The end of the year signals a sort of finality of opportunities lost. But, as we look forward toward the new year, it presents itself as a chance to try again. And we think to ourselves: maybe I’ll do it better this time! For me, looking back over 2017 and the struggles my husband and I faced, we are both welcoming 2018 with open arms.
One of the great things about new beginnings is you can draw from past experiences. I’ve had years where our finances went smoothly and we accomplished great feats of paying down our debt!
And then there are years like this one where I’m left wondering what happened.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
Since I don’t want to bore you (or make you really sad), I’ll give you the cliff-notes version of our year of strife.
As we entered the first few months of 2017, my husband Andrew and I were still reeling from the devastating news of our miscarriage. This was the second one in a mere six months time.
(The good news is we hit our health insurance deductible within the first eight days of the new year! We gotta find the humor in it all, right?)
Just as we were recovering from that, my husband was hit with news of a blood clot. Not just your ordinary blood clot but one that extended from his knee, through his thigh, and into his pelvis. Needless to say, we were terrified.
He was in the hospital for a week and got to go home on Easter Sunday.
Five weeks after that, he was back in the hospital for a week for the same thing. (Which, if you’re counting, means we were there for Easter and Memorial weekend, too). This time they found more complications (in addition to his Factor V blood clotting disorder).
Since then (knock on wood), our lives have mellowed out and there haven’t been any new medical catastrophes.
Home Sweet Home
Somewhere in there, we decided it would be a good idea to move. Buying a new (bigger) home has been one of our big financial goals for the past four years. Our only goal of paying down debt and saving money has been to make that dream come true.
Again, it was a giant mess but I’ll give you the cliff-notes version haha.
We found a beautiful home to buy and listed our current home as a for-sale-by-owner. I figured since I do real estate copywriting professionally, I could write a description to sell our house in a hot minute. (Even though the bank and our real estate agent friend told us it would take forever to sell.)
We had a signed offer for our house in four days. FOUR FREAKIN’ DAYS!
And then the deal on the house we picked out fell through and, since we had already sold our house, we were scrambling. Thank goodness for parents! We packed everything we owned in boxes and moved in with my parents for three months until we finally found our dream home.
Everything on that house went through without a hitch, so it must have been meant to be! My husband, daughter, dog, and I are in love with our new home.
Debt We Paid in 2017
With all the extra medical expenses, paying the costs associated with buying and selling a house (including all the inspections and a huge down payment!), we didn’t do very well on our getting-out-of-debt goals.
But we accomplished our goal of buying a new home, which we thought would take a few more years to get to!
First, I’ll share with you our debt-payoff numbers from 2015 and 2016. That way you know we’re really capable of being financially responsible (but it will also prove just how lousy we did financially in 2017).
Our starting debt balance in January of 2015 was a whopping $101,641. And that didn’t even include our mortgage – that’s just credit cards, student loans, and two car loans.
In 2015 we hit it hard and paid off $16,710.
We did really well in 2016, too, paying off $13,255.
So how’d we do in 2017?
I’m embarrassed to admit that we only paid off $3,504. I’m not even going to justify it with excuses. I mean, yeah, we bought a house and had a TON of extra medical expenses… but 2018 has to be better.
Financial Goals for 2018
Going into 2018, our current debt balance is $70,445. And, with our big flop this year, Andrew and I are more motivated than ever to get our debt-payoff-plan back on track. But before we can figure out how to achieve our goal, we have to figure out what our goals are.
If you haven’t set up your financial goals yet, ask yourself: what’s important to me this year?
Maybe it’s paying off student loans, increasing your retirement contributions, or maybe you’re ready to finally start a budget!
If you’re married or in a relationship, sit down with your partner and have a money-talk. Andrew and I do this often — we have a big “money meeting” in December to recap our year and plan our next year’s goals, then go over our budget once a month (at least).
(And if you need some extra guidance on managing money as a couple, check out my e-book 5 Days to Financial Freedom: A Guide for Couples!)
There are two ways to set your goals for 2018.
First, you can strip your spending to the bare bones and see how much extra you could have each month if you really worked at it. And then you can make plans for that money (paying it toward debt, stashing it in savings, or something else entirely).
Or, you can dream up your big goals and work extra hard to make them a reality.
This year, we went with the second method. We know we need to refill our emergency fund, so that’s a no-brainer. And, with my blogger’s conference this year being in Orlando, we’re bringing the whole family (well, just my husband, daughter, and me). And we’re doing Disney World while we’re there!
Taking our daughter to Disney has been my dream since she was born! And I’m so excited to finally have the opportunity (even though she’s practically a teen now lol).
And, since our debt payoff was terrible this year, we want to double that. I have no idea where the money will come from to reach these goals, but we’re going to give it the ol’ college try!
So, here you have it. Our money goals for 2018:
- Refill our emergency fund
- Cash flow our trip to Orlando
- Double the amount of debt we pay off next year
- Fully fund our Christmas club account
Just between you and me, I don’t think all of those goals are attainable. But our year has been so terrible that I have to set high goals to help get myself motivated!
So here goes nothing!