In my last post, I wrote about the importance of setting and planning for new year goals early. This way, you’ll have some momentum built up to help push you toward progress faster.
The sooner you feel a sense of achievement and closer to reaching your goals, the more motivated you’ll be to stay focused and on track.
I sat down the other day and wrote down my own list of financial goals for 2020. Looking back at my list from last January, there are a few that will be the same (actually, *most*).
I really need to get better at reaching my goals.
But, the important thing is not giving up. What I didn’t achieve this year, I’ll strive to achieve next year. Because those goals are still important, and they’re still worth working towards.
Before I get to my 2020 goals though, I’ll acknowledge the 2019 goals I did accomplish.
Even A Little Progress Is Progress
Last January, I shared a list of financial goals that, at the time, I admitted was somewhat ambitious.
Especially because I had no idea how much I’d be able to contribute to our income, or what roadblocks lay ahead with supporting our daughter learn to manage her mental illness.
Thankfully, things have been fairly stable since April. We did end up with a few thousand more dollars in medical bills, but I also became eligible for an increase in my substitute teaching earnings.
The most significant change made in our finances this year was budgeting off the previous month’s income. This one strategy to manage our money better has drastically reduced how much we dip into our savings.
It also got us on track to tithe consistently to our church, a goal on my 2019 list and a high value of ours. On the 1st of every month, after I transfer the previous month’s income, I give 10% of that amount. That way, we set ourselves up to live off the remaining 90% from the start.
I know the numbers are the same if I continued to tithe weekly, but I really struggled with doing it consistently (and fully). Having a weekly budget requires discipline to save some from the “light” weeks so you have enough for the “heavier” ones. We did not have that discipline.
The (only) other goal I reached was done just recently.
I’ve been wanting to contribute $2,000 to our income, and I did for the first time this month!
I worked 15 days in November, and this added $2,018 to our December budget!
What great timing, right? We’ve had more than enough for Christmas shopping and some left over to do fun things with my mom and brother during their visit.
It is soooo nice not to dip into our savings or use a credit card for Christmas this year!
My goal is to continue working a minimum of 15 days a month, so I keep that extra $2k flowing in.
The income will help me reach my goals for 2020.
2020 Financial Goals
So, on this list, there are 4 carried over from 2019 and 4 new goals for 2020.
I want to be more aggressive with these goals than I was in 2019. As long as things remain stable with our daughter, I should have more time and opportunity to generate additional income.
1. Pay off student loan
My plan was to have my $13k student loan paid off by next summer. I thought if I could consistently make between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, I could do it.
What I wasn’t counting on was my husband’s hours decreasing, and having to use my income to fill the gap.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful I could do this and we didn’t have to use savings.
But it’s put a snag in my student debt paydown plan.
So, I’ll do the only thing I can do. Just keep moving forward, working as many days as possible, sticking to our budget and throwing as much as I can every month toward my student debt.
I’m super confident it’ll be wiped out by the end of 2020!
2. Pay off all medical debt
We have $5,400 in medical bills that I pay off strictly with our Health Savings Account. It’s nice to have these designated funds just for medical bills, because the money is taken out of my husband’s weekly paycheck before it hits our account.
So, I don’t have to budget for medical bills. I just use what’s put in the HSA (which is about $100 a week).
But, even if we don’t get a dime more of medical debt, we still wouldn’t be able to pay it all off in 2020 just using the HSA.
And the reality is, we will probably acquire more medical bills. The chances of our daughter not needing any additional medical attention for a whole year is highly unlikely. She still sees a therapist and takes several prescriptions.
So, if I want to have no medical debt by the end of 2020, I’ll need to include some of that debt in our budget.
I’m hoping with goal #3 that will be possible.
3. Start generating $500 a month from writing (by summer)
This is an income stream I’ve been wanting to pursue for … oh … about 2 years now.
(Even recovering procrastinators still struggle with getting started.)
But, since it’s an idea that has stuck around for this long, I think I should go for it.
I have a long list of ongoing topic ideas that I keep, which would keep me busy for the whole year. And I know where I want to start building my writing chops.
The biggest hurdle will be to find the time and the discipline to build a daily writing habit. And that’s why I put a dollar amount and a deadline on this goal.
Summers are always tight for us financially, because my husband doesn’t work as much and there are no sub jobs. If I can start bringing in a few hundred dollars from writing by June, it would really help us get through those summer months without dipping into our savings.
4. Increase our 401k contributions to 15%
This is a carryover from 2019’s list of goals. We never got there, but I think I’m just going to bite the bullet and bump up our contributions in January.
We’re already at 13% (we put in 10%, my husband’s employer gives 3%), so 2% more shouldn’t be too much of a pinch.
Our 401k has been on fire for 2019, with an average return over 20% for the whole year. I know this won’t last, but now is the time to build it up as much as we can.
5. Have a 25th anniversary savings fund
My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in January 2021. He told me recently he’s already asked for the time off! (I’m proud of him for thinking so far ahead!)
For our 20th, we went to New York City for a week. It was amazing! One of the most fun trips I’ve ever had. (And the only anniversary trip we’ve ever taken.)
We haven’t decided what to do for our 25th, but I do know we need to start saving for it – because otherwise there will be no celebration. We’re not using our savings to fund a vacation!
I’ll have to get creative with it, especially if I want to reach the goals I’ve already listed. I may look into other income streams and use an app to automate more savings.
But, again, having a deadline and an incentive is really helpful with the motivation to start working toward this goal early.
6. Increase our emergency fund to $20k
Right now, we have about $16k in our emergency fund.
I want to eventually double that, but there’s no way I could reach that goal in a year with the resources we currently have. There are other priorities right now.
This is one of those “stretch” goals, just outside of our reach. We would need to cut some costs and tighten our budget to get there.
But, I think it’s possible.
7. Consistently make $2,000 a month from substitute teaching
This will depend on my availability to work the majority of school days each month.
Between 3-day weekends, season breaks, and teacher planning days, there are usually between 15-18 schools days left every month. This only leaves 2-3 days for appointments, sick days, and unexpected situations that prevent me from taking a sub job.
Last school year, I could only work the days my husband wasn’t traveling. Our daughter’s health was too unstable to leave her unsupervised.
Thankfully, she’s doing better. For now.
But, I’ve gone on enough rollercoaster rides to know that another valley may just be over the next hill.
Still, I’m going on faith that she’ll continue to move toward recovery and keep making healthy choices.
As long as she does, I’ll take all the sub jobs I can get.
8. Increase 529 contributions
On my 2019 goal list, I said I wanted to triple our 529 contributions. I don’t want to do that anymore. At least, not in the near future.
I’d rather put that money toward debt and other savings.
But, I think we could swing another $25-$50 a month.
There’s not a lot in the account (and probably never will be), but it’s nice to have some for smaller educational expenses that come up.
Our oldest son is going to a very affordable community college, and our daughter is taking a gap year. Our youngest just started his freshman year in high school. So there aren’t any major expenses on the horizon.
But when any of them do decide to move on to a university, I’d like to be able to help out with some of the costs.
Ready for 2020!
I have a lot of hope for 2020.
And I’m excited to start working toward these goals and getting closer to financial freedom.
Who knows, maybe I’ll make more with writing than I thought possible. Or maybe I’ll find a side gig that can become a full-time income.
Even though we all know you can set new goals any time of the year, there’s something about January 1st that always gets me hopeful for all the possibilities to come.
What are your goals for the new year? If you haven’t thought of any, start writing some down.
Because if you don’t decide where you’re going, life will do it for you.