Oh yes, the resolution post. You all know I'm becoming very focused on my finances, reading new helpful blogs
and watching my pennies. So in thinking about my goals for this year, I realized that all of them, even indirectly, focus on getting a hold of my finances, both in paying off debts and finally starting to save something. I think I've done pretty well with the cold turkey "stop buying so much shit" rule, but it's been tough in the past few months to say I'm going to save some certain amount each week, because my finances have been totally thrown out of whack by the house. I've not only had to charge approximately $13,000 worth of house renovations because I only got half my construction loan up front, but I had to charge a good deal more for things not covered by the loan (insulation in the attic, new backdoor, new window, multiple hundred dollar trips to home depot for supplies, et cetera).
I have three things to look forward to between now and March:
1) The second half of my loan.
2) My annual bonus.
3) My tax refund, including my First-Time Homebuyers credit.
Once I get all three, I should only be left with a fairly managable amount on my credit cards -- a far cry from where I was even a year ago, due to snowballed expenses during law school. So, here are my goals. Yes, I'm going to continue to blog about getting my finances together, because writing it down helps, and because I've found other blogs to be a huge source of motivation for me. If anyone feels like jumping on my bandwagon, please chime in; the more the merrier.
1) Pay off my credit cards by December 31, 2008. I'll be able to quantify this better once those three big checks come in and I know what I'm left with, but I'll probably do this in the Debt Snowball method: Pick the card with the smallest balance and pay as much as I can until it's paid off, paying only the minimums on the others, then move to the next biggest. I have 4 credit cards. When they're all paid off, I'll cut up 2 or 3, keeping my oldest card because it helps my credit score and for house emergencies.
2) Save $1200 ($100 a month) in a high-interest online savings account for an emergency fund.
3) Teach myself how to cook interesting meals. I'd like to save money by not eating out all the time, but not suffer through years of bowls of pasta and grilled cheese sandwiches.
4) In the spring, plant a large garden with lots of yummy vegetables, to save myself some produce money. Remember to plant autumnal veggies -- yams, squash, etc. -- before it gets too late in the summer. Also, great exercise!
5) Learn some basic electrical/plumbing/woodworking skills that will allow me to save money on repairmen and home improvements.
6) Study bookkeeping, a skill I'd like to turn into a business one day (one that will allow me to do freelance writing and photography and still be able to pay my bills). I'd like to learn enough to start taking clients by the end of the year, but I'll have to reassess this practically in six months.
7) Rent out my parking space.
8) Consider taking sublettors occasionally to supplement home improvement fund.
9) Once my finances become settled in a few months I'll implement the Pay Yourself program -- put my entire check into a high-interest savings account, then pay out to bills and other savings funds, then choose a specific amount each pay period to pay into my checking account. That's my play money with which I can do whatever I want.
It's going to be a little tough to focus on these for the next few months, unfortunately, since I'm awaiting those three big checks and still paying off some random contractor invoices (and now I've gotta get that plumber). So until then I just need to keep being frugal, and I've done a few things that should help -- canceled my cable ($53/month...though I'll bump up my netflix from $12 to $17/month) and switched to comcast cable internet ($53 down to $33/month).
It would be great if I could be setting up in my new house right now, getting my act together, but much like in getting your finances together after years of screwing off, one has to expect some set-backs. I should be moving officially next Saturday and can finally get out of this holding pattern in my apartment with all my shit in bags and boxes. Happy New Year!