Recently, Chris and I sat down to assess our finances and to make financial goals for 2016. Planning across an entire year felt loftier than a budget meeting and so we dubbed it a financial summit.
We compared calendars and found a time when we could sit down together for at least an hour without being interrupted by the boys. Scheduling time to talk about finances is such a great way to head off sudden and stressful conversations about money and in fact can make budgeting fun. We usually have dessert (chocolate cupcakes above baked by Chris!) or a drink, or might even go out for coffee and scones.
We started our financial summit with assessments of our 2015 financial goals and how we are doing managing our finances overall. Then we talked about what 2016 looks like for us financially. From there we talked about what's working financially, any changes we want to make and set our 2016 financial goals.
Here are the outcomes of our 2016 financial summit...
2015 was our first year working towards our 5-year goal of saving/investing $20,000 per year to enable significant financial flexibility, such as being able to pay off our mortgage. I'm thrilled to report that we made our goal and were able to invest $20,000 into our Vanguard investment account so we're 20% of the way towards our goal. There might have been a high five.
We had a few big house expenses in 2015. We had to unexpectedly replace the motor of our garage door (~$450), we had the interior of the house plus kitchen and bathroom cabinets painted ($2,500) and we had the block wall around our backyard gate rebuilt and the gate reset ($500). Unfortunately the garage door and block wall expenses were not "fun" money to spend but that's homeownership.
2015 was the first year we made a dedicated budget for gifts and Christmas. We overspent on both categories but it's a great improvement to be tracking this spending.
In 2015 we switched my cell phone service to Net on the Run which Chris had already been using (unfortunately, I don't think they are offering service to new iPhone customers at this time, but it could be worth calling to ask). This cut my cell phone bill by more than half (I was paying $70/month) and now our combined bill is $50/month. Fifty dollars per month!!
Last summer, when we had the interior of the house painted, we ditched our television and in doing so our Netflix bill and occasional iTunes movie and show purchases/rentals. I'd love to share an update soon on being television free but the summary is: love it so much, haven't missed the television at all.
Finally, last November, I was thrilled to get a 4% raise, which went into effect last month January. My paychecks increased by about $50. I decided to put all of my additional earnings into my 403(b) retirement account, a voluntary retirement account in addition to my 401(k) account, which is matched by my employer. It felt so adult to make that decision.
2016 PLANNED BIG EXPENSES
Paint house exterior + backyard block wall - $2,300. Our house is due for an exterior coat of paint and we plan to have this done in the next couple of months.
Chris's best friend's bachelor party in Tahoe/Napa + wedding in Dallas - $3,000.
Trip to New Zealand! - $2,000. Chris will be on sabbatical in the fall and plans to visit a collaborator in Christchurch, New Zealand. We're taking this incredible opportunity to make a vacation of it. Chris has some funding he will use for his flight plus we have been accumulating credit card points for about three years that we'll cash in for my plane ticket.
We initially considered taking the whole family on this trip but flying with two small boys on an 18+ hr plane trip half way around the world plus adjusting to the time change and general toddler management felt much more stressful than fun and adventurous to me. Instead, Chris and I are planning to make the trip just us (!) and be gone for about a week. We still have ALL of the planning to do for the trip; I'm half stoked and half dreading being away from the boys.
2016 FINANCIAL GOALS
Save/invest $16,000 in our Vanguard account (it's this total stock market index fund). We went into our financial summit wanting to stick to our goal of saving $20,000 each year. But when we crunched the numbers it just did not look realistic.
We felt a little bit bummed but then considered the big planned expenses we have this year - they are all things that will bring us happiness through investing in our living environment or relationships. And so we are OK with a curtailed savings goal this year. The plan is to make saving $20,000 in 2017 a top priority. To do this we will plan minimal travel and no big expenses for the house.
Stick to our birthday gift + Christmas budgets this year! One idea I have for this is to buy Christmas presents throughout the year and even to slowly accumulate gift cards, which we always give to the boys' daycare teachers, instead of buying Christmas gifts all in December.
I'd love to know what worked/didn't work for you financially in 2015 and what financial goals you have for 2016!
If you enjoy honest financial discussions like this one, tune in every other week for my podcast with Chris - Matrimoney! On the show we talk openly about our marriage, life and money plus answer listener questions. A new episode is out today and we're giving our advice to our first ever featured Matrimony listener.