2019 Resolutions


I started my list of resolutions in December before traveling to France, Germany, and Egypt. Now, two weeks later, having just returned to the states, I'm looking at my lists absolutely exhausted. While the following goals are my ideals, I want to recognize that life can get messy and I may not always complete the goals in as perfect of a way as I intend. Once a month might need to be changed to once every two months … or six months … or just getting by.

So, dear self, do your best in 2019, but don't stress out if you can't meet all of your goals exactly as written. It will be ok.

1. Finances
A. Pay off car.
B. Conquer interest charges.
C. Look at refinancing Justin's student loan.

2. Blogging
A. Start planning for April A-Z in JANUARY.
B. Start participating in Wordless Wednesday again.
• Organize images and make sure the DROBO back up is complete.
C. Re-join the travel blogging community.
• Write one travel post
• Or participate in one twitter travel chat … once a month.

3. Travel
A. Go to a new beach for July 4th.
B. Visit Justin's uncle in Boston.
C. See Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens in NYC?

4. Health
A. Fewer calories and healthier food choices (veggies, fruits, tea).
B. More movement.

5. Home
A. Finish The Curated Closet
• Only have clothes in my closet that I wear and love.
• List more clothing on Poshmark.
• Alter clothing as needed or get rid of it.
B. And The Simple Magic of Tidying Up.
• Organize the spare bedroom so that everything has a place.
1. Exercise equipment.
2. Sewing supplies.
3. Financial Documents.
4. Empty box of books.
5. Find a place for electronics. Toss unnecessary electronics.
• Get the bedroom more organized as well.
1. Move blankets and sheets from the bedroom closet to the bathroom closet so they are easier to get to.
2. Replace decorative Euro pillow.
3. Get master duvet cleaned.
4. Replace master duvet feathers.

6. Other
A. Read. Ideally one book a month.
B. Practice German.
C. Drink wine (or tea) with friends and family. Relax.
D. Question the world. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Sometimes it's the same grass … only painted. 😳
E. Assume the best in people. Don't be quite as cynical.

What resolutions have you set for 2019?

See goals from previous years here: 2014, 2015, 2016.

2018 Review


It's been a bit since my mid-year review. Well, here is the follow-up; this is what I've been doing since August. Plus a few pictures since I've been neglecting Wordless Wednesday!

SEPTEMBER


We went to NYC for a wedding and enjoyed exploring the city with friends and eating far too much.

OCTOBER


I was accepted for Dîner En Blanc which ended up being a bit of a let down. We spent the two weeks prior to the event buying clothes and dinnerware with packages from Amazon arriving almost daily.

NOVEMBER


Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, shopping, birthdays, seeing Annie Leibovitz!

Finally, DECEMBER

Shopping for Christmas presents, parties, planning for Egypt. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it has been keeping me busy.

2018: OVERVIEW

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before? Travel to California! Dîner En Blanc!
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for next year? I didn't make any last year. I meant to, but I never got around to it.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? SIL, cousin Brooke and Jordan
4. Did anyone close to you die? no
5. What countries did you visit? Egypt (as of the end of December), France
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018? I'm not sure. I pretty much got everything I needed or wanted. Maybe world peace? Or, more realistically a mirrorless camera.
7. What date, from 2018, will remain etched upon your memory, and why? None? There was no one date that stood out.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Making a difference in children's lives. <3.
9. What was your biggest failure? Spending. Eating.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Only minimal, thank goodness.
11. What was the best thing you bought? A trip to California. Because of that trip we were invited to Egypt. Also I learned to enjoy wine while we were in Napa. Basically, California was unforgettable.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? This is an odd question. Any time the children I watch behaved, I thought their behavior merited celebration.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Anytime the kids I watch didn't behave… The government, people in my family…
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Going to Paris for Christmas. It's one of my favorite times of year to go.
16. What song will always remind you of 2018? I have no idea. The kids I watch don't really listen to music, so nothing stands out like it has in other years.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: Happier or sadder? sadder
Thinner or fatter? fatter
Richer or poorer? mixed? Probably richer. Car loans and student loans are closer to being paid off but our credit cards don't look too good.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? paid off more debt.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Shopping. Eating.
20. How will you be spending Christmas? in an airplane headed to Paris.
21. How will you be spending New Year? not? I don't think they celebrate in Egypt.
22. What was your favorite TV program? none. I didn't watch tv.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Hate is a strong word. I'm not sure I know enough people to hate a new person every year!
24. What was the best book you read? How to Get Dressed was the most life-changing. Like the realization that I ought to care for and that I can care for my clothing to keep it long term. The Secret Magic of Tidying Up was also a reminder that it's ok to get rid of things that don't bring me joy even if I paid a lot for those items or they were given to me as a gift.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery? No music discoveries this year. I just didn't do music too much this year.
26. What did you want and get? A DROBO! And a new laptop.
27. What did you want and not get? Lower debt.
28. What was your favorite film of this year? Deadpool 2. I didn't really see many movies this year for whatever reason.
29. What did you do on your birthday? We went to Laguna Beach, Florida for my birthday and ate at a swanky Italian place. We also had the most amazing chocolate cake of my life from Modica Market, eggs cochon from The Ruby Slipper Café, and some yummy ice cream from Thomas Donut. It was a delicious way to celebrate.
30.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Paying off more debt.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018? Free People all the way.
32. What kept you sane? the husband. To a lesser extent (sorry!) my blogger friends, Anne, and Tony. It's always nice to have someone to rant to.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Honestly I would have considered having Ellen Degeneres's babies after I saw the Michelle Obama Costco book signing. That was so funny and exactly what I needed to see shared when I needed a distraction.
34. What political issue stirred you the most? I don't even know. So many.
35. Who did you miss? No one? My life has been confusing as all heck and missing people would complicate things.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
You do you.
Don't wait for other people to change. If you don't like something, you change. What can you do to make that aspect of your life better?
And TALK! If the people you are angry with don't know you are angry, they definitely won't change.
37. Quote that sums up your year. "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt." – Charles Schultz

Did any aspects of 2018 stand out for you? Was 2018 a good year? Are you going into 2019 with any regrets? What about hopes?

2018 Financial Review

In the past I've tried to a financial overview. Mostly it's for myself, but you all can follow along if you want.

One of the top priorities in my husband's and my financial life is paying down debt. Specifically student loans. We also have a car loan and credit card debt. I'm not going to lie – even with the amount of money my husband brings home in a year (which is more than average), it is still hard to conquer debt. We owed more than $100,000 between the two of us right out of college. It is hard to stay focused on paying down the debt and not spending any extra on extravagances like travel, morning coffee, or a new outfit. The struggle got even more real in 2016 when my boss threatened to fire me if I didn't replace my car ASAP. (It had broken down 4 times in a month; I don't blame her.) In the past six years we also had to replace my husband's truck, both of our laptops, and we felt it was only the right thing to do to attend a few weddings overseas.

Everything added up, the debt pay down process has been a slow and steady race with missteps along the way. I am happy to report, however, that the debt is getting paid down though. Of course, there is always room for improvement. Maybe 2019 will be our year.

DEBT


Decrease of $5,805 this year.
Total decrease over the past 6 years: $26,497

STUDENT LOAN DEBT



Decrease this year $8,144.86
Total decrease over the past 6 years $38,281.43
Payoff Date: 12/1/22 (improved by just under a year! Last year's date was August 2023.)

We refinanced my student loans within the past month to get a 2.5% variable interest rate. It may be time to refinance my husband's loans as well; the interest from his last refinancing has crept up to over 5% which isn't a huge increase, but if we could get it back down, that would be good.

CAR LOAN



Payoff Date: 4/1/19, an improvement of two months from last year! Paying off the car now seems easily within reach!

CREDIT CARDS


We have spent more on credit cards this year than we have in the past.

This year I think one of my biggest problems with credit cards, the one that can easily be corrected, is not allowing companies to take advantage by charging interest when we are unable to pay the bill in full. We've mostly thought the accruing interest was our fault and that we deserved it rather than using high credit scores to move the "problem" to another card with a 0% interest rate.

If you are in this same situation, don't be like us. Move the amount you owe to a card with 0% interest like Chase Slate and continue to work on paying it down without worrying about the extra interest adding up and costing more in the long run.

While I usually provide a payoff date in my financial reviews, I feel like Mint isn't giving me the correct information regarding the cards I have on file with them. It's currently suggesting a date of May 2020. We'll see.

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Below, I cover fees which I want to explain before I share.

While I am complaining about interest fees which should be rightly avoided if at all possible, I do think credit cards can be helpful for taking your money further. Cards, like Venture, offer 2% back on all purchases which is essentially an extra $.02 for every dollar you spend on the card. While it does cost a yearly fee of $95, you can easily get that back if you use it to obtain TSA Pre, an option that can save you time at the airport (and worth $100 if bought outright). So, I see some fees for credit cards as worthwhile, but it all depends on how often you use the card and whether or not you can get value from the card.

Regardless of what the fee is though, I think the goal should always be getting as much value from the card and paying as little in interest as possible on the card as possible. Justin and I spend a lot of money on credit card fees (and this year we spent a lot on interest), so ideally in 2019, we should aim to get our interest expenses down and only keep the credit cards we get value from. I've written about the pros and cons of each of our cards below and shared my initial thoughts on which cards we should keep and which we should cancel in 2019. Obviously, the more time you spend researching which cards will work best for you, the more you will save.

FEES


Credit Cards Without Fees:
Amex Blue Cash Everyday – 3% cashback at grocery stores, 2% cashback at gas stations and department stores
Amex Blue Delta Skymiles – Kept for maintaining credit history and credit score.
Bank of America Cashback – free entrance to select museums on the first weekend of the month
Chase Freedom – 5x Chase points on rotating categories
Chase Disney – Kept for maintaining credit history and credit score.
Citi Double Cashback Card – 2% cashback on all purchases
Discover It – rotating 5% cashback categories
Suntrust Cash Rewards – 2% cashback on gas and grocery

Credit Cards With Fees:
Amex Gold Delta Skymiles – $95 fee, free checked bag for everyone that flies with me, early boarding with Delta and cobranded companies, 2x miles on Delta purchases (drinks, snacks, bags, flights)
Capital One Venture – $95 fee, 10x the miles when booking hotels with hotels.com, no foreign transaction fee, credit for Global Entry/Pre, 2% cashback on purchases
Chase Sapphire Preferred – $95 fee, 2x points on travel and dining, no foreign transaction fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve✓, complimentary lounge access, option to use The Luxury Hotel and Resorts Collection
Costco Anywhere Card – fee depends on Costco membership ($120 for us), 4% cashback at gas stations, 3% cashback at restaurants and on travel, 2% cashback at Costco

Justin and I may want to consider dropping Chase Freedom and Chase Sapphire Preferred in the next year since we have the Sapphire Reserve and Discover cards. Dropping the cards would save us $95 per year. We may also want to consider looking at new cards to see if there are any that will better work for us in the future.

THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST



As a personal goal, I typically try to spend less from one year to the next and a great way to look at it is by month. I admit getting distracted and busy as the year went on which made it harder to stick to my goal. Maybe in 2019 we will do better? We spent more in seven months this year compared to last and $13,000 more total. :(

I am grateful that we only rarely spent more than we made, though. Obviously, the goal is to never do that, but it can be easier said than done when you get distracted and busy with life. I've heard great things about Dave Ramsey and separating your money into envelopes, but then you aren't getting the benefit of money back through credit cards, so … complications.

WHERE OUR MONEY WENT

Categories
1. Food & Dining
2. Travel
3. Shopping
4. Auto & Transport
5. Bills & Utilities
6. Gifts & Donations
7. Personal Care
8. Financial
9. Entertainment
10. Taxes

Stores
1. Costco (includes new tires)
2. Boots N All (flight to Paris, Cairo, Frankfurt, home x 2)
3. Kroger
4. Electricity
5. Best Buy (laptop, radio for my mom, camera memory cards)
6. Unclaimed Baggage Store (used cell phone, used laptop x 2)
7. Homeaway (Rental property for stay in NYC during September with friends)
8. Publix
9. Progressive (car insurance)
10. Delta (flight to California, NYC)
11. Quiktrip
12. Amazon


NET INCOME



We spent more than we made during two months this year. Yikes!

NET WORTH


I am grateful to see our net worth continuing to go up, though. Paying off debt is a hard and long process.

Unfortunately, our stocks aren't doing quite as well at a drop of -60.24%. I guess that's the chance you take with stocks.

ASSETS


Justin and I have put less time and attention toward assets this year as we worked on our debt. Toward the end however, Justin started putting a bit extra away to buy stocks within his company. He has been given stock options which should his start up company sell could bring in some money.It is always a risk investing, but I can understanding wanting to put money where you've spent ten years of your life helping a company to become what it is. And if it worked out for Steve Jobs…

Overview of the biggest impacts on our finances in 2018:
1. April travel to California (to visit Omar and fiancé)
2. Omar's wedding (including travel to NYC, Europe, and Egypt)
3. the purchase of 3 laptops and a DROBO (Raid backup system)
4. shopping in general 😳 (The top of the list will be car tires, a freezer, Christmas gifts, and a garage door opener among other things … like clothes and shoes.)
5. car insurance (nearly $2000!!)
6. paying taxes ($700)
7. Food expenses were up. 😞We bought a lot of food for other people. We also spent more on alcohol than we have in the past.

So where were the downfalls? What went wrong financially this year?
1. Forgetting that fees don't have to be a normal part of life. Credit card companies do that to make money. It's not personal; it's business.
2. Trying to help my parents and brother when we really needed to focus on ourselves and our finances.
3. The people I work for opening a credit account in my name without my knowledge and causing my credit score to dip down. (But it's all fixed now! Credit score never fully recovered, though…)
4. Travel to California that resulted in a drowned laptop unable to fully recover. So $$$ turned into $$$$ when I had to replace it. (We won't add on the additional $$$$ spent on going to Egypt, also a result of our trip to California.)
5. Dîner En Blanc also felt like a waste of money. The location was boring and we missed most of the event. It didn't cost too terribly much, but it is still money I would rather have put toward something else.

What went right this year?
1. Getting a decrease in my student loan interest rate! YAY me!
2. Learning how to use Citi's cashback feature. We have gotten more than $100 back in purchases bringing the price of items sometimes below $10!
3. We spent less on car expenses this year!
4. Started putting money towards Justin's company's stocks.
5. Getting extra work and making more money. With all of the mistakes we made this year, the extra money is helpful.

What are our plans/goals for next year?
1. Consider applying for a loan that will lower Justin's student loan interest rate.
2. Get rid of (or change out) unnecessary credit cards.
3. Pay off the Mazda.
4. Lower food spending. And shopping costs.
5. Try to find car insurance that costs less.

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Obviously we have some work to do, but maybe 2018 will have led to a stronger and smarter 2019? I can only hope.

Do you have financial goals you worked on this year? How did that go? Anything you need to improve on in 2019?



OLD FINANCIAL REVIEWS:

Book Survey 2018



It's the most wonderful time of year: the time of year when I review the books I've read. To see the list in full, click here. Here is last year's book review.

And now for the stats:

Numbers
Under 250 pages : 7
Between 400-449 pages: 0
Between 450-499 pages: 1
Over 500 pages: 2
Over 1000 pages: 0
Audiobooks: 0
Re-reads: 0
DNFs (did not finish): 4 (Toby, The Curated Closet, DK Eyewitness Travel: Egypt, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
Five Star Rating: 1
One/Two Stars Rating: 1
Authors met in 2018: 0
Book events attended in 2018: 1 (Annie Leibowitz)
Books read in one day: 0
Books that made you cry: 0
Book reviews posted this year: 0
Most books read by one author this year: 1

Longest & shortest…
By page number: A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnel, Mary McScary by R.L. Stine (40 pages),
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: California by Jamie Jensen (640 pages)
By title: How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets For Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing by Alison Freer; Mary McScary by R.L. Stine or Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone
From buying to reading: Fatal Descent: Andreas Lubitz and the Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 by Jeff Wise (right away), Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs (6 months
)

First
Read of 2018: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: San Francisco & Northern California by Barry Parr
Series you picked up & series you quit: no series this year
Book Post of 2018: none
Review of 2018: none

Best & worst… + Favorites
Average rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars
Most disappointing & biggest pleasant surprise: A Traveler's Wine Guide to California by Robert Holmes; A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Most lenient & harshest ratings:
Fatal Descent: Andreas Lubitz and the Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 by Jeff Wise and The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants, #1) by Dav Pilkay
Best Book You Read In 2018? A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell, Mary McScary by R.L. Stine (I didn't read much that was good.)
Book that became an instant go-to recommendation: A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell, Mary McScary by R.L. Stine
Forced yourself to finish: Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs
Best series you started in 2018? I didn't start a series.
Favorite new author you discovered in 2018? iane Chamberlain
Best book from a genre you don’t typically read? all of the children's books!
Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Book You Read In 2018 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read? A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Favorite Book You Read in 2018 From An Author You’ve Read Previously: surprisingly even R.L. Stine was new to me!
Best Book You Read In 2018 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation: The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Captain Underpants, #1) by Dav Pilkay
Best 2018 debut you read? The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Hidden Gem Of The Year? How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing by Alison Freer (So many useful tips!)
Favorite cover of a book you read in 2018? A Perfectly Messed Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
Most beautifully written book read in 2017? Mary McScary by R.L Stine



Random
Book read furthest away from home (vacation reads?):

Fatal Descent: Andreas Lubitz and the Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 and Carry Her Heart (I read while at work, so not actually on vacation.)
Book that took you the longest to read: Fatal Descent: Andreas Lubitz and the Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 (5 months)
Book that you personally connected with the most: Mary McScary by R.L. Stine (I used to do what Mary was doing to her cousin to my brother! Ha!)
Book that made you love the villain: none, there weren't too many villains in the books I read
Book you said you’d come back to but still haven’t picked up again: The Curated Closet
Book you read waaaay before it’s publication date: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Book you read on your birthday: none; I read Evelyn, After closest to my birthday though.
Book you read that is red: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Starts with X, Y, or Z: none
Book you hugged when you finished it: none
Book you wanted to throw across a room (not necessarily because it was bad): How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (the main character was super annoying!)
Food you craved while/after reading a certain book: nothing?
Furthest out of your comfort zone: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Series or author’s works you binged (whether all at once or throughout the year): none. I was good and read a variety of different books/authors throughout the year.
Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read? The Curated Closet, because it was really helpful.
Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2018? The Curated Closet, The Secret Magic of Tidying Up and How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets For Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing
Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

A Traveller's Wine Guide to California by Robert Holmes
Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2017? The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Book That Shocked You The Most: Carry Her Heart by Holly Jacobs (It was so boring.)
The most memorable character of 2018? Mary from Mary McScary (HA!)
Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year: the friends in Captain Underpants (Who wouldn't want a best friend that could get into trouble with?!)
Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2018? none. I didn't like any of the couples. (Or guys.) Maybe the neighbor from Carry Her Heart just because he was so intuitive. But, after having finished the book, I just think he was too perfect. Unbelievably perfect.
Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? all of the travel guides were super helpful in planning itineraries for the places we went
Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? Mary McScary by R.L. Stine (I liked children's books this year!!)
Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry? none
Book That Crushed Your Soul? none?
Most Unique Book You Read In 2018? none. If you look at the context of my year, everything seems to fit. No one book stands out as "most unique"
Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? Evelyn, After. The main character was very dislikable.



Books & Blogging
Post with the most views (posted in 2018): Oddly enough my A-Z Laptop Update (1680 views). I wish I had been able to finish A-Z. And even more so wish I had been able to complete all of my goals for getting extra hard drives set up. I feel like my blogging kind of fell apart after May of this year.
Post you wish you could re-write: I have no idea. All of them? I was really on a roll with my A-Z posts until my laptop died, so I would probably finish those posts more than re-write another post.
Favorite review that you wrote in 2018? I didn't write too many reviews in 2018. Maybe the Maui Ocean Center? I love all of the pictures.
Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? Did we discuss anything serious on my blog? I can't even remember…

Best book-related event that you participated in? Seeing Annie Leibovitz talk about her book made me interested in actually reading it AND (bonus points!) got me interested in looking through other books she has put together. 
Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018? Editing pictures for A-Z Hawai'i. Specifically I loved the images in these posts: 1 (overhead shot of the "Pink Palace"), 2, 3.
Most Popular Posts This Year On Your Blog? (Or the ones that had the most views.)
1. Turtle Bay Resort – A Hotel Review (1045)

2. The Friday Five (975)
3. IWSG #6 (975)
4. IWSG #5 (968)
5. The Friday Five (963)

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? Either the Road to Hana post or Day One: Haleakalā Sunrise. I spent a lot of time editing the pictures in those posts.
Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? Annie Leibovitz books. Who knew she was so entertaining?
Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? YES! The GoodReads challenge. I finished 13 books out of the 12 book goal I set for myself. (Though some were children's books…)



The Upcoming Year
One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2018 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2019? ANnie Leibovitz At Work
Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2019 (non-debut)? not sure
2019 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? None. I have no idea!
Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2019? none. I don't follow series'.
One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2019? Go to more author events. It's always interesting hearing the author talk about their book(s).

A 2019 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Did you read anything particularly noteworthy in 2018? Did we read any of the same books? Do you have any book recommendations for me?