2014 Financial Review

In 2013, I wrote an all encompassing financial review which I was determined to do for 2014 as well. I wanted the chance to dig deeper into the financial posts I have been sharing for the past 24(?) months as we work to pay down debt, save as much as possible, and lean toward the possibility of owning property in the future.

Where are we?

We owe about $1000 less than we did last year.

Am I disappointed? Absolutely.

HOWEVER. We did buy a truck and go to Europe this year which took quite a bit of time to recover from. In 6 months, we managed to accrue over $10,000 extra in debt … and in that same 6 months worth of time, we paid it off plus some.

Can we do that in 2015 x 2? Could we potentially pay off $20,000 in debt before the end of the year? Or more? It would require much stricter adherence to our budget, but I believe we could do it, if that is what we set our sights on.

When you add the approximate $1,100 that is hanging out in the bank shuffle abyss somewhere, Justin and I are doing far better than we were last year at this time with regards to savings. We have improved our assets by just over 29%. I'm not sure what our goal will be for 2015 … will we continue to grow our savings? Or will we continue to pay down debt? These kinds of questions are important to think about when you realize you owe the amount of a small home in student debt. 

Honestly, this is one of my favorite charts: the comparison between spending this year and last. I'm so proud that we only spent more in 3 months this year – the 3 months we spent preparing for and in Europe (as well as buying a truck and moving). Truthfully, our spending should be down even more given where we live, but that is something I will tackle (and hopefully set right) during the month of January 2015. There is no better time to get back on track with spending. I'm looking to see our spending decrease even more in 2015. We can do it, but we have to think very seriously about where our money is going and how we want to spend it.

Our net income. (Ignore January. It's hard to have a positive net income when you haven't had any income…) Only one month this year did we spend more than we made – the month we bought a car (and probably paid for moving expenses and European travel expenses). We came close to spending too much in May, but we missed it by a small margin. Overall, we are averaging to be in the positive by about $2,000 per month. Makes sense given how much we paid off in the past 6 months. I'm grateful to see such an improvement from last year.

Last graph of the day: net worth. It's moving on up … and I'm glad. We are almost exactly where we were last year at this time … perhaps $1,000 better off. *sigh* This budgeting thing is hard. I was expecting to see some real progress. I do need to keep in mind that there is some money hanging out in the abyss though, something that's hard to do when you see numbers sitting right there in front of you that don't include the "mystery money".

Overview of the biggest impacts on our finances in 2014:
1. Three big ones come to mind – going to Europe, buying a truck, and moving all in a 4 month period. A combination of being depressed, always on the move, and having to make decisions quickly without much research took a much bigger bite out of our finances than I could have ever expected or planned for.
2. More traveling in general probably influenced our finances a lot this year. I wouldn't take it back though. I enjoyed every minute. :)
3. I received my first credit card(!) that I obtained to defer credit card interest fees. It didn't cover much, but I was thrilled to receive it all the same!
4. Justin applied for 3 credit cards and received 2. As such, his credit score increased dramatically!
5. My score decreased just as dramatically (downward) after I transferred money to my new credit card. :(
6. I started putting any money I made toward paying down credit cards which resulted in far less savings during the second half of the year.

So where were the downfalls? What went wrong this year?
1. Sticking to a budget. I admitted to saving approx. $1,000 a month, but our budget is set so that we should be able to pay off at least $2,000 a month. Imagine how differently our finances would look if we had stuck to that?!
2. Going to Europe and moving and buying a truck. Can I pretend to be German and make that one word? Because that's what it felt like. ThisThenThisThenThis allatonce. Sometimes you need a space to breathe in, time to collect your thoughts, a moment to make a decision. I felt like I lost that time between February and May.
3. Depression and stress. Disappointment in having to move added to the stress of planning a trip with people who live across the world, followed by cleaning everything, packing, traveling, and then returning to nothingness? An abyss? A black hole of time? Then losing your job right before your birthday. *sigh* No wonder I went off kilter this year. 2014 was somewhere between amazing and miserable.
4. Interest payments. Ouch. Boy did I not see this one coming. We're getting our payments down … but it certainly would be nice to be where we were last year in terms of interest payments.

What went right this year?
1. Honestly, as much stress as it caused me and despite all of the money it cost me, taking the time to travel and see friends is definitely something we did right this year. You can put no true cost on friendship. It is worth so much more than plane tickets, hotel stays, and dinners out.
2. My new job. It pays the same as my last job but I work more hours.
3. Opening a Charles Schwab account was the right decision for traveling to Europe. No transaction fees ftw!
4. Traveling to so many places. I didn't regret this in 2013, and I don't regret this for 2014 either.

So, What are our plans/goals for next year?
1. Continue paying off debt. We owe soooo much for our student loans. :(
2. Decrease the amount of interest we owe.
3. Sell things. Ebay, poshmark, bookscouter, garage sales … whatever it takes! Reduce and minimize.
4. Travel somewhere. We already know we're going to TN, NC and FL, but we may consider another trip to DC or to visit Justin's friends when they move to WA. Plus, I just saw a really good price for some tickets to CO. Can I convince Justin to go? Can we travel AND save money too?
5. Save money. We have some big expenses coming up: a car, a laptop, and a house. Will this be the year we tackle those?
6. Find a new way to make money. I've been a personal assistant, a babysitter, a graphic designer, a photo editor, a personal shopper, an auditor, and a blogger … I've worked on weekends, at night, and during the week. How else can I improve my finances?
7. Conquer the budget. No matter how many times I have to go back and start over from scratch, one day we will work everything out. One day.
8. Figure out Evolve and Serve. That would help so very much.

Are you ready to look back at your 2014 new year budget and savings goals? Is there anything you wish you had done differently? Any suggestions for me and others attempting to save and pay off debt in 2015?

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