Financial Goals: Makin’ It Happen

So last week or so I posted some specific goals I’d like to reach by end of this year. There were some financial ones, health ones, education ones and relationship ones.

I was able to post them but not able to give a lot of specifics on how to do achieve those goals. Today I wanna discuss how I am planning on meeting my financial goals for 2010 and give you a small update on each of them.

Here is my list from February 24 and my thoughts below.

FINANCIAL
1. $1,000 in emergency fund by year end 2010
2. $2,000 in cash savings by year end 2010
3. $1500 for vacation in fall of 2010
4. $800 for school every semester
5. Open a 401(k) and Roth IRA and begin to fund

On the emergency fund…
I am currently 75% to my goal. I was going back and forth whether to just throw all my extra money at it at once to get it up to the goal more quickly but I’ve got a few other things happenin’ so I’m going a little slower than I thought.

On the cash savings…
This isn’t much yet. I’ll say this: there’s some in there. But I am not contributing to it currently so I can add more to my e-fund. (By the way, this is basically an extension of my emergency fund. I’d like to get my e-fund up to 6-8 months of living expenses because you never know what could happen.)

On the vacation savings…
I am all set to go on a vacation but the more I think about it sometimes the more I think, “If I put that money toward my e-fund that’d ROCK.” But…vacations are good things. And I haven’t been on one in awhile so I’m doing this. Though I am thinking of cutting the cost down. ūüėČ

On the school savings…
I’ve got a plan in place that should rock this baby home! I’m thrilled.

On the 401(k) and Roth IRA…
I will open the 401(k) in November as that is when I am eligible for an employer match. And I’m shooting to open my Roth once I”m done saving for vacation (hopefully mid or late summer.) I know some of you may have just fallen down dead that I’d put off retirement savings for a vacation NOW but it is what it is and I’m happy about it! ūüėČ

There you have it, kids. Short and sweet.

What are some of your financial goals and how are you reaching them??

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Mindless Money Wasters

J Money at Budgets Are Sexy is always a source of inspiration for me. I know there are many personal finance bloggers out there but he’s just my fav. He was also really the 1st one I stumbled across so I think I’m biased.

But he posted here some mindless money wasters he had got from Free Money Finance who I guess had gotten them from Yahoo. All that to say I couldn’t relate to many of those mindless money wasters but I know I have my own so here is confession time. I know there are many more but that is for another time and place. ūüėČ

(I know I haven’t written a lot about my finances, budgets, etc. but please have the understanding I really love to keep track of that kind of thing, and I try to be frugal. So this is a hard list for me to share with you guys!)

1. Movies.
Watching movies is one of my new favorite things to do. And most of the time it’s in the theater, opening weekend. So I do throw too much at this. I’ve been trying to find some more good, cheap (or free!), fun things to do though and lately I have succeeded on a few occasions. ūüėČ

2. Popcorn and drink at the movies.
I used to NEVER do this. I mean, I’m paying as much for that as I did for my ticket. But then I met my awesome friend Chara who I don’t think even believes in watching a movie without popcorn and a drink. So now I’m hooked.Popcorn with Kernel Season’s Jalapeno Seasoning (the BOMB) and a half¬†Pepsi, half diet-Pepsi¬†drink.
I’m thinking to cut down, maybe every other time I’ll eat right beforehand and then just drink water during. ūüėČ

3. Eating out.
Of course, this is a big one for all of us, I am guessing. I try to limit my eating out to the weekends when I can actually enjoy it with people I love. But I need to cut it to only 1 time a week. Right now it’s hovering around 2-4. Some weeks are better than others.

4. Good deals.
This week I had committed to a “no-spend” week where I wouldn’t spend any money unless I absolutely had to (gas and bills.) But I realized what a sucker I am for good deals when a woman at work is selling makeup products for half off. I gave in and bought a few though I didn’t absolutely HAVE to have them. And then today I bought a $4.99 cutlery set online because well, I will need it eventually and it’s such a good deal.
I’m all about good deals but they can potentially be mindless money wasters if you are only buying cause it’s a good deal and not because you actually need whatever it is.

Ok, don’t think I’m crazy but that is pretty much it for me…right now. I’m saving for A LOT of things so much of my money goes toward different savings accounts.

But what about you? Have you fallen prey to any of these mindless money wasters?

Building Credit with a Credit Card

Last week I hung out with an old friend, and I mentioned in passing how I had gotten a credit card recently in order to build credit. His response was one of disbelief that I would stoop to such a level.

At first I was a little offended but quickly realized he thought this was crazy because so many people act stupid with them. But the good news is YOU DON’T HAVE TO!! =)

Credit cards have gotten a bad rap recently–especially among young people who actually want to be smart with their finances. So many students just stay away from them completely. Which is a viable option.

Bu unfortunately, for those people, if they have no other credit history, when they do choose to go out and buy a house or try to get any other kind of loan, their rates will be much higher than those who had built up good credit for themselves.

So that’s why I got a credit card. They are not immoral. Or moral. They are….amoral. It’s just a piece of plastic that if you take care of like you do the rest of your finances will actually help you in the long haul because it will prove to the people you want to loan you money that you will pay them back–and on time.

So for those young people who have no credit history and would like to build it–go ahead and consider a credit card. But here are some dos and donts you¬†absolutely¬†must follow:

1. Do find the right card. For your 1st card it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, schmancy with lots of rewards and a high credit limit. Find something simple and boring. You will have time to become financially secure and smart enough to get a cool card with cash back rewards and jazz in the future.¬†Things to watch for: interest rate (low), annual fees (none), grace periods (you want to be able to pay your balance off by the due date without any finance fees.)
2. Don’t carry a balance. Just don’t do it. If you put money on the card, keep the money in your savings or checking account to pay it off at the end of the month. Forget all together looking at the “minimum payment” box. Just pay off the balance. Every time. =) If you do this, you will not even have to worry about the interest rate because you won’t be paying any!
3. Do decide what you’ll use it for. I usually decide for that month I will use it for ____ (sometimes it’s gas, groceries, etc.) You can use it for whatever you’d like but decide ahead of time so you won’t go overboard with it. But like I said…you’re using it as a substitute for the cash you already have in your checking account. Not because you don’t have the money¬†and you want whatever it is right now.
4. Do pay it on time. Every time. There’s really nothing worse than making a late payment on your card. Pay it at least a week an advance to steer clear of this TRAGEDY. (And it is a tragedy…it will stay on your credit report for probably 5-7 years.)
5. Don’t go over half of your credit limit. Have a limit of $1,000? Stick to under $500. I’m not the credit bureau, and I don’t know why if you go over half your limit it makes your credit score go down, but it does. So…even if you’re planning on paying it off at the end of the month (which I know you are!) don’t go over half your limit.

Five easy things to remember to build credit and help your credit score get higher and higher. The higher the score, the more people will want to loan you money and the more things you can accomplish and dreams you can see fulfilled!

Goals: Set, Keep, Reach

Goals are vital. I’m always telling myself and people around me that if you don’t set a goal I can guarantee you, 100% of the time you WILL. NOT. REACH. IT.

Of course, right? But we all tend to live (at times) as if we are going to do and reach everything we want to without actually telling ourselves exactly what that is. Yes, we all want to live a good life. Yes, we all want to love. Yes, we all want to be different and make a difference. But what does that look like? Really?

I’m not one to say that there is a certain thing I want to “be” when I grow up, but I do have dreams and desires. But those dreams and desires will only come about in the form of short-term goals. Yes, mid and long term goals are needed as well–and hopefully I’ll talk about those soon–but if there is no short term goal that I can see I am getting closer to reaching, I start to lose hope. And when it comes down to it, hope drives us.

So…because I want to be¬†transparent¬†and I want to share with you specifics about my life (and I want to know specifics about ¬†yours!) I’m going to list some of my more short-term goals in a few different areas.

FINANCIAL (so supposedly you aren’t supposed to talk about your finances with people but….why not??)
1. $1,000 in emergency fund by year end 2010
2. $2,000 in cash savings by year end 2010 (this is gonna be a hard one.)
3. $1500 for vacation in fall of 2010
4. $800 for school every semester (the rest is going on a loan….I know, I know, everyone says loans aren’t good but we’ll talk about that in a later post.)
5. Open a 401(k) and Roth IRA and begin to fund (I’m 20 and I know that’s when you’re supposed to start saving for retirement but I want to get my cash savings built ¬†up first.

There are some other shortER term goals like a mini-vacation to TX one weekend, a new cell phone, saving for some furniture, etc, etc. And in order to meet all these goals it requires a little more attention to be paid to your finances than just putting your paycheck in your checking account and then swiping you debit card a few times. But take heart! It CAN be done!

HEALTH
Well, this is a good one, right? Sure, it’s good to have goals in the health area of your life but they are soooo hard to keep. At least for me, they are. As much as I don’t want to blame things on my¬†environment¬†sometimes I feel it really is the reason I’m not keeping my short-term health goals. But regardless! Here they are….
1. Work out 4 times a week.
2. No caffeine.
3. One “sugar-extra” a week. (Are you kidding me, right now?!?)
4. At least 6 hours of sleep every night.
5. Lose 10 pounds by May 1

These are goals. They are things I’m working toward. The no caffeine thing I have been doing really really well on. The second week of January I decided to knock out coffee out of my diet completely, and it was a VERY good decision. I have no more caffeine-induced, artificial energy. Only the raw thing! The other things I’m still working on. =)

EDUCATION/TRAINING
1. Read smart/successful/entertaining people’s blogs daily. (I have a wide array of blogs I read–friends about their daily life, new entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs, CEOs, smart professionals, LOTS of personal finance bloggers. I encourage you to start adding good blogs you come across to your¬†google reader so you can look at all of them in one place.)
2. Read books often. (Right now it’s a lot of books for school but if I have any extra time I like to pick up books I’ve heard are a must to read. I keep a “wish list” on Amazon so I always know what I need. =)
3. ¬†Finish my bachelor’s degree.

Learning is for everyone. Whether you have your bachelor’s degree or not, you can never learn enough. So whatever you’re interested in keep learning more about it. And whatever you WANT to be more interested in, you can be by just sticking yourself out a little and finding a few blogs or books!

RELATIONSHIPS
Ultimately, I don’t want my relationships to be “goals” but sometimes I have to internalize some certain things I want to do in the near future with certain people I love or want to reach out to. Here’s a few examples.
1. More hang time with my family.
2. More networking with those I haven’t talked to in awhile.
3. More talking to strangers.
5. Not be so uptight and learn to enjoy the spontaneous fun-ness that always happens in a house full of 7 people I love dearly.

Obviously goals are better set, kept and reached when they have some kind of “numerical” value to them…because then you can measure it easily. Relationships aren’t numbers though, they are faces, and I’d like to keep them that way. So when I go to “measure” these relational goals I just have to let my heart do all the thinking.

Ok. That is SOO enough of my goals.

Now my questions for you!

What goals have you set, kept and reached lately? What goals do you need to set now? How do you keep yourself on track?

Smarty Pig

Let me share with you a secret…

Saving money can be fun. For real. It’s always been fun for me to make a goal and work to reach it, but it’s even more fun now that I’ve come across a cool new website (and basically financial institution) called Smarty Pig. You can also find Smarty Pig on twitter @smartypig

With Smarty Pig you can set one goal, two goals or ten goals. And then you can set it up to have money withdrawn from your checking account either automatically or whenever you choose to go towards your goal. When you add to it, there are graphs and percentages to show you how close you are getting to reaching your goal.

And the REALLY cool thing–that I have yet to experience–is that other people can contribute to your goal. You can send out a link on twitter or facebook or set up a link on your blog where anyone who wants to can see how close you are to reaching your goal and help you out if they’d like. And speaking of! If you just feel the inkling down deep inside to contribute to my current goal you can do so HERE.

It’s really simple and actually a lot of fun.

Right now my only goal is my 2010 vacation. I’m hoping to save up $1500 by August so Chara and I can go on a cruise in the fall. I’ll write more about our ideas later! I haven’t been on vacation in so long and am definitely looking forward to it.

If you’d like to start saving for something in specific, you might check out Smarty Pig and see what they have to offer.

What are you currently saving or wanting to save for? If you’re not saving yet what is the biggest hindrance you face?

Millionaire To Do List

I’m not into the “get rich quick” schemes but what I am into is being responsible with my finances, and hopefully helping a few people along the way. I’m not the smartest person with finances but I read (a lot) of personal finance blogs and have learned a lot from ordinary people who have made mistakes and learned from them as well as who have made decisions that were straight dead on.

So there are a few things I’ve decided when it comes to my money.
One: It isn’t really mine so I hold it with open hands. It’s entrusted to me to use for the good of others and myself and to honor God and people around me. And…
Two: I would like to be a millionaire one day.

Pretty simple, really. Nothing to get stressed about. But it is a little something for me to get excited about and work towards. Slowly, but surely.

So here it is:

My Millionaire To Do List

1. Open a 401(k) plan and fund it up to the max my employer will match.
For me, this is 5% of what I make. So on a yearly basis I’ll add 5% of my income and my employer will match it so whatever 10% of my income is that year is how much will be added to my 401(k) for the year. Cool!

2. Open a Roth IRA and max it out yearly.
A roth IRA can be funded up to $5,000 a year. And what is great about Roth IRAs is that you get taxed on it as you put it in, not when you pull it out. Perfect.

3. Keep a budget and be frugal but not to too frugal.
What I love about a budget is that I get to tell myself how much I get to give myself in my savings accounts as well as how much I get to just spend on whatever I want. (Of course, the bills are in there too but not quite as exciting.) And it helps me stay frugal. Knowing that I want to be able to have an extraordinary amount of money in my savings accounts gives me the inspiration I need to live my day-to-day life a little less luxuriously.

4. Regularly find ways to increase my income.
This could be trying to get a raise or promotion at work, or starting a side business or selling random things I don’t need anymore. The more channels of income I have the more income I’ll have. And income is the best way to save more money. Cause I can live off of what I have right now. So if I make more, I can keep living off of what I have right now and save all the extra.

So the question is…why create a millionaire to do list? Why save instead of spend? Well, I don’t save for the sake of saving. I save so I can live well when I’m older. I¬†¬†save so I can go on vacation later. I save so I can buy the new laptop with cash. I save so I can give to other whenever I want to.

I save so I can live well. =)