2018 Savings Goals

Mike and I like to look at the year ahead and analyze what we need to save up for (vacations, house projects, etc.). These savings goals are separate from our retirement savings. We're trying to max out our Roth IRA's this year, plus max out his company match, just 5%. So far we do not contribute to my 403B, but my employer does invest $2K per year, so that helps for now. A few of our other 2018 Savings Goals include:
  1. Rebuild our emergency fund (~$3K) - I go back and forth on this one -- we are at about 4 months expenses currently, plus another month to two months in our checking account. We both have stable jobs and low expenses (knock on wood), so a part of me feels comfortable leaving it where it's at. I also don't like pausing our retirement contributions to build it back up. I suppose we could do both at the same time, but it's always more satisfying to knock it out in $1000+ chunks, verses $100 at a time. We will have a tax refund to allocate;  however, we tend to err on the side of having less taken out of our paychecks and subsequently less of a refund each year, so in the past our returns have not been more than $1500 or so.
  2. A fence for the backyard ($2-4K) - This would make me feel much more comfortable working in the yard while the kids are outside. I don't entirely trust them not to wander (ahem, run) away! We've gotten two quotes that come in around $4000 (we have a large yard) so we'll probably investigate other options. One neighbor to the right has a chain-link fence, but that's the only side of our yard that is fenced, so we could either add on to their fence, or start fresh with a new material. I love the look of this black fence, and since we have a decorative white fence in one corner of our front yard, and white deck slats, the contrast would be nice. I'm a little worried though about the wood / material being hot to the touch in the summer. It also seems a little non-traditional for many of our local fencing companies to do, which makes me want to hire it out to a handy man who could customize it more than a larger company. 
  3. A new air conditioner ($4K) - I need to research this more, but apparently our air conditioner uses an old kind of coolant that is no longer being made anymore, making it super expensive. It's also just getting older and is not working as well, so we've seen our cooling costs go up over the last few years. It makes sense for us to replace the unit before it dies; however, it's not a cheap purchase and though necessary, isn't a very fun one to make. We will get it checked again this spring and go from there.  
  4. Vacations / Trips ($1500) - Mike and I prioritize weekends away at least quarterly, plus our family goes to Door County every year for Fourth of July week. Luckily we are able to stay with his family in Door County and besides a few meals out, don't have any other expenses. The past two trips we've spent around $300 for the week! This year my side of the family wants to meet up for a night at a cabin on the way home, so we may spend a little more. 
  5. Gardening / Landscaping ($1000?) - I have no idea how much all of this will cost. We need to re-line and re-brick all of the beds, front and back, but our local Habitat for Humanity Re-store sells bricks for super cheap. I'd also like to take our our two large bushes directly in front of the house, since they attract mosquitoes to the porch area and I think a mix of bushes, hostas and other plants would look much better. We'd like to build 4 raised beds in our back yard for vegetables as well. We have ZERO experience gardening, but you have to start somewhere! And YouTube and blogs make it easy to be a beginner. 
  6. Finish Mike's tattoo sleeve ($1500) - This keeps getting put off year after year and while it may seem frivolous to some, finishing his sleeve has been a goal of Mike's for a long time. Plus it's a hobby to him and his tattoo artist does amazing work. So I'm on board :)
  7. Pay for sinus surgery ($1500?) - Another fun one, just like the air conditioner! We have about $1000 in an HSA, plus the option to add more to Mike's HSA beginning next month (their benefit year is Feb-Feb I think?), so at least we can cover it with tax advantaged savings (is that how you say it?); however, it's not a fun thing to have to spend money on. Hopefully I'll have less sinus infections and be able to breathe better, which will be worth it in the end. 
It's adding up to be an expensive year! And we may not get to everything on the list. The thing that I'm realizing though, is that everyone, no matter how wealthy or not, has to make choices with their money. Those with lower incomes or higher expenses sometimes have to analyze the choices on a daily basis, or on littler items. Others have to make choices about bigger expenses. Sometimes I get tired of having to plan out expenses carefully, to make sure that we can cash-flow everything. But then I remember that we're not alone, this is just a part of life. 

Having this attitude has made it easier to maintain this debt free lifestyle year after year. Sometimes when it doesn't feel like we're making much progress, I remember how we were able to pay for our van in cash, and take yearly trips without a credit card bill chasing us home, or have lived without debt (beyond our mortgage) for nearly four years now. I also try to remember that without these strategies, we would still have the same expenses, but probably more stress from not knowing how to prioritize spending and manage our money well. 


2018 Goals

I'm late to this party, but I've been thinking a lot about goals for 2018. For as long as I can remember, I've had a running list of goals, ambitions, and dreams (saved in Google Docs, in Notes on my phone, in journal entries, etc.)...but, thanks to my overambitious and perfectionist qualities, those goals never seem to stick. So this year I'm trying to do less with more intention:

  1. Quit drinking Diet Coke. Lord help me. Oof! This one is a doozie. I'm 22 days in and while the physical cravings are long gone, as soon as the kids start singing loudly while chasing each other around the dining room table, all I want is a nice cold Diet Coke, preferably in a 32 oz. Styrofoam cup (horrible for the environment, I know!). My reasons for quitting are many:  I often caught Graydon sneaking sips, which is how I started drinking it as a very young age; I was wasting tons of money at the drive-through every day, sometimes twice a day (!); I was getting near daily stomach aches and headaches from the caffeine and acidity; and I'm trying to do everything I can to reduce my anxiety, and reducing my caffeine intake seems to have helped with that. It hasn't been easy, and I still feel triggered when I go to restaurants where I'd normally order Diet Coke, but I've replaced it with lightly sweetened or unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water when the cravings hit.
  2. Meditate daily. I purchased a subscription to Headspace and have enjoyed turning it on while I lay with Graydon as he falls asleep at night. There are both kid and adult versions, though he usually conks out after just a couple of minutes, allowing me to continue meditating after he's asleep.
  3. Exercise 3 days / week. This is a tricky one. I was doing really well when I had the kids with me on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays (plus I'd sometimes sneak in an extra class on Saturdays). Our gym has great daycare that's included in our family pass. The littles stay in one area with lots of toys and stations, and the bigs go to the gym to run around, play basketball, etc. I really looked forward to going to a 9AM class, both for some time away from the kids, especially as they've been waking up at 5AM lately (!) and to give them the chance to play and run in the gym. Now that they are in daycare on Mondays and Wednesday mornings, I have to admit that I am less apt to go. I often drop them off and then want to come home and write or clean or just savor the quiet before going into work for the day. We're still not sure if they're going to stick with their current daycare, so I may be back to my MWF schedule sooner than later. This goal has more to do with anxiety management than weight, but I do enjoy the results I see when I'm working out consistently!
  4. Write weekly. I regularly write in my journal, but I've been longing to blog for the sense of community and self-expression it gives me. Also, I've loved looking back on early posts here from when Mike and I were just dating (babies!). Now that we're married with two kids and our life looks completely different than it did back then, I'm so happy to have a record of the little things that meant so much to me in our earlier life together. As cliche as it is, the days are long but the years are short, and I want to capture the fullness of life right now as best as I can in this space. One of the things I'm working on right now is inhabiting my life. I often look at the future or imagine myself in a different life (town, work, relationship, body, etc.). I'm focusing now on embracing the life I do have, with all of its beautiful imperfections, and writing is one way that I can see my life more clearly.
  5. Plant a garden. Mike and I have been thinking about what our kids eat, and we want them to learn where food really comes from. This year we'd like to start a small garden to give us something to do together as a family, and to help instill in our kids a strong work ethic and a connection to the earth. We're trying to curb screen time as much as we can (and have often flirted with the idea of getting rid of our TV altogether). I like that gardening would get us all outside more, plus reduce our grocery bill. 
  6. Outsource @ work. This is my only career goal for the year, and it may seem like an odd one; however, I've cut back my work hours to just 30 hours per week (due to childcare needs and wanting more margin in my life, aka less running back and forth, switching off kids, etc.). Mike was recently promoted and his work schedule is more demanding right now. I find myself taking on more responsibilities at home (though he's never asked me to) and wanting to be more available to our kids (again, by my choice, rather than his suggestion). Also, as a Director of Children's Ministry, I believe it's my goal to Engage and Equip volunteers - it allows others to use their gifts to serve, helps the ministry not "live" with just one person (me!), and engages a wider audience of people in the hopes of expanding the program and bringing more people to a deeper relationship with God. In the past I've tried to do it all, and that's not healthy for me, or the program. So this year I'm striving to bring as many volunteers on board, even when it may feel easier or faster to do something myself. I think the key will be identifying key roles, clearly communicating what needs to be done, and matching the role with the individual's natural gifts, availability and passions. So far so good! 
So those are my goals for the year - I'll be providing updates along the way :)



To M, with love.

The Top 10 Reasons I love M:

1. In my mind, food is complicated. Food is often anxiety, boredom or sadness. But M has taught me that food is sometimes just food. The first time we went to the grocery store together I circled the ice cream aisle three times, all the while filling my cart with food I didn't actually enjoy eating. M saw what I was doing and minutes later, I left with the ice cream. Now I eat vegetables and tofu, tortilla chips and chocolate. And when Grandma Katsy serves sloppy joes and tells you to eat, you eat. Because sometimes food is love too.

2. M shows me how to be a better person, every day. One time M and I witnessed a drunk homeless man at the library fighting with the security guard. M held his door for him on the way out and called him sir. When we went out to eat last week, M offered our seats to an older couple who'd just walked in the door. When we volunteer with people with disabilities at the Humane Society, M is beyond patient, showing them how to hold a leash or pet one of the dogs. To some, it might seem like he's just well-mannered. And he is. But to me, his actions are daily reminders of the person I want to be.

3. M sings to me in the car and hums around the house. It's adorable.

4. He also talks in his sleep. We've been known to have full conversations with me fully awake and him fully asleep! It's a great time to ask for things or to just cheese at him full on. Most of the time he asks me nonsensical questions about beer, Tom and Jerry or a story I had told him earlier. He usually doesn't remember it in the morning, but I never get tired of his late night antics.

5. He's an old man. Dating an older guy is always interesting. There are the movie references I just plain don't get (M, exasperated: "You mean you haven't seen Stripes? What about Christmas Vacation?"). Then there's the argument about what decade of music can be considered "Oldies" (for me it's the 70's and 80's for him it's the 50's). The gray hairs in his beard. The way he stretches when he wakes up in the morning. And the fact that every day M likes to remind me that he'll only get hotter with age.

6. M is forever surprising me. The other day he said I should buy fake bacon for a recipe. Sometimes he'll bring home chocolate (just when I'm about to run out). Another time he asked for a vegan recipe (this from a man who used to eat meat three times a day!). And last week he reminded me that we "really need to go to church. It's been a minute."

7. M comes with a never ending stream of "M-isms". The gas station on the corner? M calls it a "stop-and-rob." When he's flustered during Sunday worship: "I'm sweatin' like a whore in church." His colloquialisms always keep me laughing, even during church.

8. We all know that I'm as uptight as a "long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs" (See #7)... but M is exactly the opposite:

When making social plans: "Just tell me where to be and when to be there."

When discussing future (okay wedding related) details: "It's your show darlin'"

When deciding anything: "You're the boss, Boss"

It's not that I'm ever really in control. M gets as much of a say if not more than I do. But it's the illusion of control that M gives me. And really, that's all I need.

9. M is the common sense I lack. When it's a 100 degrees outside and I'm set on cooking homemade soup for dinner in our un air-conditioned apartment, M convinces me to go out for dinner. When I want to have 10 jobs and lead 3 church groups and work out every day for at least an hour, M reminds me to slow down and figure out what I really want. When I'm anxious about x,y,z M tells me that it will all work out, and it always does.

10. And best of all, M makes me laugh. All day long. Every. Single. Day.