We currently have five big financial goals, all of which are on my 101 in 1001 list. Some of those goals are rather urgent–like the fact that we need to buy a bigger vehicle before our baby arrives in December/January–while others would just be nice (buying a new laptop).
This year has been pretty crazy for us financially—we’ve been hit with a LOT of medical expenses, and we also went quite a bit over budget during the first trimester of this pregnancy (which always seems to happen). But, knock on wood—we *think* things might be a little more manageable from hereon out, though we have the possibility of some big home maintenance bills coming up (see below).
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How We Track Our Financial Progress
Initially, we just used Mint and Personal Capital (both free, btw) to track our expenses and net worth and do our monthly budgeting and category tracking. While we still regularly use both of those sites, I found that there wasn’t a big enough push to save as much as possible just from using those, so last August, I started tracking our net worth each month.
My system is simple–I just opened up a spreadsheet in Google Docs, and I made rows for overall net worth, overall value of our home (according to Zillow, though I know that’s a flawed number), and the value of each of our retirement accounts and savings accounts. Then, on the last day of each month, I update the numbers and calculate the difference from month to month and enter that in a separate column. Thus, at a glance, I can see how much financial progress we’ve made from month to month simply by looking at that “difference” column.
But, to add an extra layer of accountability and dose of motivation, I plan to give YOU updates on how we’re doing once a quarter or so. The numbers are pretty embarrassingly low right now, but I think we might start to see some decent progress over the next year.
The Big Five
As I mentioned above, we currently have five big financial goals at the moment. Below, I’ll detail what each of those are, as well as the progress we’re currently making (or not) on each.
Complete Our Emergency Fund ($10,000)
At one point, we were almost halfway there…and then this year happened. So we’re actually doing even WORSE than we were at the start of the whole 101 in 1001 project. Of course, I recognize that an emergency fund is for just that–emergencies–so I’m beyond grateful that we had the money to deal with everything that’s come up this year, but it’s still sometimes discouraging to see how far we still have to go.
Current Amount Saved: $2,934
Amount Left to Save: $7,066
Percentage of Goal Reached: 29.34%
This goal seems impossible right now, especially as there are two house expenses that will probably reach “urgent” status pretty soon—we’re expecting the results of our radon test back any day now (and we don’t expect that they’ll be good), which would probably run us over $2,000 to mitigate, and our fridge has also been leaking for over a year and is only getting worse. If both of those things need to happen soon, goodbye emergency fund!
To boost this up, we’re funneling as much as possible from Matt’s paychecks into this, and it should go a bit faster now that he got a small raise last month and due to the fact that we’ve almost got our credit card paid off and taken care of (we never have paid interest on it and have paid the balance in full monthly, but we’ve had to charge big expenses to it several months now, which has effectively eaten up all our extra income every month).
Buy a Bigger Vehicle
We would like to buy this vehicle before the new baby comes (and we ideally want to pay all cash), but that’s looking less and less likely. Right now, our plan is to sell two of our three vehicles (all our cars are super old and won’t fetch much, but it will still help), buy a used car from a dealership and put down as much as we can, and then use next year’s tax refund to hopefully pay off the rest. We’ve never had a car payment in our whole marriage and definitely don’t want to start now, but I don’t see another way around it.
We would like to get a 3-row SUV that seats at least 8, and we’ve been looking at the Toyota Highlander or the Honda Pilot. We would have to go for quite an old model for sure (probably something 2007 or earlier) in order to stay within our budget.
Current Amount Saved: $25 (I know, so sad! All our money in this account keep going to fixing up our current vehicles, so it’s been tough to save.)
Amount Left to Save: $4975
Percentage Saved: 0.5%
One way that we’re hoping to save up some extra money in this car account is to add the funds I make from selling stuff on Ebay or in our local classifieds to this account. Usually, I put all that money straight towards house projects, but the car is more urgent, so I think I’ll divert all of this income to that at the moment.
Save Up For Trip to Hawaii
Matt’s parents are currently serving a mission in Hawaii until October of next year, and we REALLY want to go visit them while they’re there. It would be ideal if we could somehow swing this before the baby comes (for a lot of reasons), but we’ll have to see how the numbers pan out.
Since we would be staying with Matt’s parents, our lodging expenses would be $0, so we basically just need to save the cost of airfare, maybe a couple special meals out, and any activities we wanted to do (we would probably keep it pretty cheap).
We’re mostly planning on funding this one through photography jobs I book. I usually put my photography money in a business account (especially because I want to save for a full frame camera), but that’s not super high on my priority list right now, so we’re diverting that income for the time being.
Current Amount Saved: $125
Amount Left to Save: $1,875
Percentage Saved: 6.25%
Pay $3000 Extra on Mortgage
We knew that as soon as we bought a house, we wanted to pay it off early. From the very beginning, we rounded up our payment to make an even number (which was only about $9 extra each month for the first year), and then we increased our payment by $40 more. We’re trying to decide right now if we want to pay a $500 appraisal fee to get our house reappraised to try and get rid of our PMI, which would mean an extra $91 per month toward our principal (if our house appraises for enough), but I’m not sure if our house has appreciated *quite* enough yet to qualify.
Current Amount Paid: $600
Amount Left: $2,400
Percentage Reached: 20%
For now, we’re going to keep our current payment and not worry about increasing it at this time while we’re saving for other things that are more pressing. If we end up doing the reappraisal, that will be a one-time fee we need to budget for, and then we’ll just keep paying our current payment (except that there would be that extra $91 going towards principal).
Buy a New Laptop + Full Frame Camera
These are both 101 in 1001 goals, but both are extremely low on the priority list at the moment. We’re not planning on doing anything on these until we at least have the new vehicle and until we’ve (hopefully) funded the trip to Hawaii, since both have solid time limits.
When it does come time to save for this, I’ll probably use blogging income to go towards the cost of the new laptop, and I’ll use photography income to go towards the camera. For the record, my ultimate full frame would be this one, but I might just settle for this one (as it’s much more budget-friendly). And we’ve been out of the laptop loop so long (ours is about 12 years old) that we don’t know what’s good anymore. Any suggestions?
Current Amount Saved: $0
Right now, I recognize that these numbers are piddly. A bit embarrassing, even. But everyone’s got to start somewhere, eh? And I think adding this extra layer of accountability will help us to be able to save even faster for these goals.
What are your big financial goals right now? And what is your strategy for reaching them?