I have always been honest on this blog about our finances because I want you to know that we are REAL. And we REALLY do struggle, just like so many Americans (and Israelis), to figure out how to stretch our too-small income to meet our too-large needs and goals.
As I have said before: Yes, we are out of debt and and yes, we have an emergency fund (thank God), but we still aren’t living like “no one else”. At least not how I imagined “no one else” would be living. What we’ve finally realized is that until we have “like no one else” income, we just have to keep trudging along, always keeping our eye on the ball.
Here’s what we have our eyes on for 2011 – three simple and straight forward goals. In 2010, we had six savings goals. We didn’t fully meet any of them, so this year, we are simplifying things. Three goals – the most important three.
1. Long-Term: Fully fund our retirement accounts
We had this as our #1 goal for 2010, too. Unfortunately we fell short. So here it again – #1 on our list.I have plenty of good explanations for why we fell short, but the bottom line is that we are either going to have to increase our income or decrease our expenses – even more (groan) – because we WILL retire with dignity one day.
2. Intermediate: Save $1,000 per child toward “future events” & college
Ideally this would be two categories, but for a number of reasons, we are lumping everything in our kids’ futures into one category for now. Which means we aren’t only saving for their college, but also for their future “events” — their Bar & Bat Mitzvahs and, yes, even their weddings (yikes). We know that putting aside $1,000 per year per child is just a tiny drop in what could be a very large bucket. But we also know that you have to start where you’re at, so this is where we’re starting.
3. Short-Term: Save $1,800 for home maintenance
This year – the second year in our new home – we aim to save $150 per month ($1,800 for the year) toward home maintenance & furnishings. We do not conceive of this $1,800 as long-term savings. In fact, we fully expect that much of it will be spent on repairs and purchases throughout this year. This money is our home’s Emergency & Rainy Day Fund; it covers everything from repairs to routine maintenance to replacing appliances, should the need arise.
Beyond these three goals, we have some non-money, but still financial priorities for our family, which include:
- Calculating our net worth quarterly – We do this annually, but I think a quick quarterly calculation may give us some of the big picture perspective we need to keep chipping away at all the little picture stuff.
- Tightening up the tracking of our grocery tracking - To track our food, toiletries & household spending, we switched from cash envelopes (which didn’t work for us) to a Capital One 360 online checking account with debit cards. We are much better about using that account – and only that account – to pay for our food & household expenses, but sometimes we still goof up, which throws our tracking off.
- Initiating a family-giving project – This is my “pet project”. My goal is to involve the kids in picking something for us to do as a family that goes beyond writing a check. I want our kids to experience and understand both the blessing and the responsibility that comes with their tremendous privilege. I want them to get that ipods and Play Stations don’t equal privilege. Working in a soup kitchen isn’t the only way we can teach this, but I do think it’s an important piece of our puzzle.
I’d love to hear about your financial goals for 2011? What are you working towards this year?