December seems to go by the fastest of all months for me. There is so much to do preparing for the holidays and then traveling and spending time with families. My wife and I always debate if we are doing too much with decorations around the house. Putting it all up (which the kids enjoy) takes a few weekends. Taking it down also takes up a few weekends in January (mostly me putting it all away). The debate is always is it all worth it or would our time be better spent doing other activities. My wife always has a good point that it is spending time with the kids. They enjoy it and will hopefully have fond memories of the holidays. My only point is that it gets a wee bit stressful for us parents trying to get it done and take care of several young children.
There are always several things you can do to make the holidays less stressful. This year I had a fixed budget and did 100% of my shopping online. No hunting the aisles for gifts or dealing with traffic. I did it in the evenings after the kids were in bed or during lunch at work. Saved time and gas money.
The second and probably biggest stress reducer was for the first time I had set a budget and saved for it throughout 2016. We stuck to it and although the kids got less this year it was still a good time for all Christmas morning. Unlike last January this January I will not get a big credit card bill that I have no savings to pay for. Last January was my only negative net income month for the entire year. This year my goal is to have only positive months (Goal #1.)
On top of only having positive months my next goal is to increase my savings rate. Last year my average savings was 22% of my income. There were a few swings from 59% down to negative. At my new job I am back to twice a month paychecks so that removes the 2, 3-paycheck months. That will help smooth out my rate. With my budget complete and savings goals set, I am setting a lofty goal of 30% of income saved (Goal #2.)
Yep my savings goals are back. Last year I had 3 and achieved all of them. They were Christmas, Vacation and Emergency Fund. My first 2 goals are the same for 2017. Holiday expenses and vacation. Although this year I cut the vacation budget in half and plan on only 1 major family vacation this year. The rest of my vacation time will be staycations doing fun and free stuff around my city with the family or catching up on home maintenance.
Notice anything missing? Hard to call myself the Dividend Family Guy if I am not investing. While I did contribute to my 401k and reinvest my dividends I didn’t even come close to maximizing my tax-free accounts. So now that I have my emergency fund, this year will be the first ever year to max out my 401k, IRA's and HSA accounts to the tune of $35,500 (Goal #3.) If I can save more than 30%, anything left over will go into my taxable account for investing in dividend growth stocks.
As always if you don't have your health what does all of this saving buy you? I gained seventeen pounds since my daughter was born. I need to get back down to an ideal weight of 180 lbs. (Goal #4.) I have already started but it will be a long journey at about a pound a week. My work has a gym and trainer who comes in on Wednesdays. Taking advantage of that and eating right I should be in shape for vacation this summer. The weight reduction will also remove pressure from my lower back where I have developed some arthritis.
I achieved all of my goals last year except for the weight loss. That seems to be tougher than saving money (at least for me.) Wish me luck in 2017 and I hope you have some goals set and are working towards them as well.
Peace,Dividend Family Guy