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

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    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

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    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!

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    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

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    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

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    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!

    My Lenten Resolution: A report

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    My Lenten resolution this year was to be a kinder, gentler person. Every day, I read a little bit of Richard Carlson’s book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.

    The book is wonderful and I can’t recommend it enough. The chapters are all short, so they only take a few minutes to read. And after the first few times through the book, you only need to read a few sentences before you remember what the chapter is about.

    What the book does for me is give me perspective, and also remind me of my priorities: being peaceful, kind and happy is much more important than being right.

    And have I changed, at least a little bit? I think so. I am more conscious of getting caught up in the “small stuff” and getting better at learning to let go.

    The extent of my progress was evident recently, when I was feeling particularly stressed. Work has been piling up, and I had a couple of big family events on my mind as well. I may also have been experiencing a little bit of PMS. In any event, my state was such that it wouldn’t take much to push me over the edge and into tears.

    It was in this state that I found myself at the exit of a parking garage with no attendant. I couldn’t get out, nor could I find a button to push to contact someone. I also noticed that the parking rate went up $3 at the 40-minute mark, and that I was at the 37-minute mark. Eventually, a voice came over an intercom but then quickly disappeared. More minutes passed. I decided to refuse to pay the extra $3 since it was the garage’s lack of an attendant that had caused me to go over the 40-minute mark.

    By the time the attendant arrived, the lawyer in me was ready to scream “false imprisonment!” He demanded the extra $3, I refused. He told me I could stay there and started to walk away. I demanded his supervisor’s name and number, which he refused to provide. He also refused to provide his own name, of course. Perhaps if Tyler hadn’t been in the car, I would have stayed put. But instead I swore at him (something I don’t think I’ve ever done before!) and threw my money at him. I drove away and called Marc in tears.

    I’ve read enough Consumerist posts that I immediately began thinking about whom I could hit with an EECB (executive email carpet bomb). But while I could try to get my $3 back and/or get the attendant fired, I couldn’t do it right away because I had other things that I had to do first.

    And that’s when it hit me: It’s easy to practice being kind and gentle when life is good, but much harder when things get rough. And this was one of those times when I really needed to call upon the “happiness muscles” I’d been exercising since Ash Wednesday. Amazingly, it worked. Within a few minutes, I was calm, able to think about what I needed to get done rather than getting vindication or revenge, and the rest of my day was good. I was able to see the experience as an opportunity for personal growth. Now that’s progress!

    Needless to say, my Lenten resolution hasn’t really come to an end. My quest to be kinder and gentler and therefore happier is really a lifelong quest, one that will never end.

    But I’ll make a different resolution next year. 😉

    Note: In retrospect, I also realized that the whole incident with the attendant perhaps could have been a pleasant experience if I hadn’t been so wound up to begin with. That’s what I have to work on next!