Our pace: what we’re not saving for

If you missed the post I wrote last week about going at your own pace, I highly recommend reading it here. It’s a good reminder for all of us.

Along the same lines, here’s an example of how Mike and I are going at our own pace.

As a young married couple, the next big step is to buy a house or at least save for one. But, during our money conversation, Mike and I decided to not save money for a house right now.

Prior to this conversation, we had been saving for a house.  That was our big goal. But at the rate we were saving, we wouldn’t be able to buy a house for quite some time, 8 years according to Mint.com.

And besides, we essentially already have a mortgage: my massive student loan debt.

Right around this time I found personal finance guru Dave Ramsey (thanks, Words of Williams!) and started listening to his daily radio show and did a little bit of reading on his website. And I got motivated to pay down my student loans. I couldn’t wait to get my debt snowball rolling.

So as we walked to meet friends for dinner, I suggested this to Mike.  That instead of saving for a down payment, we start putting extra money toward my student loans each month. And Mike agreed. He said he’d been thinking something similar.

As we walked through the city we discussed that we could probably stay in an apartment for another few years and that we probably won’t need or want a yard until our kids are 5 or 6 (which, since they’re not born yet is still quite a bit away).

Our money will add up so much more quickly against my student loans (bye-bye compound interest) than it would in a savings account.  So not only will we feel like we’re succeeding at this goal as we pay off some of the smaller loans but we’ll also be saving ourselves money in the long run.

When we’re ready to buy a house, we’ll have more money to put aside for a down payment because the monthly payments on the loans will be less (and hopefully we’ll make more money each year) and we’ll be more motivated to do it when we feel like it’s in our reach.

So–here we are–a newlywed couple that’s not saving for a house. Probably a little odd.  But we couldn’t be happier with this status.  It feels great that we’re going at our own pace.

Another bonus of this decision is that if we’re not saving for a house, we don’t have to decide where said house will be–something that we felt a lot of pressure to figure out.

I’d love to know:

How are you going at your own pace?

Household organization

My focus for January is household organization because I’ve been feeling unorganized and not on top of things for the past few months (thanks bed bugs!). We had our last bed-bug treatment on January 3, so this focus is fitting and timely. And what a great way to start a new year.

Organized Space

My best friend Amanda came down the weekend after the treatment and helped us put all of our belongings back in their homes. Without her, it would’ve taken Mike and I days to put everything back and it would’ve remained unorganized even after things were in their places. It can be so paralyzing to make decisions about your own things and I can get totally lost in the weeds over-analyzing where things should go.  But as I combed through all of our belongings making decisions on what should stay and what should go, Amanda found homes for them in our closets, on our desk, and in our bookshelf. I honestly couldn’t believe how organized things were when she was done.  She just has an eye for this sort of thing. (I told her she should start a side business to make some extra money while she’s in law school.)

Our space is organized (minus our bedroom, we decided to let the treatment sit for an additional week), and I’d like to keep it that way so I’ve paid special attention to putting things back where they belong.  I’d also like to keep our apartment clean.

Clean Space

To be honest, I’ve never been great about keeping our place clean.  Aside from dishes and laundry, cleaning has never been super high on our priority list. We’d both clean the apartment but not on a regular basis. It was just something we never thought about, until things got so gross that one of us got fed up and decided to do something about it.

To get us organized I made a Cleaning Checklist and taped it to the wall in our kitchen.  This way we’ll both remember what needs to be done and if we have some time we can tackle one of the items on the list.  Honestly, each of the tasks on the list takes 20 minutes tops and I’d rather spend 20 minutes here and there than an entire afternoon on a weekend cleaning. I proposed we adapt the Williams’ 10-minute rule but it hasn’t caught on just yet.  Next week is the first week this month that our schedules aren’t crazy so maybe we’ll pick it up then. But even 10 minutes a few times a week is better than what we were doing before.

Money in order

The other aspect of our household that we wanted to get organized was our finances.  We had a nice conversation about our money and then on January 1 we sat down and worked out a new budget. Then I posted a tracker on the wall in our kitchen to track variable expenses throughout the month.  And so far, we’ve stuck to our budget! I think just having the awareness helped.  I’m not sure we’re necessarily spending differently than we did in the past but we’re more on the same page about where we are with our budget, what’s been spent, etc.

Still to do

In the last week and a half of the month, we’ll get our bedroom cleaned and organized, I’ll look through our apartment for things to purge, add them to the pile above, (inspired by Jess’ challenge, I’m hoping to get rid of 100 items), and then get them out of our home either by freecycling, donating, giving to friends, or trashing.

I’d love to know:

How’s your January? 

Do you ever feel not-on-top-of-it when it comes to household/personal tasks?

Resolutions: set yourself up for success

On Friday, I shared my 2012 resolutions and my 2012 resolutions spreadsheet. When deciding on my resolutions, I thought about my intentions for this year and what I wanted to achieve and then thought about what steps I could do to make them be my reality this time next year.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions or goals yet? It’s not too late, you know. But I’m sure you don’t want them to be like this:

If you haven’t made your 2012 resolutions yet (or if even if you have), here’s some tips to help you set them (or revise them) to set yourself up for success.

When writing resolutions or setting any type of goal you want it to be SMART:

Specific–make the goal something very specific

Measurable–make the action item something you can quantify

Attainable–you want a goal that is actually within your reach

Realistic–set goals that you know you can meet or are just a bit of a stretch

Time-bound–set a time frame for your goal

For example: If your intention for 2012 is to lose weight, you’ll want to set SMART resolutions that support that intention coming true. So instead of saying “go to the gym” a SMART goal would be go to the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes. This is

Specific–saying what you will do for how long and how often

Measurable–you can say whether or not you achieved this

Attainable–if you have a gym membership or means to get one this would be attainable

Realistic–3 times a week is do-able whereas every day may not be

Time-bound–there’s a time period in which to measure this.

And that’s that. Then you go on working toward it.

I’d love to know:

What are your SMART resolutions or goals for 2012, this month, or this week?

If you want help setting smart goals, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at thingsafterrings@gmail.com. I’m happy to help.

Resolutions 2012

I’m sure my friends will find it hard to believe that I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution before.  I’m a pretty goal oriented person and I’m all about making myself better so you’d think New Year’s resolutions would be right up my alley. But it’s true, I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution before.

For some reason I’m really excited for 2012.  I think it’s going to be a really good year and I’m excited to see what opportunities it brings, and what I can accomplish this year.  But I want to play a part in what the year holds and what my life will look like on January 1, 2013.  Last weekend I used my Saturday morning to draft a letter to myself in which I described exactly what I want my life to be this time next year. I used the intentions I described in my letter to form my 2012 resolutions.

My 2012 Resolutions

  • Contact each member of my family once per week
  • Entertain once per month
  • Two HH/lunch with girlfriends per month
  • Contact two out of town friends per week
  • Go shopping twice per month
  • One item off blog to-do list per month
  • Do something toward my future business once per month
  • Stick to weekly/monthly cleaning schedule (more on that later)
  • Put extra money to my lowest student loan each month
  • One date night per month
  • One item of love-to/mean-to list (a list of things that I’d love to do or have been meaning to do and just haven’t done yet)

There they are!  I’m excited for these.

None of my resolutions are earth shattering, at least I don’t think so.  But in meeting each of these resolutions I will be a little bit happier. And isn’t that what resolutions are all about?

I’d love to know:

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  What are your resolutions for 2012?

 

PS–I’ve created a spreadsheet to track my resolutions throughout the year:

Resolutions Spreadsheet

Thanks to my friend Jen for that idea. I modeled my resolutions spreadsheet after hers.

Stronger

This video has been playing at my gym recently and I really enjoy it.  It reminds me why I go to the gym and makes me feel empowered.

I hope you’ll be inspired by it…

So fill in the blank and tell me:

I’m stronger than ________. 

My answer: I’m stronger than SAD–Seasonal Affective Disorder.

i lasted 5 minutes

i lasted 5 minutes on the stairmill this morning.  well it was more like 2.5 and i pushed myself to get through 5 before i got off. i’d been kind of eyeing this machine for a little while now, wanting to give it a whirl and when i walked in this morning with a plan to zone out on the elliptical, i thought eh, why not?  holy cow did my butt and legs hurt and my heart was pumping.  which is a good thing.  i do love a good cardio session in the morning–when you can really feel your heart working and get to the point of breathless.  i didn’t love the burn enough to continue for the 20 mins i set originally so i jumped off after 5 mins and moved to the elliptical. i’m glad i challenged myself a little bit this morning.  i now have a new fitness goal: work my way up to 10 mins on the stairmill.

tell me:

is there a machine at the gym that really gets your heart pumping?  is there a machine that is super tough for you?

hello september

september still reminds me of school days.  of waiting for the bus on a chilly morning, football games on brisk nights, after-school snacks, new teachers and classes, and the excitement of a new year.  i’m hoping to take those feelings into this month as i look to my september goals.

marriage

  • go on two dates (i think this may be a monthly goal.)
money
  • keep detailed record of my spending
career/education
  • start prep for GRE/GMAT by looking up words in my list of words i don’t know
blog
  • write and publish things after the rings about page
miscellaneous these are more to-do’s than goals but whatev.
  • choose photos for wedding album and place order
  • post favorite wedding photos on facebook
  • go shopping three times  (i’m going to be screwed when fall comes and i have two pairs of pants.  this is to support a larger goal of developing a wardrobe.)

___________________________________________________

  • what memories or feelings does september bring to you?
  • what are your goals for september?

update: august goals

i’m  making progress on my august goals.

marriage

mike and i cooked for his parents on friday night and made two new dishes from the williams sonoma bride & groom cookbook.  we made broiled shrimp with parsley garlic butter (huge hit, but super gross to prepare) and blueberry fool (delicious but would’ve been better if i’d whipped the cream longer). it was really fun to entertain in our new apartment.  yes, we’ve been hosting a bunch recently but we haven’t really entertained.  you know, full meal, wine, dessert, the works.  feeding people does something for my soul.  i absolutely love it. 

we’ve been on one date so far.  we walked to thomas sweet, an icecream and sweet shop in georgetown and talked the whole way there.  it was low-key but so nice to enjoy a summer night and conversation with each other.

looking forward to our next date night, though it has yet to be planned.

fitness

i tried on some sneakers at lunch today.  i think i’m going back for these on tuesday or wednesday.

then maybe i’ll be inspired to get into a gym routine.  though to be honest, i’ve been feeling the repercussions of not getting to the gym regularly: anxious, butterflies, emotional, mind racing.  no good.  must get to the gym.  starting tomorrow.

home

i’ve made a list of all the things we’re getting rid of and how we’ll do it.  now just have to post them to the appropriate sites.

as for the chore list, yeah, about that…well i guess we do laundry on sundays and maybe clean the bathroom on mondays fridays. 

happy august

it’s august? wow. where has summer gone?  it’s been a fun and busy summer, though the recent heat makes me yearn for fall, for the crisp in the air, fall foods and drinks, and to see the beautiful tree outside our window change color. but summer is not over yet and i have a fun and busy august ahead.  here are my goals for this month:

marriage

  • two date nights
  • try three new recipes together

fitness

  • set meeting with trainer
  • find a new gym routine
  • get new sneakers

home

  • set weekly chore calendar
  • sell, donate, toss items we’ve set aside

what does your month look like?  what do you hope to do this month? here’s to a happy, productive august.