I am a very goal-oriented person in many aspects of my life. The act of setting goals, watching my progress, and achieving what my hard work has wrought brings me a lot of self-satisfaction. I usually end up feeling really good about where I've been, where I am and where I am going.
Some areas are really easy for attaining goals. I have always loved studying and learning. I was a big math geek in school, and found all-around high marks to be really easy. Intellectually challenging projects at work give me a real high from the sense of accomplishment. "Duck yeah!" compliments my prudish AI. "Well done, mate!"
Applying this to financial goals has been a natural match. I really love watching the numbers grow, and balancing off the costs and benefits of various options. Finding ways to save money can be a game and a challenge.
[Tangent: One of the easiest ways I have ever saved money is by never buying cable television. My parents still have cable, but I have never had it since I moved out upon graduating high school. 10 years x 12 months per year x $100 = $12,000 saved. That money was saved simply because I hated commercials and could never find anything on television to watch anyway. It wasn't a goal, but it's been a measurably valuable choice. Not having cable TV allowed me to honeymoon for two weeks on the Mediterranean. Not only does cutting the cable cord save you a monthly bill, it also limits your exposure to advertising pushing me to buy things you don't need with money you don't have. There are so many cheaper options (we got Netflix a couple months ago) for getting your fix. Better yet, step away from the screens and go outside, or connect with someone in person. Pets are people, too.]
I have achieved several financial goals and personal milestones over the last two years:
- I graduated college, and doubled my salary at a new job. I have since received another $10,000 in raises.
- I got married to my wonderful husband, becoming a DINK household.
- We bought a dream house on our own little piece of paradise. [The inset photo is from my backyard. Breathtaking out here.]
- We have roommates to save more on housing costs.
- We paid off my husband's student loans and two car loans in full. Only one student loan left!
- We've maxed out our Roth IRAs each year, and contributed 10% to our 401(k)s including the employer match
- We've increased our emergency funds
- We've paid off our credit cards in full every month
Our debt is well in hand - we owe $6,000 on one student loan which we will pay off this summer. After that, we will pay extra towards our mortgage until we can get rid of the PMI fees. That is our only debt.
I feel really great about our retirement funding, too We max out our Roths, and we contribute a good amount towards 401(k)s. Over time I want to increase this until we hit the max limit on annual contributions. This is still quite a way off. We haven't yet looked into investments outside of retirement account and our careers. (Many financial experts recognize your career as your most important investment.)
There are definitely areas where I feel I need to get a better handle on spending. Food is probably the biggest. I really love to eat out (Panera Bread is my Achilles Heel - I eat there literally every week). I also struggle to keep grocery spending down - my husband has a 4 cans per day soda habit. I haven't started a new carpool since moving into our new home.
Sometimes I actually wish I had more of a spending problem in some areas. Women generally love to shop, and therefore overspend on clothes. I didn't get a fashion education growing up, so figuring out clothing can be a big struggle. I've had many times where I felt out of place and insecure because of my hairstyle, clothing, or lack of makeup. My boss called me a hippie once, and it was the first time I had ever heard the word being used in an unflattering voice.
But generally I feel very proud of my financial stability and my values.
Some of my goals with this personal finance blog include improving my communication skills. I work with other people's money on a daily basis, and in the future I hope to progress to the point where I am actually working in an advisory capacity. I need to learn what advice to give people, and how to give it. I want to be a millionaire before I hit 40. I want to join the fun of this personal finance community I've been lurking on for years. I want to learn more about personal finance, and help others achieve their goals as well.