At the end of every year that we’ve been married (so, the past two years so far), my husband and I go out on a nice date night together where we talk about all the things we’ve accomplished this year, what our goals are for the next year, and how all of that fits in with our bigger-picture plans. This year (end of 2017), we went to my favorite Italian restaurant, had wine, pasta, and tiramisu, and recounted the year’s travels, debt payments, and big accomplishments. All told, 2017 was a great year for us. We also have some big plans for 2018.
To start, here’s what 2017 looked like:
I started the year of travel in January on a nine-hour bus ride with my in-laws to Washington DC for the Women’s March. It was truly surreal to be at the center of an event happening in over 70 countries worldwide, including freakin’ ANTARCTICA. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
We went to New York City at the end of April for the wedding of my brothers-in-law. The wedding was perfectly rainbow-themed with bright, handmade paper flowers galore. It was my first time in the Big Apple, and the concrete jungle was overwhelming and exciting (how many more cliché NYC nicknames can I fit in one paragraph??). I took my first subway ride, nervously navigated my way to and from Newark airport by train (because Newark was the cheapest flight, and hashtag frugal), and ate some REALLY good food. #foodislife. We also walked from our AirBNB to Yankee Stadium to watch a game.
In September, my husband and I celebrated his birthday/our anniversary with a trip to Saint Louis. We stayed in an adorable, trendy, walkable neighborhood called Soulard, where we walked to breakfast, dinner, and out for drinks. Again, #foodislife. We went to Twisted Ranch, a restaurant that kind of went viral for having 30+ choices of ranch dressing. Let’s just say that is very similar to my version of heaven. We went to an awesome museum called City Museum that was basically a ginormous playground; thrilling is an understatement. We saw the arch, but didn’t go up because, while I psyched myself up beforehand and thought I was mentally prepared, heights still terrified me when we got there. We went to the Saint Louis Zoo, where admission is free, and the animals are more lively than any I’ve seen in an Ohio zoo. And we had many craft beers at International Tap House.
Finally, I travelled to Dallas in October for my very first FinCon! FinCon is a convention for personal finance bloggers, podcasters, financial planners, and anyone else who loves money and media. What an amazing experience that was. I made new friends, had great food (by now I’m sure you sense the theme of my travels), danced my ass off, and got way too little sleep. In true frugal (cheapskate?) fashion, I took super sketchy late-night public transit ($2.50) in order to avoid a $30 Uber ride from the airport and lived to tell the tale. I roomed with three total strangers that I met on the internet on a roommate spreadsheet. They turned out to be the wonderful Lindsay of Notorious DEBT, Jillian from Montana Money Adventures, and Gee of My Online Biz Journey. I learned so much from everyone I met at the conference. It gave me the motivation and confidence to really kick my blog off again with posting regularly and becoming more active on social media. I’m already signed up for and travel-hacked my way to a free flight for FinCon18, which is in Orlando.
In 2017, my husband and I managed to pay $17,228.52 toward our student loans(!!!!!!). The balance went down by $12,350.42, meaning that $4,878.10 went toward interest. Our remaining combined balances after all payments were applied was $92,971.39. It’s a work in progress.
We also gained some debt in 2017. I’m not necessarily advocating for taking on debt at all, but we made the decisions with conscious, intentional planning. We’re also motivated to pay it all off ASAP. We bought a house and had a fence installed for our dog, for a total of about $93,000. We also bought a car after my cheap-o paid-in-cash car completely pooped out on me. I financed $14,000 for my new, reliable, two year old car at 1.89%, and plan to have it paid off long before the term ends, and to drive it for a very long time.
I’m counting the purchases of our home and car as accomplishments, as well as the amount of money we put toward our student debt. That we managed to pay over $17,000 to student debt is a huge accomplishment, especially after considering that we also put down a few thousand on my car, and several thousand on our home. Since we aren’t anticipating any multi-thousand dollar purchases in 2018, I am eager to see what loan progress we can make by the end of the year. But I’ll talk about that next in the goals section.
Another accomplishment of 2017 was that I changed jobs. You can read more of the details here, but TL;DR I was feeling pretty low, unmotivated, and burnt out at the beginning of the year, and was barely making enough money to make my student loan payment while I was working part-time as a therapist at a private practice. My car crapping out on me in the early summer was the push I needed to look for a full-time job that would provide a steady, predictable paycheck and where I would be bringing home more money. I changed jobs mid-year and was really glad I did. Hubby started his second year as a teacher, got a raise, and made extra money over the summer coaching a recreational baseball team.
2017 will be hard to top in terms of financial and personal accomplishments. But I’m certainly going to try! Here’s my vision for 2018.
2018 Goals (in no particular order):
Pay at least $20,000 toward student debt. This is a conservative goal that I’m hoping we’ll be able to crush considering we paid over $17,000 in the same year we put a good chunk of change down for a car and house, made a major job change, and paid for three trips/mini-vacations.
Read at least one book per month. Also a goal I’m thinking I will be able to crush, as I finished my first book (read it in two days) by January 7th. If you’re interested in following along, friend me on Goodreads @emiliecleaver, or click here.
Build a deck in our backyard, plant a small fruit, vegetable, and herb garden, and plant flower beds.
Open a Roth IRA. This is something I’ve been putting off while paying down debt, but I am going to open the account by the end of January (hold me accountable, internet friends) with plans of depositing $100 per month until our student loans are all paid off and I can max it out.
Create sinking funds for Christmas, car registration, and website hosting. We’ve done well the past few years on saving up for Christmas a few months in advance, but have never started saving in January. This will make the financial burden even less next holiday season. Our car registrations, which we renew on my birthday every January, sneaked up on us this month after the holidays. Saving $10 per month all year will definitely be more convenient than scraping together $110 all at once next January.
Do something fun and adventurous outdoors at least once per week. This one I’ve already majorly slacked on because it’s been cold and snowy, but it’s one that I want to get on track with. I love the outdoors, but tend to avoid going outside (and miss out on a lot of natural beauty!) when it’s cold out.
Write a little every day. Whether it’s journaling for my personal enjoyment or working on a new post, I want to get in the habit of writing for at least a few minutes every day. They say it’s one of those skills where the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Take an in-person class for fun. I’m specifically thinking some sort of creative arts class, because creating art brings me joy and I don’t do it nearly enough.
Take a class that will help me make money.
Tech-free nights. It feels like technology runs my life sometimes. I’m definitely guilty of checking my social media first thing in the morning and having the compulsion to clear my notifications as soon as I get them. I don’t like that about myself and I look forward to cutting back on my reliance on technology for constant entertainment. I don’t want reaching for/looking at my phone to be a reflex anymore.
Cook one new recipe per week. At my house, we get into ruts of eating the same things over and over (tacos, alfredo pasta, burgers), and when we get bored of those things we just end up going out to eat. I want to be more adventurous in the kitchen and I want us to want to eat what we have at the house.
Learn hairstyles and makeup tricks. Frankly, my appearance is boring. I generally wear my hair the same way every day with the only variety being whether or not I showered that morning 😅 I wear mascara and some eyeshadow if I’m feeling extra fancy that day. There’s definitely merit in the low-maintenance routine, but I’d like to mix it up a little this year.
Read more personal finance blogs. I can get so caught up on my own site that I neglect what others are putting out into the world. I’d love to be more connected to the work that other awesome bloggers are putting out this year.
I’ve got a long list of goals, but (God-willing) I have another 355 days to enjoy the journey. I look forward to periodically reporting how I’ve been doing. I wish you a prosperous and joyful 2018!