Our 3 Financial Goals for 2011

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?



  1. My 3 goals for this year are:

    1. (short term) Figure out my grocery timing so that I stop wasting fresh produce. Yesterday I threw away a head of romaine lettuce and 18 eggs because they didn’t get used in time. *sighs*

    2. (intermediate) Set aside $2000 for emergency savings. Right now I have…uh…I think $2 in savings. Whoops.

    3. (by the end of the year) Pay off a specific debt that is preventing me from being able to sign my own lease. The company is willing to settle half of the debt for me, but I still haven’t had the funds to pay even half of it.

    • All great goals, Tovah. Food waste is such a waste of money, so it’s great you are trying to get a handle on it.

      Not that I’m one to give big hairy financial advice, but I will tell you that DR would say to put $1000 in the bank for your baby emergency fund and then IMMEDIATELY turn your attention to your debt snowball. I might even put $500 in an BEF and then work to scrape up that half for the debt settlement. Get those people out of your life!

  2. Hatzlacha!

    Our goals are to
    1) make (and stick to) a budget
    2) start an emergency fund
    3) get out of debt

  3. 1. Combine finances… would love tips on how this works! with automated monthly transactions, this part gets me nervous!

    2. Develop a family budget… while figuring out where two people end up saving more than one and where they end up spending more than one.

    3. I want that baby emergency fund. I want it badly.

    • Until you’re married, why not make a goal of each of saving $500? Then when you’re post-chupah, you’ll have $1000 combined!

      Let me think on the combining finances question, as there might be a post (or guest post – anyone?) in there!

  4. You have motivated me to really start thinking about financial goals Mara. Yes, we have emergency savings and no debt and we have a budget and are sticking to it, but I think it’s a good idea to pay even closer attention to our finances. I think I’ve been a little lazy about our finances lately so I am inspired by your posts!

    I’m really curious to hear about what you start doing for your family giving project. We’ve had the kids each choose someone on Kiva.org to donate to and they ask about how their person is doing but I want to do more than that. We drove over to shovel Nana’s driveway the other day and talked about how important it is to help other people, but I’m just not sure they are getting the message as clearly as I would like. I’ve found it a challenge to find opportunities for children as young as ours (4, 6 & 7 1/2) but I think we’ve got to make our own opportunities until they are older. I look forward to getting some new ideas!

    • One of my friends used to take her daughter (who is now my age) grocery shopping, and the daughter got to pick out one item per week that she wanted. They always bought two of that item–one for their family and one for the food pantry bin at the front of the store. In that way, giving was part of the family’s regular rituals.

    • You are always such an inspiration to me, Anne. I love the shoveling idea. The kids did the same – although somehow they ended up making money off it, so I’m not sure that was such a great lesson in GIVING!

      I plan to involve them in some of the deciding. Now that A is reading, I’m wondering if I can find a place that he can read to either at-risk kids … or elderly… I read about a project like this a while ago, but I’ll have to dig into it more.

  5. One thing I forgot to mention that we used to do is for birthday parties we would choose a charity. On the invitation we would ask “instead of a gift please consider bringing a donation for XYZ charity” and I would include a list of things they needed. We collected things to send to a platoon in Iraq, for children in foster care, for play therapists at Wyandot mental health and several other organizations over the years. We have moved away from doing parties and are now starting to do family activities like Worlds of Fun and Great Wolfe Lodge so I really want to keep the idea of service and giving back alive in our lives. It is hard at this age to find things that really get across the message. Right now I’m thinking shoveling someone else’s driveway (next time it snows) would be good and I also liked the idea of regular purchases and deliveries to the food pantry. I spent some time on google but haven’t come across many more ideas that are as hands on as these.

    • Speaking of service projects & birthdays, I know that there are animal shelters which have “parties” – the kids (I think you have to be 8?) help clean cages, feed and groom animals, etc. It’s not quite the “needy population” idea, but I do think it’s nice to give rather than just receive on your birthday.

      I have SUCH mixed feelings about birthday parties in general. I know my kids feel “deprived” to a certain extent, but our rule on parties is this: Every OTHER year is a friend party. And they can only invite the number of friends that they are turning (8th birthday = 8 friends). The whole presents thing also bothers me to no end, on many levels. But this is another post for another day.

  6. I hope you meet your goals. There is something just so satisfying about meeting a pre-determined goal and once you meet a tough goal, it becomes easier to meet it again because you’ve tasted success.

    • Thank you! And you are so right about the “taste of success”. Incidentally, that’s the reason DR advocates paying off debt smallest to largest, regardless of interest rate. It’s about getting the “high” of success, which translates into more motivation.

  7. Here are my three goals:
    1. to organize my house.
    2. to keep my house organized
    3. to think ahead in my budget.

  8. Maybe those aren’t really financial goals, but I think I will feel so much better with an organized home free of clutter and stuff I don’t need. That I think will also help me in my quest for financial success.

    • Oh, I totally think they are related. 150%. I once heard someone – maybe Suze Orman? – say that you should look in your wallet to see how you feel about money. If it’s a huge jumbled mess, that says something about how you see money. And it works the other way, too.

      Plus, I know that when my house is out of control, *I* am out of control — and it’s very hard to take even baby steps to improve things when you’re feeling that way.

  9. Hi! I’m late to this party! 🙂 However, I’m curious about your statement that cash envelopes don’t really work well for you. I’ve tried them several times off and on throughout our marriage with minimal success. I was wondering what approach you take now if you don’t use envelopes? I’m considering using mint.com to track daily and have my “envelopes” be online, but wonder if this will be as “painful” as using cash. Thoughts?

  10. This blog is great! I was actually thinking of creating one just like it before I stumbled upon it (thanks for saving me the extra work, lol); My husband and I did Dave Ramsey’s FPU last year and are basically at the same step you’ve chronicled until now. We are also frum, living out of town and not paying much in terms of day school tuition for our 5 kids (well, I guess 4 — one is still in diapers). Your goals are similiar to ours, but I have yet to see a mention of High Schools preceding the “college fund.” Since this necessity we share of sending our kids to private school isn’t really addressed by Dave Ramsey, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this? I’m anticipating the HS tuitions to be at least triple what we’re paying now . . .

    • Hi – Thanks for finding my blog and for your kind comments! Have you read this post yet? http://kosheronabudget.com/2011/06/time-to-reevaluate-the-sacred-cow-of-tuition/ It deals head on with the tuition crisis. Paying for high school vs. college (and yes, I do hope and expect that my children will go to college) is a horrible choice – and one that simply shifts the burden of scholarship and/or debt a few years further down the road. I’d love to get your thoughts on the tuition sacred cow post as well!

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