Back on Track: 2017 Finances Check-In

Checking in on my financial goals for this year with with Nadine and Amy!

Goal: Have $30,000 in savings at the end of 2017. 

Progress: I switched our budget spreadsheet around so that we now put money into savings at the beginning of the month rather than at the end. I should have done this a long time ago, and as far as how the math works it's basically the same thing, but it does make a difference. Now instead of taking care of all of our bills and credit card payments and then seeing how much is left over, I'm putting money into savings first and therefore limiting the amount we can put on our credit cards (without . This is the system we had in place several years ago before life got crazy and expensive, so here's to getting back on track! I put $2500 into savings on January 1.

Goal: Put any and all rent income into savings. 

Progress: No renters yet! We have a good lead but nothing solid yet.

Goal: Budget for travel.

Progress: When I made our $30k savings goal, I factored in travel expenses for trips big and small this year. The first half of this year is more loaded with travel expenses and than the second half, which means it's going to take a while to really start rolling on that $30k (that's total in our savings account at the end of the year, with travel and other big expenses accounted for). We haven't made any travel purchases since booking our Belize trip last month, but I have been shopping around for flights and lodging for other trips this year to get a better idea of how much they'll cost and when I need to book things.

Goal: Budget for running and triathlon expenses. 

Progress: This week I completed the last race registration in my budget this month. I have a bunch of races to register for this year and am trying to space them out so that I don't end up paying for a bunch all at once. This month (which started December 11 because of the way our credit cards work) I registered for the Rock n Roll DC half marathon and Rock n Roll Virginia Beach half marathon - and paid what I was expecting to pay for DC alone thanks to a crazy promo one day - as well as the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (didn't really have a choice about when to register since my credit card was automatically charged upon winning entry into the race via the lottery system), and two Shamrock prep/competitive training runs (a 15-miler and 20-miler) put on my local running group. That's a lot of registrations for one month, but like I said, the RnR races were crazy discounted, Cherry Blossom was relatively inexpensive, and the Shamrock prep runs were $30 each. I also finally returned some cycling shoes and running tops I'd been hanging onto, so my running/tri expenses were actually less than I was expecting this month.

Goal: Donate monthly. 

Progress: We haven't done this yet but definitely plan on it before the end of the month! And that's not just a thing I'm saying, I really mean it. I have two charities I'm interested in donating to, I just haven't zeroed in on a dollar amount yet.

Goal: Get back to a more minimalish purchasing approach.

Progress: So I'm not going to lie, I ordered a bunch of clothes with Christmas money (and maybe a little bit more than that) right after Christmas and right before this linkup. That doesn't exactly align with my minimalish spending goal, but even though I didn't *need* those clothes (as in, I had enough clothes to put on my body without them), I really didn't have a lot of winter, work-appropriate clothes so I feel good about those purchases. I also got rid of a lot of more casual fall/winter clothes I do have but don't wear because I'm either in work clothes or workout clothes like 95% of the time.

So I spent a good chunk of money on clothes and went over the amount of money I had from Christmas, but I got back under my Christmas money limit by actually returning the clothes I didn't want. I have a bad habit of ordering a bunch of crap online, usually knowing I'll have to return some of it, and then taking forever to send it back. This time, rather than let the packages sit in my apartment for a month, I sent back the things that could only be mailed, and then I actually went and returned the other things in-store! I hate going to stores, but there is a Loft a few blocks from my office so I went there one night on the way home from work, and there is a J. Crew Factory within driving distance so I went out there as well. I just wanted to make sure I took care of getting the money back in the same month that I bought everything (I think of money months as being from the 11th-10th since that's when our credit card statements start and end) so that I could make my clothing budget for this month. I'm still waiting on getting the return credit for some of the things I sent back, but that just makes me feel better that I was proactive in returning it.

I'm proud to say that I have not ordered ONE thing from Amazon this whole year! All 10 days! Ben ordered some dog food, toothpaste, and shampoo for himself recently, but that's all we've ordered. As nice as it's been not seeing a million Amazon charges on our credit card activity, it has been even better not having a constant stack of boxes in our apartment. Our hallway hasn't been this clear in months!

Another financial victory: we switched to a credit card with better benefits! We have had Chase Freedom and AMEX Blue Cash cards for many years now. We primarily use the Chase card, but we haven't been paying attention to the points rates for either card and have been feeling like we haven't been earning as many points as we used to (despite spending more money than ever). So I did some research and found out that we could upgrade to a different AMEX card that gives us 6x back on groceries, which is huge because a ton of our money goes to groceries. We put pretty much all of our expenses on credit cards (the only things we don't put on there are the things we can't, like mortgage and rent and...I think that's it) so any points we rack up is basically free money we earn for things we would buy anyway.

And a pitfall: we definitely went over our food budget, which it seems we do every month no matter how much I budget for food (which is already a lot and way too much). We were doing pretty well until these last few days of this credit card statement. We ate lunch out on Sunday, which was totally unnecessary, and our daily grocery trips (yes seriously - our grocery store is literally across the street and it's not uncommon to go multiple times a day to pick up something) have continued to add up. Also I got Starbucks yesterday morning, but that was because I had gotten up at 5 to work out. You would have done it too.

5 comments :

  1. if our amazon didn't suck, i'd order a LOT more from them which i guess is better for me and my wallet.

    yes to putting savings away at the beginning of the month! it's always best to do that since it makes you really watch the budget to avoid overspending.

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  2. I gotta get through paying my Christmas credit cards this month & then February can kick me up into savings. I cant wait to start building up my savings account. God willing!!!

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  3. At first I thought you meant you hadn't ordered from Amazon in 365 days and I was like OMG OMG OMG how?!?! Haha. But still, good job! I'm the worst at taking returns back too. I wait until the last possible minute and it's partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm forgetful. Something to work on...
    One of my previous reasons for never wanting to move to a city was grocery shopping. I hate going grocery shopping, but I think it's because I put it off so much (because, again, I hate it) that it ends up being a marathon event of shopping and unloading because I go weeks at a time without, so I need EVERYTHING when I do go, and I didn't want to have to do that (nor did I know how it would even work) in a city. But then I realized that city people go grocery shopping every couple of days and it's a bag or mayyyyyybe 2 at a time, and it actually sounds much more appealing now. I also throw out too much food because I buy it all at once but cant actually use it all at once, so I'm hoping to start fixing that with more frequent, smaller trips. And there's all the answers you never asked for about my grocery shopping habits, haha.

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  4. Amazing job with Amazon so far! I was literally just thinking about how maybe we should not renew prime, because it's too tempting. Even though it's great and convenient for a lot of things, it's so easy to just order random shit I probably wouldn't have bought otherwise. I hate returning things to the store so much too- once I shipped something back to Sephora even though I think it took a month and a half to get the money back on my card. Hoping I can channel some of your organization in all of this into myself!

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  5. i haven't ordered from amazon all year either!!!! okay, i *did* buy a kindle ebook but it was free, so it totally doesn't count! i actually haven't bought anything this year that was unnecessary. i'm already doing my shopping thing, but little crap like.. i don't even know.. was adding up so i am trying to really stop it and not buy useless stuff this month. so far so good ;) good job on returning things! i am the worst at that, especially returning things in store.
    yay for the discounted RnR races! that's awesome. i really hope i am able to make it to cherry blossom, it's too far to tell right now. bummer.

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