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Financial Goals: Tips I’ll be Following This Year

9 Jan

Did you know that almost 65% of American’s make New Year’s Resolutions? (source) Yup. And the top five categories for New Year’s Resolutions are: Health (39.2%), Self Improvement (31.64%), Money (29.81%), Love (16.51%), and Career (13.69%).

I’m still working on my 2020 goals, but one of them is absolutely going to be to improve my finances.

I came across a really interesting article in US News & World Report called “Make the 2020s Your Best Financial Decade” and pulled out some of my favorite tips for you (you can find the full article here):

Set Clear Financial Goals

The article suggests that you decide on a key goal or two for the next decade and then break the goal down into steps. For our family, one of my big financial goals is to save more for retirement (which is also one of their suggested goals). When Travis left his last job and started his own business, we rolled over his 401k but then didn’t add to it since we were waiting to see how the business was doing. For our joint retirement account, we have a small amount automatically come out of our checking account on a monthly basis.

Well, for 2020 we decided to bump it up! I already had a meeting with our financial planner and we decided to increase our monthly savings. We started an automatic payment into Travis’ retirement account and we also doubled our automatic payment into our joint retirement account. As for my retirement account, I qualify for a 401k at my new company in June and I will absolutely start adding money there as soon as I am able to. While unfortunately we are not able to top out our annual retirement savings accounts, by adding a little more when we can it will certainly help!

Minimize the Costs of Unimportant Items

The article states that you should try to minimize any expenses that don’t really matter to you and gives the example of buying the store-brand in household supplies. For us, I’ve noticed a huge change when we shop at Aldi rather than our other grocery store. Sure, there are some things that Aldi doesn’t carry, making it necessary to also do a Martin’s run, but for the majority of the items we can save big. I’m making it a goal for us to do the absolute majority of our grocery shopping at Aldi throughout the year.

Learn How to Cook at Home

Everyone knows that eating food you make at home is much less expensive than going out all the time. And we do eat dinner at home the majority of the time on weekdays, only going out on weekends. One thing that really helps me is getting our Home Chef subscription. We had been doing Home Chef about once a month to mix things up. It’s like a compromise between making our own food and going out to eat, because the menus are so diverse and its fun for me to try making new recipes. I’m going to start using Home Chef more in 2020.

Another area for improvement for me is to pack my lunches more often. My big temptation is going out for lunch since I work right in Baltimore and there are so many yummy food options near my office. One of my goals for 2020 is to pack my lunch 4x a week. If a lunch averages $10 – 15, this could take me from spending $50 – 75 per week to just $10 – 15 per week. Based on an average savings of $50 a week, that is an annual savings of $2,600!

Question Every Subscription

The article points out that you might not need a Netflix subscription if you already have Amazon prime. Or you may not need a gym membership if you typically exercise outside. While I won’t be getting rid of our Netflix, Amazon, or gym subscriptions, there are other annual payments that need a closer look.

I recently got rid of my FabFitFun quarterly subscription, and Jack’s Highlights High Five magazine because we realized we could easily cut them. I’m also considering whether I need my Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription, our Amazon Free Time subscription for Jack’s Kindle, or my magazine subscription to Magnolia magazine. By being more choosy with our subscriptions we currently have, it also helps me to decide if it’s really necessary to add additional subscriptions to our monthly bills.

Are you planning to make any small financial changes this year/decade?

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Unplugging for the Holiday

23 Dec

I don’t often take a break from the blog, but this year I am giving myself the gift of rest. I’m also talking a little time off work at my job — I’m working on Monday and half of Tuesday, but then I’ll be off for the rest of the week.

I’m not going to fully and completely unplug because I love seeing all those Christmas pajamas photos that pop up on Facebook and Instagram. But I am going to dial it back a bunch. So, expect no blog posts from me this week… but I’ll be back at Pocketful of Joules next Monday.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

And don’t tell Jack… but his mind is going to be BLOWN when he sees what’s under our Christmas tree!

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I’m Done with Christmas Cards, I Think

12 Dec

After a few years of going back and forth, I think I’m finally crossing ‘create and mail Christmas cards’ off my holiday task list for good. Last year, I came super-dooper close, but if you remember I did a Facebook vote (you can find the blog post here) and 62% of you still mailed out cards. So, I was guilted into doing it for another year.

Well, this year… I’m finally pulling the plug.

Here are my reasons:

  • There is so much waste involved. To pay the money for the cards, the envelopes and the postage only for someone to look at the paper for a moment, *maybe* stick it on their fridge for a week or two, and then throw it out is crazy. It’s a waste of paper, a waste of money, and a waste of time.
  • Speaking of time: I don’t have the time (or frankly, feel like spending the time) to find the photos, lay out the cards, get them printed, address them, stamp them, and send them. This isn’t fun for me and I don’t enjoy it at all.
  • Every year I receive less and less Christmas cards, so maybe people are over them.

Here’s why I’m still feeling guilty about it:

  • There are a few people who I’m only in contact with for the holidays (previous neighbors, friends from long ago) and I’m afraid they’ll think I don’t like them anymore if I stop sending out cards.
  • My kid is awfully cute. Shouldn’t I share that with the world? (this is a joke, kind of)

And YES, I know I can just buy prepackaged cards to send. But I feel like they are even more waste than a card that may have a cute family photo on it.

So, I think I’m skipping cards this year. Probably.

What are you doing – do you still send out holiday cards?

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Jack’s First Musical: Aladdin at the Hippodrome

3 Dec

I’ve loved watching musicals as long as I can remember. I was in a few musicals in middle school and high school, and even minored in Theater in college. So, whenever I get the chance to see a really, really good show on Broadway or a touring production in DC or Baltimore I jump on it!

I had wanted to see Aladdin when I was in NYC in 2015, but tickets were crazy expensive for the crappiest seats. So when I heard on the radio that a touring production of Aladdin was coming to the Hippodrome in Baltimore, I clicked right over to check out available tickets. I also thought it might be the perfect first show for Jack. He really enjoyed the on-stage productions when we saw them on cruise ships, so I hoped that 7 ½ was the magical age to take him to “the theatre” (you have to say that in a super snobby way, FYI).

Anywhoo. I snapped up a couple fantastically close tickets for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We didn’t have any Thanksgiving plans this year (our dinner was on Friday instead), so I figured that way we can both sleep in afterwards.

Here we are right before the show started:

And…he LOVED it! I had to remind him a few times not to talk during the show – which was especially hilarious when a funny scene ended and Jack loudly said “THAT GUY IS REALLY FUNNY” to the amusement of everyone around us. It was Aladdin though, so there were lots of other kids in the theater who were much louder than Jack.

The show itself was phenomenal. I have super high standards for musical numbers and OHMYGOSH the performer’s voices were insanely good. Their harmonies gave me chills and Aladdin, his three best friends, and the Genie were FANTASTIC!

Even better, when I asked Jack if he’d be interested in seeing another show one day he said “YES! OF COURSE! That was SO AWESOME!” So yeah, proud theater mommy over here.

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