2011 Year in Review

Every year, we get a Christmas card from a friend of mine that gives a full one-page summary of their year.  I look forward to getting their card every year, as I don’t get a chance to see or talk to them much.  This is my way of keeping up with what they are doing as time goes on.  I thought maybe I should do something similar on here, in case anyone else is interested in our personal life.

2011 had a lot of changes for us.  At the end of July, we had a baby girl, and named her Brooke.  She has changed our entire lives.  Everything revolves around her now.  I can’t wait to get home to see her every day after work.  We don’t go out of the house as much as we used to, because it’s much simpler to stay in with a newborn.  She makes my day when she gives that huge smile she does, but frustrates me to no end when she screams her lungs out and there’s nothing we can do to get her to stop.  She is the greatest thing to happen to us this year, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Every winter I need a project to work on, and this past January I decided I would start my own business.  I put in a ton of work, had a good friend of mine design the site, and eventually opened it for business.  I had been working on a business plan for the past few years, and finally thought the time was right to start it up.  I knew I wouldn’t have quite as much time to do all the up front work once the baby was born, and felt I was at a stable job to help handle any financial downfalls that could occur.  I’m still adding products to the site in my “free time,” but I’ve been getting quite a few sales.  Last month I actually came out in the black for the first time.

Last winter, I also decided to start this blog.  I’ve continued it as the year went on, but haven’t written as much as I did last winter (see above about baby taking up a lot of time).  I still plan on continuing this blog, even though it’ll probably be more like one post every couple weeks.

I took up running for the first time in my life, and did pretty good until Brooke was born.  I was up to running 3 miles at a time with no issues, and I even hit 4 miles once.  I hope to pick this up again soon.

We made more progress paying off debt this year than ever before.  My wife graduated from college last year, and started working late in the year.  This was our first full year with two incomes, and we’ve been paying off student loans like crazy.  We refinanced the house to a 15 year loan as well, which will help us become completely debt free much quicker than before.  Refinancing to a shorter term means less money to go toward other debt, but we will still be able to be debt free except for the house in just a few years.

Megan started a new job right across the street, so she doesn’t have to make the long drive she was doing last year.  She enjoys her job a lot, and gets to pick up our daughter at a decent time every day.  She is also off Fridays, so she can spent more time with Brooke.

Not everything has been positive this year though.  We had a good friend of ours who was involved in a boating accident in August, and his body still has not been found.  We think about him a lot, and pray that his fiance can find peace.

My grandpa took a turn for the worse this year as well.  He seemed to be a perfectly healthy 85 year old in September, but got rushed to the hospital because of low blood platelets.  Other complications came up, and he fought for three months, going in and out of the hospital, and eventually back and forth between the hospital and nursing home.  He got so weak after fighting for so long, and ended up losing the fight on December 14th.  He had a terrific 85 years, and was about as nice of an individual as you could ever meet.  He was a terrific baker, an accordian player, a volunteer firefighter, a grocery store owner, a meat inspector, and served in the US Navy during World War II.  I’m glad he got to meet our daughter before he passed away, and will miss him a lot.  I have a ton of great memories about him.

We’ve had a lot of things happen to us this year, and we are set to continue making forward progress in the future. 

What have been your biggest life moments of 2011?  Leave a comment letting me know how things are going in your life.

Thankful for Being on a Budget

Listening to other people talk about finances makes me happy we’re on a written budget, living on last month’s income.  Sometimes we just take it for granted on how easy it is compared to most people.

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with someone about paying bills.  They said they sometimes get in trouble with their bill payment because their spouse wants to pay off some debt, which means they don’t have enough to pay off their bills (resulting in late fees).  This individual was frustrated by it, as it happened recently.

I immediately thought of how this would never happen to us, due to the system we have in place.  Since we live on last month’s income, we always have a cushion in the bank.  We also know exactly how much we are putting toward debt at the very beginning of the month (again due to living on last month’s income).  We know exactly how much money we will spend for the month at the beginning, since we know exactly how much income we have to allocate.

They also mentioned that they checked the balance of their checking account to see how much money was available to spend.  I rarely look at my checking balances, because we don’t base our spending off of what’s in our account.  That’s just a bucket of money being held that’s already allocated for something.  I look in our budget to see what’s available to spend for that particular item.  This is much, much more peaceful.

So, if you’re not living on a budget, you should create one.  Make sure you get to the point of living on last month’s expenses, as it is a huge difference for your peace of mind.  If you’ve read most of my other posts, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of YNAB, but any budgeting tool should work.  Get to work on your budget, and solidify your financial situation.  There’s no better time to start than right now.

New Year’s Goals – Progress Update – Eleven Months

With my revised New Year’s Goals, we are trying to reduce our non-house debt by 33.33%.  This month was tight, because we ended up refinancing our house to save more money in the long run, so we didn’t add anything extra toward debt.  This caused us to dip below our targeted amount (the green line below).

According to my revised plan, we should have reduced our debt by 30.58% by now.  We have actually reduced it by 29.19%, which shows in the chart below.

We have one month to get back to our targeted amount, and we are putting just a little extra toward debt this month, so hopefully it’ll be enough.  We had to recoup part of our emergency fund as well as paying down debt, so we can’t put quite as much as I’d like toward it next month.  We’ll just have to wait and see if we hit it after the end of the year.  It’s gonna be so close; I can’t wait to see if we hit it!

Here’s the graph: