I’ve learned time and time again, what gets measured gets managed, and writing it down and sharing it publicly is the best way to make sure I’m measuring consistently.

Money Goals

1. Achieve a 50% savings rate for the year.

Well, quite obviously, this one is going to take some work after January and February. While we came in quite short both months (34% and 40%, respectively), March will be a very good month with an extra paycheck for each of us, so it will help even things out a bit. This was a stretch goal last year and the same will be true for this year. Fingers crossed we can hit that 50% for 2019.

2. Max out my IRA again.

Well on my way with this one considering I hadn’t even started contributing to my 2018 IRA at this time last year. This year’s balance currently sits at $800 / $6,000, and my stretch goal is to max it out by December 31st instead of needing early 2020 to top it off.

3. Continue to increase charitable giving.

I’ve also started to share this in my monthly financial updates, and sharing just the percentage there definitely helps keep this front of mind. Well on track to this being a larger number than last year, which was bigger than the year before.

4. Total food expenses under $1,000/month.

This number in January was just over at $1,079.71, which is actually better than I expected it to be, considering that it included a pricey adults only weekend in Port Angeles for our neighbor’s birthday – pricey almost entirely thanks to food. Now February, on the other hand, was straight up expensive in the food department, coming in at $1,297.53. This did include the bulk of our food spending in Hawaii, so while expensive, it feels reasonable for the trip.

Hands down, this is going to be the most difficult goal to achieve this year. But at least it’s been a tasty, tasty failure so far (and not $2,500+ a month…).

Definitely worth the pricey meal in Waimea – Merriman’s 

5. Travel hack to keep Iceland spending to a minimum.

Definitely a success! We’ve met the minimum spend on the Capital One Venture (current balance at 86,000 points there after the 75,000 bonus, working out to $860 of travel credit). Now I’m working on the Chase Business Ink, which has a sign up bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points (plus 5,000 for the minimum spend). Once the 85,000 points hit my account, they’ll be worth approximately $1,000).

I’m not sure if we will open another card this year, but even if we don’t, those two cards will significantly help cut the cost of our tenth anniversary trip.

6. Make a college funding plan for the kiddo.

I really need to get on this. Not much else to say here. If a 529 is your thing, convince me. If it’s not, convince me too.

7. Consider paying the mortgage off early.

For now, we are putting an extra $100 a month toward the mortgage. It’s not that much, but it will shave a little bit off the end. For now, I think this is where we will stay (or maybe bump it up a tiny bit more).

Life Goals

1. Complete a two year clothes buying ban and set parameters in place for beyond.

Two year ban on buying clothes, check. Still working on the parameters for when I break it, but thanks to a new to me pair of shoes this past weekend, I can push it off a bit longer. I will not be breaking the ban until a plan is in place, but that day hasn’t arrived yet.

2. Have phone free time with the family in the evenings.

This just gets easier as the weather gets better and we can spend more of the evenings outside. I’ve also transitioned back to hard copy books instead of reading off my phone or iPad in the evenings and it helps keep me off the phone a bit more. Definitely a work in progress.

3. Get outside at least once a week, even in the winter.

With the weather feeling like summer lately, this has been an easy one. And even before that, we’ve gotten a decent amount of sunshine and dry days which makes it easier to get outside after work. This has been more like once a day lately instead of just once a week, which is even better.

Beautiful day for a run

4. Lose 25 pounds.

So far I’m down two and a half pounds, which is definitely not enough to hit this goal by the end of the year, but it’s at least in the right direction. I have kept up the no alcohol during the week for the most part (birthdays and a couple dinner parties excepted). Again, I find I do best with bright lines.

5. Read 30 books.

So far this year, I’ve read six books of my goal of thirty. Four have been re-reads and two have been new. I’m also partway through three other books at the current moment, so that number will soon land at nine. For a quarter of the way through the year, I’d say I’m well on track to meet this goal.

I’ve always been an avid reader but have never tracked the number of books that I’ve read in a year, so this goal was a total guess as far as whether it will be a reasonable goal or one where I didn’t stretch myself nearly enough.

Blog Goals

1. Set a future calendar for Monday posts.

So, in theory, I have a rough outline here, but as today’s post wasn’t on this list, it’s obvious I’m not doing so great at sticking to it. I find having a list of ideas I want to write about helpful, but much like meal planning, my tastes for what I want to do on a specific day change. I’ll keep this list going, but it’s pretty obvious it will only be a suggestion and not an absolute schedule.

2. Get two posts ahead for Monday content.

It is currently 11:02AM the day before I’m publishing this post, so I would call this a complete fail. I do have a number of guest posts lined up, but they still take quite a bit of prep work on my half, and I don’t publish more than one of those a month. This is a blog goal I really would like to happen at some point though.

3. Grow the reach of Women’s Personal Finance Wednesdays.

I love watching the traffic out to other blogs on Wednesdays. This is not a directly linear growth line up, but the trend is definitely there month over month. Part of this reach also means making sure to be mindful of the diversity of the women I am featuring showcases a variety of experiences. As this roundup grows, this just becomes that much more important.

4. Continue writing more about sustainability and zero waste.

How To Travel More Sustainably With Airbnb” was published a few weeks ago, and I’ve continued sharing guest posts monthly, most recently from Three Year Experiment and her experience bringing curbside composting to her neighborhood.

Is there anything in particular you’d be interested in having me write about here? So far, I don’t have any other planned content along these topics, though I suppose my clothing ban updates fit here as well.

5. Do NOT let this blog turn into a business.

I was actually on a podcast round table discussion on this exact topic and we went in depth about why I have strong feelings about this topic at this point in my life. I think there are absolutely good reasons for focusing on blog monetization, but that is not my main goal here.

For full disclosure, I do make a small amount from the few affiliate links I share here (mainly Amazon and Airbnb), but they don’t do more than get part way to covering my hosting fees to “keep the lights on.”

Phew. Apparently I made myself A LIST of goals this year. I hadn’t considered writing updates quarterly here, but I think it’s a good idea now that I’ve done in, because it will help keep me on track and more likely to achieve them at the end of the year.

Did you make 2019 goals? How are they going a quarter of the way through the year?

35 thoughts on “Quarterly Goals Check In: March 2019

  1. Great update and overview of where you are at and where you hope to be.
    I suggest breaking your food into 2 categories, groceries and then restaurants (basically anything not at home from fancy meals to even a coffee). This will be huge for optics and I think you can reduce this by 25% easily without noticing any impact on your life. My family of 3 which is basically all adults manages with $700/month for groceries and dining and thats up here in Canada where everything tends to cost a bit more. I have 100% faith that you can optimize and crush this aspect of your monthly finances. As for the mortgage I am not a pay off early kind of person and might suggest moving that extra $100 to your son’s college savings.

    1. I do have restaurants and groceries separated already! Just not for vacation spending 🙂

      1. I would pull those out and group under vacation spending. Tracking my restaurants and groceries in the past year has been one of my biggest optimizations in regards to reducing expenses. Without some dedication it can also be the quickest drain on your finances if left unchecked

      2. It’s definitely checked, but a constant thing I have to keep tabs on. I had all food spending together but now I have travel food expenses separate, which does seem more fair.

  2. I decided to read “more” books in 2019, but that was a pretty low bar since I just didn’t read much in 2018 for some reason. So far, I’ve read 4 books so clearly I’m doing better on that goal. I just have to keep it up. My problem is that I tend to snack when I read, and like you I’m trying to lose weight (just 7 more pounds to go!) so… Yeah.

    My other goal is to strive for a 50% savings rate. “Strive” being the operative word here, since some months that’s just not possible. This month, for example, won’t be a great one. Also, in that 50% savings rate, I’m including any extra money I put toward the mortgage so “savings” is a bit nebulous here definition-wise.

    Last month I came close with a 48% (post-tax) rate, but like I said this month I won’t do as well. I had my business taxes hit ($480) bought a large discount GC for Target (that’s where I purchase all my protein bars, so it was a good buy but a big hit), and am about to go have to pay for a transmission flush which could be as high as $350. So yeah… This coming month won’t be quite as inspirational. But I’m doing my best, which counts for something.

    1. Well done on all counts! I had a few years where I didn’t do a lot of reading but I’m much happier when it’s a regular (see: every day) thing for me.

  3. we don’t have any concrete goals this year. we’re content to keep everything going in the right direction. i do want to make sure we make the most of my paid time off as we kind of “wasted” a week or more in december last year. this might be the year of a one-week “staycation” to test how i might spend my time here if i don’t need to work 40 hours. fitness has been a big win so far.

    max those ira’s! y’all are on a good track considering where we were at your age. we paid that extra hundred or so on our mortgage for years and it was surprising how much impact it made.

  4. Nice update Angela! I really fell in love with what you are doing here because of the What’s Up Next podcast (among other things, but your appearance there really pushed me into the “fan zone”). I visit a lot of blogs and sometimes feel uneasy with all the blogging advice and blogging courses flying at me when my first intent was to learn about pf. I obviously appreciate all of that information now as a new blogger, but I really love your current take on blogging and massively respect you for it.

    P.S. If you ever do monetize, I’d support that too. You do great work and everyone deserves to “keep the lights on” – and then some – if that is your thing.

    1. Aww, well thank you for that! And I *do* monetize, but VERY minimally, and I’m happy to keep it that way for now. Making money doesn’t even make the top ten list of reasons I have this blog.

  5. It seems you have goals that sync well, increase savings and decrease spending in other areas. Coupled with free activity goals ( being outside, reading books from library I assume) that will help entertainment remain low cost — though I think it’s probably already the case.

    I haven’t set any goals this year. It’s becoming clear that one should be reduce work hours to normal 7.5hr workday and a weekly post.

    1. Yep, I get all my books from the library these days. My husband, not so much, but we can’t with them all 😉

  6. I like this topic. March is a good time to do a look back and get back on track if needed. Your motivation to keep your food bill <$1000/mo is one I'm tracking too, as I hope to do the same. The challenge for me is growing kiddos who eat more than I do, and the desire to buy more food that's local (as opposed to bulk from Costco).

    Re: 529, we have a small token amount we contribute to every month, but I'm thinking of stopping that until we max out our retirement accounts and HSA. In WA State there really isn't a tax benefit. That doesn't mean we don't plan for college, just that we'll try to maximize our tax advantages first, and make sure we plan for college like we would any big future expense. Frugalwoods touched on this too in her overall financial approach post: https://www.frugalwoods.com/2017/01/24/our-low-cost-no-fuss-diy-money-management-system/.

    1. I feel like we’re reasonably on track at this point of the year anyway 🙂 Did you mean to include this Frugalwoods link?

      1. Yep, there’s a section in that link on “What About Saving for Babywoods’ College?” where she explains (better than I could) why saving for college outside a 529 might be a better option. Sounds like you’re already leaning that way.

  7. Great update!! Definitely max out your IRA account. I started maxing out mines a few years ago after letting it sit for a long time. Now making up lost time by contributing to the max every year now.
    Our goal on getting BwC potty trained by the fall is ahead of schedule. He’s been going to the potty a lot more now and getting into the habit. There are some accidents but for the most part he’s progressing really well now. It looks like he will be fully potty trained when he attends preschool in August…whooohooo!!!

    1. Getting past the diaper stage is the BEST! Now that I’ve maxed my IRA once I’m hoping to keep that up every year now.

  8. Great update Angela!
    I don’t know enough about the US set up for kids’ education but I can tell you I am glad I set up a bi-weekly contribution for my kids RESP at an early age. My son is looking at out of town universities and the cost is quite high compare to what my daughters had to pay. I am really glad to have that money aside (and I don’t include it in my net worth).
    As far as mortgage payment, I think it is a personal preference. I don’t like having debts so I would get rid of it as quickly as I could. But I know others prefer to invest it.
    And food? Well you know how my spending has been creeping up to since my last challenge:( I can feel the pain.
    Cheers

    1. The big thing about the mortgage at this point is “as quickly as we can” would still be quite a while. And yes, I know you know the food budget struggle quite well. Ha

  9. High school teacher here with strong (and semi-controversial) opinions against 529s for a free reasons. It’s also locking up your money for a very specific set of expenses that doesn’t consider some non-college post-secondary options. For example, in computer science, many of the respected non-degree coding bootcamps and certification training programs aren’t considered an eligible expense.

    1. *Few reasons! Yikes, hit enter too soon! If your child has a unique opportunity to start a business, or decides to enter the work force (like in a sport or a musician/artist), investing your money elsewhere would allow you to support those career goals as well. My other issue is that you can only withdraw actual expenses minus any financial aid. If your child attends a low cost university and/or receives some amazing scholarship money, you might not need everything you save in one and you won’t be able to access that money for other purposes without penalties.

    2. Yeah, that’s more or less why I haven’t started contributing one and keeping our options more open for now. Considering funding perhaps a small one.

  10. You’re doing a great job, love the update! It’s kinda hard to keep track of all the goals, I have to agree. When I’m writing my monthly update, sometimes I realize I didn’t put any effort in a specific goal and I basically forgot it was here. Oh well, those things happen!

    Excited to see how your trip to Iceland will be, I’m not sure if we have any travel hacking credit cards in Europe, but I’m always eager to see how people do that kind of stuff!

    1. That’s the whole point of having a monthly and quarterly check in! It keeps me honest and remembering what I’d set out to do.

  11. Yay Icleand travel hack! Let me know if you ever want to chat or email about places to visit while there.

    A 50% savings rate is so rad. Things get going fast to FI with those kind of numbers. Well done and good luck!

    1. I will definitely start picking your brain about Iceland stuff as we get closer to our trip! 🙂

  12. I love how you break down your goals into financial, personal and the blog. We’re facing the college decisions now for our HS senior. The difference in prices is six-figures, so I encourage the savings part! I calculated that investing the difference between a public and private college degree would mean a multi-million dollar retirement for our daughter. She still may go private, but we’ll talk thru with her all the pros and cons — not just financial.

    1. Yeah, the difference between college choices is wild. My parents had us kids have some skin in the game by not covering the total cost, so we were a lot more mindful of what our options were based on price.

  13. I have an opinion on those 529s and college savings in general. I set up a 529 when my kiddo was born at the urging of my financial planner, whom I promptly fired in 2008 when I realized he had me in all the highest cost/highest risk products. I still have the 529 for her benefit and contributed some between 2007-2015. Upon discovering my work optional goal, I stopped funding it for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it is so insanely restrictive, the costs are higher than index funds and there are no tax benefits to contributions in my state. I have high expectations of her but what if college isn’t her thing? And I think that our current business model of higher education is flawed and I certainly don’t want her to get into a ton of debt. The community college and state university system where I live is excellent and a great way to get her degree should she go that way. When it gets closer to making those kinds of decisions, we will look at her 529, what we might be able to contribute to help, and hopefully have an excellent money learning conversation and opportunity. We will also expect her to have some sort of skin in the game. I just don’t know what all of this will look like! And I think that 529s are overrated.

    1. Yeah, no tax advantage to a 529 in Washington either. The restrictiveness is definitely what’s had me hold off on opening one so far.

  14. The number of goals you have is giving me anxiety! Obviously, in comparison, I do better with just a few goals. I have a series of next steps for finances (roll over IRA, savings goal, beneficiary paperwork, etc) and a clothing goal (used only and a massively reduced budget). It’s moving along. I do check in once a month and revise my next steps.

    I love seeing all of your goals and updates, though.

    1. I’ve definitely slowly ramped up the number of goals I work with over time. Only a couple of these I pay real attention to on a daily/weekly basis so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

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