It’s hard to believe we are already almost at the end of the third quarter of 2019. Didn’t we just go to Hawaii? Apparently not, considering that was almost eight months ago now. That said, we have definitely packed quite a bit into the first nine months of the year.

Most of it has been good, some of it sad (our neighbors moving away) or expensive (our dog needing surgery), but overall I’m quite happy with where we stand at this point in the year. 2018 was the first year I publicly set any annual goals for myself, namely a fifty percent savings rate. While we came in a little short, I’m certain we saved more and were more mindful with our money than without that goal in mind.

Thanks to that success – and yes I will still call it a success coming in under my goal – I decided to continue that tradition of annual goals this year. Instead of one big overarching goal though, I decided to break things down into three categories: money, life, and blogging.

While my list might seem overwhelmingly long to some, having an intentional road map for my year is really helpful to keep me on track with my goals. I don’t think about them often – other than savings rate and my clothes buying ban – but I’m still generally aware of them. That, and these quarterly updates, go a long way in helping me accomplish more in a year than I would otherwise.

Long hair pre-haircut photo

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Money Goals

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

Maybe I should have made this an “at least match last year’s savings rate” goal. We hit 46% overall in 2018, and while it was frustrating not to reach that official half number, it was still double previous years. Which is pretty dang impressive.

Prior to the start of this year, I was feeling pretty confident that this would be the year we would hit that elusive goal of saving half. And then our dog needed a ton of follow up medical appointments. And surgery. At this point in the year, I can confidently say our pets are a significant portion of our budget, in the realm of the big three (food, shelter, transportation). Really, since we have paid off cars and cheap USAA insurance, our big three are food, shelter, and pets.

If I pulled out the pet care costs out of our expenses, I’m confident that we’d hit that 50% savings rate this year. That being said, we will always take care of our animals, so if that means a lower savings rate this year, then it is what it is.

When I get particularly frustrated about not reaching my saving goals this year, it helps to poke around different parts of our net worth on Personal Capital. Looking back a year or more really gives me perspective to realize we are still doing really well over the long term, especially compared to just a few years ago.

Tracking with Personal Capital

It’s been more than a year since I initially downloaded Personal Capital and started actually tracking our net worth. While savings rate is still more important to me because it’s what we can actually control, there is something to be said for having a sense of your overall net worth.

I was unconvinced for a long time that I even needed to track our net worth, but I’m so glad that I finally set up an account where I could track it all. I especially appreciate being able to look at the graphs for individual area, like investment accounts and cash savings. 

We have a bunch of separate accounts, so it’s really nice to see them all in one place. I’m also working on growing our overall cash savings, and Personal Capital aggregates them all across four different banks, which makes things a lot simpler.

If you haven’t set up a way to track your net worth, I’d recommend Personal Capital for that purpose. If you use this link to sign up, you’ll also get a $20 Amazon gift card for doing so.

2. Max out my IRA again.

To be honest, I was hoping I would be farther along at this point of the year than I am right now. I was at 35% back in June ($2,100) compared to 47% today ($2,800). Slowly that number is ticking up, but most extra money has gone elsewhere this past quarter. I’m determined I’ll max this out before the April deadline like I did last year, but December is looking like a pipe dream at this point.

3. Continue to increase charitable giving.

Now a goal I feel really good about at this point in the year. Since I started tracking last year (and then sharing the percentage here this year), giving has become a very normal part of my monthly spending. Giving is definitely a muscle, and if you’re telling yourself you’ll give once you reach “X,” I would urge you to reconsider. The more regularly you give, the easier – and more fun – it is, no matter the number.

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

We finally, finally had a month where this happened! We spent $900.32 for all food and drink expenses in July. Granted, July was also an extremely expensive month overall, but it was certainly good incentive to keep our food costs down. The beauty of having a large part of your monthly spending in discretionary areas (I’d argue food is discretionary unless you work with a very bare bones budget) is that you have a pretty simple way to cut costs when big expenses come up.

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

I am rocking this goal. To date, we have spent $703.61 on the trip: $70.19 out of pocket for lodging for ten nights for the three of us and $633 out of pocket for four direct plane flights, including one checked bag each way. You’ll notice while we paid for lodging for three of us but flights for four. We’re covering Bob’s plane ticket in exchange for date nights while we’re in Iceland plus an extra set of hands to help with the kiddo for the whole trip. When you bring an extra adult along, travel with a kid suddenly becomes a vacation.

Purchase erasure type cards might be my very favorite

6. Make a college funding plan for the kiddo.

No change here this quarter. We have a few separate accounts earmarked specifically for him, but for now they are just sitting in high interest savings accounts. Once we are done paying for childcare in a significant way, we will divert that money to his college fund.

7. Consider paying the mortgage off early.

No change here either. I’ll continue to send a couple hundred dollars extra each month, but that won’t make a huge dent at this time. Our full mortgage payment did go down slightly this year (including taxes, insurance, etc), so I’m just paying that difference to the mortgage like it was still the larger amount. Small, but it will get it paid off a little early that way at least.

Life Goals

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

Two and a half years down, check. Stay tuned for a separate post with a full update here in the following weeks. I haven’t set any parameters in place for “post ban” yet because I’m not post ban. I’m less than six months away from doing this for three years now, and I think I’m going for it. (I also did a Facebook Live on this topic last week in the Women’s Personal Finance Facebook group)

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

I’m realizing this goal is really more about having more phone free time with my family, regardless of the time of day. During the week at least, the end of the day is when the kiddo actually gets to watch a show and it’s about as much down time as I really ever do. That down time often looks like blogging, reading (either a hard copy library book or an ebook on my phone), or hanging out on Twitter. Or catching up on chores, which definitely doesn’t count as down time.

Regardless, before we all settle down for the evening, I’ve been working on plugging my phone in and leaving it be to be more present. I find if I have my phone on me, I’m apt to pick it up, so purposefully leaving it down on the counter helps me a lot here. And much more in the afternoon before dinner rather than after. Slightly different than the original goal, but the intention is the same.

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

Just like last quarter, the weather is still quite good around here and getting outside looks like at least once every day, not just every week. The rain will be back soon though, and this goal will actually be a challenge again.

Gig Harbor WA

4. Lose 25 pounds.

This goal is going slow but sure in the right direction, but it won’t be twenty five pounds this year. At least my weight isn’t up from the beginning of the year, but losing weight is hard. I work out at least a few times a week and I eat reasonably well, but it isn’t enough.

The one time I was really happy with where I was at, I was in half marathon running shape, going to yoga two or three times a week, and lifting weights at least as often, and hiking or going to kickboxing on the weekends. Clearly, life doesn’t allow for that right now, and I have a hard time seeing when it will ever quite look like that again. Which isn’t all bad, but I do miss my long workouts.

Military Dollar started an eat right and exercise group on Twitter, so here’s to some extra motivation. I did squeeze in some squats, crunches, and (very bad) push-ups while making dinner last night, so maybe I can find more little snippets of time like that.

5. Read 30 books.

I’m loving tracking my reads for the first time ever this year, but this goal is clearly way too low. I was in the middle of books 25 and 26 back in June, and I’m now most of the way through book 35 (a reread of The Bane Chronicles, which is a spin-off of The Mortal Instruments series – fun YA fantasy but she does a fabulous job including main/important side characters of all types. Rarely do I read about gay, lesbian, bi, or poly characters just as characters in books, and I love that series for it). ETA finished the book last night.

Blog Goals

1. Set a future calendar for Monday posts.

I feel so accomplished to say that yes, I actually have a blog schedule right now that goes out through November 18th. Granted, some of this is because of quarterly or half yearly posts that just fall during that time, but it’s a long time for me to have planned in advance. I might end up switching some of the dates around depending on what I feel like writing that week, but I’m definitely in no danger of running out of ideas. Monthly guest posts help as well.

2. Get two posts ahead for Monday content.

I was two posts ahead for a very short while, but then I took a weekend off of writing over Labor Day weekend. I’ve clawed back to a post and a half ahead right now, so I’m close. By the end of the year, I’d love to regularly be ahead like this, but time will tell. Having the ability to take a week off if I don’t feel like writing is nice, but one I likely won’t deploy often. Writing regularly helps things flowing for me, so I don’t think I want to get much more ahead than that.

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

The success of my weekly roundup makes me so darn happy. Amazingly, this week marks one year since I started this series. While it means that I’ve committed to a third post every single week, it’s been absolutely worth it. I love watching the referrals that go out to other women bloggers and when I hear about people who find new favorite blogs this way. And at least for smaller blogs, I can kick their page views up to record levels, which I’m thrilled to be able to do. And often enough, it appears that those readers stick around to those blogs in future weeks.

I do keep meaning to create an “as featured” badge for this series though, and I haven’t done it yet. I’m staying publicly here that the badge will be up by the last of these quarterly updates at the end of the year. That, and Purple does an amazing job reminding me of it every week… so it will happen.

4. Continue writing more about sustainability and zero waste. 

Thanks again to Purple’s Wednesday reminders, I finally got my post out on the cost and ROI of our 95% efficient furnace and water heater. I’d considered writing it for quite a while, but it finally got published this quarter. I have a few more posts written (or partially so) that follow in the sustainability/zero waste bent that will be out this next quarter.

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

I think this one actually deserves a stand alone post on my evolving thoughts on this topic. My reasons for not wanting this blog to be a business (ie make more than a few pennies in income) have been mainly to constrain the hours I put in on the blog and that I continue to write exactly what and when I want to say, regardless of the money factor.

To be honest, I feel strongly that bloggers deserve to be paid when they are providing solid content and information. For whatever reason, it seems to be prevalent only in the personal finance space to talk about why bloggers shouldn’t. But money can also be used for good – to pay fair wages for people helping on the back end of things, to be able to donate larger sums of money than otherwise able to, and yes, to be paid fairly for the countless hours put in blogging. And money doesn’t have to mean more time or a changing focus.

Did you make 2019 goals? How are they going so far?

33 thoughts on “Quarterly Goals Check In: September 2019

  1. Do you have a gym nearby with childcare? That was the key for me to getting exercise consistently (i.e. 5-6x/week), being able to bring my kid. Most YMCA’s, city rec centers and even Jazzercise studios have babysitting included in the membership.

    1. My closest gym shut down their childcare program a while back, but the bigger bit is that I feel like I work enough as it is that I don’t want to take my kiddo to the gym to childcare after that. Plus he’s not a fan of being watched by people he doesn’t know well.

  2. A couple years ago one of our dogs ate mouse poison. We got him to the emergency vet before much, if any, poison was absorbed. But the bill was over $1,000. And then there were the vitamin K treatments after that – only another couple hundred. We wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again, but here’s hoping we don’t have to. Each of the subsequent years our pet costs – for two dogs – have been less than that one episode. We budget $3,000/yr. for vet care, knowing that as they age these guys are gonna have issues.

  3. Senior dog care costs are NO JOKE.

    Confession: I don’t really remember all of my goals for 2019 and I’m too tired to check what they are but maybe I’ll pop in on them next week when (I assume) I’ll have caught up enough to have more time.

  4. Wow, sounds like you are making great progress on everything!!! I found myself doing the exact same thing with my blog in terms of posting schedule/frequency. I didn’t write for a bit and it seemed tougher to get back into it when I sat down next. I’m trying to stick to a google calendar schedule and get out ahead. Things seem to flow better that way. I just found Buffer, thinking I may investigate more, but social media is tiresome… Any suggestions/things that you’ve found helpful?

    1. Helpful in terms of what? Blog schedule? Social media? But yes – sticking to a schedule makes it easier to write, I think.

  5. I wanted to lose weight this year but, thanks to that DC trip where I ate like it was going out of style, I’m up on the scale. So I’m having to work on that. I just need to get back onto my diet and actually stick with it, which is apparently significantly easier said than done. Sigh.

    I’m reading more this year, which is all the goal that I set. No specific book number. I’d probably lose count anyway. I did pick up an interesting book from the Museum of American History about the first black millionaire (which happened in the 1920s if you can believe it!) that should prove interesting.

    And I’m saving like crazy for retirement, which was my other goal. I wanted to save $3,000 in my SEP. I’m up to more than $10,000 thanks to a large tax refund and a couple of unexpected windfalls. Won’t be able to replicate the results again next year probably. But it’s fun this year!

    1. Yes!!!! Well done on the retirement accounts!! And even doing it ONCE is huge because it will carry you forward. And send me the name of that book? It sounds interesting.

    2. Try the Lose It app – you can set your weight goal and easily track your intake through the app’s extensive food list (or scan the bar code if you are consuming packaged food ie granola bar. You can also link the app to your Apple Watch. Lose It automatically calculates your intake – output (exercise) = total caloric spend/day. I was able to lose 20+ pounds without any gimmicks….just tracking and working the formula.

  6. So firstly, I’d like to commend you on your goal progress! Woot woot! You really are getting a lot done this year in the directions you want. I started a thing where I write out my monthly “focus” – I’ve been trying to stay away from goals where I can because I was so goal oriented for so long, that I am trying to be less rigid, if that makes sense. Two things on my mind – Angela, you are a beautiful lady whether or not you lose 25 pounds. But honestly, how you look doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. You are just an amazing human being! I’ve been reading a lot about body positivity lately because I have a bad habit of beating myself up and I have an 11 1/2 year old who already says things negative about her body and it makes me so sad (and I know that I am/have been part of the problem). I do gently try to change her words/framework/mindset when I hear those thingsI am now taking it upon myself to spread this new mindset as much as possible. Us ladies and hold ourselves to such ridiculous standards (mostly because of all the silly images we see) and it starts early. With that in mind, I’m trying to focus on how I want my body to function and to work out to meet that end, eat more intuitively and I’m considering cutting alcohol out of my life either permanently or maybe just be someone who toasts at weddings, because I sleep terribly even having one drink. All that being said, do you read Rhonda Patrick or listen to her podcast ? Her website is foundmyfitness.com and I like how everything she presents is scientifically based. You got this! Crush the last quarter. 🙂

  7. You’re crushing your goals! I love reading about what other people value in their goal updates. It’s so important to be intentional if we want to actually make progress. I think I haven’t been specific or intentional enough with my goal-setting lately and it shows. Health goals are a never-ending struggle but I’m slowly getting myself back to a somewhat regular workout routine and maybe eating a bit better…I hope!

    I like that you are finding this middle ground in the blog monetization issue, as most seem to be on extreme sides. Either gung-ho to make it their FT income, or adamantly opposed to ever making a cent off their blog. It’s nice to read someone who feels bloggers deserve some monetary reward for their work, even if it’s just enough to sort of break even!

    1. Yeah, I’m still struggling through the monetization bit, but I don’t expect that to go away any time soon 😉

  8. One of my goals this year was to walk 500 miles. But I kind of switched it up mid year to include weight lifting, so now 20 minutes of weight lifting=1 walking mile. Luckily I found BodyFit by Amy on YouTube for workouts because I was getting bored quickly doing it on my own. She is a personal trainer and has a ton of workouts (for free!) and adds more every month. Almost all the videos are 30 minutes or less and are very similar to Beachbody workouts so there are a lot of weights/squats/lunges involved. I try to do at least three a week in addition to my cardio days to keep it interesting. **She also had two babies over the past 4 years, so there are a lot of pre/post natal workouts as well and she has modifiers for people of all fitness levels. Sorry to gush about it, but I just love it:)

    1. Yeah, I’m starting to consider waking up stupid early to get some short workouts in before the kiddo wakes up.

  9. this sounds counterintuitive but a week in the woods and i came back having LOST fitness and gained weight. it must be the extra groceries and good wine were too much to overcome! i’m coming to the realization that i ought to just write the stuff i want to write on the blog. a post on individual investments might not get as much traction as something more general about mindset or life in general but i enjoy them more. turns out i enjoy showing it’s easier than folks think to do this stuff.

    1. Not counterintuitive if you were hanging out in the cabin instead of out hiking in those woods 😉

  10. Love hearing about people’s goals. Although it may not feel like it sometimes. You are crushing it. You have a lot of goals going at once and are progressing towards all of them.

    I like the idea of having a focus as opposed to the binary system of achieving a goal or not. Like you said, you may not have hit a 50% savings rate last year but 46% is nothing to be upset about. For me, progress in the right direction is key.

    That being said, I could be better at solidifying or staying my “goals” or focus areas. This is something I’m thinking about doing in 2020. A sort of 20 in 220 list. Reading other people’s goal updates has motivated me to “think outside the box” and set goals in a variety of areas.

    Looking forward to your next update 😊

    1. Sarah from smileandconquer.com has a 19 in 2019 list that you might be interested in checking out!

  11. ICELAND? Can we come? Kidding, but only kind of. Iceland is my favorite place we’ve ever been. How did you manage $70 for ten nights? Even with tent-camping for the majority of our trip, we didn’t manage to get it that low. Anyway, awesome job on your goals!

  12. Way to go on getting your food costs under $1000! I know that’s been a big one for you. I love that you maintain a list of goals I definitely need to start that. I find my focus waining as I age!

    1. I think part of that waning focus is also because there aren’t the same big 5-10 year goals there used to be. With little kids at home, life looks pretty similar 5 and 10 years out than it does now. Or at least that’s where I’ve felt a bit stuck sometimes – the yearly goals are definitely helping with that feeling of forward progress.

  13. Great idea to stash your son’s college fund in the HYSA for now, let it collect interest until the childcare costs are done. Planning to transfer it to a 529? We immediately started a 529 for both of our boys, opened one of each of them around the time they were born.

  14. Thanks Angela, for sharing your goals. It’s great that you’ve achieved the vast majority of them 🙂 Wondering if you’ve considered pet insurance, which would meet the cost of most vet fees, and might give you more certainty in terms of knowing the cost of pet care.

    1. I’ve considered it, and have chosen instead to create a separate savings account for future vet bills, as I’ve said 😉

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