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the BIG picture....

December 19th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Ahead of the New Year, I wanted to get a big picture view of our money life since I started blogging here in 2008.

It's just amazing. We haven't always met our goals, but we've gone farther than we would have. Before I had a place to write down and plan, we just drifted, without a plan. Having a plan, at least for me, makes all the difference.

Just keeping track of my goals, and having a place where I felt accountable has had an amazing impact on our financial life.

Here is what my family has accomplished since I started this blog:

2008
Savings goal: $19,250
Actual savings: $21,305, plus $15,000 in 401k contributions.

I owed $12,700 in student loans and paid $1100 extra. The rest of the money went to fund our IRA, Roth, 529, brokerage, car fund, and savings accounts. We also had a baby, I left my full-time job and began freelancing to save on childcare and to care for my terminally ill father, who died in July of that year.

2009
Savings goal: $22,220
Actual savings: $10,000, plus $12,000 debt pay-off, plus $16,500 in 401k contributions.

In 2009, we added a second baby to the family, which meant more hospital bills, and another 529 plan. Our freelance income took a nosedive thanks to the Great Recession. We didn't meet many of our goals, but I did pay off my $12,000 student loan using our "exotic" vacation fund and some savings. Paying it off eliminated the $303 monthly payment, and made us 100 percent debt free.

2010
Savings Goal: $23,540
Actual Savings: $16,575, plus $16,500 in 401k contributions.

Once again, we didn't make the goal, but hey, I make them ambitious. We bought a new car, and had to adjust our lives and finances to two children. My freelance income rebounded a bit from 2009, to about half 2008 levels. We full funded my IRA, both kids' 529s, paid extra on the car loan, and put a little in savings. We loaned $5,000 to a friend, which is why we were so far below our goal. We saved it, we just didn't get to keep it!

2011
Savings goal: $32,490, plus $16,500 to 401k.

This is by far the most ambitious year yet. To make this, we'll have to dedicate our tax refund and hubby's bonus (hoping he gets one...) strictly to the goals. My freelance income is also rising again, which should help. I'd also like to do another No Spend Month to kick start savings.

I think if we're diligent-- sticking to our weekly spending cap, shopping smarter for groceries and such-- it will help us make our goals and prep to one day have a mortgage again. (EEK. Not looking forward to that!)

Looking back at my savings account balance last year at this time, I realize we're only about $100 above where we were then. Sigh. Treading water, but given everything we've done this year, I'm trying to be happy with that.

It has long been my goal to up the balance of the EF by $10,000 a year. We made a little headway in 2008 and 2009, but in 2010, it didn't really happen. Here's to 2011!

8 Responses to “the BIG picture....”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    Great post!

    I agree that blogging about finances is a great motivator for meeting financial goals. I'm also convinced that I wouldn't do as well if I didn't have people reading about how we do on our goals.

  2. MonkeyMama Says:

    I feel the same way - I have a much firmer grasp on the big picture than I did before.

  3. Ima saver Says:

    I think you have done a great job and keep up the good work. We all have set backs. I did not anticipate having to pay out $10,000 cash in hospital bills this year, but Murphy's law happens to us all.
    Being here keeps me motivated too.

  4. ThriftoRama Says:

    I think the beauty of this site is not only writing things down and accountability, but having people to support you and to offer advice.

  5. crazyliblady Says:

    I don't think I would get down on yourself if I were you. You completely eliminated your student loan and went debt free in the process, and you sacrificed your vacation fund to do so. That's quite an accomplishment in a bad economy.

  6. patientsaver Says:

    I think you've done an awesome job in saving. Just the act of setting a goal, whether it's quitting smoking or saving money, gets your further than if you never tried at all. You might want to calculate what percentage of your income that savings represents to give you added incentive.

  7. ThriftoRama Says:

    Hmmm, I may have to do some math to figure out the percentage. I'm pretty happy overall. I set fairly lofty goals that leave little room for error, so if I don't make all of them, I can't complain too much. At least I know what I'm working toward.

  8. frugaltexan75 Says:

    I agree that writing down your plans and goals, along with having a group of people like this here to support and advise is really the way to go. It looks like you've done really well - even if you didn't exactly meet your savings goals, you did manage to get yourself out of debt - which in the long run will help you to achieve the savings goals.

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