Our 2018 Financial Resolutions: Strengthening our finances, building community.
The roll into a new year brings with it time for reflection and resolution. By the time January comes to an end, many of those new resolutions have already been left in the dust. If blogging has any advantage, it is that it provides some of the accountability and focus necessary to keep personal momentum going throughout the year.
In 2017, we made goals to:
- Begin saving for household repairs;
- Reduce our grocery budget to $650/month;
- Raise our monthly credit card payment by 50%;
- Pay off our car loan; and
- Begin an emergency fund after paying off our consumer debt.
How'd we do? Well...
1. HOUSEHOLD REPAIR SAVINGS
We saved $2,270 for household repairs (and used some of that cash for roof and washing machine repair)
We made our ambitious $650/month grocery budget once, and came in under $800/month just six months out of the year. Increasing coupon usage, meal planning, shifting all alcohol expenses to our personal spending money, and thrifty food prep like homemade veggie broth have helped some, but this is one area that we'll have to continue to work at. Significant food allergies and a teenager in the house aren't easy on the budget.
3. RAISING OUR CREDIT CARD DEBT PAYMENT
We eliminated our credit card debt this year! Woohoo!
4. PAYING OFF OUR CAR LOAN
Yep, we crossed this one off too! Becoming consumer debt free was an amazing feeling achievement.
5. BEGINNING AN EMERGENCY FUND
During the year, we shifted some of our priorities. Instead of a dedicated emergency fund, we opened Roth IRAs and began saving cash for an additional high-priority item: A family vacation with our teenage son this summer before he starts his Senior year of high school.
2018 Financial Resolutions
Where does that leave us in 2018? Before we start saving up a general emergency fund, there are some more specific goals we want to address.
1. Sinking Funds to protect against future large expenses
Having money for larger expenses that may arise is an important part of staying out of debt. In 2018, we are adding dedicated savings for future cell phone upgrades, our son's 2019 graduation, and dedicated dollars for a future replacement car.
2. Private Student Loan Repayment
Our private student loan payment is the next debt on our list to eliminate. At roughly $24,000, it is no small potatoes. We have set a goal to pay off this debt within roughly two years.
3. Supporting a financial institution that supports the community
We opened new accounts at Harborstone Credit Union this month, and will be making the transition to using them as our primary bills and savings bank. We're excited to do banking with an institution that is working with local non-profit Sound Outreach to strengthen local families and help them out of predatory lending situations.
There are some benefits for us as well: We'll be getting better interest on our savings/checking accounts and lower fees. We'll also move toward automating much of our finances now that our initial phase of consumer debt repayment is complete. Because we know we can use our credit card responsibly, we'll start putting many of our monthly payments on the card and then paying it off in full each month. We've been earning our 1% credit card rewards on groceries for years now, it's time we started getting 1% back of our regular bills too! (Plus, we're getting 5% back on our cell phone payments through March because it's a bonus category!)
4. Supporting our communities with our spending
In 2018, I'm hoping to wean myself off shopping online. Yes, Amazon is convenient and sometimes less expensive, but it doesn't help me meet my neighbors or keep stores open in the cities where I work and live. I'm hopeful that reducing the convenience of spending money might also reduce how much spending we do. Time will tell. In January, this change meant an extra trip to our local hardware store to get a new fire alarm and a replacement fire extinguisher (safety first, folks). This goal will definitely take some time to perfect though. Convenience is seductive, and I placed three online orders in January before beginning to monitor where I buy the things we need.
5. Discipline deserves some reward!
After buckling down quite a bit since August 2016 to repay our consumer debt, we began to feel it was time to enjoy some of our earnings. Our 2018 budget includes specific money set aside for date nights, weekend trips, and a few more bucks for the family vacation we plan to take this summer. We also will begin setting aside a small budget for "weddings/babies" so that celebrating new chapters with friends and family doesn't become a stressful exercise in reworking the budget.
6. Building on success
In 2017, we made some great choices that set us up to have a stable future. We're hoping to keep this momentum going in 2018 by continuing to build on retirement and home repair savings. Our retirement funds were placed in a Roth IRA, so they can be used as a potential emergency fund if we find ourselves in truly dire straights.
How will we reach our goals?
Whether savings or spending, many of these goals sound like they require us to throw down some cash. It's true. Some of them do. Where will we find the extra, you might ask? Repaying 100% of our consumer debt, refinancing our home, and restructuring our student loans created a notable amount of wiggle room in our budget. In addition, my husband began a new job in last September and my salary got a slight bump up with the new year. By dedicating all our newly available funds to these specific goals, we hope to make some serious financial strides forward in 2018.
As gym attendance begins to taper down after the New Year rush, how are your resolutions faring?
Post Photo cropped from a stellar image by Paul Volkmer.