Category: goals

Three Things Thursday [Vol.16]

Every once in a while I dabble in setting goals, and it’s happening again. My friend Beth issued a challenge on her blog to commit to some goals for the month of April, and I thought that coincided very nicely with my new membership at fit2b.us so I am planning to do at least one video each day. I also had a dental checkup this month, which was horrible and therefore inspiring.

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No-Card November

Matt and I are undertaking a challenge this month to quit using our credit and debit cards cold turkey.

A lot of financial advice people suggest using only cash, and when we first started budgeting we tried doing cash only in separate envelopes or jars for different categories. It was too complicated to keep track of though, and too easy to end up stuck somewhere without the cash we needed. As we’ve tweaked our approach to budgeting over the last few years, I think we’ve found a pretty good middle ground in using plastic for convenience but not to overspend.

So why mess with the system that works for us? The thing is, over the last few months we have noticed that the “convenience” of our cards is making it just a little too easy to spend outside of our planning, and it’s harder to keep track of what’s what (should buying lunch come from the grocery budget or allowance?). It just adds up, and we gulp at the bill and pay it off (because we’re still spending less than we make!), but it means our student debt continues to hang over us, and honestly there are other things we’d like to do with the money anyways. Hopefully a month without plastic will help us refocus on our financial goals and recognize areas where we are succeeding or could do better.

How will this month of living on cash not end up a giant failure like past times? Well, there are no guarantees, but a couple factors are different that give me hope.

  • First and foremost, it’s just a month and the point is not to make a permanent change. We don’t want to cancel all our cards, but we want to break the habits that cost us money. By using only cash, we’ll know when the money runs out, and then we’ll stop spending it instead of justifying “oh it’s only a coffee” or “this wasn’t in the plan, but we’re under budget for groceries so far, so everything should balance out.”
  • We are going to keep things simpler than back in the day. Instead of categorizing everything and micromanaging each area of life, I think we’ll stick to gas, groceries, and other (life).
  • We are in a much better rhythm financially than in those early cash-only days. Because we spend so much money at the beginning of the month on rent and loan payments, we used to rely on our credit cards for the first half of the month and then everything balanced out (more or less) when we got our second pay cheques. This month Matt’s loan payments are finally on hold (he’s been back in school since January!!), and that cash should be plenty to meet our needs for the first half of the month. While Matt’s payments are on hold we are planning to body slam my student loan, but we can apply the extra payment in the second half of the month so we aren’t so strapped for cash from the 1st to 15th.

A really big motivating factor is that I only have three more months of work before taking maternity leave (!!!) and we want to make sure our financial ducks are in a row before then. Maybe this month will suck, but worst case scenario we’ll meet our goals for debt and savings, we’ll eat some beans and rice at the end of the month, and we’ll learn whatever we can from why it sucks. Or maybe it won’t be so bad 🙂

Three Things Thursday [Vol. 13]

This week I am inspired by the mad alliteration of Thursday the thirteenth to share three thrifty strategies I plan to put into play this Fall to lessen our living expenses. With a year of maternity leave coming up in 2013, Matt and I are preparing to lose a major portion of my income. Ideally we will fit our cost of living into his paycheques so that my maternity benefits can go to savings or debt and so going back to work can be an option rather than a necessity for me. I’m glad we’re starting to plan now so we have a good number of months to sort things out and adapt as we need to!

1. Meal planning – I love it when I do it, but I hate to do it! However, there is an accumulation of non-perishable food in our cupboards and I’d really like to focus on eating that up. That will mean planning meals around what we have and shopping just to fill in the gaps. Once we get our cupboards back under control I know meal planning will continue to help us shop more efficiently so we waste less food and money!

2. Sort through clothes – One morning this week when I was getting dressed for work, I realized I had the perfect sweater to complete my outfit. I base my clothing choices 100% more on comfort than style these days, so I was excited to feel kind of put together. I quickly tore through three boxes of clothes I packed up last Spring, didn’t find the sweater in time for work and wore my white hoodie instead. Comfort it is! BUT this was a great reminder that it is becoming weather-appropriate to pull out my warmer clothes, and it is also becoming belly-necessary to avail myself of Every. Article. of clothing that I can still wear. If I honestly need more stuff, I am willing to buy it, but I do not want to drop a ton of money on clothes that will only fit for a couple months if I already have pieces that I can make work.

I also need to make a plan for what to do with the clothes I am outgrowing – I’m not sure what to expect from my body after the baby comes out, whether everything will more or less shluurrp back into place in a couple months or whether I’ll need to rebuild my wardrobe. I’m okay with either. Mostly. Becoming a mother is a huge privilege that totally outweighs – literally! bahaha – having a hot body. But I also know that nursing moms can sometimes have a hard time keeping their weight on because they burn through so many calories feeding the baby, and I have always tended to be thin so it won’t surprise me if I end up in that situation. It’s hard not knowing though because I’m not sure whether to purge or store all these clothes!

Part of my plan to cope with this is take the opportunity to find out how small of a wardrobe I can realistically get by with. I am intrigued by Project 333, and I hope that by dabbling in wardrobe minimalism through pregnancy I will be in good shape to either pare down or rebuild my postpartum wardrobe.

3. Budget like mad – Matt and I already operate on a shared budget, but our commitment and self-control really vary month-to-month. We are talking about taking a break from our credit cards to help stay focused and limit impulse-spending, but in past attempts we have never lasted a full month with cash-only budgeting. Stuff always comes up! I think we might manage better if I let go of my micro-budgeting tendencies and we try reverse budgeting against our fixed expenses. Basically instead of planning a breakdown of how we will distribute all our money, we will spend what we have to, save what we want to, and then live on the rest. The downside to this strategy would be (obviously) running out of money too soon (I’m thinking especially in terms of gas and groceries), but it certainly seems like it would be more effective than our current approach of doing our best and usually not having much left over.

Wish me luck!

June Goals

It’s a new month! The weather today is outrageous, and Union Station flooded, which lengthened my commute home to an hour and a half. I got to spend some quality time with a co-worker though, and terrible weather outside emphasizes the coziness of our little home – something that can be easy to forget in sticky summer weather! 🙂

Here are my goals for the month:

    • {Spiritual} Pray daily. Use the prayer closet if the living room is too distracting! (This may or may not have been my downfall in May)
    • {Physical} Exercise 3 times a week.


This video has confirmed the end of me ever doing traditional sit-ups/crunches

      • {Food} Prepare at least one vegetarian meal each week – I want to expand my horizons! And the internet has SO many resources.
      • {Financial} Submit a claim for Matt’s chiropractor expenses so far this year, and keep up with claims for my massage therapy appointments.
      • {Financial} Finish our transition to primarily banking through ING (no fees!), so we can get back to paying down debt instead of keeping a huge float in both accounts because we’re not sure where payments will be taken from. Do you pay bank fees? Give ING a shot! And if you copy the numbers in the banner below, we can each get $25 just for you opening an account 🙂

  • {Other} I really want to learn Spanish and have a great learning resource but have not taken the time to study at all for many weeks. I’ll set my goal at doing an hour a week, which is setting the bar really low, and hopefully it will give me the thirst for more!
  • {Other} Brush Nimoy’s teeth. Our dog has gum disease I swear, but it’s not serious yet, so I want to nip it in the bud.

 

That should be plenty to keep me busy, not to mention all the unofficial goals and hopes and plans I have! The shallowest of all these unofficial goals is (because I’m in two weddings this summer) not to get any weird tan lines. I will wear sunscreen! And I will apply it evenly! No tye-dye sun swirls for me.

May Goals Update

As expected, this month flew by, and I’m glad I didn’t attempt to set any goals by the week! However, it was helpful to have these goals in the back of my mind and a plan to report back how they went. Well, the results are:

  • Pray Common Prayer daily: this went really well for about two weeks and then more or less dropped off.
  • Exercise at least 3 days/week: I have 9 check marks on my calendar, so not quite 3/week, but better than nothing!
  • Meal planning: The first week Esther and Josh were here I was a kitchen champ, the second week went okay, and this past week has been a flukey mess. Last night may have ended in tears, which Matt was very gracious to listen to and give me the space to figure a lot of stuff out. Like, I’ve been really prideful in wanting to handle everything myself when it obviously overwhelms me and there are three other adults in this house who just need me to let them help. Sigh.
  • Track budget to end of month: I just paused writing this post to finalize our grocery total, which is what I was most concerned about. Matt’s credit card was demagnetized for a good part of the month, so I don’t have all the info I’d normally have, but I’m happy to at least know that our grocery budget is reasonable!
  • Finish making a baby blanket: Funny story – I can’t find it. So, I’m going to let that goal drop until I come across wherever the heck this 3/4 blanket is!

See how fun goals are? Even if they’re not fully met, they at least set a mark to strive for, and I definitely plan to set goals for June!