A Few Tough Questions: Finance Update 2013

I suppose it is a good time to go ahead and do a final finance update/review for the year 2013. That was one of our/my new years resolutions, and if you don't look at where you've come from and see where you are you will never know how to improve. (That's what blogs are all about, right? Improving yourself?)

As I was reading the blog Budgets Are Sexy, I just knew that I had to approach this blog post in exactly the same way. He answered two questions: What went well this year? and What did not go well this year?

Obviously, my financial goals are at a much smaller level, (i.e. I don't have any numbers that are around 330k), but I still feel these are good questions to tackle especially if you are considering expenses that you CAN control in comparison to those that you CANNOT.

Where are we?
- We currently owe about as much as we did last year. :(

- We have about the same in savings that we did last year at this time (based on memory).

You don't see the difference because I changed checking/savings accounts like 3 times or so and deleted them from Mint. (In other words, the increase you see in savings from June was money that was already in an account… it was just moved to a different account. Does that make sense?)

That is more like what our assets look like. (I took Justin's accounts out of the mix, because they don't count… and will be used to pay bills/pay down credit cards.) Please note that major expenses ONLY come from the savings account; it's not like I just spend lots of money for fun on a whim while I claim to want to save money. Often times, even if we would like more money in these accounts (there are multiple), we are frequently grateful that we have what we do and are able to cover emergencies and surprise expenses as well as we can.

- Our spending to saving ratio:

The biggest fluctuations are in the months we had the biggest expenses: car repair and plane tickets.

Overview of the biggest impacts on our finances this year:
1. In January, there were some yearly expenses we weren't (I wasn't) prepared for. Money came out of savings to pay for them.
2. New glasses were bought in March…
3. Followed by furniture, a rug, and things for the guest bedroom in April/May.
4. Then there was the camera…
5. We went on vacation in July to New York City, Boston, and Charleston…
6. but when we got back we had to pay car repair expenses in August as well as for tags (which we hadn't saved up for).
7. That same month we were approved for 2 credit cards that would hopefully help us save money (mainly interest fees).
8. We went to Chattanooga in October.
9. In November I lost my paycheck to student loans (meaning nothing was put in savings). We also bought plane tickets and went on a short trip to Asheville.

So where were the downfalls? What went wrong this year?
1. Not saving enough to cover yearly expenses. Not being prepared… or perhaps aware of where our money was going.
2. Being newly married and starting a home together. Obviously this was out of our control, but if you don't have furniture, you can't host guests. Plus, the lack of furniture makes one's home seem… unappealing and cold. You don't feel comfortable being in your own home.
3. Buying a camera so that I could photograph a wedding… and then having the lady respond that she found someone "cheaper". I should have had a signed form in my hand prior to buying the camera, but I was on a short time constraint and preparation is the key to success.
4. Needing to get my emissions done. We saved for all of the vacations, but we weren't prepared to fix my engine light or the astronomical cost associated with it when hardly anything was wrong with the car. *shrugs*
5. My mistake in purchasing plane tickets. We knew the cost was coming, but we weren't expecting me to screw up the actual purchasing of them. (Better luck next time? Learn from your mistakes and become a better person because of them?)
6. Getting used to paying with credit cards. It is CRUCIAL to stick to one's budget when paying with credit cards. Hopefully, it will save us money in the long run (interest fees, rewards).
7. Budgeting. We would improve and then get worse. It was definitely a roller coaster.

What went right this year?
1. TRAVEL! Justin and I may disagree on this, but I really had a lot of fun exploring and photographing. Our biggest vacations were saved for, and our smaller vacations weren't that expensive.
2. Getting 2 new credit cards. We did a lot of research before signing up for these, and we are glad that they have saved us money in the long run (and improved Justin's credit score).We are hoping the rewards will also benefit us and make finances easier when they come in during the early part of next year.

See how our interest payments have gone down (in a badly photoshopped graph)?

3. Having furniture. It makes it easier to host guests and enjoy our time at home.
4. Having a newer camera has made photography just a bit easier.
5. We have plane tickets to Europe!!!
6. I got a lot of odd jobs toward the end of the year making the duvet I wanted cost only $25(!!), getting a (new) Nest thermostat for $40, and allowing us to buy a few gifts for free. :)
7. Justin started biking reducing our total gas bill and getting him in shape. Unfortunately, it came with a few "upstart costs", but overall (I think) it has saved us money.
8. We reduced the cost of a few of our bills. Yay!
9. We thought ahead by buying Christmas and birthday gifts when they were on sale months ahead of time and even stocking up on things like toilet paper when it was on sale.

So, What are our plans/goals for next year?
1. Save more money. We may have random furniture purchases, but we shouldn't have quite as many as we did this year. It would be nice to end next year with extra money in our savings account.
2. Make more money/Get rid of excess "things". We have a lot of things that could be sold or gotten rid of packed away in my parent's basement.  It would not be very difficult to simply list the objects on ebay and see what happens. At the very least, we wouldn't have to worry about storage space.
3. TRAVEL! Duh! We're going to Europe to explore with some friends for 2 1/2 weeks. (Those 2 1/2 weeks were hard to come by, so I am going to take full advantage of every last second!)
4. Pay off more debt. We have at least one car repair in our future, along with travel expenses, and possibly (hopefully) a wide angle lens purchase before we travel. Can we pay down debt too? I'm hoping…
5. Focus on the food budget. It is our worst enemy.
6. … I can't come up with a #6. :-/

How have your (new year) financial resolutions worked out for you? Have you looked back yet to see what you need to work on? Or what you are happy with?

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