My Financial Resolutions

At the beginning of 2007, I set ten personal goals, about half of which were financial. I’ve achieved five of those goals, three are in progress, and two were intentionally delayed because the other goals are in progress.

I like to call these goals rather than financial resolutions because people don’t keep resolutions. Goals are something I can work toward. I also use hard numbers in my goals because it gives me a benchmark to work towards. If I just say “lose weight,” then I’ve succeeded if I lose one pound, but that won’t make a difference in my pants size. If I give it a firm number, then I know I’m not done until I reach that goal.

Of course, some goals appear from year to year, like my perennial goal to lose ten pounds. I’m still working on that one. I did succeed in that the year I got married, but then I had to spend six months studying for grad school exams and the weight all came back. So, I’ve still got six pounds to lose, and they’re back on my list for 2008.

Here are my financial resolutions for 2008, and a few goals you might want to set for yourself.

Track my spending for one month: This is one I sort of do. I give my receipts to my husband, but I don’t physically write down every cent I spend. So, I’m going to try it for one month to see when I spend money. It shouldn’t be too hard, because I really don’t spend that much as it is.

Pay $40,000 in debt: Before you gape at that astounding number, let me explain. My husband and I were both recently grad students. Neither of us worked full-time while in school. Because of the rigors of his program, my husband didn’t work at all while in school. If you know any grad students, you know that financial aid doesn’t cover all the living expenses, so we used credit cards for things like groceries and haven’t fully paid them off yet. That figure also includes two high-rate student loans that we hope to be rid of by year end.

Boost retirement savings by 3%: I already joined the retirement savings program at work, but my husband only recently became eligible for his. We both plan to boost our savings once the above debt is paid off.

Boost our emergency fund: Right now, we’re focused on the debt, but once that’s gone, we plan to boost our emergency fund.

Buy a house: Well, since we live in Los Angeles, it will probably be a condo or townhouse rather than a house, but buying will be within reach once the above debt is paid off. I’m already starting to see places drifting within our price range. I think by next fall, prices will be low enough that we can start seriously looking. With luck, the credit panic will also be subsiding so we can actually get a good loan.

If you want to set some financial goals, but don’t know where to start, go with the first one. It’s easy and it only takes a month. You’ll be done by February 1. How’s that for early success?

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