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  • Update on my New Year’s Resolution: End of February

    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, so here it is: we’ve saved 13.9% of our goal so far.

    Last month, that number stood at 3% and I was rather disappointed. However, in calculating this month’s numbers, I realized that I was off, and that we actually saved just over 5% last month. Since I was quite disappointed last month, it was nice, albeit also embarrassing, to spot that error this month.

    One thing I did this month was reduce the extra principal we put towards our mortgage and redirect that money into savings, which added another 2% of our savings goal. California’s economic situation is so dire right now that hoarding cash and building up savings seems much more important than paying off the mortgage faster – even though that is something I would very much like to do. We plan on sticking with this new plan indefinitely.

    Just like last month, we did many things to help us get closer to our savings goal. I really do all of the things I recommend in my Ways to Make & Save Money series, and I’ve been tweaking some of those things to better suit our savings style, like snowflaking extra money into the savings account by depositing rebate checks into an account that’s not at the bank where we keep most of our money. Since that means the snowflaked money gets nowhere near the checking account, it stays in savings permanently.

    Another thing I’ve been doing is taking a closer look at our spending, and especially at what I spend on groceries and household items (there isn’t much wiggle room left in our budget!). Our spending on food is higher than most families in part because I buy organic milk, organic/antibiotic and hormone-free meat, RBST-free cheese and yogurt, and organic produce. These items are not cheap – a gallon of organic milk is $5.49 on sale, and I usually need 2 gallons a week, plus another 1/2 gallon at $3.29-$3.49 to leave at the .boys’ preschool. I’m not obsessive about organic products, but we can afford them and I don’t see any reason to put extra chemicals in my boys’ bodies if I don’t have to.

    However, I’m now working harder than ever to keep my grocery and household spending down. I’m chasing more deals at the drugstores and grocery stores. I’m making more trips to different stores, and thinking harder about where my money is going. My price book has more entries than ever before, and my target prices keep going down. My goal is to get my monthly spending down while still getting these high quality foods for my family, by buying them on sale and stockpiling when possible.

    One thing I’m worried about now is that we may need to buy a new oven, since my small oven died last month. We’re getting along for the moment with the big oven and toaster oven, but the big oven emitted a funny smell the last time I used it and we’re hoping that it was just because it hasn’t been much. (While I greatly appreciate all of the part-finding suggestions, we’ve concluded that we don’t have the skills or confidence to do our own repair, so the cost of the labor wouldn’t be worth fixing the oven.) I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we won’t have to spend $1000 or (likely) more on the kitchen anytime soon.

    Because I’m hoping that our progress in March will be as good as our progress in February!

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

    Last month, 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, so here it is: we saved 3% of our goal in January.

    So now I’m wondering if I was overly ambitious in setting my goal. The fact that we didn’t even come close to 5% really bums me out. Looking at our purchases, the only room I see for cutting back is in my stock-up purchases on things like shoes and clothes. But then I worry that not stocking up when I can will lead to greater expenses down the line. And, as the boys get older, they’re eating more, their clothes are getting more expensive, they’re getting involved in more activities, and so on and so forth – all of which costs more money. At least having two boys means items can be handed down, which saves on future expenses.

    However, I do believe that even if we don’t quite achieve our goal this year, we’ll still be closer to it than we would have been otherwise. And, I’m keeping the story of Crystal from Money Saving Mom in mind to get me through the rough times.

    As for the 3% that we did save, here are some of the specific ways we added to our savings account:

    We paid ourselves first – This is the most basic and important key to saving consistently. Read more about this here.

    Blog income – As always, thank you for your visits and clicks to boost my ad, affiliate and referral links income. Also as always, I reiterate my commitment to be as honest, transparent, and reliable as possible. (Read the full CFO disclosure.)

    Swag Bucks – If you don’t know about Swag Bucks, start here. I redeemed $50 worth of Amazon certificates from Swag Bucks in January, and bought things I would have paid cash for (it’s fair to say “cash” since I pay off my credit cards every month).

    Surveys – I’ll write more about making money through online surveys in the future, but I did want to note that I brought in a few dollars this way.

    Online “garage sale” at Amazon Marketplace – I’ll write more about this in the future as well. In the meantime, you can read what I’ve written before about selling on Amazon.

    We ate in – As I mentioned last week, my goal to save money has really motivated me to menu plan and cook, so we’ve been eating in almost exclusively. We’re not only saving money, we’re also eating healthier. There have been some marginal meals, but for the most part, our meals have been varied and delicious. Our eating out has been minimal, and I expect that trend will continue.

    I’ll have another update at the end of the month!

    Chief Family Officer’s New Year’s Resolution: Save a ton of money in 2010

    New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap sometimes, but I love them. My parents taught me that goal-setting is a major key to achievement, and I’ve certainly found that to be true.

    I always set a few financial goals each year – in 2009, my big goal was to pay off my student loans, which we did in the spring.

    For 2010, my big goal is to save a ton of money because I want the security of a large cash cushion. I’m not comfortable sharing the exact amount, but it’s going to be a huge stretch for us. To achieve this goal, we’re going to have to do all of the things I talk about to save money, from eating in to playing The Drugstore Game to making free money. To be clear, I’m talking about money that’s above and beyond the money that already goes into retirement savings or is otherwise earmarked for another purpose (like the car fund). I’ll give you an update each month to tell you how much of our goal we’ve accomplished.

    And starting tomorrow, each Monday, I’m going to share one way that I will be making and/or saving money this year to reach my goal. One of those ways is this blog – your visits and clicks help generate income at absolutely no cost to you, which helps me reach my financial goals. So thank you! Having said that, I want to assure you that I firmly believe that the very best way to make CFO great is to be as honest and trustworthy as possible. I’ve made a conscious decision not to post deals that I see on other blogs if I’m suspicious of the offer in some way. I also try to be as transparent as possible about any benefit I’ve received or may receive, which is why you see lots of disclosures. You can read CFO’s full disclosure and disclaimer here.

    As for my other New Year’s resolutions, they are much the same as any other year: Be a good wife, mother, daughter, friend. Be kind and generous. And like so many others, lose some weight. Someday, I’ll have to examine why it’s relatively easy for me to reach my financial goals and so difficult to reach my weight loss goals!

    2009 in Review: Sweet Success!

    I had only one financial resolution in 2009: to pay off my student loans and become non-mortgage debt free. We actually achieved this goal back in April, so I turned my attention to other goals – namely, paying off the mortgage.

    My financial goal was really the only tangible goal I had. It’s hard to measure my success for goals like being a good wife, mother, daughter and friend, being a kinder person, etc. All I can really say about those goals is that I’m ending the year feeling pretty good about myself.

    Overall, though, I’m very happy to say good-bye to 2009. It seems like it was the year for health scares, and I hope neither of my children has to spend another night in the hospital for the rest of their lives. Here’s to a very healthy and happy 2010 for all of us!

    A look back on my 2008 resolutions

    I made three four resolutions for 2008, and I figured I’d better review how I did with them before the month is over.

    Resolution #1 was to pay cash for a new car. We didn’t quite accomplish this, but we came so close that I’m giving myself credit for this one. Last March, we decided it was time to buy a new car or pay $1000 to have some work done on our old car. Since we planned on buying a new car anyway, we went with that option. We didn’t have quite enough set aside at the time to pay cash for the entire purchase, so we financed a portion of it. Thanks to our tax refund and economic stimulus payment, the new car loan was paid off in May. And because the car was fully paid for within two months of our purchase, I consider this goal accomplished.

    Resolution #2 was to stop buying things just because they’re a great deal. From one perspective, I did terribly with this goal: thanks to the Drugstore Game, I bought hundreds of things that I didn’t need just because they were free. But, at least I did it on purpose and with a greater savings goal in mind – after all, buying things I don’t need saves me money in the Drugstore Game. And aside from those Drugstore Game buys, I made far fewer “great deal” purchases in 2008 than I did in 2007. So this goal was also accomplished.

    Resolution #3 was to buy only fair trade chocolate. This goal came about because Adrienne of Baby Toolkit posted information I hadn’t known before: that the chocolate industry is largely based on child slavery. Unfortunately, I owe Adrienne a huge apology because I just wasn’t as committed as she is. Where fair trade chocolate products were available, I did buy them – all of my chocolate bars, chocolate chips, cocoa, and truffles are fair trade. But where fair trade chocolate products haven’t been available – as with cereal, for instance – I faltered and gave in to my love of all things chocolate. In 2009, I will seek out as many fair trade chocolate products as possible. But I have to consider this goal a failure.

    Resolution #4 was to record more conversations with the boys. Alas, I never really got around to this one. The record function on my Sansahasn’t really been used. However, we took many videos of the boys, and they pretty much capture the flavor of our days, so I’m not overly disappointed. Still, I do have to consider this goal a failure.

    Chief Family Officer’s New Year’s Resolution: Pay off all non-mortgage debt

    I’ve been feeling very sympathetic about PaidTwice‘s current dilemma: She’s super dedicated to paying off her family’s non-mortgage debt, but current car troubles are forcing her to seek a balance between paying off debt and having a reliable car.

    Like PaidTwice, I am torn. On the one hand, I very much want to wipe out my Stafford loan, which is our only remaining non-mortgage debt. But my husband and I are both facing some uncertainty at work right now, and that uncertainty has me wanting to build up our emergency fund even more – just in case.

    So my goal for 2009 remains what I have known it would be since last spring: Paying off the last of our non-mortgage debt by the end of the year.

    But I’m going to modify how we’re going to accomplish that. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, we reduced our retirement contributions in order to free up cash to pay off my student loans. Rather than send in this money monthly, I’m going to park each month’s payment in the bank for the time being. It will give us an extra cushion if we should need it. And once we’ve saved up enough to pay off the loan in one fell swoop, we’ll go ahead and do that. We’ll end up in the same position, except for paying a little bit of extra interest, but I’ll have more peace of mind in the meantime.

    My other resolutions are pretty much the same ones I have each year: Love my family. Be kind, gentle, joyous and peaceful. Grow CFO. Lose weight. More on that last one soon.

    As an aside, I do plan on reviewing how I did with my 2008 goals . . . when I have a chance!