Our 2017 financial goals

Our 2017 financial goals

Here our 2017 financial goals! I hope it’s not too late to share these 🙂

Sure, it’s a few weeks past New Years Day, but cut me some slack! We’ve been super busy over here because – surprise – we’re moving!

We’re just moving across the Bay so we can be much closer to work. Our commute times will be so much shorter and hopefully that means more time to spend with each other and on our passion projects *cough* this blog *cough*.

Anywho, enough about that. Here are our 2017 financial goals!

We're only focusing on four financial goals in 2017!

1. Move closer to work

Well, technically – we’ve already accomplished this! In fact, on the day that this post goes live, we will be moving all of our stuff in a U-haul van with some friends.

It did take some moving around of our money to pull off. But after almost a year of living more than an hour away from work, we decided it was worth it to move closer to work. Rent ain’t cheap – but we are at peace knowing that we’re paying for the convenience of living close to work. We’ll have a lot more time on our hands, and I think that alone is worth the money we will spend.

2. Replenish our starter emergency fund

We had to dip into our emergency fund recently to cover some family things. I feel so vulnerable not necessarily having anything right now in our emergency fund. But hopefully this will get done in the next paycheck or so. We just want to get our emergency fund back to $1,000.

3. Decrease our debt by 20%

We are in a ton of debt. Seriously. It’s not good. More on those numbers in a future post.

We know it’s not possible to pay it all off in one year. Especially since we’re paying to move much closer to work. But we do want to keep debt repayment a high priority for us. So as soon as our first two financial goals are taken care of, all of our extra money will be thrown at our debt. I assigned 20% as our 2017 goal. Hopefully it’ll be more than that, though!

4. Save for travel

This year is full of travel plans! Next month, we’re going to Rome to celebrate our anniversary. In July, we have 4 weddings to attend (maybe 5). We’re going to Hawaii in November for another wedding. These travel plans are so exciting! But if we don’t plan ahead, these travel plans can really reverse all the progress on the other three financial goals we have.

So, we are going to be putting money aside each money just for travel. I know that this money would probably do better if we targeted it all to debt, but I want to make sure that we spend only cash for all of these trips. What good is debt repayment if we have to finance our trips?

So there you have it – our 2017 financial goals. I’m keeping it simple this year. Four financial goals is totally doable. The less we have to focus on, the more damage we can do to each of our financial goals.

What are your financial goals this year?

AMDG,
Lisa

17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

17 ways to improve your finances in 2017

The new year usually sparks many of you to want to improve your finances. Now, I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions. But I’m all for focusing on your financial health. If the New Year sparks that fire within you to get your finances together – then I’m all for it!

Here are 17 ways to improve your finances in 2017. Choose a few of these to focus on in the New Year if you’re new to personal finance. I don’t want you to be overwhelmed. But I do want you to make some real change in your life.

improve your finances

Overall financial health

1. Dream a little

This may seem like fluff advice, but I really believe that dreaming/envisioning the ultimate financial state can really get you revved up to actually improve your finances! So take a moment to really imagine what it would be like to live with no more debt. To finally turn in that last payment for your mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc. Imagining this huge weight coming off of your shoulders can help you get started on actually tackling your debt!

2. Know your numbers

To improve your finances, you need to know where you are currently. Make it a point to know and be more mindful of your monthly income and expenses. Your entire personal finance journey is built with these building blocks! Here’s a video I put together on how to get this information if you don’t already have it.

3. Track your net worth

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip of knowing your numbers. Knowing your numbers is one thing, but actually tracking your numbers each and every month is what helps you be more mindful of your situation. The key here is checking in on your finances every single month, whether it’s your net worth or your income/expenses. (I hope to do a post/video on what your net worth is soon).

4. Educate yourself about personal finance

I get it – the world of personal finance can be overwhelming. But running away from it is a surefire way to not get anywhere financially. Make it a point to read a book (I recommend The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey or I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi) or listen to a podcast (I recommend The Dave Ramsay Show or Stacking Benjamins) about personal finance once a month or so. Believe me – avoiding personal finance will not solve your personal finance problems!

5. Focus on one or two financial goals

When you focus on way too many goals at once, you tend to lose track, get overwhelmed, and fail at most of them. Choose one or two goals to focus on this year. Will you work on increasing your income or decreasing your expenses? Is this the year you get serious about your debt or start saving for emergencies? Pick a goal that will improve your finances and get started! I personally suggest following Dave Ramsey‘s step by step goals if you don’t know where to start.

6. Get in sync with your significant other

This is something Juan and I are still working through. Actually, I think this is something that will just become a constant conversation. As your goals change, your spouse’s may change as well. As you improve your finances, make sure your partner is still on the same page as you. Make an effort to check in with each other each month to make sure you’re working towards both of your goals.

Increase your income

7. Start a side hustle

Your main income is great, but having a side income can really help with your financial goals! Don’t know where to start? Think of things you already love to do – crocheting, working on cars, spending time with pets… chances are someone has already come up with a way to monetize it! Think of how you can monetize one of your hobbies so your side hustle can also be something you enjoy doing!

8. Work towards a promotion

Nine times out of ten, a promotion leads to an increase in income. Make sure you are an absolute stellar employee – make it into work on time, finish your tasks in a timely manner, and make sure all the work you do is done with integrity. Then, when a spot above you has opened up, make it known to your manager that you are interested. Work hard and your work will speak for itself!

9. Work towards and negotiate a raise

Sometimes a promotion just isn’t in the cards. That doesn’t mean you can skip asking for a raise. Make your case as to why you deserve a raise, do your research on the average salaries for job titles closest to yours, and have an honest conversation with your manager. Warning – this only works for great employees, not just any employee. Just because you want to improve your finances doesn’t mean you deserve a raise.

10. Sell some stuff

Got a ton of unused clothing, appliances, toys, etc. lying around? Donate the stuff that is already in poor condition and sell the stuff that is still in great quality! eBay is a great place to start, but there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ fashioned garage sale. The extra cash will come in handy as you improve your finances.

Expense control

11. Give up just one thing

I’m not asking you to give up cable, coffee, soda, AND gift giving all at once (although – more power to you if you want to)! Start small – what’s one expense, big or small, you can go without for all of 2017? For me – I’m going to cut back hard on eating out. Speaking of eating out…

12. Eat out less

It’s no secret that eating out often can do a lot of damage to your waistline. But it also does a ton of damage to your wallet! I’m not saying you should eliminate eating out completely – just cut back! Juan and I are going to stick to eating out only twice a week (this is a huge step back from our normal 5-7 days a week)!

13. Find another commute option

For us 9-5ers, a commute can really make or break the budget. Take a look at what you spend now on your commute (gas, toll, train fare, etc.) and look up other options available to you. Keep in mind the cheapest option may not be the best in terms of time spent, so make sure you take into account all things – not just the price tag.

14. Cut out cable

*gasp* I know, how dare I say these words??? But let’s face it, y’all – cable is expensive! With Netflix and Hulu being at extremely affordable rates, the case for still having cable is starting to dwindle. For us, the hardest part will be finding ways to watch our Golden State Warriors and other sports broadcasting. But other than that, Netflix and Hulu usually does the trick for our TV fix.

Beef up your savings

15. Seriously, get an emergency fund

I don’t care if you’re in deep debt – get yourself a freaking emergency fund! If you don’t have on yet, building one this year will greatly improve your finances. You are not invincible and Murphy loves visiting those who aren’t prepared. Even if it’s just $1,000, it’s a great start and better than nothing.

16. Set up a personal escrow account

You know those annoying expenses that don’t happen every single month and surprise you whenever they do pop up? Setting up a personal escrow account will prepare you for all of those expenses. Pair it with automatic savings and you don’t even have to think about it!

17. Start saving for retirement

I don’t care how young you are – it’s never, ever too early to start saving for retirement! No one ever said, “Man, I really wished I waited longer until I started saving for retirement”. For starters, look and see if your employer offers a free match to your contributions into your company sponsored retirement plan. Basically – your employer will put money into your retirement plan for free as long as you’re also putting in money! Take advantage of that free money!

So there you have it – 17 things you can work on to improve your finances this year! You don’t have to do all of them – in fact, I suggest choosing just one or two of these things. Focus on a few goals at a time and you’ll be well on your way to financial peace.

What are your financial goals for 2017?

AMDG,
Lisa

The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

The Budget Series Pt. 1 – Income and Expenses

It’s the beginning of 2017 and I know that some of you want to get your finances together this year! If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to grab control of your income and expenses, I’m here to help!

I’m creating a video series called The Budget Series that will go over different budget methods for different types of people. The first video in this series is focusing on your income and expenses. More specifically, how to gather these numbers and why they’re important, no matter what budget method you choose.

Your income and expenses are vital to all kinds of budgets, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced. This series is mostly targeted to budgeting newbies, but I’m sure you’d find this helpful even if you’re more advanced.

Please watch the video below and don’t forget to like/subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of The Budget Series!

What are your budgeting struggles?  How can you improve your income and expenses this year?

AMDG,
Lisa

My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

My husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift

Yup, you read that right – my husband didn’t buy me a Christmas gift.

You must be wondering why… I mean, it’s our first Christmas as husband and wife! Did he forget it was Christmas? Is he mad at me about something? Are we okay?????

Yes, don’t fret – everything’s okay! But, I’ve got to admit something, too – I didn’t buy my husband a Christmas gift, either.

*cue gasps*

Yes, it’s true – my husband and I didn’t buy Christmas gifts for each other.

Did we forget about Christmas? Nope, not a chance. As Catholics, we are very, very aware of when Christmas is.

Are we broke? – Eh… debatable. Yes, we’re in debt, but we made sure to include gift-giving for our families/close friends in our budget this year. Just not gift-giving to each other.

So, what’s the deal? As we were planning out our budget for the holiday season, we knew that we wanted to reign in the spending a little bit.

A new approach to Christmas gifts

As we went down our Christmas list, we knew a) we didn’t want to give up gift-giving altogether, and b) we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on the people we love. Not to say that our loved ones aren’t worth it! But we figured our friends/family would be upset if they knew that our gifts put us in a tight financial spot.

We started off as we normally do, by deciding on some spending limits for each person on our list. What we did differently this year was we didn’t treat these spending limits as “must-spend” numbers. If we found a fitting, practical gift for a particular person and it was under their spending “limit”, we didn’t go searching for any add-ons to make up the difference.

This is the complete opposite of how I would gift in seasons past. Before, we would spend all the way to the limit. For example, if my budget for a person was $50, I would find something s/he may really enjoy for $20, but I wouldn’t stop there. I would still find $30 worth of random gifts that were just plain fluff to make up for the difference.

This kind of gifting was focused solely on the dollar amount. This year, we wanted to shift away from the dollar amount and focus more on practical gifts the receiver will actually enjoy. If that meant spending less than what we originally allotted to their gift, then so be it! We really wanted to focus on meaningful gifting, not just gifting useless gifts for the sake of spending that money.

The popular Christmas gift mindset

As we were shopping for others with this new mindset, we eventually asked what the other wanted for Christmas (might I add, people were asking us first what we were getting each other before we even asked ourselves). Not that we weren’t on each others’ Christmas lists – we were!

I think we just found ourselves at a turning point. In years past, we would gift nice holiday things you’re supposed to give your significant other, like chocolate, purses, electronics, jewelry, etc. Fuzzy holiday commercials will tell you that all your wife wants is a new bracelet or necklace. And ads on buses and billboards will tell you that your husband would love that shiny new watch for Christmas.

Usually, we would fall for these tactics. It wasn’t long ago when I absolutely loved the Coach purse he got me years ago. And it wasn’t long ago when he gladly received a Playstation 4 (3? I don’t remember now…) for an engagement gift.

But this year was different. Maybe it’s the mutual debt we’re in. But I like to think that our new focus on gifting more meaningful gifts has something to do with it, too.

That’s it – no Christmas gifts for each other

As we started talking about what we wanted for Christmas, we began to realize that we didn’t want much. Sure, there are things that would be nice to have. But Juan and I are usually pretty good about buying these things on our own time (if it’s in the budget, of course 😉)

Sure, there’s all the holiday fluff out in stores right now. Holiday themed candies, clothing, etc. But those are things we just don’t really want. They’re cute and all, but there’s no real purpose for those things in our lives.

Once we realized we both didn’t really want anything for Christmas, we both just looked at each other and said, “no gifts for each other this year?” And we both happily agreed. Great minds, right?

As we both were very happy about this decision, others in our lives were taken aback. What do you mean no gifts? Is he lying to you?? Is this a trap???

No – he’s not lying! I know this because we’ve combined our finances now and I know whether he’s spending on something not agreed upon 😉 And no – it’s not a trap! We both legitimately don’t feel the need to get a Christmas present for each other this year.

Maybe it’ll change next year, maybe it’ll never change. But it’s something we both feel is right at this moment in our lives. There’s something empowering about going against the grain and realizing that although a Christmas gift would be nice, we don’t really need it.

A more meaningful Christmas gift

For me, I’m taking this new “no Christmas gift” rule and taking it a step further. Instead of buying a physical Christmas gift for my husband, I’m going to focus on being present with my husband – not just on Christmas, but all the time.

A purposeful gift is a great thing to give. But what is more meaningful is time and full attention with your loved ones. Once those things are given on a consistent basis through out the year, the want for a Christmas gift goes away. Instead, my husband and I can now focus on what Christmas really is about – Jesus Christ coming to us a gift from God and celebrating that with those we love.

What do you focus on when you give gifts? Have you and your significant other agreed on no-gifts before?

AMDG,
Lisa

Identify Your Obstacles

Identify Your Obstacles

This post is meant to immediately follow last week’s piece about your idea of what being rich means. If you haven’t had a chance to read last week’s post, I highly suggest you do before reading this post. I strongly believe that you can’t get started on identifying your obstacles unless you’ve defined your destination.

Now that you’ve determined what being rich means for you , you must now identify your obstacles.

Identify Your Obstacles

In our case, The Husband and I looked at our definitions of being rich and went from there. As a refresher, here is what being rich means to us –

Being rich means being debt-free

Being rich means not worrying about money

Being rich means being incredibly generous

If you’re a visual person, like I am, imagine your ideas of being rich at the top of a mountain. On the way up this mountain, there are obstacles and set backs on the way, such as a steep cliff, or a tall boulder in the way.

Right now, you are simply looking toward your destination – in this case, your ideas of being rich – and want to identify your obstacles that you can see right ahead of you on the way toward the top of the mountain of financial freedom.

For example, The Husband and I literally looked at our ideas of being rich one by one and identified our obstacles for each. Here is what we came up with.

Being rich means being debt-free

Obstacle #1: Credit card debt

If you’re new to the blog, you must get familiar with my complicated relationship with credit. If you’ve been a reader for some time, you’re probably sick of me talking about it. Well – so am I! This is the first obstacle The Husband and I face when we look to being debt-free.

Obstacle #2: Student loan debt

The Husband and I both went to pretty expensive private colleges. The only difference is that I came out of it with a ton of loans and he didn’t. Hey, what’s mine is yours now, right? 😉 This is clearly #2 on the debt list.

Obstacle #3: Car loan debt

This debt is only slightly less annoying than my student loan debt, but it definitely makes a dent in our monthly expenses. Plus, now that we’re married, we have two car loans to worry about.

Obstacle #4: Mortgage debt

The biggest debt on the balance sheet, but the last in priority for us. I locked in a pretty great interest rate on this loan and we’ve got other debt to focus on in the meantime. Until then, this debt will remain last on the list.

Being rich means not worrying about money

Obstacle #1: Emergency fund

Currently, we have $1k set aside for emergencies. Ideally, we’d like to have much more, preferably 3-6 months worth of expenses.

Obstacle #2: Retirement funds

I’m a huge advocate for taking care of Future You. I don’t want retirement to be a source of stress for us when we’re older. Specifically, this goal means having fully funded Roth IRAs AND 401 k (or 403 b in The Husband’s case).

Obstacle #3: Saving for fun goals/expenses

The Husband and I want to do some major traveling before we start, you know, multiplying. Saving for this is incredibly important – we don’ like traveling broke!

Speaking of multiplying, we’re also thinking of starting a college fund for our future kid(s) (God willing).

There are other expenses we might want in the future, like a new car (when the time comes), moving out (hopefully), etc. We want to be ready for all of these expenses.

Obstacle #4: Diversifying income

To diversify your income means to have different kinds of income streams flowing in as opposed to just having one main job each. We want to do this because it spreads out the risk of unemployment. When you have multiple streams of income, it’s not a huge deal if one of them doesn’t work out – you’ve got all the other “jobs” you can depend on! The more risk we can lower, the better!

Being rich means being incredibly generous

Obstacle #1: Weekly giving

As a Catholic, I firmly believe in tithing when able. What you lack in money, you can give in time. For The Husband and I, I think we are able to give both right now. I want us to start giving weekly to our church so we can start building the habit of generosity.

Obstacle #2: Monthly service

Even though it’s important to give money or even material possessions, I think that giving of one’s time is very valuable, as well. Right now, The Husband and I serve at mass once in a while at our home parish. I also serve in a choir that sings every week at different parishes.

Eventually, though, I’d love to give my time in other ways, like participating in Habitat for Humanity, or volunteering at a local shelter or food drive. I know that a lot of places depend on the time donated by many volunteers and I’d love to regularly be a part of that.

Obstacle #3: Outrageous generosity

Dave Ramsey likes to encourage outrageous generosity and I totally buy it! When we have more than enough, it’s a witness to Christ when we choose to use our riches for others and not only ourselves.

There are so many ideas that I have for this. From sponsoring a family during the holidays, to setting up a socially-aware business, and even paying for all of our family/friends to spend some time together – outrageous giving is something I want to have as a part of our every day lives.

Looking at our obstacles can get overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that we aren’t tackling each obstacle all at once. We will take these obstacles and build out a more detailed battle plan in my next post.

But for now – what are your obstacles on your way to being rich?

AMDG,
Lisa
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