A Rekindled Interest In Personal Finance

With the economy in recessionary trend personal finance is on the minds of a great many people now a days. Personally I haven’t adjusted my lifestyle because of the economy just yet but I am keeping an eye on it to ensure that I have as many warning signals if anything does get worse. For me I have rekindled an interest in personal finance for another reason; for me its a combination of having a baby, getting out of my financial cesspool, making a bit more money, and I’ve started reading PF books again.

I might not be directly impacted by the sagging economy but that does not mean this will remain the case for long. As I read more and keep an eye on my budget I will start making adjustments to compensate for our economy. Budgeting will be a very critical part of this and I am yet again surprised just how much money I spend and where it actually goes. With financial goals in place not meeting them can be traced back to my spending very quickly.

For me personally when I am interested in a subject I start with the concepts and start drilling down into the areas that are of interest to me. As I drill into those areas I gain more knowledge and a deeper understanding. Over the past couple years I have been very focused on my tight financial situation but I recently started reading a PF book (that I’ll review soon) that reintroduced the idea of investing. Investing was not a subject I could really do anything about hence it fell off my list of interests. Unfortunately this is one of the areas of Personal Finances that captivated me in the first place.

This doesn’t mean I’ll be writing about investing from here on in, my financial situation is not ready for something like that so I will still be focusing on the more immediate needs. Its nice to take that step back and realize why a topic was interesting to you in the first place and to not loose sight of your goals. Having specific goals and needs is definitely important but for as much as the details will paint an accurate picture of your financial landscape you can also get lost in them which is what I think happened for me.

Watch for more posts – when the baby lets me have some spare time.

Note: I am still having issues with my comments and I have gotten in touch with my hosting company which is being particularily difficult. If you want to get in touch feel free to email me at matt@onemillionandbeyond.com if you have some comments.

Weekly Budget – Week 3

The past couple weeks have been incredibly busy but I am making an effort to stay on budget with limited success. My biggest issue is not in budgeting but in actually keeping up with tracking and keeping my stats up to date. This is the biggest issue when it comes to any budge is actually keeping to it.

My goals for this upcoming week are pretty similar to my previous couple weeks. Unfortunately I am starting this weeks budget before I have gone through all of my receipts for last week so I am basing my budget based on a good guess that I used for the first weeks budget. Here is this weeks budget:

Weekly Budget
Jan 19-25
Budget Actual
Alcohol $40.00
Food-Lunch $30.00
Food $75.00
Gas $15.00
Entertainment $0.00
Smokes $30.00
Misc $40.00
Transportation $25.00
Stupid $10.00
Total $265.00

As I finish up going through my receipts I want to post up my results for the first three weeks of the year. Another thing that I wanted to do this year was to separate out the weekly budgets into at section on their own. My goal will be to have this done by the end of this week.

Personal Goals for 2009

In my last couple posts I’ve been writing about my goals for 2009 and today I’d like to write about my personal goals for this year. For me, my personal goals fall into two categories my goals related to my family and friends and my individual personal goals. The two categories overlap at times and are definitely interconnected for me.

Family Related Goals

When it comes to my goals surrounding family and friends I have to admit that its hard to put quantifiable goals together. I personally have issues with being that cut and dry when it comes to these types of items. I can’t say that my goal is to see my family 1-2 times a month because there will be times when this number is and should be higher and there are times when its just not realistic. Also being there for my wife and baby can’t have numbers attached to them these are things that simply have to happen. So out of all of my goals for the year these are rather ambiguous but it amounts to I want to be present, watch my baby grow, support my wife wherever and whenever possible. I also want to see my family and close friends a bit more often than I have this past year. Unfortunately none of these goals are very specific or time bound. Essentially what it comes down to is in 2009 I want to make more of an effort when it comes to seeing and being there for my friends and more importantly family

Individual Personal Goals

With my personal goals I can be a bit more detailed and there are a few specific things that I want to work on. First off if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I’m still a smoker, my goal for 2009 is to end this ridiculously stupid habit/addiction. I never intended to become a smoker but somehow I did. I am hoping I can prep myself to stop sooner rather than later but the end of the year is my drop dead date (hopefully not literally).

The second personal goal I’ve set for myself is to read more. I used to read a lot and I really enjoyed it but somewhere between 2007 and 2008 I stopped reading as much. This always disappointed me because this is what got me reading PF books and started this blog. So my goal is to read no less than 20 pages per day. I know some days I’ll read more and some less but the goal is to average 20 per day. Now this isn’t a large number but it adds up fast and 20 pages per day is 7300 per year, which is a few books. I’ve already seen the benefits of setting this up as a nightly ritual, it gets my mind off the events of the day and I get caught up on my reading.

Now there are a few things that I would like to add to my personal goals for the year but I don’t want to have too many goals that I’m working on and not enough time or energy to accomplish them. If I start accomplishing more of my other goals I might try adding some more of my individual goals to the list.

Work, Home and Project Goals for 2009

The main things that the three topics for these goals have in common for me is the fact that they will take work and they are areas I want to work on this year. The reality is that we’re pulled in a variety of different directions in our lives some by our choosing and some not. Last summer my wife and I bought a house and although it was a great adventure at the time I also knew there would be a great deal of work that I would need to do on the house. This work can be both enjoyable and frustrating at the same time but I have goals here none the less. My goals for these three unrelated and at times demanding areas of my life are:

Work Goals for 2009

I just started a new job and trying to come up with a long list of items that I want to accomplish at this position is hard. I am still in trying to find my footing for how the company works and where exactly I fit in. Although I started the position a month ago there was almost a two week break over the holidays where the company shut down so the reality is I’m still learning more than I am contributing. My goal for this position is to be successful and do what I can to to achieve this end but unfortunately this isn’t a very measurable goal. So rather than coming up with work specific goals I am going to continue getting my footing for a little while longer and my current goal for my working life will be to further my education in my position. I work as a project manager and one of the things that I can definitely do is work on getting some certifications in my field. That is my goal for the initial part of the year, once I have settled in a little more I will come up with more measurable and realistic work goals.

Home Goals for 2009

When we purchased our house last summer we got a great deal because we knew that there were some things that would need to be done with the house. A few of these things got done right away but some were projects for the future. This year we have decided to tackle a couple of these items but focus on one primarily: the kitchen. Right now there are no real measurable elements to this because we’re still planning and the timing will depend on when my wife goes back to work. Other than the kitchen some of the windows need replacing.

Project Goals for 2009

One of the weaknesses that I have identified in myself over time is the fact that I start projects but they never end up going anywhere. What happens is I burst out of the gate with an idea get between 50 and 75% and then things start to stall. Right now I have two ideas for projects and one project that is in the stalled partly done stage. My goal for these projects is to take the one that is in the stalled state and finish it I am giving myself till the end of March to finish it. I believe that this is a more than reasonable amount of time, even considering how little time I have. The other two goals are simply going to have to wait to get off the ground. When I do have some ideas I am going to write them down and set them aside for when I do have some time to tackle them. I have stressed more about that incomplete project than it would take me to finish it so I am going to tackle nothing more until its complete.

2009 Weekly Budget – Week 1

Last year I started budgeting on a weekly basis and I wanted to continue to do this in 2009. I found that I was able to stay mostly on track with my budget though there were times when I would fall off and lets be realistic its going to happen again. Even if I miss every budget by a little bit the goal isn’t necessarily to be crazy about meeting the numbers. The goal is to aim for the numbers while enjoying my life.

I am not in a situation where going over budget by a few dollars is going to have a profound impact; if I go over a lot all the time then it would and honestly I wouldn’t be budgeting very well. So welcome to the first budget of 2009! Here is my budget for this week:

Weekly Budget
Jan 5-11
  Budget Actual
Alcohol $40.00  
Food-Lunch $30.00  
Food $75.00  
Gas $25.00  
Entertainment $0.00  
Smokes $30.00  
Misc $40.00  
Transportation $25.00  
Stupid $10.00  
Total $275.00  

This is pretty similar to my usual budgets and I think that this is a good starting point for the year. The only line item that is a bit lower than I think it would normally be is the food line item and my wife said she would cover some of that this week. The reality is I really expect to miss this budget, most of December was spent playing catch up and dealing with Christmas spending. I doubt that I’m alone in this predicament and after the holidays it can be hard to get back to spending less especially if we know we should be saving money. This week is more about getting back into the habit of keeping tabs on my money though I will try to stay on budget.

Financial Goals for 2009

Since this is a personal finance blog it makes sense that I would start detailing my goals for 2009 with my financial and work goals as they directly impact my financial situation. This past year I wasn’t making very much money and as a result I have been struggling to pay all of my bills. With my new job I am back up to what I was making when I first started this blog. The good thing is that I will now be able to pay all my debts regularly again and start saving a bit of money. Almost 2 years of making considerably less money can teach you a lot about yourself and your spending habits.

Financial goals for 2009

I have tried to keep my financial goals fairly simple this year mostly because last year was so much of a roller coaster coming up with some extremely large daunting goals might have more of a detrimental effect than anything else. Here are my goals for this year:

  • Keep a weekly/monthly Budget
  • Pay all my bills on time
  • Save $400 a month in a savings account
  • Pay down my debt by 10%

Keep a weekly/monthly Budget

I started budgeting on a weekly basis this past year and it worked out very well for me so I am going to keep this up and continue to plan on a monthly basis. I have been keeping pretty accurate records of where I have spent my money and I want to continue this as part of my budgeting. This should allow me to keep my spending on budget rather than trying to come up with some grand reduction.

Pay all my bills on time

The point about paying my bills on time is mostly a no brainer but its one I missed more than once last year so the goals this year will be to ensure everything is paid on time. With more money coming in I should be able to accomplish this one fairly easily but over the course of a whole year I still think it’s a valid goal.

Save $400 a month in a savings account

The $400 per month savings again isn’t huge but considering I didn’t have any last year I believe that this is a step in the right direction. The overall goal for my savings is to start an emergency fund. At the rate of $400 a month I’ll have almost $5,000 by the end of the year which would be a nice little emergency fund.

Pay down my debt by 10%

Although paying down my debt by only 10% might not seem like a big deal but last year I didn’t decrease it at all and the 10% amounts to about $3,500 not including house debt. I believe that this is a good starting point and I think I might be able to surpass this but again I would rather start out conservative and build on my success.

I could try setting very aggressive goals this year but I find that for myself if I am too ambitious then its harder to accomplish the goals. Can I reduce my debt by more than 10%? Of course I can and I will aim to but my goal will be 10% because I have a lot of unknowns and with a small baby and a house that will need some work I don’t want to set myself up for failure. Each of my goals comes with a personal aim that I would like to achieve but if I were to set these as goals I might find myself back in the situation where I am trying to do too much at once. If I find that I’ve set my goals too low then I’ll adjust them up.

New Years Goals

Happy New Years everyone! Its that time of the year where the calendar changes and everyone makes resolutions. I have always joked that my new years resolution is to not make any resolutions. I’ve learned a lot this past year and this year I am going to put some goals into place. Though it doesn’t sound much different than resolutions I am going to try making them measurable and realistic. I’m also going to try keeping their number down. When I started looking at my new years goals a couple days ago the list really started piling up fast and the reality is if I try to take on too many things I’m not going to accomplish as many of them if any at all.

Firework Photo by TallCJ

So this years goals are going to be a bit more modest in an effort to actually achieve them and more measurable to give me something to work towards. The measurable aspect is going to hopefully remove some of the pie in the sky goals such as ‘Be more successful’ which can mean anything. By limiting their number and making them more measurable I hope I’ll be able to overcome a difficulty I have with goals in general which is being too optimistic and trying to tackle the whole goal at once rather than parts at a time.

Over the next couple days I am going to post up my goals in a variety of different categories. As I was looking at my goals everything started to fall into a series of broad categories including:

  • Financial
  • Work
  • Blog
  • Family
  • Personal
  • Projects
  • House

I have goals in each of these categories, some more defined than others and starting tomorrow I’ll break those down and post them up.