Want to Achieve your Goals- State Them Publicly

I firmly believe that stating your goals publicly is a HUGE step in pushing yourself to achieve those goals. It is far too easy to push deadlines for accomplishing our goals later if no one knows about them.

Think about it. Have you ever had the goal to lose weight or complete a project in your home?

I’m sure in your head you imagined a timeline for completing that goal. [I bet if you didn’t ever mention that goal or when you wanted to complete it to anyone other than yourself you probably didn’t accomplish the goal by your initial date.]

Some of you may have eventually completed the goal, but probably not by your initial timeline. Most of us either keep pushing the completion date out or we give up on the goal completely.

I know this process well because I have fallen victim to it so many times myself. You would think that since I know the power in publicly stating my goals that I would always do that.

Ha, that’s just not human nature.

The honest truth is that some of our goals are big, scary goals and it’s downright frightening to admit what they are to other people and worse yet to put a timeline to accomplishing them. Why?

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Spread the Love Challenge

Be the change you want to see.

Are you sick and tired of the negativity that surrounds you?

I know I am.

I cannot change other people, but I CAN change myself and influence people with my positivity.

Here is a simple challenge that I know everyone can do in just minutes today:

Do something nice for someone else. It can be any act of kindness random or not. It doesn’t even have to cost you any money or much time.

You’d be surprised at the effect one act of kindness can have.

Need some ideas? Here is a short list

  • Let someone go in front of you in the grocery line (even if they don’t have fewer things)
  • Make an extra special breakfast for your family
  • Write a card to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile
  • Cook a meal for a friend
  • Take a treat to your neighbor
  • Put change in an expired parking meter for someone
  • Compliment someone to their boss
  • Leave a server an extra big tip
  • Give someone a book you think they’d like
  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile
  • Put a sticky note with a positive message on the mirror in a public restroom
  • Donate blood (the blood banks are really struggling to meet the needs for blood right now)
  • Volunteer
  • Let someone else have the good parking spot
  • Hold the door for someone who is farther away than you would usually wait to hold the door
  • Send flowers to someone
  • Give up your seat on the bus/subway
  • Write a thank you note
  • Offer to return a shopping cart for someone at the store

There are so many things you can do. The point is just DO something. You may never know how it impacted someone else, but it will and I guarantee it will impact you!

I encourage you to challenge others to spread the love as well. Let’s see how many acts of kindness we can get accomplish!

Feel free to share your act of kindness or other ideas in the comments section. I’m always looking for more ways to share positivity.

Debt Snowball Progress- January 2017

While we had already planned to put $500 towards our vacation this month, we were also able to gain some traction on our student loan payoff goal

Our goal is to have all the money for vacation saved well in advance so we can pay for our tickets, hotel, etc. all before we even leave. With the money saved this month for vacation along with the money I will earn from teaching a class at the local community college we will have all of our vacation money.

This month we also did some more decluttering around the house and sold some items that we no longer needed or wanted. We will continue to do that throughout the year and put that extra money towards the student loan debt.

You may remember our mini financial goals for the year are to reduce our spending in the following two categories:

Home Improvement/Supplies

Food

We only spent $93 in home improvement/supplies for the month which is under the $100/month goal. Our food goal was $650; we unfortunately, did not succeed in January. There are lots of excuses we could use and honestly we were on track to do well, and then the last week happened! I got sick and eating out was easier for everyone. Obviously, it wasn’t easier on our budget though.

So here’s the update for January

Income report from January

 

Extra from December paychecks                         $ 795

Money from selling items                                    $   90

 

Total extra income                                               $ 885

 

$500 of this was put towards our Disney vacation and the other $385 was put towards the student loan.

 

Current outstanding student loan debt               $34,157

2017 Financial Goals

Our financial goal for 2016 was to continue paying aggressively on the student loan debt we have. We didn’t have a budget meeting to decide this, we just both knew this is what we were working towards.

Due to a job change our income did fluctuate some. We decided my move to a new job which paid less but allowed more flexibility and time with the kids was worth it.

I am happy to report that even with this job change and pay cut we were able to pay $16,119 towards our student loan. Additionally, we saved $4,700 to pay for new siding on our garage that it desperately needed and we saved $3,040 towards our vacations for summer 2017.  That means for 2016 we were able to save $23,859.

In 2016 we were also able to cash flow over $1,000 on car repairs for our cars which included new tires and brakes. The total amount we spent on car repairs and maintenance for 2016 was $1,200, which we think is great for our two “paid for” cars that are 8 and 11 years old respectively.

That averages out to $100 a month on expenses.  For those people that say that new cars are a better deal, I’m betting their car payment isn’t less than $100 a month not to mention the oil changes they still have to pay for throughout the year. And this is why we’re driving our cars into the ground! link

We also cash flowed $1,200 on a new mattress that our backs desperately needed in order to get quality sleep again. Did you know that after 7 years your bed is likely not providing the support and comfort you need for a good night’s sleep? Ours was 11 years old. (Side note if you’re in the market for a new bed we strongly recommend bedinabox.com. It was great quality at a good price and was shipped to our door in a box the size of me).

There were other expenses throughout the year, but those were the big ones of note.

Once our expense breakdown from 2016 was compiled Brian and I sat down to discuss our financial goals both large and small for 2017.

2017 Financial Goals

  1. Pay $20,000 towards student loan debt
  2. Average $650 spending or less on food every month
  3. Average spending on home supplies and improvement at $75 or less a month

 

I will continue to do our debt snowball progress update monthly and in January 2018 we will recap how we did on these 2017 goals. What are your financial goals for the year big or small?

Annual Budget Recap and Financial Goal Setting

Most people start their New Year’s resolutions on January 1.

I would argue there is some fault in this logic. Yes, it’s a brand new year, but it also seems to be the busiest time of the year.

Personally, I’d like more time to reflect on the past year before I make plans for the new year and that is just not happening in any meaningful way in the month of December.

Plus, when it comes to financial goals the final numbers aren’t in until the clock strikes midnight on December 31.  Then if you’re (crazy) detailed like I am you want some time to review those numbers before you make goals and decisions for the year ahead.

In the Midwest, where I live, it tends to be cold and dreary in January. With no big plans on the calendar it’s the perfect time to grab a cup of tea, a warm blanket and reflect and plan for the year ahead. If you have been budgeting for any amount of time, then you owe it to yourself to do a budget recap once a year.  This budget recap allows you to review where you were spending your money, how much and make informed decisions and realistic goals for the year ahead.

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Control Your Exposure to Media

Bad things happen in life and that is inevitable, what is NOT inevitable is how much you allow myself to be exposed to these bad things.

Everywhere you turn there are news stories about the horrible things happening in the world. The fact of the matter is that negative news sells and while human interest stories are great they aren’t the bread and butter of the media.

Don’t believe me?

Watch the nightly news and count the number of bad and depressing stories that are reported and then count the number of positive and uplifting stories you see.

Do the same thing for the newspaper or any news outlet you find on the Internet. In addition, to there being more of these negative and depressing stories they are also the type of stories that lead the evening news, are on the cover of print media and on the homepage of online media.

Many years ago I discovered that I had to take control of the amount of media I exposed myself too. I am a person who internalizes things I hear and struggle with depressive thoughts too easily. I know that if I expose myself to too much media I will become depressed and believe there is very little good in the world.

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Debt Snowball Progress- December

We made it through the expensive month of December and still made some progress towards our savings goals. H

How did we do that?

We set aside money for Christmas all year long.

This means the holidays don’t break our budget and come January we’re not scared to look at our bills. All of our Christmas giving was paid for even before it went under the tree.

One thing we did realize is that we either need to increase our food budget in December or save more for our Christmas budget. Bringing dishes to pass to several parties does increase the food costs for the month. Unfortunately, this surprise prevented us from sticking with our new food budget. We ended up spending $800 on food for the month, which is still less than our average every month for 2016, but still not good.

We are really working on bringing that food budget down and we’ll keep you updated as we continue to work through that and try to find an easy, effective way to menu plan that cuts back on my hatred for doing it.

If you are not starting to save for Christmas 2017 now, you NEED to.

Check out my post from last year about this.

In addition to increasing the Christmas budget to allot for food for dishes to pass we are also adding a line for a new tree. We know we need a new tree next year so we are going to set aside money in advance so it doesn’t throw off our Christmas budget or our November budget.

In December we did not have any extra money to put towards our debt snowball. We only made the minimum monthly payment, but we were able to put $1,400 towards our Disney vacation that is coming up this July. We wanted to be sure to front load the savings for that vacation so we could pay it all off several months before going.

Our mini-money goal for January is to get our food spending as close as possible to $650 and put  more money away towards our Disney vacation.

So here’s the update for December:

Income report from December

 

Extra from December paychecks                         $1,392

Money from Garage Sale and Varage Sale         $       8

Total extra income                                               $1,400

 

This $1,400 was put towards our Disney vacation. Since we did make the minimum monthly payment and a portion of that goes towards principle, we were able to reduce the debt a little bit this month.

Current outstanding student loan debt               $34,756

Giving the Gift of An Experience

Is the idea of gift giving changing?

Have you heard of “experience” gifts?

It seems to be an idea that is gaining momentum and I want to advocate for it this holiday season.

There are two ways to look at the gift of an experience:

  1. You the giver are giving a gift of doing something with the receiver (i.e. going to a theater production together and possibly dinner beforehand)
  2. You the giver are giving a non-tangible gift to someone without the expectation of going together (ie. a gift certificate for a pedicure)

Why would you give the gift of an experience together?

A couple of months ago I went to my Uncle’s funeral. He was a great man who lived a rich life in his 76 years on this earth. He raised five daughters and was blessed with 8 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. At the wake people were invited up to share stories about him and several of his grandchildren bravely spoke about their memories with him. Do you know what they spoke about?

It wasn’t that he got them a really cool gift for their 13th birthday. It was about Grandpa taking them to their first Minnesota Vikings football game, or the many breakfasts that Grandpa took them out to and the conversations they had there. They spoke about going to Minnesota Twins games and garage sales in search of treasures.  At his funeral his daughters gave his eulogy and spoke about the love and admiration he had for each of them. What they tried to convey to everyone there was how his greatest gift to each of them was teaching them they could do anything. Can you guess how he did that?

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What I Don’t Do For Christmas

It is even more important to control our controllables around the holidays, because there are too many things that can overwhelm us. (editor’s note: can you ever just be “whelmed.”)  It seems that everywhere you look there are more and more ideas for how to “best” spend the holidays and what traditions are a must. There are crafts to make, events to attend, and activities to do. I have a shocking discovery for you – you don’t have to do it all. In fact you shouldn’t do it all. Learn to say no.

I fall victim to overdoing the holidays just as much as the next person; however, I’ve gotten better. There are a lot of things that we don’t do – some may be surprising to you. We choose to do the things that are important to us.

Let me be clear that I do not judge (okay, I do judge, just not on these particular things) the people who do these things, because we all have to pick and choose what is right for ourselves and our families. Just be sure you are choosing things for the right reasons.

What I don’t do – the Christmas edition

  • An Advent Calendar. By this I mean those calendars where there is an activity that the family does each day during advent. Brian and the girls do have those chocolate countdown calendars. Each morning they look for the corresponding number and then enjoy a small piece of chocolate.
  • Elf on the shelf. This is hotly debated in mommy circles, but it never crossed our mind to do it when Cassidy was little and now that she’s older and asks for one, we just say no. This is completely a selfish decision. Brian and I do not need one more thing we have to remember every day. It would be my luck to forget to move him one day and then ruin the whole thing. So you will not find an elf on the shelf in our house. I think the idea is cute and I’ve heard the story of the women who created it – it was their family tradition that has since made them A LOT of money.

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Debt Snowball Progress – November

debt-snowball-november

The holidays are upon us, which means we are inevitably spending more money. However, all of this extra spending on Christmas presents, décor, baking, etc. has been budgeted for. We saved a little bit each month for these exact items, so our monthly budget will not be impacted by the “surprise” of Christmas. If Christmas spending is wreaking havoc on your budget be sure to check out Christmas Savings and don’t let it happen again next year.

Brian and I had a budget meeting recently and discussed our food budget. We have decided this is the line item we want to focus on for a while to keep in check.

In our food budget we have line items for both groceries and eating out. We struggle every month to stay within our budgeted amount. One way to resolve this would be to increase the amount allocated to these items, but we think our spending is the problem. So far this year our average spending on food each month has been $860. This includes one month of $1300 – yikes! That’s the month we tried a new healthy eating program that included smoked salmon, which we discovered we both hate – good thing too it’s expensive.

This is not to say we can’t eat healthy for less, we certainly can with planning.

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