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Q3 Review: 2013 Goals

This has been an interesting year so far. I wasn’t sure how I thought I was going to increase my salary, while decreasing my freelance workload… but I thought I could figure it out. Clearly, based on my results so far below, it hasn’t worked out in my favour.

What I have learned is how much I’m enjoying having free time. My schedule is still busy, but not working until 2am every evening has helped me achieve many goals this year, as well as strengthened friendships with people that are really important to me. Field hockey has become a bigger part of my life again (playing 3-4 times/week), and I’m finally starting to run the distances that I’ve always wanted to run. So, I think I’ve hit the right balance in terms of work/play, but I’m missing the income generated from work/work. :)

Anyway, below is my progress so far on my annual goals.

Financial

  • Earn $85,000 to $90,000NEEDS WORK. This goal is fading, and fading fast. Realistically, I don’t think I’m going to make this goal. I scaled back my freelancing and blogging a lot this year. Still. I did pick up a few freelance writing contracts – including a couple of feature pieces for the Toronto Star – so that will help. But I think I’ll end up around $75,000.
  • Put an extra $2,500 onto the mortgageON TRACK. I lost one month of increased payments because the bank took a long time to process my request, and then they couldn’t do it until the billing cycle lined up properly. But I’m back on track and averaging around $220 extra each month.
  • Save $16,000 in my Retirement PortfolioNEEDS WORK. I just increased my auto deductions, and am looking to ramp them up again for next year… but because I was so far off my income target, this was the one category that suffered.
  • Diversify my investments. CHECK! Go, Questrade!
  • Start contributing to charity. CHECK! I’ve decided to contribute monthly to WaterCan.

Personal

  • Go on one big tripCHECK! I’ll be headed to Morocco at the end of October for about 2 weeks, and am really looking forward to it. I’ve budgeted just over $2,000 for the trip (which includes a 10-day group tour with Intrepid Travel), which I think should be more than enough.
  • Run in a half marathon and two 10km racesCHECK! I’ve already run two 10km races (with a PB of 49:59), and have two half marathon races coming up – one this coming long weekend in Victoria, and another one in late November in Stanley Park.
  • Take a French language classFAIL. Since Nic and I broke up, I’m less interested in learning French. But that being said, I do still think it’s a valuable skill to have – especially in the industry that I’m in. There are so many jobs that require a second language… so perhaps I should make this more of a priority next year.

Professional

  • Invest in a grown-up wardrobeCHECK! Since realizing how much I’ve actually spent so far this year on my wardrobe, I’ve drastically reduced my shopping. That being said, I’m still happy with everything I’ve purchased and I think I look a lot more professional.
  • Read 6 marketing books. ON TRACK. Okay, technically I’ve only read one book on social media. But I think that since I’ve been watching a lot of business and marketing-related documentaries, they should count for something. Right? Right.
  • Scale back my freelancingCHECK! Do you love how one of the only goals I’ve actually completely achieved so far this year is my goal of doing less? :P I do think I need to step up my freelancing a little bit (because my lofty financial goals have suffered as a result), and I’ve started bringing my hours back up… but it’s a bit too late for that now. I’m going to have to seriously evaluate what I want for next year.

Spending Recap: September 23-29, 2013

Monday 23rd – Toronto
$26.78 lunch
$3 transit
$8.20 dinner

Tuesday 24th
+ $798.75 freelance income
$45.87 groceries

Wednesday 25th
No Spend Day!

Thursday 26th
$121.53 Origins Skincare

Friday 27th
$49.80 hair cut
$110.74 Lululemon

Saturday 28th
$4.10 coffee

Sunday 29th
$31.83 Home Restaurant

Freelance Income: + $798.75
Expenses- $402.85

TOTAL: + $395.90

I splurged a little bit this week on a hair cut, as well as running tights from Lululemon. I bought the cropped version earlier in the year, and love them. They’re the only company I know of that makes running tights with thigh pockets – and I consider that an essential feature now that I’m so used to having them. Anyway they were a bit pricey, but I’ll be wearing them at least 3x/week during the winter, so I think it’s worth the price tag.

Speaking of running… my first half marathon is in less than two weeks!!! :| I’m confident I’ll be able to run the entire thing, but a bit nervous about how fast I’ll be able to run it. We’ll see… if anything it’ll give me a good idea of how much I’ll need to train for my next half marathon at the end of November.

How was your week of spending?

 

October 2013 Goals

October is my favourite month of the year. The weather has cooled down, field hockey season is in full swing, and I get to celebrate my birthday (or not celebrate, depending on how old I feel, haha). And this month is going to be even more exciting because I’m finally going traveling again – even if it’s only for 3 weeks.

10 - October Budget

October 2013 Goals:

  • Run in my first half marathon. That’s my official goal. My unofficial goal is to run this in under two hours.
  • Stick to my travel budget. I’m really, really hoping I can do this. It’s going to be a different experience though, being on a tour. When I was traveling with Nic, we were both relatively frugal. Now that I’ll be with different people, I might have to choose between being frugal, and being social. Still, I took a look at the itinerary, and I know which activities I’d be willing to pay money for, and which ones I’m not interested in. There’s obviously flexibility around this, but I have no problem exploring on my own either.
  • Post on this blog 3x/week. There are a lot of draft posts I’m working on, so hopefully I can finish them off and have posts scheduled for when I’m traveling. I’m also trying to revive The Frugal Wanderer. I haven’t paid much attention to it this year, but when looking back at the posts, I forgot how fun it was to write there. So we’ll see.
  • Earn $2,000 in freelance income. Not impossible, but I’m really going to have to stay on top of my e-mails.
  • Increase my RRSP contributions. Self-explanatory.

September 2013 Goals: Review

Well, I was under budget this month. This was a bit unexpected, but I attended a conference for 4 days (where all food was provided), and then was gone to Toronto for 5 days. So, because of that my grocery expenses were down, I was too busy to be super social, and I also didn’t drive that much.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to stay under budget for October as well. It should be doable, since I’ll be spending 18 days traveling – and 8 of those days I’ll be traveling for work, so the majority of my expenses will be paid for. Anybody have any travel tips for Lyon, France? Also, do you think I can somehow claim macarons as a business expense? :P

Anyway, here are my results from last month:

09 - September Recap

Over Budget:

  • Clothing – I bought a pair of cold weather running tights from Lululemon.
  • Travel – went a little bit overboard on my spending in Toronto for #CPFC13, but for the most part I kept my spending under control. :)
  • Personal Care – this included renewing my skincare products (I use Origins, if you’re curious), as well as a desperately needed hair cut.

Net Worth Change+ $1,283 (+ 1.49%)

September 2013 Goals:

  • Run 120 km. FAIL. I injured my foot a few weeks ago at field hockey practice, and it still hasn’t fully healed. It isn’t serious enough for me to stop exercising at this point, but if it gets any worse, I’m going to have to serious reevaluate my fitness goals this year. Deep in the back of my mind, I’m pretty sure it’s a stress fracture. But I’ll be going to see my doctor soon for an evaluation. As a result of this injury, I only ran 75km this month.
  • Earn $2,000 in extra income. PASS. I only got paid $1,495.64, but I would have made an extra $1,500 if I had actually been paid on time by some of my clients. So I’m giving myself a pass, because I know I’ll get that money in the next week or so.
  • Bring my lunch to work Monday-Thursday. FAIL. I bought my lunch two extra times this month. Whoops!
  • Stay on budget while in Toronto. FAIL. I had budgeted $150 for the 5 days I was there, but ended up spending $176.98. Although to be fair, I had decided not to go to the Blue Jays game (Thursday’s conference social event). But at the last minute, I decided to go (albeit I missed the beginning of the game). The ticket was $25, and if I hadn’t gone, I would have been almost exactly on budget. Still, it was worth it.
  • Get my business cards printed in time for CPFC13. CHECK! Although I kind of screwed up and I think the type is too small for the pulp paper I chose. Still debating whether to keep them, or print them again with a bolder font. :|

This is why your budget doesn’t work

My story is probably similar to yours: I didn’t create my first budget until I was 22 years old and halfway through college. I always knew I had to make one, but the process seemed overwhelming and I didn’t know how to even start. I knew I was spending more than I was making, but I didn’t have the discipline to stop, or the energy to figure out a way to make my situation better. So I kept chugging along, going deeper and deeper into debt.

During my last year of college, when I knew graduation and “real life” were just around the corner, I tried to create a student budget that I thought was realistic – but it failed. I’d get frustrated with myself, adjust the numbers, and fail over and over again. After a few months, I gave up. I ignored my bank statements and didn’t try budgeting again until I graduated with over $20,000 in debt.

When I look back at why my budget kept failing, I realized it was for four specific reasons:

No knowledge of past spending habits

It’s pretty hard to create a realistic budget if you don’t have anything to measure your numbers against. If you’ve got no clue about how much you spent on restaurants or entertainment last month, how will you be able to spend less next month? It seems like common sense to me now, but back then, I didn’t have a clue.

The basics of budgeting begins with figuring out how much money you will have for the month (your income), dividing it up based on what you want to do with it, then tracking where your money actually goes.

A budget is supposed to provide guidelines and goals to strive for, and when you’re accurately recording your spending habits – whether it’s in a simple spreadsheet, or with budgeting tools like Mint or Quicken – the numbers don’t lie.

I had never saved receipts before, or recorded my spending habits, so when I went to build my budget, I started arbitrarily plugging numbers into the spreadsheet that sounded reasonable to me. I had no idea that the $100 I thought I spent on groceries each month was actually closer to $250. And the $20 I thought I spent at Starbucks?Well, that number was actually closer to $50.

Related: Can you feed yourself for $100/month? 

No defined goals

Most people budget because they want to achieve a financial milestone – like paying down their debt faster, saving for a down payment, or making a big purchase. While these are great goals to have, they aren’t specific enough to be truly motivating. Sure, I’d love to pay down debt and get ahead, but what do you actually need to do in order to achieve those goals?

For example, instead of creating a specific goal like, “I want to save an extra $100 per month to put into an Emergency Fund,” or “I need to pay down my debt by $300 each month,” I just knew I wanted to stop going further into debt, and didn’t take it any deeper than that. So without defining a way to get me there, I ended up lost. And my goal of stabilizing my debt (while I was still in school) remained a distant dream.

Quitting too soon

I stopped using my budget midway through my third month. I spent weeks creating a budget and kept track of the money coming in and going out of my bank account. But I was always going over my budget, and constantly spending more than I was making. It was frustrating not being able to see results, so I took the easy way out – I quit.

However, budgeting – much like exercising – takes time to see real results, and I was too impatient. I wanted to see immediate, concrete evidence that my efforts were paying off. For some reason, I had it in my head that I could eliminate my debt just as easily as I accumulated it. :) But at that point, I hadn’t even figured out how much my average income was each month. And I also hadn’t taken the time to identify what areas I was constantly going over on my budget. If I had just taken an extra step or two to average out my numbers and figure out a way to decrease my spending in the categories I was constantly going over, I likely would have seen improvement over the following few months.

Related: How much is your car costing you?

Not realizing what a budget is meant to do

I saw budgeting as a restriction; a way to stop me from having fun. I knew I had to do it, but I wasn’t happy about it, and because of that, I had a really bad attitude.

I didn’t understand that the purpose of budgeting was to help me manage my money so that I could have even more fun with my life. And once I realized that my debt (and my unsustainable lifestyle) was going to always hold me back from achieving the goals that I wanted for myself (like home ownership, travel, and potentially starting a family), it finally clicked. A budget wasn’t about deprivation, it was about empowerment! By choosing where my money went, and living below my  means, I was creating a better future for myself.

What do you think is the hardest part about creating (and sticking to) a budget?