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.
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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?