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keeping score: my 2014 year in review

If you read my last post, then you are well aware that my 2015 New Year’s resolutions have been set, and I’m as motivated to conquer them as Kanye West is to prove he’s not a total d-bag (let’s all wish him good luck, shall we?). However, sometimes you can’t move forward without taking a look at what held you back, which is why I’m sharing with you where exactly my money went in 2014.

2014 was overall a pretty great year – I traveled all over the states (shout out to AZ, NY, GA, SC, & CO!), got to meet pretty stellar babies that my friends pushed out, and finished a total bathroom remodel that increased my happiness factor tenfold.   Luckily, that good streak continued into my finances:  I earned and saved more than I originally had budgeted for, which is a huge, fat “A” in my books.  However, there were some sore spots in my budget, too, and those are my main focus when I review my personal income statement each year.

Now, don’t get all testy because I threw out a finance term there.  Income statements are easy – basically it’s a record of the money you bring in less the money you take out over a period of time, organized by category – and I’ve been keeping one since I started the budget process 5 or so years ago.  To make it simple, all you really need to do to make your own is add up your monthly budgets by category and voila! Your annual income statement is born.  So what does mine look like and where are my roses & thorns?  Well, here is where my money went in 2014 vs. 2013, displayed as a percentage of my total income:

ROSES:

My roses are the categories that I give a shiny gold sticker to, and this year, those stickers are bestowed on these categories: 

Shopping – Even though I’d say I’m more frugal than most, I am in no way immune to the pull of the shopping monster; therefore, at the beginning of the year, I made a goal to try to curb senseless spending (damn you, Nordstrom Rack and your great deals!), and it looks like it paid off.  How did I do it?  Easy – I kept myself busy.  I usually tend to venture to the mall only if I have nothing better to do, and my bank account hates me for it later.  But this year I filled up all that free time with more productive feats (aka this blog and updating my home, mostly), and much of that boredom spending was eliminated.  Problem (mostly) solved!

Savings – Let’s just say I had a stellar savings year in 2013.  38%? Unheard of.  However, 2014 wasn’t bad either:  my bathroom remodel definitely ate into my annual savings dollars, but I’ll still take 26% any day of the week. 

So how did I end up saving so much? First and foremost, I automate – every month I send a specific dollar amount straight out of my bank account to savings.  When it’s not in the bank, Britt ain’t spending it. In addition, I lived well below my means.  Could I live alone? Yes, but having a little extra money from renting out a room in my house (to one of my BFFs at that) is better.  Could I drive a nicer car? You betcha, but I’d rather drive my 8 year-old car that is fully paid for.  Could I splurge on J Crew, Michael Kors, and Pottery Barn? Yes, but…well, you know where I’m going with this.  Having any of those things would not have made me happier than I already was, so why not push it into savings so that I can put it towards something that will increase my happiness, like a future trip to Italy or Thailand? 

Food (Groceries/Restaurants) – Did you know that almost 20% of our garbage is now made up of food?  Yep, that’s more than plastic, paper, metal, OR glass and 10% more than the amount of food that was wasted in 1980.[1]  Sad, isn’t it?  I thought so, too.  So not only did I try to cut back on my restaurant meals this year (no one needs to make an Arby’s run EVERY week), but I decided to make a conscious effort to not waste any food.  Now, was I perfect?  Heck no.  But I did find myself making sure that more leftovers and anything with an expiration date too close to comfort were eaten and not pushed to the back of the fridge, forgotten for months until they look like a mold forest.  Don’t hate.  You’ve been there, too. 

THORNS:

These categories did not get gold stars.  No, they receive big red frown-y faces.  We all have them.  Here are mine.

Alcohol & Bars – Damn.  You trumped me again, vodka.  And tequila.  And more tequila.  I was right on course with this, and then BAM! Summer hit, and so did my need to drink while enjoying that warm, warm sunshine.  And hey, a girl can’t turn down a night on the town, right? Okay, you’re right, we can.  I just didn’t.  Whoops.   

Charity – You all know I’m not one to tout spending more, but when it comes to charity, the more, the merrier.  Unfortunately, I was not as merry as I wanted to be.  And why?  Well, my bathroom remodel really left my funds in a state of disarray this summer, and as I was on uneven footing, I cut expenses where I could.  And I hate to say that charity took the biggest hit.  Epic fail by me, everyone. Epic Fail.

So where do I go from here?  First and foremost, I want to keep on that 25% savings mark, and in order to ensure that I do that, I either need to increase my income or decrease spending.  Or better yet, do both (let’s get ambitious, here).  So plan #1 is to increase the revenue I’m bringing in from areas other than my job and make that “Other Income” line a greater percentage of my overall income.  Secondly, expenses are getting cut – the amount of alcohol I buy outside of the grocery store needs to decrease significantly (it’s amazing how much cheaper it is when you buy it at CVS versus a restaurant or bar) and let’s be real, there isn’t going to be a remodeling project for me this year, so my home costs should plummet (knock on wood).  On top of all that, my charitable giving needs to get back on track.  It’s ridiculous that I’m not giving at least 5% of my income to those in need, especially since I have the capability to do so.  So this year, 5% is my goal.

There you have it, folks:  my year in review and my plan for 2015 to kick those thorns to the curb.  What are you doing this year to get rid of your thorns and keep your roses?

 

[1] Ferdman, Roberto A. “Americans Throw Out More Food Than Plastic, Paper, Metal, and Glass.” The Washington Post. 23 September 14. Web. 14 January 15.  www.washingtonpost.com