Looking Back and Forward: A Post for New Year’s Eve

Since I’ll be posting net worth and final year-end numbers tomorrow, I wasn’t going to do a post today. But I had a few listicles I wanted to share! [Is “listicles” the right word? I’m not always down with the slang, kids.] Behind the jump, therefore, are a few favorite posts from 2015 and some landmarks for other bloggers I’m looking forward to in the new year.

Oh, and also, my first freelance post was published! Five Steps to Recover from Holiday (Financial) Overindulgence, on My Personal Finance Journey.

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Into Uncharted Waters: My Other Plans for 2016

First of all, I hope everyone had a totally delightful holiday. Mine had its ups and downs (honestly, I am not a fan of Christmas in general) but I love my parents and brother and it’s been good to see so much of them. I’ve got a long drive in between me and Indiana right now, but I think it’ll be good to get back, too. I’m fired up about my work for the coming year and really ready to plunge back in.

When I set my financial goals for 2016,  there was something conspicuously missing: in among all those hard dollar amounts, I didn’t write anything about the rest of my plans for the year. But I do have some. Unlike the financial goals, which are highly measurable, these plans all involve exploration: I don’t know what will come of them.

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Steady As She Goes: Goals for 2016

As I wrote my four-part review of 2015, one theme stood out to me: both 2014 and 2015 were BIG YEARS for me, where I kept a very tight budget first in the name of paying off debt, then in the name of hitting big-time savings goals. In 2016, I want to stay the course with the habits of frugality, savings, and conscious spending I’ve been developing, but I also want to be a little more relaxed. I’m in a good, though certainly not great, financial position, and while maintaining focus I also want to let my hair down a little more by increasing my slush/entertainment/gifts/clothing budget. Just a little more, though, not a ton. With that in mind, here are my 2016 goals.

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2015 Year, Part 4: The Big Picture

My last two posts have been focused on relatively small things: habits, tools, strategies, practices. Now, part of the thesis of personal finance is that it is a good idea to sweat the small stuff, at least sometimes. Anyone else remember the old musical The Pajama Game? It’s about the workers in a pajama factory organizing for a 7.5 cent raise. One of the big numbers is called, of course, Seven and a Half Cents.

I figured it out
I figured it out
With a pencil and paper I figured it out
Seven and a half cents doesn’t buy a hell of a lot
Seven and a half cents doesn’t mean a thing
But give it to me every hour, forty hours every week
and that’s enough for me to be
living like a king

Obviously Excel didn’t exist in 1954.

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2015 Review, Part 3: What Didn’t Work

After reviewing what did work for me in 2015, I wanted to write about what didn’t. Most of these weren’t total disasters so much as they were things that turned out not to fit with my life or personality, or else they were things that worked at one point but not any more (or that aren’t working now but might in the future.) That sounds so vague! Let’s go to the examples, divided into three categories: danger zones, tools, and accounting practices.

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2015 Review, Part 2: What Worked

First of all, my spending is already thrown off a bit from my analysis of what I spent in 2015! That’s what happens when you do your yearly wrapup a month early 🙂 It’s not terrible or anything, I just ended up paying for a domain and hosting renewal for the next two years, instead of renewing my passport like I planned to do this month. I’ll send in the passport renewal in January instead, no big.

In this post, I’m going to break down my analysis of what worked well for me this year, in three parts: motivation strategies, specific practices, and tools. Note that this isn’t a list of things that went right for me (a list which would include keeping my job and health) but rather a list of much smaller things that nevertheless made a noticeable difference in my ability to have a successful financial year.

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2015 Review, Part 1: How I Spent My Money This Year

This is a little bit premature, since there’s still almost a month until the end of 2015. But I wanted to make December a month for retrospective review; I have some thinking to do about what worked and what didn’t this year, and what I want to keep doing, or make changes in, next year. That starts with analysis. While there may be a few unanticipated expenses during December, I did my best here to project them (for example, I haven’t even mailed in the check for my passport renewal, but I counted it anyway under “Gremlins” since I know what to expect. Ditto with my car insurance, which I won’t pay until the end of the month but which I count here anyway.) So this should give a pretty accurate picture of 2015. Shoutout to YNAB, by the way; while of course I could have tracked in other ways, their reporting tools made it easy to see what I’d spent both by category, and to various vendors. Assembling this report therefore took a lot less time than it would have otherwise.

Two things I didn’t include: the $1262.88 I spent on health insurance premiums, which were deducted from my paycheck before taxes, and the deducted taxes themselves. Omitting these from “spending” kept these numbers consistent with the spending reports I’ve been providing all year. I’m not sure whether this is the “right” decision but I think consistent is better than right here.

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Net Worth Update: November 2015

networthupdateHello and welcome to my penultimate 2015 net worth update. I once again took advantage of this semester’s unusually extreme flexibility and worked remotely for the last couple of weeks. During this time I stayed with my BFF and her family in California, helping to care for their newborn, my goddaughter’s younger sister. I…may not have gotten very much work done, but on the plus side (1) I spent a lot of time with an infant sleeping on my chest or smiling at me, and (2) it ended up being a very cheap month because they paid for most food and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to spend money on entertainment. (I did “bill” my travel fund for a few things — a checked baggage fee and airport shuttle fee, and gas for a weekend trip I made at the start of the month — but made up for it with a cash draw of only $200, which I used to pay for groceries early in the month and a few small items while traveling, like lunch out with a friend and various coffees.)

To the numbers!

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