Why I’m No Longer Making Long-Term Goals

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Spending time watching her ballet class is more important than thinking about how much we’d save by not paying for class at all.

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a post outlining my (our) goal to pay off $70,000 in just 36 months. We’re actually in a position to keep on going with this plan too but I’ve now decided to stop. kind of. Let me explain.

Our main financial goal in life (right now) is to still work on this debt and get it paid off in a timely manner but as I’ve discovered in the last 16 months since writing that post, life fluctuates and plans have to change. Obviously this isn’t new news to me, but understanding the concept, and living the concept, are two different things. It’s taken me a few months but I’m finally ok with accepting that it is in fact ok to work on more than one goal in life.

When I wrote the post I was only focused on the end result, being non-mortgage debt free, and quite honestly I didn’t care, or take time to consider all of life’s circumstances that will happen within that 36 month period. Now that we’re almost half way through our 36 months, I can see we’re coming to a crossroads in the near future in terms of our finances and how we manage them.

We’re moving into a territory of working towards multiple goals at once. When I first realized that we’d be deviating from our plan I actually felt bad. Like I was failing someone and honestly, that’s just dumb. I also realized that, especially with a kid, life is easier to manage in short-term goals.

Some people thrive on focusing solely long-term goals, but, I have discovered, I am the opposite. Long term goals consume me and I don’t enjoy the associated stress. I find myself wishing time away which, to me anyway, is not ideal. I have never had a year (2015) go so fast in my life. While it was a culmination of things, a huge reason was that I wished the year away until November when I knew we’d be getting that loan paid off. Not a big deal to some, but I want to start living in a more present state.

When I started working on my 2016 budget last month, my goal was to complete it until December 2016. Just as I like to view a whole month calendar when planning anything, I like my budget done for 12 months minimum to see the numbers all laid out. I changed my mind though. I’m only doing my budget for no more than six months at a time.

When I was doing 12 months in advance there were simply too many unknowns. I would set an end of year goal, and fixate on it. I would play with the spreadsheet and see what, and how, the goal would happen but more often than not, it wouldn’t and I’d be left feeling crappy. I’d ‘predict’ a cost (say soccer fees or car appointment) only to find out it’s actually hundreds more than I anticipated and I’d let it ruin my whole budget.

Our income varies. My husband’s pay is pretty much set but my can be all over the place. If I took a day off work (unplanned, kid sick or storm day sort of thing, without pay) I was cashing out vacation pay to make sure I would have that income target I put in my spreadsheet, like nine months prior. This isn’t real life for me. We make enough money that if I miss a day or two unplanned, an unpaid day off won’t kill us, but because I had these large goals, I was sacrificing things like actual, necessary, vacation days with my family to meet our financial goals. I need more balance.

My only ‘goal’ of 2016 is to learn how to live more in the moment. Good and bad. 2016 is shaping up to be a great year. A real vacation. Milestone birthdays. A new baby in our close circle of friends. A family wedding (and all associated planning!). I don’t want to write a post in January of 2017 describing how I feel like I missed it all.

Even in over 700 words I feel like I can’t quite describe what I’m trying to say. We still have general long-term plans like eventually start investing but because we’re not yet in a position yet to do so I’m not going to allow myself to feel bad about not reaching a goal date.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Today is my absolute favorite day of the entire year. I’ll be spending the next few days neck deep in all that is Christmas. I’m excited to see how Maria is tomorrow morning (hyped up beyond words I expect). I hope everyone has an amazing Christmas spending quality time with those who you love. Merry Christmas!wp-1450664770807.jpg

Thank You Toddler TV For Teaching that New Isn’t Always Better!

peppa carThis past weekend as mommy was nursing a bit of a Christmas cheer hangover, kiddo and I cuddled up on the couch to watch a little TV. Maria has a few of her favorite shows and most of them I don’t mind, but there are some really, really terrible shows geared at young kids. Some so bad I have to wonder how they ever got approval to air. Anyway, while we were watching a marathon episode of one of her favorite shows, Peppa Pig (which, unfortunately has taught her to start talking in a British accent) I became suddenly interested.

The episode was about the little pig family spending the day together and deciding to go for a drive in the family car. When the family piles into the car the kids comment on how much they love their family car, just in time for the car to break down and stop working. The family drops the broken car off at the garage and the mechanic gives them a ‘’brand new car’’ to drive while he fixes theirs for the day.

The family is intrigued with all that the new rental car offers. They love the fancy buttons that their old car doesn’t have and are having fun driving around in it…until it starts raining and they can’t figure out how to put the convertible top back up, causing everyone to get soaked. At the end of the day, they drop the rental car back off and pick up their car. The kids immediately note how much they enjoy their ‘’old car’’ and that, after their experience that day, realize they don’t need a new one despite how nice and shiny it was.

The other point that the show touched on was that new isn’t always better. This is something I also try and live by. The ‘’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it rule’’. When Maria does come to us and say she wants something (often a new toy, and often similar to things she already has), we try and have her understand why she doesn’t need it furthering the discussion between wants and needs. It’s ok to want things, we all do, but to a three year old, everything is on a level of need.

This is a lesson that is really hard for kids to learn. I see it in my own daughter too. Though she has things which she loves, there are times she wants more or wants something new, often unnecessarily. This issue is magnified this time of year. The new, shiny and better things are everywhere, tantalizing everyone, children especially. It is nice to have a show, geared at the youngest of kids demonstrating to be happy with what you have. Thank you Peppa and George.

How Do You Decide on a Christmas Budget?

wpid-20141201_222038.jpgI’ve mentioned before that we essentially don’t have a budget but rather monitor our money. The only case this is not true would be Christmas. We make a detailed budget and stick to it. It usually starts with me figuring out a total dollar amount and then dividing it up how we see fit. Like any budget we start with the ”fixed” or non-negotiables like buying a tree from a local farmer and fit in everything else, like hosting a Christmas party.

Our Christmas budget hasn’t changed that much since we’ve been married or, initially with having a kid either. She’s the only ”baby” in the family and well taken care of, especially during the holidays. Being so young she also wasn’t very ”into” Christmas, but this is changing. There’s no more pretending Santa doesn’t yet exist, ignoring when she voices that she wants something, and the fact that we want to do more during the season, as a family. What I’m saying is that this is the first year our Christmas budget has been increased in a while  (though still very modest in my mind) and I’m not entirely sure how to balance it out.

I Love Tradition

As my sister and I got older, experiences soon replaced gifts. Instead of many gifts, we’d do very few, and my mom would take us to the local theater on Christmas eve to watch the Christmas play then we’d go home for a nice family dinner. I loved it and am very much looking forward to creating similar traditions with my family.

Maria loves dance. There isn’t a doubt in my mind she wouldn’t love seeing a local professional production on The Nutcracker, one of my favorite plays too. It is this kind of thing that I want to start budgeting in every year. While almost all of my Christmas traditions cost little to no money, this is one I would like to add in as a regular and will thus need to find the money in our budget.

Santa

I know everyone has a different feeling about this topic. I personally love Santa. I love how excited kids get when talking about him and have a ton of fun with it as a parent. Last year we gave her a gift from Santa and it was very much a ”oh that’s nice???” semi confused reaction. She didn’t quite get it. Now she definitely does. She wants to write a letter. She knows to will ask for something and potentially get it. For a few reasons, I like the idea of one or two Santa gifts only. Not only does this put a limit on things it also gives her a reasonable expectation for what Santa can do. I never want her to write a list and expect to get it all, this isn’t realistic in most avenues of life.

Given that our budget for her has been very small, we’re now at a point that realistically we need to increase it a bit. We will still be very modest in our gift giving with her (not the focus of the season for us), but we need more than we have in our old budget.

Some people spend $0.00 on gifts and that is 100% fine. We’ve gone through years where we haven’t exchanged (at least with each other) and been fine with it at the time. Though Christmas will always be Christmas even without the gifts, there is a part of me who gets genuine joy with the exchange of a gift. Again I think we’re already pretty modest in our budget but now we need to sit down and get comfortable with a new budget. It will force us to sit down and figure out how we want to experience it all.

How do you decide how your budget will get broken down? What are your non-negotiables?