How I’m Doing So Far

This won’t be an especially sexy post. I just want to get this down.

Here is how I am doing on my goals for 2019, in my first month:

  1. Increase our saving rate to 10% by the end of the year (with a goal of 20% by the end of 2020). I’m just around 5.25% so far. It’d be higher if I counted debt reduction, but I am trying to just count real savings.
  2. Make sure that every single debt goes down each month, if only by a dollar. Right on target for this.
  3. Get my credit card debt usage to 50% (it was 66% on January 1). I’ve reduced usage to 60%, giving me a good chance of meeting or exceeding this goal this year. We’ll see what adding debt for the roof and/or my son’s college will do, however.
  4. In hard numbers, pay down a total of $12,000 in all debt; $6,000 in consumer debt. To my amazement, we’ve paid down about $3,200 overall so far; a bit over $1,900 of that is consumer debt. These figures may start to get complicated if we take out a new loan for the roof or A’s education this year. I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
  5. Abolish two particularly annoying debts of $500 and $700 each. Not yet. I can’t wait for this to happen. I may accelerate this process even though both of these are interest-free.
  6. Save a total of $3,000 in emergency funds this year. We’ve saved $645 so far! Plus, a small crowdfunding investment I held for a few years has cashed out, returning $1,000 to me, which I’ll put in this cushion for a total of $1,645 toward this year’s goal. We needed a car repair unexpectedly, which scared the crap out of us, but then we were saved by Us From the Past, who had extended the warranty to 100,000 miles, so the repair cost us just the $100 deductible. We will also have to pay $450 in deposit for a property appraisal for a HELOC we’ve applied for; the $450 will only be cashed if we don’t get the loan. Nonetheless, I’ve reached the stage when I can log on to my accounts and look at all the money I have there, watching it accumulate modestly each month.
  7. Get a raise at work. Won’t be able to act on this until July. Meantime, I am doubling down on work, which is one reason I’m slowing down here on the blog after a strong start.
  8. Find the best possible solution to two goals that could stress us further: a roof replacement and keeping my son in college. The roof will be a one-two punch: We are applying for a HELOC to help with this, but we will also apply to the roofer’s credit company for an 18-month deferred lump sum. As for A’s education, stay tuned. The poor kid is applying for scholarships like crazy.
  9. Incur no more debt this summer, which is our most difficult time. We shall see. My husband took on extra work and I am working side gigs to hold this off, but neither of us is making our target of $500 extra per month…yet.
  10. Be more analog each day, and enjoy more hands-on pursuits like reading offline, playing cards and board games, journaling, and coloring. I could stand to do way more of this, but I’ve made a good start.
  11. Get more of the 3 M’s: Music, Museums, and Movies (the one splurge we have kept is the trio of Hulu/Amazon Prime/Netflix; we’ll see if all three survive our budget hacking; for now, I plan to maximize our vice). Have not done much of this at all. The horrendous shutdown caused the Smithsonian to shutter for most of January, and work is also kicking both our asses. I will say that I am listening to much more music than previously.
  12. Perfect my handwriting, using the Spencer method, essentially a form of meditation for me. I could definitely use a kick in the pants to get started on this again.
  13. Read more women and trans writers of color, starting with Claudia Rankine’s clear-sighted, wrenching Citizen (affiliate link to IndieBound). Want to sink into Citizen again, and get reading more. Work and side gigs have been interfering.
  14. Memorize two poems I have loved for years, which is way harder than you’d think. They are Jane Kenyon’s “Happiness” and Jane Hirshfield’s “Rebus.” I’m working on the Kenyon poem. I’ve been copying and recopying it in longhand, a sort of meditative practice.
  15. Have a holiday fund that includes money to give to charity and to have a New Year’s Day party in 2020. Interestingly, our new credit union has a holiday fund program specifically for this purpose. I’m going to look into it.
  16. Prepare a financial advice document for my son that is relevant to his needs and puts him on a smart path to not fuck up like his mama did. I am behind on this, but I did invite him to start an Acorns account to scoop random change out of his checking into savings — I’ve saved $110 in about two months this painless way (affiliate link: we’ll both earn $5 if you sign up).
  17. Articulate and keep alive the ideas of one day dedicating time to teaching ESL, teaching in prisons, teaching to people who are caregivers, teaching to people without homes, studying herbal medicine, practicing mindfulness, and perhaps learning Reiki at last. A cool thing fell into my lap — and it involves a little money, too. I’ll be judging the teen entries to Bethesda magazine’s fiction contest this spring, so it is a nice way to connect with my teaching and literary life again.
  18. Have a garden plan and budget for spring 2020. Haven’t started.
  19. Repot all my houseplants. Haven’t done even this! And I thought this’d be the easy one. If I had to replace this with a financial goal, I’d say initiate contributions to my company’s HSA plan by September. Why so late Because it may be a miracle if we get through summer without my husband’s paycheck.

Say, drop me a line and tell me how your plans for the new year are going. I’d love to hear your goals. Keep going — and don’t lose your nerve!

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I’m a 50-something bohemian with a mountain of debt and regrets. Can I dig out before it’s all over? I brake for poets.

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