I love New Year vibes…. I love contemplating the year that has past, the highs, the lows, the things I nailed, and the things that fell by the wayside. I know. It’s just another day, but for me, it is a line in the sand, a point of reset and time of reflection on what’s important and whether I’m living it.
It’s 12 new chapters and 365 blank pages.
And this time around, unusually so actually, money is something that I’m focusing on this coming year. We missed the mark with a lot of our money goals this past year. There were a few wins, but there were also a few blow outs!
So here it is – my five biggest lessons (good and bad!) from 2017:
What Happens When You Say Yes to Everything
This last year, I said yes to waaaay too much. I spent a lot of money on self-education – courses, workshops, conferences, mentoring. And whilst I believe spending money on improving your skill set can be superb investment, I just took on too much and didn’t evaluate enough each opportunity against what I valued. Some opportunities have been game changers. Others just expensive weekends away really.
The same was true with family weekends away and celebrations. I’m so glad I could celebrate so many special friends’ special occasions, and I had a ball at each and every one, but saying yes to ALL of them certainly did smash our financial goals and I just seriously overscheduled myself.
I’m not suggesting the solution is becoming a hermit at home. I love adventures too much for that. To quote one of my favourite sayings : ‘you can do anything, but you can’t do everything’ (A lesson I constantly struggle with.) It’s been a good reminder of the trade-off. The trade off with longer term family and financial goals, and with time.
The Costs of Being Busy
Without a doubt, some of our spending blew out this year because of busy-ness.
It became all too obvious that there is a cost to the conveniences that get pulled in to help carry the load… the time we hired a gardener to wrangle our ‘out of control’ vines and hedges, the cakes I bought instead of made, the take away dinner on the way home, the catering I ordered in for a party we hosted, the Christmas gifts I would usually make that I bought instead, paying for dog boarding rather than having a house sitter in (I didn’t have time to prep the house!!). There is no need to abandon all of life’s conveniences unless you want to. It’s just a matter of acknowledging that there is a cost. Where you draw the line depends I guess on how much you want to reach your financial goals like that holiday, freedom from debt or financial independence. For me, we lost sight a little of what was more important.
Without time, I also dropped the ball a few times missing the payment date of a bill here and there, and not diligently ringing around for better deals. There were the meal plans that didn’t happen, the food I didn’t use in the fridge (I’m usually pretty good at avoiding food waste), and the odd purchase I could have shopped around for. It all adds up.
The Money Pit of Renovating
Ahhh… renovating. There was a reason why we did nothing to our home for the previous four years!!!! There has been two big lessons from our year of renovating when it comes to money.
The first is not fully accounting for the costs of a project. There have been a few projects that we started, and realised mid project that it was going to cost way more than we had expected. I’d say part inexperience, part poor planning. A prime example is the small deck we built near our pool. We had left over timber boards, so I thought the cost would be minimal and the deck would look nice. It ended up costing close on $2,000 in the end even with us doing the work ourselves. I very much doubt I would have gone ahead with it had I costed it properly. A ‘pretty’ deck was just not worth the dollars, the effort, the missed alternatives.
The second I have officially termed ‘renovating creep’! It’s the feeling you get after you update one part of your home, and you immediately feel like you now need to update another part that you originally had no intention of touching and which functionally is still fine. I’ve battled with this little demon last year and so far, I’ve won. I’ve embraced my peach kitchen and brown retro bathroom. I’d rather go on a bloody awesome holiday or not work for a year!!! But I can see how easily you can get carried away.
Okay – after that berating, it’s time to give myself a few high fives!
Automating Our Investment Plan
This was the first time where I have completely automated our investments. And it worked brilliantly! Every month money automatically went to various low-cost index funds and high interest earning bank accounts, a well as our fortnightly savings for the kids. There was no thought, no second guessing and no effort required. It just keeps ticking away, and I just occasionally check it is all working and the split between investments is working (and when I say occasionally, I mean REALLY occasionally…. A couple of times a year). A big thumbs up for automation.
Not Buying ‘Stuff’!!!
Apart from some running shoes, a dress and a club running shirt, I made it through the entire year without buying any other clothes, shoes, accessories or homewares. In terms of personal spending, there were only a few books and my yoga membership. I even embraced my greys and made it through the year without dyeing my hair. The beauty is that I didn’t impose a ‘no spending’ ban. It was effortless. I just had no desire for stuff (the greying hairs was a little more of a mental battle!). To me, this is a win. It’s a shift in habit rather than a forced effort.
So, wonderful, glorious 2018 – what do I have install for you when it comes to money?
My Money Actions for 2018
Tracking our spending. In the past I haven’t tracked my spending for more than a month or two at a time, just to get a better idea of where our money was going. I’ve relied on maintaining a connection to what matters, and applying it to each money decision that comes my way. But having gone a little off track with our goals, how might tracking help? If I am forced to write every purchase down, am I more inclined to get better results or simply do my head in?! Time will tell. Part experiment, part re calibration, I’m going to track our spending this year using different apps each month to see which are most user friendly and whether it makes a difference to the bottom line.
Setting an achievable savings goal. In the next few weeks we will sit down and set a dollar savings figure for the year, factoring what travel we have planned and how much we intend to spend on house renovations. I want to push it a little this year, but still make sure it’s within our reach. Tracking I think will help with this.
A Mini Money Makeover. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed our bills and fixed expenses. I see it almost as free money – the only cost is my time (and the mental effort required to psych myself up and get in to action!!!). I’m going to set aside the time to tackle one category each week and share the journey with you via blog posts and Facebook. My money makeover begins in February. Feel free to join me or follow along. Stay tuned for more deets!
Setting a fixed cap for house improvements this year. This year I want to pick the few things we want to tackle when it comes to the house, and cap how much we will spend. I want to make sure it doesn’t get out of control. We might try and do a little more ourselves as well…. slowly! (Let’s see what I think about that when I’m half way through painting the house!).
– Being conscious of not getting too busy! The cost of busy-ness is not just stress, tiredness, wellbeing, health… it also has a financial cost.
– Saying ‘no’ a little more often. Enough said on that one ?
So there you have it – my honest wrap up of our money this year and where I’m focusing my efforts when it comes to money in 2018. I’ve also got some month long experiments planned (w will see which ones get ‘approved’ by the family!), playing around with money, what matters, what doesn’t, what it’s like to live with less. Stay tuned ?
What stands out for you when it comes to money last year and what are you focusing on in 2018?