While December hasn’t officially yet ended, I feel it’s close enough to the end of the year now for me to do a follow up on my 2019 goals. (ha, just kidding, it’s very much January now). I started really laying out annual goals for myself last year, in 2018, and I find that I really like having them for focus and direction through the year.

I’m in a point in my life – married, home owner, mid career, mom of a young child – where life has settled into a rhythm and I don’t have any “big” goals on the horizon, like when I was striving for those things. Pay off $24,000 of student loans? Easy to see the big picture goal there. Buy a house at 23? Same thing.

Since we don’t have a big goal to retire as quickly as possible, nor to move from our home or to a new city or even change careers, my biggest goal as of late has been to settle in and lean in to this time of life without constantly looking out for what’s beyond the horizon.

These annual goals are helping me do that, because they are focused on just a twelve month period, and making that time matter. Instead of looking forward, I’m looking to the near present. And I’m finding that the smaller, day to day goals can be just as important as the big ones out in the future. While, of course, planning for that far out future that I expect and hope to be there for us.

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Money Goals

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

Ha nope. This was an ambitious goal in 2018, and we got pretty darn close at 46%. At the end of last year, I was hopeful that 2019 could be the year we hit that savings rate. And without big veterinary bills, maybe we could have reached it. Take that in combination with extra discretionary travel, and we’d be there for sure.

Obviously, I’m hopeful not to have a repeat of spending $7,000 on our pets next year, but of the spending that was under our control, I wouldn’t have opted out to save those last dollars.

I’m confident we will eventually get to that magical point of saving half our incomes, even if it happens more slowly than I originally hoped for. Between banking raises when we get them (and the kiddo going to kindergarten next fall and drastically reducing our childcare expenses), it will happen. Someday. I’m just not rushing there now.

Tracking with Personal Capital 

It’s been more than a year and a half 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.

This is most definitely a slow but steady goal this year, and it won’t happen in the 2019 calendar year, but I will be sure to make it happen by April, when the deadline to add to it cuts off.

I had big goals to have this maxed out by the end of December, but again, vet bills, as well as other savings goals, slowed me down. Regardless, I will take money out of savings in April if necessary to max it out then, but I don’t expect to need to. No matter what, it’s a powerful savings tool for retirement, and I plan on maxing it out every year from here on out, barring circumstances outside of my control.

3. Continue to increase charitable giving.

I’ve kept my giving at a steady 2-3% each month, plus 7% in August, coinciding with a three paycheck month. More than anything, this year has been creating a good, solid habit and giving. Like anything else, the more often you do something, the more it becomes a habit. Not too long ago, giving $50 in a given month would feel like a lot, and now I’ve done significantly more than doubling it. I would call this a successful goal achieved for sure.

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

If anything is a given in our spending, it’s that we like good, local, sustainable food and drink, and we’re willing to pay for it. Even though we are okay with spending more than might be typical in a frugal budget, we learned the hard way how a blank check can lead to thousands of dollars spent every month, so this goal was important to keep things somewhat controlled.

Keeping all food and drink expenses (and some household goods thrown in there) to under $1,000 a month might be a no brainer for some families, but it’s a serious challenge for ours. We managed to stay under that threshold just once this year, back in July, though we did get close a few other times. This is a goal I will definitely be carrying forward into next year, if for no other reason than to make sure we don’t creep back up to our old spending habits.

Once a week work lunch splurge

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

Major success here. So far, we’ve spent just $1,000 out of pocket for four direct, round trip plane tickets, ten nights of lodging for the three of us, and our share of the rental car costs for the seven days we’ll have it. It should come as no surprise that we’re planning to spend quite a bit on food for the trip, which is why I was so focused on minimizing the rest of our trip costs.

We hit our minimum spend on the Chase United card we opened a while back (miles saved for some future trip), so I keep meaning to open a new card but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Since we don’t have any big plans in the future laid out yet, I’ve been pretty lax about it. We can go through quite a few points in a single trip since we travel with a minimum of three of us, and often more, so I should probably get on it sooner or later. The good news is, we don’t lock ourselves out of Chase cards since we’re so slow about new ones.

6. Make a college funding plan for the kiddo.

This also hasn’t changed since June, other than a bit more money in the account. I’ve set up a separate high yield savings account, but for now, I’ve kept the flexibility over a traditional 529, since we don’t get any tax benefits in Washington anyway. This account will begin to grow a lot faster next fall once the kiddo starts kindergarten and we trade paying for his daycare with funding his future college.

7. Consider paying the mortgage off early.

I flip flop so much on this goal, but for now, I’m content with the speed of payoff we’re at right now. I’m rounding up to the next hundred/two hundred each month, but otherwise just letting this ride. Our interest rate is just 3.375%, and no matter what, the mortgage will be paid off by the time we’re 54 (or slightly sooner with the small additional payments). Check back in six months and I might be feeling differently yet again.

Life Goals

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

I’ve clearly CRUSHED this goal and am staring down three years as of March 1st, which really isn’t that far out yet. I’ll be rolling this goal forward into 2020 to see just how long I can stretch it. Thanks to the clothing swap last month, I’m feeling pretty good about the status of my closet right now (though I find I can always use “new” work shoes).

Wearing the same sweater on my 32nd birthday as my 21st

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

I’m getting better about this (as I type this in the evening on my phone…) Really, I think that the anxiety medication I started taking back in October has helped this considerably. When my mind is racing, it’s sometimes easier just to retreat into my phone.

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

Now that the weather has turned, this goal should have been more of a challenge. As it stands, I’ve been getting outside pretty much daily, even when the weather is terrible. Like the phone use I mentioned above, the anxiety medication seems to be playing a role here as well. I don’t want to put an outsized outcome on it, but it appears to be helping in a bigger way than I could have imagined.

4. Lose 25 pounds.

Ha nope. This most definitely has not happened. I’ve pretty much hung out around the same weight this same year, if perhaps a few pounds lighter, but nowhere near that goal of twenty five.

Listening to this episode on The Fairer Cents about The Economics of Wellness really stood out to me and reminded me that this isn’t a goal that should continue forward into 2020. Instead, my health goals will be more health oriented, not weight disguised as health.

5. Read 30 books.

Or, 52+. I way underestimated the number of books I read in a given year. I’d never tracked them before this year though, and it is really fun having a full list to look back on. Are you curious about what I’ve read this year? Should I share the full list at some point?

Books #51 and #52 this year (one fiction and one nonfiction) were Son (Giver Quartet #4) by Lois Lowry and The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. I’d read The Giver back in school (elementary, I think?) but hadn’t realized it was one of four, and I really enjoyed reading the full series. The Story of Stuff, unsurprisingly, was part of the inspiration for my #PlasticFreeDecember challenge (and the content for a number of Tweets over the course of the few weeks it took me to read it).

The final book of the year, #54, was The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, the followup to The Handmaid’s Tale. This book was well worth the long wait list at the library, and an excellent addition to the first book. Perhaps now I will finish the second season of the series (though in small doses, because it is intense and anxiety producing).

I tend to be reading one book via Kindle (usually fiction) and one hard copy book (usually) nonfiction at any given time. Both these days come from the library, as we have full bookshelves and I don’t really need to own too many new physical books.

Blog Goals

1. Set a future calendar for Monday posts.

There were a few months this year where I was really good about this and wrote out a calendar for a few months out in the future. What I found though is that I don’t actually love sticking to a set schedule and will often switch up what my next posts will be depending on what I’m feeling like writing that week. Having a loose outline of what I’d like to write about is great, but a strict content schedule doesn’t work for me.

2. Get two posts ahead for Monday content.

All thanks to A Purple Life, I am actually sticking to this goal after reaching it a couple months ago. I’d written a post ahead a number of times, but I’d always find myself losing that lead in a few weeks when I’d had a random weekend where I just didn’t write and relied on an already completed post.

I have to say, it is relieving to have a few posts in the queue fully written and ready to go. Thanksgiving weekend was super busy, and I made the conscious choice not to finish a post that weekend. While clearly I could just take a week off, I prefer not to, so having a bank of a few posts is a great way to do the same (and then I just have to write an extra post later on to catch up to the two posts ahead).

This queue of posts was what ultimately allowed me to go forward with my first real blog break in two and a half years and be mostly offline through the Christmas and New Years holidays, as shared in this post just beforehand. I was on social media off and on during that time, but much less than normal.

Other than battling a long cold, I spent the break with friends and family and really enjoyed myself, and I find myself reenergized and with a queue of new posts half written in my head. While this blog is clearly a passion project, this break made me realize that I should take a step back every once an a while even from those things I love best.

How is the success of this goal Purple’s doing? She makes sure to publicly share our goals on Twitter every Wednesday and pressures us to stay on track. She even has a Patreon for those of us who need extra incentive. Money very well spent, I tell you (but shh, don’t tell her I said that).

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

A+. This Wednesday roundup series has been an absolute success this year. I love sharing other women’s posts and helping get other bloggers more exposure. Over time, the number of referrals out each week continues to grow, and it is so satisfying to see.

It is definitely more work to write a third post every week. But it is absolutely worth it, and a series I will be continuing on into the future with the hopes to someday have a “Rockstar Finance” effect with my selections.

4. Continue writing more about sustainability and zero waste. 

I consider this to be a major win here as well. Most recently, I wrote about my #PlasticFreeDecember challenge. Instagram especially has become my sustainability/zero waste community space, and I’m loving it. That said, I’ve also lost followers over sharing that sort of thing on Twitter. I’ll continue doing it regardless, as the situation with our climate is an emergency and will forever be my life’s work.

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

I’ve actually done a better job of this since my June goal update (other than writing a couple paid articles on Business Insider). I still think I may someday explore creating more income – and therefore more reach and impact – but for now, I’m content to just keep writing and sharing my story without any big goals beyond that.

Did you make 2019 goals? How did they go? Are you making any for 2020?

14 thoughts on “Quarterly Goals Check In: December 2019

  1. Leaning into “the now” without constantly looking out on the horizon is an important skill and one I’m trying to get better at. Call it mindfulness or whatever you want, it can be hard.

    And I got up to 6 weeks ahead in my blogging back in late summer last year (12 posts in the bank!), but then let most of that buffer whittle away. I’m building it back up slowly and am two weeks ahead now. It’s a constant battle!

  2. we’re not big goal setters in le chateau but i would like to spend our well earned time off more wisely this year. folks tend to track their spending and saving but one thing i think we botched up a little in ’19 was making the best of our vacation time. we went all the way to virginia beach last year and only went to the ocean twice, for instance.

    y’all seem to save a ton of money every year. if i might ask what is the priority taking precedence over getting a full roth? it’s not my business but i’m curious. i just looked back at our account inputs since ’06 and am thankful we got the roths fully funded most of those years. i just love the flexibility they offer if you ever really needed to w/d any previous principle. good luck in the ’20.

  3. Looks like you’re doing great with your goals! Like you, I have goals that change and morph over time, and I’m okay with that. We hit about the same savings rate as you guys and I just can’t push us to save more, as we’re living the good life in so many ways otherwise. No immediate, pressing, in-our-face big life changes coming up, so I agree, enjoying and being present in the moment are taking precedence this year. Happy New Year to your whole family!!

  4. Happy New Year
    Good reflective post and seems you are in a nice mental place right now. Keep challenging yourself but don’t be too hard when you miss achieving some things.
    As for myself for goals, I try to never do this and rather strive on mindset instead. Mindset will allow me to reach my goals as they are typically reflective on my spiritual and mental place in time which makes achieving new things possible.

  5. Not gonna lie, the first line of this had me very confused until I reached the end of the sentence haha.

    Um, that’s incredible re: cost of your Iceland tickets! Iceland is totally on our list of places to go — we thought we might be able to make it work a year or so ago, but the Canadian dollar is brutal (which matters because most flights are priced USD). Maybe when we’re a little closer to being done with the student loan this’ll happen.

    I have discovered SO many blogs I love via your Women’s Personal Finance Wednesday posts. Deeply appreciate what you’re doing to amplify voices in the community. Thanks for putting in that extra time 🙂

    My 2019 goal was more of a mantra — less, but better. I really slowed down in a lot of areas of my life and it was tough at first…but worth it in the end. Coming into 2020, I have a few financial projects (re-fill our emergency fund, pay back some more debt, start saving a bit toward a house someday), creative projects (finish a draft of a novel, keep blogging) and health goals (uh…basically be healthy). I think taking that time in 2019 to slow down will help as far as achieving these goals goes.

  6. The picture of your lunch made me hungry, and I just finished dinner. Seriously, though, you have a very realistic and achievable list of goals. What I loved most was recognizing where you are in life and the need to focus on now instead achieving the next big goal. That’s one of the gifts of this spot in life, so enjoy it.

    Great idea about transferring your son’s daycare costs into his college fund! I don’t know any other parents who do that, so that’s awesome!

  7. So many good things here! you make a very good point about making smaller objectives when there isn’t one big massive life objective (saving time purchase a house, getting 1st job) dominating life.

    I’m also really glad to read that you’ve started some anti anxiety medication and feel it is helping. Very happy for you! Just to add my experience, if I may: I took medication for anxiety for over a year, and reduced my dose right down before stopping taking it in Dec 2019. Fingers crossed, for now I am doing mostly okay without (and if I feel I need to go back on it, I will). I think it’s important to talk about mental health issues in public , so we can normalise it.
    So, thank you for writing about this 🙂

    Lastly, I tracked my reading in 2019 for the first time (29 books in the year- hoping to increase in 2020). It’s interesting to keep a record of what I was reading when.

    1. Yeah, I hope I can someday reduce/get off of it, but if not, my life is way better now for it.

  8. I love reading your goal updates! I would like to track my goals more closely. Please post the complete list of books you read last year! I love getting ideas of new books to read (even though I have a LONG list of those yet to read).

    Good for you on getting ahead with blog posts! I have never managed to do this, but maybe 2020 is the year. I blog so sporadically but would love to get more focused with it. Keep up the great work; I always enjoy your content and am often challenged to think and do better because of it!

    1. I will definitely be publishing my book list one of these Mondays! Fun to hear so many people interested in it.

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