My financial goals have been front and center in my mind the last couple of weeks. It’s taking some time, and a lot of missteps, but I finally feel like I’m starting to get this money thing down! The more I understand my money, the more opportunities I see for improving Bryan and my life. The reality is, the life we live doesn’t have to be expensive. We just have to make better choices, and use our money as the tool it should be, instead of letting it control us.

Which brings me back to goals. I did a mini check-in after selling my house, when I realized I’d achieved many of my goals. If I’m going to create a better life, becoming lazy isn’t an option! So, I added a new goal, and re-evaluated where I was on everything else. So where am I now, at the end of 2015 Quarter 2?

These are the goals I’ve already crossed off my list this year:

1) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($21,696 total net worth). Done!
2) List the house. Done!
3) Pay off the student loan. Done!
5) Earn $500 in “Side Income”. Done!

You can read more about those goals here and here. My goal of earning $500 in “Side Income” was achieved in June, after we had a yard sale. I’m still looking for a more sustainable way to earn a side income, but that isn’t my main focus right now.

So, which goals am I still working on?

4) Invest $3,000 in a retirement account. At this point I’ve invested $872.76 in my company’s 401k plan. This only includes my contributions, not any employer match or market gains (or losses). Unless something crazy unexpected happens between now and the end of the year, this goal isn’t going to happen. Not that it couldn’t happen; If I made this goal my next priority, I could wipe it out in the next few months. But I’ve decided that becoming debt free is a higher priority at this point in my life.

6) Pay off the car loan. I started 2015 with $18,724 owed on my car loan. As of June 30th, it’s down to $14,033. Obviously I still have a long ways to go on this one. But, since it just became a priority for me, I’m just really starting to make progress. This is definitely my stretch goal this year. Even if I don’t get the loan 100% paid off, I’ll still be in a much better position financially than I am now.

7) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($31,696 total net worth). I ended June with a net worth of $23,110. I’m 14% to this new goal, which means I have $8,586 left to go. If I stay on track, and the markets don’t do too bad, I think this goal is doable.

My main focus for the rest of 2015 is to pay off my car loan. Doing so will help me reach the goal of growing my net worth by an additional $10,000 and will also set me up nicely for some major changes I’m looking forward to in 2016. As time goes on, my goals are becoming less arbitrary, and more of a means to an end. Sure, growing my net worth is great. But I’m finally starting to figure out why that’s important to me, and what direction I’m wanting my life to take.

I’m excited about what the future holds. And honestly, a little scared too. But, now that I’m gaining some clarity on what is truly important to me, I’m really starting to make some progress. I’m really excited about the possibilities!

– Cindy W.

Remember in my June net worth update how I said I was becoming obsessive about charts? I don’t know why, but I’m suddenly wanting to see as much information as possible, and the more visual, the better!

A lot of PF blogs break down their monthly budget/spending. I haven’t done that, simply because my budget is so simple. You see, I don’t really break things down and track them like other people. It isn’t that I don’t budget, it’s just my budget is very, very static.

Each Thursday I get paid ~$643*. I have direct deposit that puts that money into 3 different accounts. In my “Expenses” account goes $250 every week. This is the amount I’ve calculated that I need every week to cover all of my monthly and periodic expenses. This includes everything from the rent and insurance(s), to Netflix and the cell phone. $270  is then put into a temporary savings account. This money will go towards an extra payment on my car loan at least once during the month. The remaining $123? That goes into my Spending account, and covers everything from groceries and gas, to restaurants and clothing.

I don’t really track where my spending money goes; It’s mine to spend on whatever. But as I see other people breaking out their budgets, I’ve kind of started wondering where that money does go. Am I really spending most of it on gas and groceries, like I assume? Would I be surprised if I saw what I was blowing each month?

Since most of my spending is done via debit card or online banking, it was pretty easy to break things out. So, with my newfound obsession with charts, I decided to see where my money went last month. And what better way than a pie chart?

A breakdown of where my money went in June, 2015.

A breakdown of where my money went in June, 2015.

Okay, first let me say that the chart is a little deceiving: All said and done I spent $4,813.62 in June. In a 4 week month, I only take home $2,568.94. Where did the rest of the money come from? Well, around $1,500 came from refunds when I sold my house. The rest? Some of it was savings from previous months that were spent this month, like the premiums for my car and renter’s insurance, and part of my extra car payment. We also spent some of the money from the garage sale on shelf liners and organizers for the kitchen cabinets, and dinner out one night. I had cash in my wallet, which I used towards part of my gift expenses (two graduation gifts, and a Father’s Day gift). Honestly, I don’t remember why I had cash, but I’ve had it for several months. Like I said, it was a spendy month! I’m not expecting anything crazy in July, so my expenses should line up much more with my earnings next month.

Since Bryan and I still keep separate finances, this doesn’t include any of his spending. I pay half of our monthly rent, and also pay for most of our groceries every week. He will stop at the store in the evening a few times a week to grab something for dinner, but we try to cover most things in our weekly trip. Our only utility is our electric bill, which Bryan pays. This month I’m showing $120 towards utilities that was paid by mistake to the gas bill at my house; I shut off the utilities in mid May, but didn’t correctly stop my monthly auto-pay. I’m hoping to get a refund on that money. The $37 for Internet should be going away as well. We now have home WiFi, which Bryan pays for, so I’ve cancelled my hotspot. I will have a cancellation fee next month, but after that, I won’t have that expense any more.

Some things were a pleasant surprise: I’m shocked to see that I only spent $68 on gas last month. I’m spending about half what I used to on gas each month, so I consider that a huge win. But then I had to double-check my Restaurant spending for last month: How did I spend $72? We also had two weeks where our grocery bill was almost double the norm. One week was expected: We took appetizers to my parents’ house on Father’s Day. The other week? Apparently we were hungry!

More than anything else, this chart excited me for the future. All that money going towards the car loan? Some day soon, that’ll be gone! And yes, I am counting that money as spending. Yes, paying it off sooner saves me a ton on interest. But the money was used to buy something in advance, so I’m not going to pretend I’m putting money into savings by paying it back.

Maybe I’ll do this again next month. What do you think? Helpful? Interesting? No?

– Cindy W.

*My life insurance at work is paid every third paycheck of the month, so once a month I have a paycheck that is a few dollars less.

Can I just say how super excited I am that it’s a Holiday weekend? Our office is closed on Friday, and then I decided to take Monday off as well. Just because I can. Some days I feel like I’m living for the weekends! Can I retire yet?!?

No. Definitely No. But things are continuing to improve every month:

Net Worth Update as of June 30, 2015

Net Worth Update as of June 30, 2015

Obviously, I didn’t see nearly the growth in June as I did in May. But, alas, I’m out of homes to sell. And thank goodness for that! June was also a little bit more of a spendy month, since I bought a year’s worth of renter’s insurance ($277), and six month’s of car insurance ($211). That’s a big chunk of change, but still a huge savings over my previous car insurance rate, which I got notice in June had gone up to over $500*! That’s over twice as much! Yikes!

My net worth grew by $851 in June. I’m pretty happy with that. I also paid off $2,938 on my car loan. I’m really, really happy with that! I was able to pay off so much this month mainly due to the refunds on the house. Most months, I’ll be looking at more like $1,500. Which is still a pretty decent amount! Especially considering that is 58% of my take home pay!

June has had me feeling a little obsessive about charts. I keep scrolling through my net worth updates to see how much progress I’ve been making. Wouldn’t it be nice to see everything all together?

Chart of net worth growth

Chart of net worth growth since the start of time (or the start of this blog)

Honestly, it’s pretty much as I thought: The first year and a half were a real struggle for me as I figured out where my priorities were and how to go about tackling my debt. I had several “false starts”, where I really started making progress, only to lose most of what I’d gained. After all, there were house renovations to be made, and vacations to be taken. Sigh. I think it goes along with the advice of figuring out your “why”. Sure, having a goal to get out of debt is great. But unless you know why you’re doing it, the motivation will be lacking.

I’m not saying that I won’t be taking any more vacations. Or that Bryan and I won’t be doing things around the house. It’s just that now I have a better picture of the impact of my decisions on my goals. Hopefully that will help me make better choices.

– Cindy W.

*This increase was due to losing my homeowner’s insurance bundle. I would have gotten some discount for adding renter’s insurance, but not nearly enough!

2015 has been a crazy year for me. Some things have been really positive: I paid off the last of my student loans. I sold my house. I’m making huge progress on paying off my car loan. Bryan and I are really starting to dream about the future we plan on creating together.

But it hasn’t all been dreams and accomplishments; There’s been a lot of drama in my family over the past several months. Sometimes it feels like the past is repeating itself. And just as I’m finally starting to have big dreams, and the confidence to pursue them, I feel like I’m expected to give it all up. As women, we’re often taught that we should be selfless and giving. Only a bitch would put her own needs first, especially when she could find the time and resources to do otherwise.

I touched on some of what has been going on lately in The Flowers That Sent Me Over The Edge. I’ve felt a confusing mix of emotions the last few months in regards to everything that is going on: Everything from sympathy and grief, to anger, fear and apprehension. With a nice side of judgement and disappointment!

I knew that I needed help sorting through my emotions. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. So, 3 weeks ago, I started seeing a therapist.

It didn’t come as a surprise to me to be told I have a serious issue with setting boundaries when it came to my family. I even wrote about it not long after I started this blog. I’m not going to lie, therapy has been a tough, heartbreaking process so far. I’m finally having to focus on where my emotions are coming from, and what built our family dynamic. I’m also learning to see and accept what my relationships with the people (especially women) in my life actually are, versus what I want to believe them to be (i.e., Sometimes family members are just members of your family, no matter how much you want them to be a friend).

My biggest concern lately has been surrounding my younger sister, and the news of another nephew (It’s a boy!). Don’t get me wrong, I love babies! But there’s a lot of history and hurt there*, and good reason to be concerned. I’d love to be able to say the past is the past, and people change. But my sister is proving otherwise. And, even though the baby’s birth is many months off, I’m already being questioned as to what my financial and time commitments will be.

Bryan and my plans for the future don’t include a child. That wasn’t originally my plan in life, but I’m adjusting to the reality of our situation. Yes, I want to be involved in my nephews’ lives. But I have to be cautious about the extent of my involvement; I can’t use this baby to fill a void in my life. And I know my sister well enough that becoming too involved will only lead to heartbreak. She has a strong support network that, if she doesn’t abuse it, will help her through the hardships of single parenting. She doesn’t need me to “save” her.

Through therapy, I’m learning that my sister’s story is her story. I can sympathize, and even feel sorry for her. But she’s making choices according to what she wants in life. I don’t have to agree with those choices. I’m also not responsible for the outcome**. And likewise, my story is my story. I’m responsible for my own choices, and my own outcome. And I have every right to want big things in my life, and chase after those dreams.

I’m not abandoning my family; I’ll obviously still be involved in everyone’s lives, hopefully in a more “normal” way. I just need to learn to make the life Bryan and I are building together my #1 priority, without feeling guilty about it. Otherwise, I’ll end up back where I was 5 years ago: Alone, broke, and with no hopes for the future. I’m too old for that!

– Cindy W.

*I’ve talked about my financial past with my sisters before. After all, this is a financial blog. But there’s a lot of other history there in regards to my nephews. I was going to go into more detail, but I really don’t feel like it’s necessary to the story. After all, this post is about the changes I’m trying to make, not about my sister’s past mistakes.

**Obviously, the safety and well being of the baby will always be first and foremost; If there are ever concerns in that regard,  I’ll work with my Mom (and Bryan, of course) to make whatever adjustments are necessary.

I remember many years ago, sitting in my little one bedroom house, after a long shift at a job I hated (but had gone back to, due to my new financial downfall), searching the internet for some small nugget of information that would help me get my life back together. The world of personal finance wasn’t what it is today; There weren’t endless blogs touting the world of frugality, or how to increase your income. Sure, I found books by Suze Orman, and came across Dave Ramsey. I enjoyed Liz Pulliam Weston, but her articles always seemed more geared towards people who had their life together. That certainly wasn’t where I was financially. Eventually, I stumbled across MP Dunleavey. And I was hooked.

You see, MP Dunleavey didn’t come across as a financial expert who’d always made all the right choices, sharing her lists of advice on how to follow in her footsteps. She sometimes struggled, and was often lambasted for the decisions she made. But she approached personal finance as a “normal person”. She had wit, and humor, and spirit. And eventually, she had The Women In Red.

The Women in Red was a pet project of Dunleavey’s. She followed the stories of multiple women trying to improve their financial lives. Each woman’s situation was different, from young to older, married to single, high earners and low earners, in debt or finding financial freedom. They each had goals that they were working towards achieving. They succeeded, and failed, and found all kinds of detours along the way.

Eventually, MP Dunleavey moved on. I followed her for a while, through careers with different publications and organizations. But as her path veered more towards editorial, her writing lost something for me. Gone were the humorous personal trials and tribulations, replaced with the standard “10 Ways To…” articles that are so popular on the web.

The truth is, I miss The Women in Red. Not the women themselves, but the stories of real women, their struggles and successes, their choices and situations. Over the years, I’ve found numerous new blogs to follow, voices that I look forward to hearing. But there seems to be a common “arc” for most writers: Struggling/Overcoming=Personal stories. Success=Lists and advice on what you should be doing. It’s as though success is a destination; Once you’ve overcome your debt, or saved $x, there’s nothing left to your financial journey, no more choices to be made, no more struggles to overcome. The only way to carry on is to advise others on how to get there. Numerous blogs have fallen off my reading list. Sometimes I want to scream (or write in all caps): I know I should cut the cable cord (Done, FYI), and that credit card rewards are great (not a great idea for me at the moment)! But what are YOU doing in your financial life?!?

Why am I writing about this? I’ll be honest, my little blog gets very little traffic; A good day for me is 20 visitors, and I’m still a long ways off from topping 100 page views in a day. But, the longer I’m out there on the blogosphere, the more requests I get for guest posts on my site, etc. I’m not at all opposed to having someone else write on this blog; Actually, I’d love to have some variety here. But the ideas are always the same: “20 Reasons You Should…”, “How To…”. Tell me something personal! What are YOU doing financially?!? I’m not looking to advise people. I’m looking to share stories.

I don’t think there are enough women out there, telling their stories of success and failure, the struggles they face every day. I don’t believe that personal finance is a destination. I love following The Single DollarFrugalwoods, The POPs, and Making Sense of Cents. I love having the voices of other women who are owning what they’re doing, struggles, fears and all. I just wish there were more voices out there.

– Cindy W.

I’ve been on the lookout for old articles from MP Dunleavey. The best I could find was this one: You Really Can’t Be Too Rich.

In The Money Keeps Rolling In, I talked about the refunds I was expecting from selling my house. At that time, I expected to get somewhere around $500 back, between credits on my accounts with the gas and electric company, along with refunds from my mortgage escrow and homeowners insurance. I wasn’t 100% sure what to do with this money, so my thought was I would leave it in the bank until the end of this year.

As usual, I’ve changed my mind.

I’ll be honest, I change my mind fairly often about financial decisions. I’m a worrier by nature. Opportunity cost is a huge issue for me; If I spend the money on this, then I won’t have it for that. And, if I decide that I want this more than that, I’ll regret having spent the money. My thought was that if I sat on the money long enough, I’d have a clearer idea of what my biggest priority was.

Once the checks started rolling in, I realized my $500 estimate was going to be closer to $1,500. I way underestimated how much money would be in my mortgage escrow ($1,200!). My mind started racing to all the things I could spend $1,500 on: Furniture! Vacation! Clothes!

And so, I put the money into an extra payment on my car. Usually I’d wait until the end of the month, so I was only making one extra payment. But, obviously, that money was too much of a temptation sitting in my bank account. So I’ll be making 2 extra car payments this month. I’ve become obsessed with running the numbers on how long it will take to pay off my car loan. That $1,500 makes a huge difference on a $16,500 loan! I knew if I left that money in the bank, I’d be constantly finding “needs”, and eventually it would be gone, with nothing much to show for it. I wanted more “bang for my buck”, so to speak.

I have a $5,000 emergency fund. I’m fully insured, with awesome medical insurance. If something tragic were to happen, I have $270 “extra” per week that I could divert. If I lost my job? Well, the emergency fund would help me weather the storm while I looked for another job. With my current cost of living, that’s over 3 months worth of expenses and spending. I could stretch it even further by cutting expenses.

Every time I run the numbers, I realize how much more quickly I can pay off the car loan, if I just stick to the plan. And once I don’t have a car loan? Well, then I’ll be debt free, with pretty low living expenses. That opens up a whole world of possibilities in my life. I’ll have choices that I never even imagined possible. And right now, that freedom is worth more than a vacation, or new furniture, or new clothes.

And so, my car loan is $1,500 less. And I’m one step closer to being debt free!

– Cindy W.

Even though Bryan and I have been living together for some time, I still hadn’t moved all of my stuff in. Sure, I had all of the necessities, like my dog, and most of my clothes. But for the most part, everything else stayed at my house. After all, we didn’t really need two sets of pots and pans, or four sets of silverware*.

When I finally sold the house, we were faced with combining ALL of our stuff. For the most part (silverware aside) neither of us had a ton of stuff. But we were still faced with the problem of what to do with two couches, and duplicates of just about everything else. As we moved my things into the apartment, we did a fairly good job of whittling things down. We decided which dishes to keep, and which set of pots and pans worked the best. All of the things that didn’t make the cut wound up in one corner of our shared garage, waiting for the day we would finally have a yard sale.

Honestly, we’ve been talking about a yard sale for months, even before I sold my house. But we always wanted to wait until we had a chance to go through everything. After all, I still had some boxes of personal items to go through. And we hadn’t sorted through our large assortment tools. Or the closet full of things from roommates past. But taking the time to sort through things never became a priority, and so the yard sale hadn’t happened.

Friday evening Bryan suggested we have a yard sale on Saturday. We’d make a couple of posters, throw some things out, and see how it went. No planning. Or advertising. Or sorting through everything. It wasn’t what I was used to, but hey, maybe we’d sell a few things?

Saturday morning we got up bright and early. We set out the things in boxes from the garage, sticking prices on items with a roll of masking tape. We grabbed random items from around the house that we’d talked about getting rid of. I made up a few posters, and at 8 am, Bryan went out and hung them up. Instantly, we had a buyer. It was a slow trickle of people pulling down our driveway; We never really had a rush, but then, we didn’t exactly advertise. Over the next few hours we watched as our stash of items dwindled, and the money in our cash box grew. The odds and ends kitchen items were a hard sell. But it didn’t take long to sell the couch, the night stand, or the random little cabinets.

I’ll admit, it was miserably hot outside. Shortly before noon, we decided we’d had enough. Bryan went to retrieve the signs, and I started boxing up what was left. In the end, we were $230 richer. Not bad, considering on most Saturdays we’ve done very little before noon.

Hopefully by the end of Summer we’ll have had a chance to go through everything else, and can put together a more organized yard sale. Whatever doesn’t sell then will probably end up at Goodwill. But at least we’ve made a nice dent in all of our duplicate items, and have some cash to show for it.

– Cindy W.

*Am I the only one who finds it odd that we both, as single people, had 2 sets of silverware? Were we really that lazy about washing spoons?

I’m a big fan of automatic payments. Mortgage, Insurance, Car Payments, Utilities… I’ve had everything possible on auto-pay for years. I prefer to make the payments through my bank’s bill pay, rather than have the company I’m paying pulling money through my account; I feel a little more in control that way. I budget out the entire year in Excel, and have an account specifically for my expenses. I’m not great about sitting down and paying bills every month, so having everything on auto-pay means I’ll never miss a payment or a due date. Overall it’s been a great system.

Except when I fail.

This year has been the year of auto-payment fails for me. I still haven’t missed a payment, or been late on anything. But, by not paying enough attention, I’ve managed to over pay on a couple of occasions. The first came after I paid off my student loan. In that situation, Sallie Mae was actually taking money out of my account, instead of my bank initiating the payment. I assumed that when the loan was paid off, the auto-pay would automatically be turned off. I assumed wrong; The next monthly payment came out like clock-work. It took a month for them to send me a check. And then, since the loan was technically in my Dad’s name (He took out a Parent Plus Loan, with the agreement that I’d be the one making the payments), the refund check was made out to him. It took me months to remember to get the check to him. Sigh!

The second time happened last week. I thought I was staying on top of everything with selling the house. We were scheduled to close on May 15th, but with all of the craziness that had happened up until that point, I was skeptical that the closing would actually happen on that date. I waited until the afternoon of the 15th, after closing, to transfer all the utilities and turn off my auto-pay settings. I was ahead on my gas and electric bills, so I’d been setting my account to skip months when I remembered, to use up some of my credit. The idea was that I would save myself some money in the months leading up to closing, and have less of a credit coming to me once I moved.

I was a little shocked last week when I looked at my expenses account and saw it was $120 short of what I thought it should be. Turns out, I had the gas bill set on several months delay, instead of actually being turned off. The payment kicked back on in June. As luck would have it, they’re the only company I was still waiting for a refund from of the $100+ credit I had on my account. And now I’ve gone and sent them another $120.

It isn’t the end of the world: I keep a cushion in my expenses account, just in case. Plus I have an emergency fund, if something were to happen where I really needed that money. I’m a little disappointed in myself for not being more cautious with where my money is going. Just because I have the extra cash, doesn’t mean I should be “loaning” it out needlessly to utility/student loan companies. But, it isn’t the end of the world. That money will eventually make its way back into my budget. And hopefully I’ll learn a lesson here, and keep a better eye on my auto-pays!

– Cindy W.

 

I’ve been blogging about my financial life for a little over 2 years now. And yet, when I take a look back through my net worth updates, it looks like things are just now starting to move ahead. It seems like I really struggled to make any progress at all the first year. The second year was better, but nothing compared to what I’m accomplishing now. For a while, it had me really scratching my head. What was I doing for the first two years?!?

When I started looking into it, I came to a realization: Debt and houses are expensive!

I started this blog in February 2013 with a net worth of -$1,754. I ended 2013 with a net worth of $1,216. Sure, I was finally out of the negative, but that’s only $2,970 in growth. Where did my money go? Well, a lot of it went into fixing up the house. Between the cost of hooking up to the new city sewers (which was mandated by the city), and the cost of other improvements around the house, plus school and medical costs, there wasn’t a whole lot left to work with that year.

In 2014, I finally started making some progress: I ended the year with $11,696 in net worth, which means I grew my net worth by $10,480. Much better than 2013, for sure. I barely achieved my goal of growing my net worth by $10,000. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it. Six months later, this seems completely weird to me. After all, I’ve already grown my net worth by more than $10,000 so far in 2015. Sure, the proceeds from selling the house helped me reach that goal so soon. But even still, I’m looking towards growing my net worth by another $10,000 before this year is done.

Why does growing my net worth by $20,000 this year seem so much easier than growing my net worth by $10,480 did in 2014, or by $2,970 in 2013? Sure, I’m making more money now that I was when I started this blog. But, not that much more!

Honestly, making debt repayment and selling my house a bigger priority has made a huge difference in my financial picture. When I think of all the money I was paying in interest, it isn’t a wonder that I wasn’t making much progress financially. Add to that the money for taxes, and insurance, and utilities (on a home I wasn’t even living in!), and it isn’t any wonder I wasn’t making much progress. It’s a big part of the reason paying off my car loan has become such a priority for me. Think of all the extra money I’ll have when I don’t have that payment every month! I could be putting so much more into my retirement accounts. I could be saving towards our future. We could be further in our journey towards financial independence!

I think about how little our lives will actually cost once we’re debt free. Even though we still have to pay rent every month. Having fewer expenses means we can save more money. But it also means we’ll have more choices. There won’t be anything tying us down if we want to move. Our expenses won’t tie us to higher paying jobs. We’ll be able to afford to take more vacations, and spend more time on the things we love. We still can’t have it all; We’ll have to prioritize what is most important in our lives. But our choices will definitely expand once we’re debt free.

– Cindy W.

Since I began this blog in 2013, I’ve been setting goals for each year for what I’d like to accomplish financially. For me, having a goal helps keep me on track, gives me something to work for (other than the vague idea of financial independence), and lets me know how well I’m doing.

2015 has been a great year for me financially. I started the year with 5 goals:

1) Grow my net worth by $10,000.
2) List the house.
3) Pay off the student loan.
4) Invest $3,000 in a retirement account.
5) Earn $500 in “Side Income”.

Less than halfway through 2015, I’ve already crossed 3 big goals off my list: I’ve grown my net worth by over $10,000. I’ve sold the house. And I paid off the student loan. By the end of the Summer I expect to have crossed off earning $500 in side income as well; I’ve already earned $407, and we intend to have a yard sale at some point in the next few months.

It’s great to achieve goals, especially much earlier than you expect to. But if all I had left to do in 2015 was earn $93 in side income, and put $3,000 in a retirement account, I think I’d find myself becoming lazy with my money. Which is why as soon as I paid off the student loan earlier this year, I set a new goal of paying off the car loan. I’ll admit, it’s a really big goal for 2015, and I likely won’t make it. But trying and failing will still put me in a much better position than not trying at all. Being debt free is the best thing I can do to improve my financial picture at this stage of the game. I even put paying off the car loan ahead of goal #4, investing in retirement. I still am investing in my company’s 401k plan, and getting the full company match. But, unless something unexpected happens, I won’t reach the goal of putting $3,000 of my own money into retirement by the end of 2015.

Growing my net worth by $10,000 was a stretch goal for me last year, so I was definitely surprised to have already achieved it by the end of May. Sure, selling the house helped. But I don’t want to just sit back and relax now that I’ve reached that goal. So, I’m setting another goal: I want to grow my net worth by another $10,000 in 2015, for a total of $20,000. That means my net worth will need to be over $31,696 at the end of 2015.

If I stick to my goal of paying off the car loan, growing my net worth by $10,000 shouldn’t be an issue. But, like I said, I think actually paying off the entire loan this year will be a stretch. Having a second stretch goal will keep me motivated to stay the course. I don’t want to risk getting lazy just because I can’t completely pay off the loan.

So now, my goals for 2015 look like this:

1) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($21,696 total net worth). Done!
2) List the house. Done! 
3) Pay off the student loan. Done!
4) Invest $3,000 in a retirement account.
5) Earn $500 in “Side Income”.
6) Pay off car loan.
7) Grow my net worth by $10,000 ($31,696 total net worth).

I’m looking forward to seeing how this year goes!

– Cindy W.