Saving $12,000 in Seven Months for Travel

By Monday, August 11, 2014 42 No tags Permalink

I love the beginning of the month. It’s when interest accumulates on high interest savings accounts, all of my payments come through, and it’s also budget and goal review time.

My goals for 2014 have been far too easy to reach. I’ve already promoted myself by going for a promising job opportunity; I’ve surpassed my online earnings goal each month of the year; my goal of remaining unplugged for at least one hour of quality time with the husband per day has been surpassed and my weight is dropping nicely and is in line with my goal to lose 15 pounds in 2014.

I’m nothing if not future oriented, and my theme for 2015 is all about travel.

save $12,000

My job is temporary, so I am not tied down. At the end of my contract, I am free to travel for a little while. My travel plans for the new year hopefully include a trip to the New England states, an extended trip to South America, and hopefully another to Europe or the UK.

Though at least one of these trips will be free, compliments of my American Express Gold Rewards Card [use my referral link for 25,000 bonus sign up points],  I don’t spend enough money on my credit cards to travel hack my way through ALL of these trips. 

Maybe just one or two.

To be able to go on these trips as well as pay the mortgage, save for retirement and maintain my savings rates, my new goal is to save $12,000.

Why $12,000?

$12,000 is a realistic amount, while still being challenging.

Saving $12,000 will require discipline and cutting back. This is especially true considering my husband and I are jetting off for a three and a half week honeymoon in Asia next month.

Luckily, Asia can be inexpensive. We are visiting Nepal and Indonesia, so we won’t be spending an extraordinary amount in either place. We have been selling a lot of our wedding decor on Facebook and Craigslist, and keeping the cash in an envelope for spending money when we leave. That should help significantly with the cost of food and attractions in both places.

I estimate that without any free flights or hotels, my trips will cost about $9,000 in 2015.

Since I won’t have a regular income when I am away from my day job, I would be using the extra $4,000 (and whatever I save with free flights and accommodation from my various credit cards) as a buffer in case I don’t find enough freelance or contract work to be able to make a decent income on the road.

Setting a Schedule, Not a Deadline

If you read any personal finance blogs besides Add Vodka, you’ll know the term SMART in relation to goals. SMART, in case you haven’t heard of it, is the notion that a goal won’t be achieved unless it is:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timely

My goal of saving $12,000 is pretty measurable. I’ll get into the specifics as to how I will reach this goal below. It’s realistic and attainable without being too easy. As far as timely, well..

What the T really means is that the goal has to have a deadline attached to it. I recently read a 45 page piece by James Clear about reaching goals and changing your life through habit transformation. In it, James argues that setting a schedule instead of a deadline is far more effective to reach goals and change your life.

Marrying the two theories and applying them to my goal of saving $12,000, to reach the goal and to continue saving after my goal has been reached, the steps I am going to take to make this happen are as follows:

  • With my new gig, after taxes, fees, and increased commuting costs, I make $1350 per month more (this is a modest estimate). Every pay day, I will pay myself first by transferring $675 into my account. This sets a schedule of $675 every two weeks being deposited into a high interest savings account.
  • Every extra dollar I earn from freelancing, my online income streams, or anything else will be transferred immediately into the same account. While this isn’t a set schedule as transferring $675 every two weeks, it will become a habit (and fortunately already is).
  • I will review my progress toward my goal monthly. If it doesn’t appear that I will be meeting my goal by February 2015, I will pick up more freelancing jobs and pound the sand to try to find more work.
  • Continue to make huge progress on slowly deflating our lifestyle back to normal; cutting back on eating out, spending on material things, and continue being frugal and smart with our money.

 

I am excited to not only reach this goal, but also permanently change our lifestyle by deflating it and examining our spending. Look for my progress in my monthly goal progress reports.

2014 Goals: June Progress

By Monday, June 30, 2014 6 No tags Permalink

It’s still June as I write this, but it’s a weekend and a long weekend (sort of) at that so I do not anticipate anything drastic changing in the next couple of days.

So much happened in June. The wedding keeps inching closer and closer, which is both exciting and stressful. As a reminder, below are the goals that I made for 2014 at the beginning of the year.

good goals for 2014

 

I made some serious strides toward achieving all of these things in June.

$20,000 Online Income

Overall in June, unless an expected payment clears between now and tomorrow (unlikely), I have made $1978.42 in online income.

This is generated through various streams, including:

- My new, non-blog related endeavor
- The services that I offer (staff writing, ghost writing, blog commenting, carnival submissions and blog consulting)
- Affiliate income
- Other blogging income

This is before all deductions (Paypal fees, services, conversion rates, cost of supplies).

Offline, I made $796.36 in passive income.

My total extra income is $2,774.78 for the month of June.

I’m waiting on a payment of about $425, which should have cleared in June but will more likely clear at the very beginning of July so it will be included in my July income review.

If I made $1978.42 in extra online income every month in 2014, I would surpass my $20,000 goal by $3,741.04.

It was a good month!

Lose 15 Pounds

In late May, I had my first wedding gown fitting. I had ordered a size smaller than I was when I found “the” dress, despite many warnings from bridal consultant.

When I tried my gown on, I was thrilled that it fit. That meant that I had lost enough weight that I was down a dress size.

I had my final fitting about a week ago, and the gown was getting a bit too loose around my hips. I don’t feel that I am done losing, but I will have to hold off on losing any more weight for at least the next few weeks until the wedding is over.

I don’t feel that different, but so many people have been commenting on my weight loss. I would guess that I am down at least 10-12 pounds since the beginning of the year.

1 hr/day Unplugged

Because of all of the wedding planning, and the general outdoorsy-ness that comes with the summertime, I’ve spent far more than one hour per day unplugged. In fact, I’ve been neglecting the stuff that I really need to be doing online to keep the income coming in. I can’t do everything that I want to do, not with planning a wedding. I’ll be able to pick it up again in August, so this will be more of a conscious effort then.

Get a Promotion

It became apparent over the course of May and June that I wasn’t going to be successful in getting a promotion within my preferred timeframe with the company I was working for, so I promoted myself.

I accepted a job offer with a different company. 

I’ll be making around $20,000 more per year (if I am there for a year; the position is temporary for right now) overall, and my base salary will be an increase of over $8 per hour.

 

That’s how I fared in June! Bring on the later half of the year :)

On Wedding Planning & Disappointment

By Thursday, June 26, 2014 6 No tags Permalink

As much as it’s seen as lavish and silly in the (especially) personal finance and lifestyle blogosphere, I wanted a big wedding. Not big as in expensive, but big as in well celebrated. When I got engaged, I pictured a wedding where all of the people who are really important to me, and all of the people who are really important to J surround us with love and a little bit of nostalgia and send us off on our journey toward married life.

The thing is, I have a lot of people in my life that are really important to me. I make people a priority, and even if I don’t see them all on a regular basis, I have some absolutely amazing family and friends. I am not of the camp that believes weddings are about the couple only. I have never uttered the words “this is MY DAY”, because it’s not just my day. It’s my mom’s day, and my dad’s day, and J’s day, and his parent’s day. It’s a day to celebrate the community that supports, and has supported the couple as individuals and as a couple. I believe that it’s about family, friends, and loved ones celebrating and coming together.

This is the dress that I said "yes" to.

This is the dress that I said “yes” to.

My one wish for my wedding was that my favourite people could be there. I could do without the beautiful dress (though luckily, I didn’t need to) and without elaborate centrepieces and Pinterest-worthy invitations, but not without absolutely everybody who I love there to celebrate J and I.

Each invitation we sent or hand delivered was done so from our hearts and with the hold-your-breath-and-wait anticipation about the potential guests’ attendance.

We sent the invitations back in January due to the relative remoteness of our venue, and while I am still sure that we made the right decision to send the invitations so early, we didn’t get the immediate, instant satisfaction of receiving responses right away.

In March, we got our first RSVP. When our wedding website sent us an automated email to let us know that somebody had responded, I logged on right away, too impatient to wait for J. My heart fluttered when I opened it and read that the person regretted not being able to attend.

Our next set of RSVPs were all positive, though they trickled in slowly. I have had a few people let me know that they can’t make it verbally, and we sent invitations to some people who we wanted to be there but knew wouldn’t be able to make it from the get go. Even armed with this knowledge, let me tell you something:

The “no”s still sting. 

I thought that the couple of tears I shed after the first decline were a result of them being first; of my emotions being raw from my engagement. The handful of no’s that I’ve opened up since then? Those too, surprisingly, solicited the same emotion, the same disappointment, the same sadness.

Is it unreasonable? Absolutely. I’ve reminded myself that not everybody is going to be able to make it, especially when it’s four hours away from where we live. We’re getting married at the peak of wedding season and people have other weddings, prior commitments, plans. I get that. I get that, to many people, weddings are a drag. That it’s just a Saturday night for some, just another wedding they have to attend, one of potentially a handful this year.

The “regrets” hurt, even if the hurt is unreasonable and irrational. Even if it’s my heart and not my brain that winces. But the “yes” RSVPs? Those are elating.

As our RSVP deadline approaches, the responses have been trickling in more quickly. Even if it’s a bridesmaid that RSVPs yes, I still announce the response excitedly to J. He still looks at me like I’m slightly crazy, with a “of course they are coming” remark. I still message my mom with their response as quickly as they come in.

We’ve had some of the warmest wishes and nicest responses. Some people have surprised us with their excitement about the wedding, some have been silent. We’ve received RSVPs, either verbal or formal, from some people who we are delightedly surprised will be able to make it, due to out of town commitments or changes of plans.

I’ve always considered myself a practical person, so I’ve been surprised as to how emotionally charged the planning for this one day is. I often remind myself that it is just one day, and that J and I have been together forever, and that a successful wedding only needs two people.

While I don’t think it’s fair to say that the important people will be there, I can say that those who will be there are important to me.