Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Look Back and A Look Forward

It's 2009.  Hard to believe, especially this year.  For some reason or another, December just seemed to fly by.  

Since it's a new year,  I thought I'd take a look back and see how I did with my goals, and set some for this year.

Overall, I think I did pretty good this year.  Here's a list of the things we did do:

1. Looking for an outlet for my thoughts and interest in personal finance, I started this blog, which I enjoy.  I didn't blog nearly as much as I hoped to and goaled myself to, nor have I finished the redesign and improvement of my blog page or publicized it as much as I would have liked to, but I still managed to blog a bit over 25% of the days this year.  

2. We built 3 of a planned 7-8 permanent garden beds, and started our first vegetable garden at our home.  It was hardly a perfect effort, due to rain, lack of energy and a lot of other factors, but it was a great start.  And those 3 beds will get planted while more are dug this year.

3. We rebuilt our savings rather significantly.  In 2007, after moving and taking on our renovations projects, our liquid savings hit a low of about a 1/2 month's worth of cash.  We've since almost hit a target of 6+ months of expenses, approximately 3 of which will get used up while I'm on maternity leave.  And then we'll start rebuilding again.

4. We started talking and planning more for the future, specifically around a downshift in 10 years.  While we haven't done much towards this goal besides work hard to build savings up, it's on the table.  Right now, between the fairly imminent arrival of baby MoneyPenny and the likelihood that I'm going to have to job hunt during my maternity leave, and may even lose my job as of January 31st, downshifting is on the back burner, but it is still high on the list of goals.

5. We accomplished a lot around the house.  We didn't tackle as much as we hoped to, but we did manage to knock off a few big-ticket items, such as replacing our electrical panel, taking down a dangerously unstable small barn on our property, replacing our bed and mattress, furnishing the nursery, and purchasing new basement windows.   We also replaced both our washer and dryer, and added a 14.8 cubic foot chest freezer.   Then there was the flatscreen TV that made it's way into our family room, which makes me cringe at the cost (our TV was dying, and my husband is one happy guy, so overall it was a good spend).  All of these things were paid for in cash.

6. I got pregnant, and we've funded my maternity wardrobe.  The big costs are still to come (college?) but that feels like a pretty big thing.  

7. We did all of the above and still accommodated my long work hours and work travel that adds up to over a month of the year away from home just traveling.  

So we did a lot...and that's not even including the day to day accomplishments, such as reducing the amount we spend eating out, heavily reducing our dry cleaning costs for the latter half of this year,  a road trip vacation in September, and having a much lower-key Christmas than usual.   

Where did we fall flat?  

1.  We spent WAY more on food than we should have.  A lot of that was me getting pregnant and having aversions and 'food moodiness' that had me indulging in whatever sounded good at the moment.  The CSA, while enjoyable, also had us expending money on food that we didn't consume and often didn't even enjoy - after all, there's only so many times a week I can eat kale and like it.    This year, we'll garden and supplement from the farmers markets for our veggies, only buying what we want and can use up. 

2. We didn't preserve much food either - a bit of salsa, some green and wax beans that got blanched and frozen, and some pesto.  For all the cost and effort, we definitely fell short of our goals in this area.
3. We didn't get to some projects, in part because we decided we were just too busy.  This is a mixed one, because while they were things we wanted to do, we also realized that between work, long commutes, house projects, and chores, we weren't having much fun.  And so we've spent more time relaxing in the last few months when we can.  Still, those projects are starting to bother us in their unfinished state.  

4. We were a little too surprised by certain expenditures.  I'm working on planning and researching better, so that we can estimate costs better.

So how did we do?  I give us a A-.  Not because all the goals got accomplished, but because those that did got accomplished in cash, while still meeting our savings goals.  We even managed to absorb some surprises into the budget without a blip.

So how does 2009 look?  From a personal perspective, pretty good.  We're finally going to get to meet Baby Moneypenny (in about 8 weeks, give or take), and we're both looking forward to that.  I'm looking forward to my maternity leave, especially after how much of my life I've given to work this year.  

From a financial perspective, not so secure.  In addition to burning through savings for a maternity leave, the economy is uncomfortably insecure.  We may have another month of unemployment for me (February) which we're waiting on an answer for.  While we're prepared for me to be out of work for a while, if it carries on too long things could get stressful.  

All that financial insecurity has made it hard for me to set goals for 2009.  But the point of goals is not to feel bad if you don't meet them, but to give yourself something to work towards.  So here's 2009.

1. To enjoy my maternity leave and our baby without stressing about money or finding a new job.  It would be so easy to fret the time away, but I'll never get it back, so I intend to revel in it.

2. To continue to focus what money we do have allocated for house projects towards infrastructure, such as wiring, insulation and so on.  These are things that will pay us back in the end.

3. To lose all the baby weight and get back into shape.  Once Baby MoneyPenny arrives, I need to find a way to work exercise and a healthier diet into our lives, despite the sleep deprivation and demands of new parenthood.  

4. To continue to work towards our long-term savings goals, as well as the smaller goal of eating locally and organically.  

We'll see how we're doing at a mid-year check in this June.  Happy New Year!

1 comment:

Megan said...

Hi! I have not had a chance to fully read one of your posts, but from the looks of it, hubby and I have a lot of the same goals as you! We are renting his parents' old house from them, and while it is a well-maintained home, it needs updating. We are setting goals for living more efficiently while also making plans to buy the house in the next year and eventually begin remodeling the inside as well as work on the landscaping on the five acres.

I look forward to reading!