How Did I Do On My 2018 Goals?

Here were my goals for 2018:

  1. Marry and combine finances with my partner. PASS. To be fair, this is not completely finished by I did manage to get married and we’re like 80% of the way there with the finances. So I’ll give myself this one.
  2. Increase net worth 3 units FAIL. I started off the year 5.28 units from my financial freedom goal. Haven’t finalized the numbers for this month yet, but it looks like I’ll be somewhere between 0.25-0.5 units shy of my goal. But I’m okay with that. Husband was unemployed for half the year, I took a month off between jobs, and of course there was that big salary drop with my career change. There are more important things than money. And, honestly, we did fine.
  3. Generate another stream of income, separate from my job. FAILI didn’t really focus on this at all.
  4. Chisel my way to six-pack abs. OKAY. I don’t have a six-pack or anything close. BUT I did keep up with my ab workouts all year long and have core strength like woah. So that’s cool.
  5. Visit Ireland and Amsterdam. OKAYWe did go to Ireland for our honeymoon, however I’ve come to realize that (1) my friend lives in Copenhagen, not Amsterdam and (2) we’re going to visit her next year for her wedding.
  6. Get involved in 2018 governor’s race. FAILBasically anything that required time this year I simply did not do. Other than my new job. That’s taken up… a lot.
  7. Do one “interesting” thing per month. FAIL. This was a cool idea in theory and if I really thought about it I probably averaged one interesting moment per month but didn’t really document this well and twelve months later this feels more kitschy than important.

Then there’s my “keep on keeping on” list:

  1. Maintain body weight, regular diet and exercise. PASS. Consistent exercise and good (enough) eating.
  2. Continue volunteering and donating 10% of my income. PASS. Summary here.
  3. Read at least one book a month. PASS. I technically passed this but I feel pretty silly for setting the goal so low and also still kind of ashamed for how little I read. I started plenty of books but got bored midway for a number of them (which never used to happen to me before). Yes, I’m super basic and read like a high school student. What of it? If y’all have book recommendations, I’d be happy to take them. Anyway, here’s what I finished:
    1. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison (5/5)
    2. Jazz by Toni Morrison (4/5)
    3. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (3/5)
    4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (3/5)
    5. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver (3/5)
    6. Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders (2/5)
    7. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit (5/5)
    8. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (3/5)
    9. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5)
    10. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5)
    11. All the Names by Jose Saramago (4/5)
    12. Daisy Miller by Henry James (4/5)
    13. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (3/5)
    14. Laughter In the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov (3/5)

Overall I did pretty terribly with my goals this year. Oh well. But at the same time, I still had such a big year between marriage, changing careers, and going through really hard personal stuff with family and friends. Looking back, I was so unfocused on what I wanted my life to look like. But I am pretty proud of myself of powering (muddling?) through some really hard times. I feel more mature, like I am starting to get an understanding of me as a fully formed being with experiences, not just a little bundle of potential. It’s a scary feeling, like I’m finally accepting closing certain doors on my life. But I’m moving forward. And that’s… good?

How did you fare with your 2018 goals?

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‘Tis The Season For Charitable Tax Deductions 2018

Since 2016, I’ve made the commitment to donate 10% of my net income each year. I do 10% because I grew up around very religious folk and felt like, though I’m not religious myself, I wanted to have something akin to a secular tithe. An amount that felt “moral” but not like I was giving away the farm. Something that was just the right amount of painful. Here is a link to my 2017 post.

In 2018 we continued to donate 10% of my net income, but not our joint income (though we will be contributing based on joint in 2019). We donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law. However, we did get our wedding guests to donate a few thousand dollars to our favorite charities rather than buy us expensive presents, which is not reflected in the below numbers.

Here are the areas we donated to in 2017 and 2018:

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We don’t plan at the beginning of the year how much we’ll donate to each area, but we think this is more or less a decent reflection of my values. Note that we donated much more in 2017 than in 2018 because I “prepaid” my balance for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law.

Here are the organizations represented in each bucket:

  • Food Security. This is for the small, local food rescue organization that donates fruits and vegetables to seniors, people with disabilities, and other food programs in our area. This is money I feel “proudest” to donate to each year (see: my deep emotional connection with food).
  • Immigration. Lots of money to RAICES because we as a country continue to jail and torture migrants in droves. Honestly, I don’t understand why the press continues to fuck around about the internal politics of the administration when children are literally dying under ICE custody. I am deeply ashamed for how impotent I feel on this issue. Money doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Environment. I used to divvy this bucket up amongst a lot of different environmental advocacy groups, but nowadays I just dump it all to the National Resource Defense Council.
  • Criminal Justice. Local (state) bail fund.
  • Civil Rights. Local LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

What we didn’t donate to this year:

  • Brother’s education. He graduated and while I gave him a little money to celebrate that, there are no more tuition/room/board etc payments going forward. Woohoo!
  • Political organizations. I feel somewhat guilty about this but, honestly, every time I thought about donating for the 2018 cycle I kept thinking (1) Dems already had landslide levels of funding and (2) the money would be better put to use targeting migrant issues. So that’s what happened there.

What is your charitable giving philosophy? How much did you donate in 2018 and to what organizations? 

What’s Your Personal Discretionary Spending?

The past couple months, my husband and I have been easing into a his-hers-ours version of joint finances. As part of that system, we each get $600 of discretionary “allowance” money, no questions asked, shielded off from each other in our own personal accounts.

Spoiler alert: I’m having a hard time with it.

I knew I had inflated my lifestyle since I started working six years ago. What I didn’t realize is just how much. You can see in my previous budget update that I like to eat out a lot, though I guess I’ve documented that pretty well over the months. In addition I go to a fancy climbing gym near our home — it’s so convenient, I love the exercise classes, I guest in friends all the time. And then there are my material wants: nice clothes, noise canceling headphones so I can actually focus in my open office. My wants are overwhelming. I am, very clearly, not frugal.

The other thing we’ve been trying to calibrate as a couple is what actually counts as discretionary spending, like:

  • Clothes: I’ve been putting clothes on my personal account while he needs business casual clothes for work and has been putting on the joint.
  • Haircuts: He has more expensive hair maintenance than I do (dying and more frequent cuts)– is that a him thing or an us thing? We’d previously discussed this as being individual, but lately he’s gone to a cheaper place and wants to put on joint.
  • Gym: I could go to a cheaper gym but I like the nicer gym more, so I’ve defaulted to eating the expense in personal. On the other hand, I go frequently and it is an important facet of my health maintenance– physical, mental, and social. His therapy is a joint expense because it’s important for his self-care, so shouldn’t my gym membership be too for the same reason?

Writing it out, I realize part of the angst I am feeling is that in a lot of these cases we’re defaulting to his self-care as being a joint expense and mine as being an individual expense. There’s a lot there, including how we approach self-care and a lot of differences in our self-image (particularly our own body images) wrapped all up in there. So yeah, some “fun” (read: difficult but probably necessary) conversations to be had there. Whee.

Obviously, I / we don’t have answers to all of them, but we’re sorting through it. But I’d love to hear feedback from y’all:

Do you have a budget for your discretionary spending? If so, how much do you spend?

Is self-care an individual or a joint expense? What type of self-care is a “want” versus a “need”?

All The Clothes I Bought In The Second Half of 2018

In the first half of the year, I mostly bought casual clothing and minor replacements in shoes and socks for my wardrobe. I kept up the same trend the last few months. Most of items I got were blue– easy, neutral, don’t want flashy right now. I doubt I’ll be buying anything in the next few weeks, mostly out of disinterest in anything except an Alighieri necklace, which I know I won’t be buying until next year at least.

Everything I Bought

Vince Color Block T Shirt – $33

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I needed some casual T-shirts for work. I wanted something without logo branding, but a little funkier than the plain crew-neck shirts I have already.

Eileen Fisher Silk Blend Crew Neck Sweater $27

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For when I’m leaning hard into menocore. I’ve never been much into loose, flowy garments, but this this sweater is so damn cozy and I actually kind of like the crunchy granola look I have wearing this with my tortoise shell glasses.

J Brand Jeans – $35

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The same as the jeans I bought during my wardrobe overhaul last year. I like the way those have held up, but I needed another pair so it wasn’t on rotation literally every day.

Vince Paneled Shirt – $22

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Another hip shirt with a wide waist and stomach, though less so than a tunic. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, though it feels like a good transitional item for when I’m pregnant (is that a thing I’m allowed to think about now?).

Total – $117

Grand Total for 2018 – $327

Summary

My goal at the beginning of the year was to stay under $350 for clothes, and I definitely did that! I’m not setting myself a budget for next year. Now that my husband and I have our monthly allowances, I feel less pressure to spend more/less in any particular budget category. Rather, as long as I stay in my range for total discretionary spending each month (~$600) then it’s fine.

Other than the La Collisione necklace from Alighieri, the only thing I have on my radar for next year is a summer shoe– something like TOMS canvas ones. And maternity clothing maybe? That’s still weird to say.

Oh, and I want to get a few pieces repaired early in the year. This includes my leather jacket, which somehow developed a small rip in the shoulder, cleaning my Merrells, replacing my insoles, and tuning up one of the old fancy watches I got as a wedding so I can wear it day to day.

What clothes did you buy in 2018? Do you have a budget for next year? What pieces do you have your eye on?

What Keeps You Up At Night?

There was a long time, when I was a child and young adult, when money would keep me awake. Or, at least, the lack of it. I’d worry for hours deep into the night whether we’d become homeless, whether I’d be able to afford college, whether I’d lose my job and be unemployable forever more. I traversed all these worries link by link for years until, relatively recently, I realized: money is no longer my problem.

I have been extremely lucky in this regard. High paying jobs and the principles of financial independence have led me to a place where I feel assured we will have enough money to live, to pay the bills, to take care of the kids, etc. We may not be retirement-ready rich, but it’d be silly of me to expect we’d ever be truly poor.

And with this, I felt free.

For a time.

Here’s the thing: chronic anxiety is a strange beast. When the object of the anxiety is gone, the anxiety itself doesn’t just magically disappear. It may seem that way, for a while. There’s a lull, a respite. But there’s always something around the corner or even an infinite number of things to fill the vacuum.

That terrible social faux pas I made last Tuesday, trying to meet my work goals, not being fulfilled by my labor, serious physical ailments befalling my family and friends, political turmoil, families still being separated at the border, the threat of autocracy, the threat of ethnic cleansing, climate change, whether it is amoral to have children in the current age, whether I’d feel if my life had meaning if I couldn’t have kids, the idea of death. The list goes on and on.

And the thing is: all these concerns, though of varying import, are all real and legitimate. But they are also suffocating. This anxiety, at times a useful tool to be harnessed to motivate personal process, can in the worst of times stifle my ability to even move.

This is the key idea that I want to start working through now that I see it clearly: there’s no amount of controlling my environment that will make all these problems disappear (though certainly I should work to help others). For my own sanity, I have to accept that there’s an entire world of problems out there for everyone to suffer through. But what’s keeping me awake at night isn’t the world. It’s me.

What keeps you up at night? How do you deal with anxiety?

How Much Did We Spend On Our Wedding?

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Our wedding has come and gone. We are now married. (This, in my book, was always the minimum threshold of success.)

In terms of cost, I think we did pretty well. I talked with one of my coworkers before the event, astonishingly telling her “average wedding costs” per women’s magazines and the like ($30k+ in our area). As a part-time wedding hair stylist, she didn’t believe those numbers for a second. “It’s at least $80k out where I live on the Cape!” I think we run in very different circles.

As you can tell from the table above, we got a lot of help with wedding costs. His mother insisted on paying for the catering, which was by far the most expensive line item. It costs a lot to feed 60 people! That said, our caterers were excellent. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food; they did all the set-up, clean-up, and serving labor; plus they provided hot apple cider and coffee for our guests, and welcome end to the event on a cool fall day outdoors. And after the event they packed up all the extra food for us, which meant our diet was nothing but wedding leftovers for an entire week.

There were a couple things here and there that didn’t go quite as planned. Because our original musician ended up moving away for conservatory, we decided to go the “let’s play something on our computer” route. Unfortunately, our speakers just decided not to work? So that was kind of a bust.

But overall the event was fine to good. The weather was perfect and the trees in the park had just started turning their leaves, bits of red and orange flecks amongst the mostly-green topiary. I brought a dozen decks of playing cards for people to use during the reception and I think it really helped in keeping our guests entertained. I got to see some out-of-town friends, which was nice. And our families were on their best behavior– a welcome relief.

I might update this post with some wedding photos once our photographer sends us the final copies. Or I might not. If you can’t tell, I’m mostly just glad our wedding is behind us. I love my husband and enjoy being married. But, big orchestrated events? I can do without another one of those for a good, long time.

Did you enjoy your wedding? How much did you spend on “the big day”?

What We Spent In Ireland

Flights

$672.06 + 67,324 Amex MR
Economy class on Aer Lingus x2

After hours of frustration that an Aer Lingus ticket booked with 50k BA Avios would somehow be more expensive than booking with cash, I decided to use my Amex points to cover the cost of a ticket. There were cheaper flights available, but they’d have been at weird times and require layovers in Germany? 🤔

Accomodations

$889.41 + 50k IHG + 25k Starwood
AirBnB x3, Castle x1, Holiday Inn x2, Westin x1

If I had to change one thing about our trip, I’d have spent more time in the Irish countryside and less time in the cities. For our one night in the country, we got to stay in a beautiful castle next to a field of ponies in a lush room with a two person jacuzzi. Just look at how gorgeous this is:

And that castle stay cost less per night than the sketchy, illegal AirBnB we stayed at in the bad part of Dublin, for which we picked up our keys– I kid you not– in a lockbox attached to the barred windows behind an abandoned building.

Transportation

$986.49
Car rental, parking, tolls
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We got a small hybrid, which managed to last the entire week without a fill up. Fiancé did all of the driving; I have a hard enough time when driving on the right side of the road. 🚘

Food

$640.78
Lots of restaurant food, most of it mediocre.

I am going to be honest: I did not have high expectations for Irish food. Our first dinner in Dublin, the mushy orange paste on my plate had been so boiled to death that I could not tell whether it was tomato or carrot. 🍅🥕?IMG_20180909_161918
When we took trips out of the cities, I found it much easier to find good food. The best by far was the multi-course dinner in the castle we stayed at. They took something as simple as chicken broth and took it to the next level. Note to self: the secret is to cook down to a concentrated stock and clarify with eggs. Sadly I forgot to take pictures of it and, really, most of the food, so you get the above shot of a kind of mediocre suburban mall meal instead. 🤷

My advice? When in the cities just go for the Indian food or cook your own meals; save the pubs for the rolling countryside. Be warned though: even at the best of places, though, the flavors were still quite subtle (read: if you like heavily spiced food, you will be disappointed).

Activities & Sights

$644.90
Victor’s Way, Dublin Fringe Festival hip hop performance, National Museum of Ireland – Arts & Archaelogy, Book of Kells, falconry lesson, seaweed oil massage with brushing, Black Cab Tours, Giant’s Causeway, Irish Linen Centre, Newgrange monument tourIMG_20180913_142339~2

As Fiance’s first international trip and our designated honeymoon to boot, it was important to me that our trip to Ireland be special. Cue the $350 falconry lesson and $130 seaweed massage. 🐣🌿💆

You hear that? That’s the sound of my soul leaving my body. 😱👻
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Jokes aside, I am glad we splurged on this special occasion. We got slow motion footage of real life hawks dive bombing us for food and Fiance’s skin has been sooo soft since his exfoliating massage. Absolutely worth it.
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That said, the frugal traveler could get by in Ireland in a lot less. Ireland is replete with beautiful natural wonders and inexpensive historic sights to visit.IMG_20180909_142459~2
I personally recommend the willing traveler head north to visit Giant’s Causeway if at all possible. We didn’t manage to walk on the Carrick-a-Rede bridge while in the area, but have heard great things about it too.

Shopping

$247.04
Avoca scarf, tweed vest

Fiancé bought himself a scarf and a tweed vest that’ll be part of his wedding outfit. Usually I would also get gifts for my friends when traveling abroad, but I didn’t see anything I thought they’d like.

Other

$503
Luggage fees, airport parking

These are the “unforced errors” of our trip. As in, it would have been so easy to circumvent these costs if we had planned ahead. In particular, Fiancé came straight to the airport from work, which ended up costing us $300 in parking fees. If we had researched the parking options and he had dropped the car off at home and taken a taxi or instead, or even if he had just used the economy lot, we could have easily saved $150-250 on that item alone. Sigh.

Summary

  • Flights – $672.06
  • Accommodations – $889.41
  • Transportation – $986.49
  • Food – $640.78
  • Activities & Sights – $644.90
  • Shopping – $247.04
  • Other – $490.26

Total spending: $4,570.93

Honestly, I am not thrilled with how much we spent, about a thousand dollars more than what I had expected for this trip.

Part of the mistake here was that we approached planning in a divide and conquer fashion. I booked the flights and hotel while Fiancé dealt with the auto-related items separately, so I ended up greatly underestimating how much the big ticket stuff would cost. Had I known our car rental and parking would be so expensive, I might have suggested we go to a better value destination. Or, at the very least, been a lot more proactive in curbing our expenses on “Food” and “Other” to compensate.

The other reason for the overrun here was that Fiancé’s mother is very generous and offered to let him use her card for whatever as a wedding gift. And I think it may have, ahem, caused him to be looser with the spending than he otherwise would have been. 😑

All in all though, I’m glad we took the time to have a nice vacation together. The next international trip on the horizon is a friend’s wedding in Copenhagen, but we haven’t decided whether we’re both going to that yet or just me. In any case, I would like to squeeze in one more fun travel experience before we have kids.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Traveled anywhere fun lately? Any recommendations for Copenhagen?