I like introspection and challenges. I can’t seem to give my best unless I have stretch targets. I’m equally scared of failure and not so bothered by it (because anything in the direction of my target is better than where I started). New Year’s is always an extra special time of year in this regard, since everyone knows that the end of the year is meant for reflection and challenging oneself with New Year’s resolutions.
In my last post, I discussed the results of the tracking that I did in the last third of 2016. Based on those numbers, as well as information that I’ve gleaned from the personal finance world over the last few months, I have some ideas for the New Year. I’ve thought about improvements I want to make to my life in 2017 and shall tackle them first in broad categories.
So what am I broadly aiming for?
- I failed in my plan to pay off all my personal debt by the end of last year so that’s clearly the focus for this year. I want to pay off all my big-ticket debt by the end of the year. This includes my overdraft (the only interest generating debt I have) and all my personal creditors. I want to save more. My emergency fund needs to hit £1 000, I’d like to support my girlfriend and a couple of members of my family through some difficult times (£6 000) and I want to save a significant amount of money to get into investment properly in 2018 – the beginning of my FI fund.
- I want to be healthier. I wrote about my second attempt at the Advent running challenge. I weighed myself for the first time in ages and after months of maintaining the same weight (roughly), I tipped the scales 4kg heavier after Christmas. Needless to say I had given up on the running after 3 days mostly because of the logistics. If I’d gained 1 or 2 pounds, I’d lose it without effort when the festivities were over. Yet, every year I find myself needing to lose 8-20 pounds to meet my target weight. I want to fit into clothes I bought in 2007 that are currently cluttering up my room. I want my lifestyle to sustain my target weight indefinitely. I want to ensure that I never have to make another weight-loss related resolution.
- I want to grow at work. I’ve spent the last couple of months coasting at work because I was serving out a notice period. I start my new job in January and I really want to use what I believe will be an amazing opportunity to elevate myself in my career. I want to exhibit exemplary professionalism. I want to be the go-to person for something within the organisation as well as in the wider field. I want to start building the foundations for my retirement passion projects. And I want to make more side hustle income from my 9-5 skills. I also want to learn a new skill.
- I want to own less. I donated or threw away 30-40% of the stuff I owned over the last few months. I imposed a book buying ban about the time I started tackling debt seriously – I have to read everything that I currently own before I can buy any new books but I got around that by asking friends for books at Christmas. I still have too many clothes that I don’t wear regularly. I have too many shoes. I have things that are taking up way too much room in my life.
How do I plan to achieve my goals?
Well, those goals are not particularly great ones. They aren’t specific, measurable, or time bound. If I truly want to achieve them, then I have to break them down. The problem is, the year is a long time. If I planned to review my progress only at the end of the year, I would be unmotivated very quickly. So, I’m going to tackle the goals more specifically on a monthly basis. In January, I plan to:
- Take part in the Uber frugal month challenge. The aim is to cut back all non-essential spending to establish a baseline. I want to know what my bare bones budget is so that when I start funding my 6 month emergency fund I know what the real figure is. I created a budget for next year that has me paying off at least £12 800 of debt, supporting friends and family to the tune of £6 000, and saving just over 5 grand. My projected income and side hustles fall about £5 000 short of these goals so I need to cut my expenses to find the extra money and this challenge should help me with that.
- As part of the challenge and to help me get fitter, I plan to walk or cycle all month. It’s pretty cold and icy now and I would need to find 2-3 extra hours a day if I were to walk to work and back as well as everywhere else I need to go. If I managed this, I could rein in my transport costs from around £140 a month to £40 or less instead.
- In order to help me grow at work, I want to start sleeping better. I was so tired at the end of 2016 that I have had a cough for around 3 weeks, got several colds, was so exhausted that every time I lay or sat down I’d fall asleep, and drank far too much caffeine. I’d like to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum in 2017. My goal in January is to be in bed at 10pm on weekdays. This will mean socialising right after work till about half 8 or somewhere local till 9 or so on weekdays.
- I want to eat a little less meat. I used to be incapable of eating a meal if it didn’t have any meat in it. These days I can go the odd day or two without meat but I want to reduce the amount of meat I eat more significantly. With the Uber frugal month challenge, I’m going to try not to buy any meat. I have some chicken, diced turkey thighs and sausages in my freezer. I’ll have to eat around them or eat vegetarian. This should help me with both my health and savings goals.
- I will de-clutter. I will remove 1 item a day from my home or at least 30 items over the month in my bid to cleanse my life of useless items.
- Finally, I’m doing ‘Drynuary’ AKA dry January. I usually give up alcohol at random times of the year when I fancy a wee detox but this year, it has to be done as part of the Uber frugal month challenge.
What is my 2017 focus then?
The clue is in the title. I want to save more. I’ll do this by paying off debt, creating a healthy emergency fund and investing more money.
- I’ve already changed my Moneybox contributions from £5 to £10 a week.
- I’ve set up standing orders of £250 a month into a 3% interest fixed deposit account from the 1st of January
- I’m going to contribute at least £55 a month to my emergency fund.
Hopefully, all of these things will help me achieve my goal. I’ll review progress monthly and Tweet any significant incidents prior to that. You can follow me on Twitter via @Luxthrift or the #ufm2017 hash tag coined by Little Green Revelation.