Looking Ahead to the New Year

The year is almost over—what? Four days left? It seems like such a long time (and simultaneously such a short time) since I read Your Money or Your Life in January of last year, and began this whole process. It’s interesting to look over the year’s worth of data that I’ve collected, both by tracking my money and by writing three pages (almost) every morning for the whole year. My last goal of 2013 is to go through all those pages and all those tabulations to see what, if anything, I’ve learned. And then come 2014, I plan to start the whole thing over again.

December should prove to be almost as successful as November was on the savings front, that gap between income and spending. I suppose my first goal for 2014 should be to continue that trend in January. In 2013, I never went longer than two months before my spending outpaced my income, so it’d be nice to see that turn around. I suppose that ought to be my number one goal.

Technically, I already set goals for 2014 way back in October, but I’ve never been one to pass up an opportunity to review them. At least three goals on my “26 in 26” list are savings related. #6: Spend less than I earn, #19: Save for H.’s wedding, #20: Save, period, and if you include #15 Cultivate frugality and #24 Track money in/money out, at least five goals are financial.

I think my expenses have dropped in part because I’ve set aside money immediately after being paid. The first thing I do after being paid by Girl Scouts is write a check to my grandmother for 10% toward my car, and put another 10% in my savings account. When I’m paid for selling plasma, I transfer that money to my savings account in full to save for H.’s wedding. So I’ve increased my earnings, but it isn’t available to me. I wonder if in 2014, I could increase my savings from 10% of my paycheck to 20%, and what that might feel like. It wouldn’t necessarily amount to much more, say $106 twice a month instead of $53, but over time, it would be significant. And more importantly, it would be a challenge. It would stretch my financial muscles, but they’d be stronger for it and so would my bank account.

A year can bring many unexpected things, so I hesitate to make too many plans now (or rather, I hesitate to write them down). I would love to pay off my car loan from my grandmother, but rationally, I know that building up my emergency fund should be a greater priority. Unless something drastic happens, neither is likely to happen in a single year, but hey, stranger things have happened.

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