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  • Two Themes for 2011: Health & Acceptance

    One blog I read regularly is Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and recently she suggested choosing one word to set the tone for the new year. I immediately liked the idea, but I couldn’t really separate the two themes I’ve chosen for 2011: Health and Acceptance.

    Health, because I’m approaching 40, and I can feel myself getting older. The last ten years or so, I’ve been focused a lot outside myself – on my career, on my fertility (I had two miscarriages), being a mom, getting financially secure . . . the list goes on.

    I haven’t totally neglected myself, and this blog is proof of that. I wouldn’t blog if I didn’t enjoy it!

    But.

    I sense that this is the time to really start focusing on taking care of my health, to ward off any problems before they start. I need to exercise more, eat healthier, and lose some weight – these simple yet not-so-simple tasks will be at the top of my to do list.

    Acceptance, because a big obstacle for me in improving my health is a failure to accept myself. I was taught, as I was growing up, to always look for ways to improve. A noble message, but what I heard was, It’s not good enough. And nowhere has that message affected me more than the way I perceive myself. So in order to improve my health in a meaningful way, I also have to learn to accept myself more fully.

    Of course, being healthier myself has a trickle-down effect on the family since everyone will end up eating healthier if I cook healthier foods. Plus I’ll set a good example for the kids by exercising regularly and taking care of myself.

    Since my health will be my top priority, I’ll be blogging about it here. Let’s share tips and encourage each other to take care of ourselves in 2011.

    And that way 2012 will be even better :)

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of August

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which was to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and as of last month, we had saved 49% of our goal for the year. But since we are losing my income (which is actually a good thing!), this will be the last update in this series. As of the end of August, we are at 58% of our goal.

    I knew my goal was ambitious to begin with, so I’m satisfied with what we’ve achieved thus far. And by the time all is said and done, my cashed-out vacation time should get us fairly close to our total goal.

    Although we won’t be able to save as much, I do intend to save a smaller amount each month, and our savings should still continue to grow. It’ll just be at a much slower pace.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of July

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and I’m happy to report that we’ve now saved 49% of our total goal for the year. While we’re still short of reaching our goal, I continue to be pleased, because we’ve consistently saved more than the minimum I’ve budgeted for each month.

    As always, the key to our success has been continuing to do the things I’ve written about before, like paying ourselves first, snowflaking extra income, and spending wisely.

    Theresa asked me to write about budgeting, and specifically, how we budget without accounting for every penny and yet manage to save extra. So I’ll have a post on that soon.

    I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to curb spending even more in the coming months (the switch from preschool to public school should help), so that just maybe we’ll be able to still achieve our goal by the end of the year.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of June

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, but I’ve been remiss and I totally skipped last month’s. This month is almost over, but I do have an update for the end of June so I figured I’d better get it posted. In the last two months, we’ve saved 12.5%, which puts us at 42% of our total goal this year. That’s a little short of the 50% of the year that’s passed, but I’m still quite pleased, because we’ve consistently saved more than the minimum I’ve budgeted for each month.

    The key to our success has been continuing to do the things I’ve written about before. Some things, like paying ourselves first, are on autopilot. Other things, like snowflaking extra income, are habits.

    One thing that kind of amazes me is that our budget works. Even though I know it should, theoretically, I’m still a little surprised that it works in practice. We’ve been quite lucky, in that we’ve been able to avoid large unexpected expenses. For instance, when my small, frequently used oven died, I decided to make do with my toaster oven and large bottom oven instead of buying a new one. (It’s still working out for me – I use the big oven once or twice a week, and my toaster oven three or four times a week.)

    I’m pretty sure we won’t reach our goal by the end of the year, but I know that we’ll get closer by aiming high than by setting our sights too low.

    Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of April

    Back in January, I shared my financial resolution for this year, which is to save a crazy amount of money to create a large cash cushion. I promised a monthly update, and I’m happy to report that we saved 9% of our goal last month, and have now saved over 29% of our total goal. We’re actually a little bit behind, because 33% of the year has gone by – but I’m pleased to be so close to that mark, considering how much of a stretch our goal actually is.

    How we did it:

  • As always, the biggest part of our savings came from paying ourselves first. The consistency of this monthly savings is the single biggest factor in our success.
  • We put our tax refund into savings. I do everything I can think of to reduce our tax liability, including participating in my employer’s flexible spending account and making tax-deductible charitable donations. This year, we had to pay extra tax to the state but got back about twice that from the feds, so the difference went into savings. It can be tempting to spend unexpected money like refunds, but I find that they’re an easy way to boost savings if you can resist the temptation
  • We snowflaked extra income into savings. This includes money I earned through Swag Bucks (when they had their PayPal sale), MySurvey, and Instant Cash Sweepstakes.
  • Also, I’ve adjusted the way I manage our money a bit so it’s easier to keep track of our spending and saving. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming post as part of the Ways to Make & Save Money series.
  • Looking ahead, my blog income tends to dip in the summer, so if you could spread the word about CFO to your friends and help me grow the blog, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

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