The intro to “End of Year” posts are perpetually difficult for me.
I always want to highlight some of the best and worst of the year, like linking to some adorable puppy video and making a joke about how we’re lucky North Korea hasn’t bombed us yet.
But as I was sifting through the memories of 2017 all I could come up with was the bad. The lows. The worst. All events I really didn’t want to highlight but that seemed to be ingrained in my life as the major world events.
The good? Well, it all seemed to be those things that happened close to home. Those times I was able to help a friend in need. The chances I had to spend with my family. The laughs with my girlfriends. The emails from you all letting me know how a post had impacted you.
And I realized that while the world seems to highlight the negative, my inner circle projected the positive, and that’s what I wanted to continue to focus on.
We can’t change everything, but we can influence what we touch, and I want to continue to do that in a better way than the media does, both personally and with the blog.
That being said, I wanted to give you an insider’s look into my highs & lows of the year AND show you how I, a self-diagnosed frugality/savings queen, spent my money. You know, because that’s fun.
BUYING MY 1ST OFFICIAL RENTAL PROPERTY
If you didn’t catch the post from last month, Keith and I purchased our first rental property back in September, and this was probably my #1 accomplishment in 2017.
We spent a lot of the year learning about the process and looking for the right property to help us get into the game, and we finally found one at the end of the summer. You can read more about it here, and if it peaks your interest, make sure to stick around in 2018 – you know I’ll be posting more real estate related articles in the future. #2 is already on the horizon.
DEVELOPING MY 1ST EVER PRODUCT LAUNCH
Okay, I lied. This may be my #1 accomplishment in 2017 considering it monopolized all my weeknights/weekends.
Back in the spring, I came up with this grand idea of creating a set of products that could take what I was doing with the blog to the next level for my readers. I knew I wanted to design something you all could use as a baseline for turning your financial life around, and ladies, I’m SO PROUD with how they turned out. I just keep reviewing everything and thinking how much of a game changer this could be for so many of you.
If you’re tired of feeling broke, then check them out here!
INCREASING MY NET WORTH
I was trying to push to get to $300K this year but came up a bit short; HOWEVER, I'm still considering it a win because not only did I add $80K to my net worth this year but increased it a whopping 38% over where I ended 2016. Um, hell yeah.
Hoping this is a snowball effect that keeps continuing as I focus on investing in more rentals in 2018!
ON THE PERSONAL FRONT…
I officially became an aunt for the first time this year in November! Little Noah was born on the 27th, and I am so ready to spoil him (AKA fund his college - our family has already got him started in the stock market). It’s weird the presents Santa brings when you’re in such a financial-minded family.
In other good news, Keith moved into the castle (i.e. my house) in August, so we are now officially roommates! I cannot say enough how great it is not to worry about packing an overnight bag or figuring out who has what food at who’s house to throw together for dinner. If you’re 30 and have a significant other you live apart from, you feel me.
KEEPING UP WITH MY HEALTH
I have been so focused on work, work, and work this past year (I’m telling you, that product launch kept me BUSY) that my health unfortunately has taken a backburner.
One of my resolutions for 2017 was to meal prep on Sundays so that I’d have healthier food to fall back on during the week, and do you know how many weeks that actually occurred? Maybe 4. I’ve fallen back on chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese more times than I care to admit, and sometimes all I have the energy to make is a bowl of popcorn.
On top of that, my workouts seem fewer and far between, which is doubly detrimental because I also use gym time as a way to relieve stress. I use to go avidly about 3-4 times per week, and now I’m lucky if I squeeze in 1 or 2, one of which is usually shortened because of project deadlines that are looming and need my time.
Here’s to hoping I get back on track in 2018.
HOW I SPENT MY $$$
Before we go down this road, I want to let you know this isn’t supposed to be used as a measuring stick to see how you’re doing but just give you a point of reference. My values may differ from yours, meaning I spend my money in ways that you wouldn’t (& vice versa).
And ladies, that’s absolutely fine.
My mission isn’t to tell you how to spend your money, but to get you to a point where you’re covering the necessities so you can then spend your money how you wish.
Now, I also want to mention that I earn a pretty good income in a low cost-of-living area (shout out to you, Indy), so the “basics” may be a lower percentage of my overall income than some of you with a lower salary or who live in a high cost-of-living area. So don’t cry over a bottle of wine if you notice you are nowhere near my numbers.
If you’re sticking to your budget and on track to hit your goals, stay the course and don’t worry about what I or anyone else is doing. And if you’re not, go back up and click on that link to get the eBook or sign up for the Boot Camp.
Now, instead of numbers, I’ve listed all of these expenses as a portion of my income, so you can see how I divvy up what I bring it. Here’s the breakdown:
This not only includes my mortgage, insurance, and taxes but also my utilities and home maintenance costs and does not factor in the rental income I earned to offset this.
You always want to keep this under 30%, so the fact that I am floating around 25% is fantastic in my mind.
How’d I do it?
Well, I bought a house within my means. Simple as that. Deciding how much you want to pay versus allowing the bank to tell you how much you can afford is crucial in home ownership, so make sure you’re taking the smart route and determining how much you want to spend per month yourself.
You’ll thank yourself when you realize you aren’t house poor like all of your friends.
Well, I’m getting better at this but not yet at my goal of 10%. I think the hardest aspect of charitable giving is determining how to balance that with all of my financial goals. Keith and I are still actively pursuing more rental properties and he has student loan debt, so I know that in the near future, my money is going to be needed for both of those as well.
However, we are extremely blessed and want to pass that along, so any hints or tips on how you approach charitable giving would be well appreciated!
Keith and I eat a lot from home as we try to save money, so I’m in no way surprised that this represents a large portion of our expenses. Plus, a girl’s gotta eat, right?
Because Keith reinvests a lot of his earnings into his business, I usually buy a majority of the groceries, which is fine by me, mainly because that means I get to control the menu. I try to save as much as possible by using tools like Wal-Mart’s Savings Catcher or Ibotta, and we’re definitely getting better about wasting less.
I am curious as to how much others spend on groceries, though, so please feel free to let me know in the comments below!
This is a little higher than I’d like it to be, but to be honest, we do really enjoy going out to dinner and having a drink every once in awhile, and I don’t think what I spent this year is outlandish. Plus, I’m still hitting my savings goal and both Keith and I eat most of our meals at home, so all in all, not bad for the year.
AUTO GAS/INSURANCE/REPAIR (3%)
Yes, I’m still driving my 2006 Pontiac G6, so for all of the haters that say old vehicles nickel and dime you to death, you can suck it.
[RELATED: Why I Still Drive My Piece of Crap Car]
This is probably going to blow most of your minds, but this is the least amount I’ve spent on clothes in the past 6 years since I’ve been tracking it, and a whopping $700 less than what I did in 2016. How?
By being busy.
Developing my products, searching for rental properties, and just trying to keep up with housework meant there was little-to-no time for the “Well, I’m bored and will just hop over to Target” mental conversation.
And better yet, I’ve found that when I did go shopping, I bought more quality items, so my closet is full of items I LOVE rather than just a lot of crap. How wonderful is that?
Again, a high income really comes into play here, but it’s also a matter of discipline. There are many times when I want to buy the new car, get the $200 boots, or simply turn the freaking heat up in my house in the winter, but my habits keep me on the straight and narrow. And that straight and narrow has allowed me to build up a savings account with enough money to cover my emergency fund, a new car, a wedding (knocking on wood here so as to not jinx myself), and a couple of rental properties. No joke. It’s all sitting there ready for when those moments come into play.
My best savings tips? Live well below your means and automate, automate, AUTOMATE. I have a set amount transferred from checking to savings every month that will help get me to my goals, and then anytime I get extra cash (i.e. tax refund, bonus, surplus at the end of the year), it all gets funneled back into savings as well so that I get there even faster.
You come to find you can easily live with less, and in the meantime, you start knocking out goals left and right. How’s that for having your cake and eating it, too?
This is all of the other “extras” that come along with life, like travel (which was super cheap this year because of my free rewards miles), gifts, gym memberships, blog costs, etc. And to be honest, I threw it in because I’m Type A and needed the percentages to tie to 100%. So here you have it.
This is my last post for 2017 (obviously), so I hope you all have a wonderful time wearing something glittery and sipping champagne! Keith and I are going to lay low on NYE, so live it up for me ;)
And before you go, I’d love for you to spill the beans as well on one of the following:
- What’s your biggest spending category?
- How much did you save this year?
- What is one area you’re looking to improve upon in 2018?
Looking forward to your answers – just leave them in the comments below. See you in 2018!