Financial Health & General Growth!
Guys, these New Year posts are kinda stressful! I feel some pressure to approach my 2019 in an interesting way that isn’t just “New Year’s Resolutions!” or “New Year, New Me!” Those feel overdone at best.
Fortunately, I actually thought about my 2019 goals/plans earlier in the year when I realized my spending was out. of. control. but I didn’t do anything about it because I had a plan for 2018 that didn’t involve caring *that* much about my spending. I talked about this a little bit in a previous post about “fired-proofing myself.”
Why did I (kind of) ignore my spending last year?
2018 was the year I committed to my mental and physical health, pretty much no matter the cost. It was the year of 2x/week personal training, weekly therapy, binging ER, and letting my brain rest when I wasn’t working on my blog or doing things with my people.
How much did 2018 cost me for those goals?
$2,000 for my gym membership
$2,000 in therapy fees
$360 for medicine
Countless hours of productivity and melted brain cells because I read almost no books and watch so much freaking TV I can’t even count it or I will cry from despair.
But the work I did built a mental and physical health foundation I’m proud of, made MAJOR strides in both areas of my life, which have spilled into other areas of my life, and most importantly, the foundation is sustainable enough that I can build on it BIG TIME in 2019 without spending nearly as much money.
I’d almost paid off my entire consumer debt load in mid-2018, but by early fall, that number had climbed back to pre-2018 levels. Honestly I don’t totally know how I got there, because my budgeting/spending tracking has been lax, but let’s just say I mailed it in on consumer debt in 2018.
I had a plan for 2018 that didn’t involve caring *that* much about my spending.
Sometimes that happens. It’s called prioritization. I didn’t prioritize my financial health last year (except that I did max out my 401k, which I’m pretty damn proud of), but that’s okay because it wasn’t my goal. Now…can I do a lot of 2018s? No. Nope, no way. All of my consumer debt is at verrrry low- or no-interest and that won’t always be the case. Also spending more than you take home (even if you’re saving money pre-take-home) is just not sustainable (obviously, because #math).
So what did I accomplish in 2018? Here are the highlights!
Saved $24,000 in my 401k (including employer match)
Hit my $50,000 overall investments goal!
Trained with my personal trainer twice per week for the entire year (and the end of 2017)
Attended therapy weekly for the entire year and made so much progress on my mental health
Traveled so much I got Platinum status on American Airlines for 2019 without spending a ton out-of-pocket on airfare (wuddup credit card hacking!)
Refinanced my student loans to a fixed-rate loan and got my principal balance under $300,000!
Moved in with a roommate, which is saving me money AND giving me MUCH-needed forced social interaction
Celebrated my first anniversary at my job with no intention to leave in the near future
Received a small raise and a decent bonus, which I used to make an extra payment on my student loans
Launched, sustained, and grew Champagne & Capital Gains! Launching a personal finance blog has been on my list of things to do for at least 5 years.
Overall 2018 was a pretty good year for me individually. Obviously my mom’s illness was not a highlight, but I wouldn’t consider that a “personal” thing in the same sense as my work, health, finances, etc. 2015, 2016 and 2017 were honestly the worst 3 years of my life to date, which is saying a lot because *I went to law school* (before those years), so I am suuuuper grateful to have gained and earned some stability and strength last year.
2018 as the year of mental and physical health was a rousing success. I will thank it for its place in my life and release it, even though it did in fact bring me some joy. I just mentioned Marie Kondo, like I promised myself I never would on my blog.
On to 2019, The Year of (the Pig…according to the Chinese calendar, but also the year of) Financial Health & Growth.
I don’t like to do resolutions, as I’ve mentioned I’m sure. I do like to outline some goals that are specific and attainable, but I mostly avoid “daily” goals. The pressure to do something EVERY day besides sleeping, eating, and grooming, is a major stressor for me. I like to know I can take a day off and the world won’t collapse (lookin’ at you, DuoLingo streaks!)
So, what does The Year of Financial Health and Growth Look like?
(1) Spend less money & repay most of the consumer debt
I didn’t track my money at all last year, and it showed. I have like…thousands of dollars I can’t directly account for (even on Mint, which is frankly beyond confusing, but whatever.) Did I mention I’m not writing to make y’all think I’m perfect? Exhibit A. Not perfect. Working on improving, though!!! So how will I achieve this goal?
Budgeting for real.
I’m probably going to start tracking all of my expenses in a spreadsheet, which is something I’ve never done and which I think will be helpful since I do a lot of reimbursing other people (gotta get those points, right?)
Reducing my dining, grocery, travel and shopping expenses.
Based on however much I spend after I track for a couple of months, I’ll start reducing spending in those areas either by hacking (travel) or literally spending less.
Reducing my personal training to 1x/week.
Last year I trained twice per week, but this is one of my BIGGEST expenses and my trainer has gotten more expensive over the course of the year as he’s advanced Tiers of experience and educational training. This will reduce my monthly expenses by $440.
Accept all somewhat reasonable Poshmark offers.
This hurts, but getting rid of stuff and making SOME money that I can put to good use is better than clothes I really don’t want anymore sitting in a closet stressing me out and me making no money on them. She Picks Up Pennies did a great post on why she’s started doing this and it inspired me to give it a try! Last week I sold 2 items for $24 that I might have tried to negotiate in the past, so we’re making progress.
(2) Build the blog.
My goal will be to start monetizing the site right after its first anniversary at the end of March.
What will this look like?
Ads (sidebar and such)
Freelance posts on other sites
Affiliate links where appropriate
What won’t this look like?
Sponsored posts unless it is something I have used and love
Obnoxious popup ads and ads that cover the whole site
(3) 50 Blog Posts
I’d like to be posting 2-3x per week, but I’m just not there yet with a consistent, weekly posting schedule. Ideally I’ll choose a day of the week to post, but as long as I get something out basically weekly, that will take the blog a long way in terms of availble content for readers and just getting my ideas on paper. There are so many things in my head I want to share with you! This is an example of setting an achievable bar that is specific, but not too rigid (and can be adjusted up as necessary!)
(4) 30 Minutes of Productive Screentime Daily
At least 30 minutes of “productive” screen time each day (on average) would include any of the following: Givling (free Trivia and ads that build points toward student loan repayment. I need to do a whole post on Givling because it’s so cool), Poshmark, Duolingo and Dating Apps like Hinge and The League.
I have clothes I want to sell, people I want to meet, and I really want to get my French back to a true conversational level. If I don’t allocate time for these things, which for whatever reason kind of stress me out (seriously have you ever listed something on Poshmark? I’d rather walk over hot coals I think), I wouldn’t do them. So far, it’s working!
(5) Fewer than 5 hours/week of TV (except football season/sports)
This is pretty self-explanatory. Right now I’m using these hours on Bachelor, Siesta Key, and Teen Mom 2. Someone give me an award for the highest ratio of trash TV to quality TV, right? I’m giving myself a pass on football season specifically and sports in general, because that’s usually a social or multitasking activity for me. Really I could say the same about Bachelor since I host girls for that, but I’ll try my best to keep it within 5 hours, Bachelor included.
Set an achievable bar for yourself that is specific, but not too rigid (and can be adjusted up or down as necessary!)
(6) Read 12 books
Last year I SLACKED on the books big time. I think I read like 2 books all year. That’s not normal and it’s not how I want to live my life. I watched SO much TV last year, which was great for any Friends or ER trivia nights I may go to in 2019, but it wasn’t good for my overall life. This year, I’m going to average one book per month for the year if it kills me! Which it won’t. Post suggestions in the comments! I love historical nonfiction but also love fiction and self-help and good autobiographies and…
(7) Finish The Federalist Papers
Related to 6, but separate (it is, after all, a series of essays, not a book #namethatsong). My brother gave me a copy of these for Christmas last year, as I’d been asking for them for a couple of Christmases. I’m a lawyer, I’m super into history, particularly Revolutionary War history, and I love political and governmental theory, so while I have read a few just from school, I have always wanted to read them in their entirety (there’s also a set of Anti-Federalist Papers but who has the time?).
Last year I read the first 17 and this year I’m going to get all the way to 85! I’m trying to treat it like a devotional: read 1-2 per week. We’ll see how that goes!
(8) Walk my dog more (specifically: around the block almost every day at least once)
My dog doesn’t require a lot of exercise, so I’ve been slacking big time on walking him. That said, he’s gained a little bit of weight (I was accidentally overfeeding him…dog food bags LIE about portions, yall) and I KNOW he needs to walk more. So I’m building that into my days as much as possible and not being a selfish potty break-rushing person. When it gets warmer, I’ll take him to some dog parks also! He goes to daycare some as well, so he’s getting social and exercise time. We just need more structure.
(9) Work out 200 times this year
Last year I was in the ~130 range on workouts, but almost 100 of those were sessions with my trainer. I pay a lot for my gym even aside from my trainer and I definitely didn’t take advantage of that membership as much as I should have last year. Increasing my workouts significantly is part of building on 2018’s fitness routine. 200 workouts is close to 4x/week and I think that’s attainable. I’m also going to mix up my workouts and add running, yoga, and barre back into the mix with strength training. Last year I focused so much on strength, my muscles have become angry and tight, which is making my knees and other joints sad. Can’t have that!
(10) Go to church 12 times (and preferably commit to one)
This wasn’t a priority for me last year. I actually took an accidental hiatus for the entire year, but it’s important to me to find a community I like that I can get plugged into. I set a goal of 12 times, which is pretty sad, but finding a church is hard (especially when you have a specific idea of what you like and don’t have many friends who are also on the hunt to go with you to services). I’ve found that setting HUGE goals when you’re getting back into something is a recipe for failure and shame, so once per month goal it is for the meantime. If I exceed it, PEACE BE WITH YOU (…and also with you ;) )
(11) $5,000 in Emergency Fund
This goal will probably increase, but right now I’m at ~$3,300. I’ve been saving $100/month for my EF and until I used part of my bonus to increase the fund, I was hovering around $1,200. If I save $150/month instead of $100, I will be able to do this easily (and again is why I will probably raise this goal.)
I really want to save around $10,000 this year into my emergency fund, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen with all my other financial goals. $5,000 is roughly my monthly expenses including my HUGE loan payment, so I think it’s a decent starting goal while I get all my other financial ducks in a row. I could actually defer my loan payments if I end up jobless for some reason.
(12) 1-2 new dates per month (unless I meet someone)
Guys. I completely ignored dating for the second half of last year. As I mentioned in 3 above, spending time on dating apps is part of my 2019 plan. My therapist (everyone needs a therapist!) asked me around Thanksgiving why I wasn’t putting any effort into meeting someone (either by dating apps or putting myself in positions to meet new people) when finding a partner is important to me. Damn, woman, cut to the core.
So I’ve set a small goal for myself of 1-2 new dates per month and I’m hopping back into the dating world with #optimism. As of publication, I have 2 dates this week and one date next week. Pray for me.
One of my best guy friends from law school practiced intentional optimism the year he met his now-wife, and he said it helped him feel like it was possible. He also took his sister to a Garth concert and his bro to a wine festival because he bought two tickets due to that #optimism, but he landed the lady late in the year when she accepted an invitation to go to a baseball game with him on the extra ticket he bought.
If I meet someone, I’ll obviously be going on many dates with that person, so I’ll stop going on new dates out of respect or whatever…
Annnnd that’s it! Those are my general goals for this year. I’ll keep you apprised of my progress and please feel free to keep me accountable! I’m going to crush some money goals and build some financial security. Who’s with me?!
What are y’all’s goals for 2019?