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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 :)
- 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.