At the end of 2015 we set goals for the upcoming year. And to track my progress on them, I have blogged almost every month to measure my achievement.Sign me up for intentional & powerful living!
This year has posed some great challenges as well as a few successes. So let’s look at these goals one final time.
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Paying an additional $835 towards our student loan debt. Save for maternity leave, a vehicle with more room, and for fixing the bathroom.
Even though our goal changed during the year, I have some news about our first goal.
WE DID IT!!!
We reached the goal of paying off half of our student loan debt! All total this year, we paid $19,218.97 and cut our student loan debt in half.
(And I just realized that we haven’t even celebrated! Better figure out what we should do to celebrate.)
If you’ve followed along, you know that this has not been easy. We did this on a single income (mine) and I worked roughly 2200 hours this year as a part-time employee (normally a full-time nurse works 1872 hours per year and part-time nurses work 1248). I spent part of the year burnt out and grumpy (to put it nicely), not to mention half the year pregnant. Henry and I have learned about our limits and when we need to reach out for help. On the brighter side, we took two trips, one flying trip to San Francisco and one driving trip from Belmont, NC to Denver, CO.
Now for the rest…
We need to save roughly $7000 before I go on maternity leave, so we have been working like crazy to try and reach that goal. For December we had a yard sale with all the stuff we’ve been clearing out (using the Kon-Mari method) and made $100 in four hours! The boys sold no bake cookies and made a few dollars as well (and then the next morning our oldest ate the plate of unsold cookies before anyone else woke up).
We put aside $1000 for the month after cutting back on expenses, picking up extra (including Henry doing some child care at church), and really being intentional with our budget. We’ve been meeting with another couple from church and using the cash method to stay on track with our spending. Henry became the “Receipt Ninja” and really stepped up at being involved with our budget (plus he was trying to be on top of things so he could make a wine bottle chandelier as my Christmas present).
None of this has been easy.
And quite frankly at times I hate it. For example, the last two years we’ve been able to go on a date due to a date night put on by those going to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. So this year, we got all dressed up, dropped the kids off and went out for dinner. But our restaurant budget for December was $128 and we’d already spent about half of that since it was over half way through the month. So when you haven’t gone on a date in a while (like months) and finally have trusted, reasonable child care you want to splurge a little, right? Yes. This is exactly what we wanted to do and as we sat in the restaurant looking at the menu, excited that we were on a date and haven’t tried much of the cuisine here in Charlotte, salivating with anticipation of our options. In my mind, I’m running through all the justifications of why we should overspend and get everything we want (a beer for Henry, appetizer, meal for each and dessert with coffee) which would put us near $60 before tip. But my heart was breaking because I knew we shouldn’t overspend. To my heart, using the entirety of our restaurant budget and then some nearly half way through the month would not allow us any family outings and I felt like I was robbing my kids. Henry even excitedly began saying, “We don’t get to do this very often, so…” and he trailed off, realizing he was trying to justify overspending as well. But looking at my face, painstakingly trying to justify overspending (and yes…even with tears in my eyes) because I knew that I couldn’t walk out of that restaurant happy about the fact that we (a) overspent and (b) wouldn’t be able to go anywhere else for a few weeks with our kids, we compromised. I shed a few tears, Henry sat silently and we decided on an appetizer, I ordered a salad, Henry ordered the fish and chips we both wanted and we split it all. We ended up spending about $40 (with tip), weren’t uncomfortably full, enjoyed each other and still went downtown to have coffee and dessert for $10. Maybe that seems ridiculous to some people, but achieving your goals does take sacrifice. Hopefully that’s what you get out of that whole story instead of a whiney, ungrateful girl who just needs to be thankful for being able to go to a restaurant. And yes, we were still able to go out with the kids one more time that month.
Reading daily for 20 minutes. For December I did not read every day. It is so hard to find time to read when you work 12.5 hours (which really translates to about 13.5-14.5 hours with drive time), plus an hour to get ready, try to sleep for 7-8hours and generally that last hour I have left is spent eating or playing with kids or just staring at facebook on my phone. Yes, I could probably plan better and read instead of be on my phone, but let’s just be honest. I want 30 minutes of selfish downtime and reading is work for me. As for the days I don’t work, I should plan better in order to have time read. Once again, I typically spend more time on my phone than I do in a book. Although, I do other things on those days like spend more time with the kids, try to help Henry with house stuff, meal plan and grocery shop.
For the year, I would say I was about 25% on this goal.
Exercise 3 times per week for 30 minutes. Once again, based on the work schedule, this sometimes happened and sometimes didn’t. Night shift makes it a little easier to workout before work since I usually can’t sleep past 4pm anyway. However, trying to wake up at 4am for day shift is tortuous. Plus for the month of December I was switching back and forth between days and nights and that just wears you out. Terrible excuses, I know, but true. Well, then again maybe not. After all, I am growing a human 24 hours a day.
an EKG a nursing related blog post each month. The last day of November was the first day of my new job in the Cardiac ICU (Dickson Heart Unit)! I’m so excited to be learning so much more about the heart and about critical care. I still had to work in Prog for my weekend holidays (yes, that means I missed all of the holidays with my family) but it was nice to work with my really great coworkers!
Travel nursing. I did nothing of substance with this goal in December or really for the whole year.
Small Group. With the recent tragic deaths at church in November and the holidays, we didn’t even have group this month. However, since I’m full-time nights instead of weekends, I was able to go to church a few times and make it to Thursday night Bible study a few times. So..for this year, I think I’m at about 75%.
Serve the City. Nope, nothing. Didn’t volunteer anywhere. We did recently start contributing to The Lorien Academy of the Arts which is a local non-profit created to benefit low-income kids. Basically, research has shown that participating in the arts (music, painting, photography, etc,) has a higher correlation with kids attempting to get themselves out of poverty than being in a sport or on the debate team or something like that. However, those are the first programs cut in schools because of funding and kids in poverty aren’t able to pursue the arts with their own money. So the Lorien was created in Charlotte to offer these kids opportunity in the arts. I was recently listening to a Freakonomics podcast titled “Is the American Dream Really Dead?” and they actually discuss that cities like Charlotte and Atlanta as some of the most difficult places for upward mobility so I am more and more convicted that helping this city needs to be more of a priority for me. Maybe you will too!
Sermon. Eh…went to church more, but didn’t listen to any additional sermons.
Traveling in the area. Nope here either. Trying to stay on budget with gas. Really, I think the only places we went this year were Asheville and then out of state. We did visit Daniel Stowe Botanic Gardens quite a few times and the Charlotte Nature Museum. We also discovered that we are really close to a river which would be fun to fish in and we explored a few of the small towns near us. Henry and the kids did visit every branch of the Gaston County Public Library in order to find all the Pokemon. 🙂 So he and the boys definitely saw a lot more of Gaston country than I did!
Simplify our house. We had a garage sale with all the stuff I couldn’t sell on eBay and then took the rest to Good Will. We made $100 and have our dresser back now! We tried to sell that too, but just couldn’t. Oh well.
As for goals in 2017, right now I feel like we are just absolutely consumed with trying to work and budget and save money before I go on maternity leave. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been blogging as much as I would have liked because I had a really frustrating time trying to get a freebie to work when people signed up for the blog. Blogging is hard. People are busy and want to read things that are relevant to them and sometimes I’m not the best at giving that. Plus, as I’ve reflected this month on what my goals are (yes, I did write out about 10 goals again for this year) I couldn’t help but wonder if I was trying to achieve too much especially with our incredibly aggressive savings goal and being pregnant and needing to work 48-60hours a week. I think the realistic answer is yes, it’s too much to add a bunch of things right now. To be fair to our family I just need to revise the goals I have down to one or two and call that good. Really, looking back at my goals, I was only able to really focus on one or two and do a good job. If you want to read more about goal setting and healthy challenges, read a few other posts.
- Failing to plan or planning to succeed in 2017
- Why it’s important to keep challenging yourself
- How to earn a $25 gift card every month
- 2016 – Making the year ours