Monthly Financial Update

It’s a new year and if you’ve not done so yet, I’d highly encourage you to sit down and set some financial goals for 2011. It’s amazing the momentum you can receive from having specific, written goals.

Here’s our list, continued over from the middle of last year. We tweaked it a little bit because, after prayer, thought and research, we’ve set our next BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal). By the end of 2012, we’re hoping to have enough saved to purchased a piece of commercial real estate as investment and residual income.

1. Continue to give generously needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal that we’re making a priority every month, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save 40% towards our goal of paying cash for commercial real estate.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

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  1. Elizabeth says

    These are great goals!

    Ours are…
    1. Put 10% of our income into our emergency fund. (We’re working the Dave Ramsey babysteps; we’re extremely low-income but hope to save our first $1000 this year and start working on our debt.)
    2. Pay down our debt. (which is mostly medical)
    3. Give monthly tithes to the two churches we attend, as well as one charity we find worthy each month.

    keep up the good work!


  2. says

    Last year, my husband and I decided we wanted to be debt free and that we desperately wanted to return to life with Mom at home. I am happy to say we successfully paid off commercial debts and have a plan to pay off student loans. Our goals this year are to tithe no less than 10%, save 3 months living expenses, continue to pay on my student loans, resurface our hardwood floors, replace the flooring in our kitchen, replace the floors, cabinetry and tub splash, replace our roof, purchase a more dependable vehicle for my husband and build a back porch for entertaining! It will take discipline, creativity and the Grace of God… We are hopeful to meet these goals! Thanks for inspiring me to keep my religious and familial priorities in order while trying to become more successful in life! :)

  3. Jerilyn says

    It’s fun to see things checked off of the list!

    We’ve just bought our first home. Our goals are to use bonus/tax money to replace some of the old doors (makes the room freezing!) and the bathroom that was in serious need of help– not just aesetics either. :)

  4. says

    We just went to Florida for 12 days so I’m a bit behind on posting our 2011 goals on my blog – hopefully this weekend. But what we know so far hasn’t changed from last year:

    -Put $16,500 into my husbands 401(k) at work (maximum allowed)
    -Put $5000 into Roth IRA for husband
    -Put $5000 into Roth IRA for me
    -Put $2000 into Education Savings Account for each of our 3 children
    -Start savings for daughter’s Bat-Mitzvah in 4 years

  5. says

    Our big goal for the first half of the year is to accumulate three months living expenses in our emergency fund. My husband’s income experiences a yearly dip, and two years ago, we weren’t prepared and sank into considerable credit card debt. Last year, we planned ahead, stocked our savings, and had money to carry us through the lean times. We even paid off one of our two credit cards!

    Once the emergency fund is topped up, my other major goal for this year is to pay off all our credit card debt. We still have staggering student loan debt, but I remind myself that baby steps are the key.

  6. says

    These are some of my favorite posts. They give me such motivation!

    We set out a savings goal for the year in amount, but we didn’t really set a purpose for it. We achieved last year’s goal of getting out of credit card debt. We are still discussing what the purpose of this year’s goal will be. Maybe to pay off my student loan, maybe to pay down the mortgage, maybe to buy a 2nd car if me move back to the mainland in 2010. (We currently are stationed in Hawaii.) The possibilities keep it exciting for me! :)

  7. says

    I didn’t post our financial goals on my blog but I like writing things down and committing to goals so I will add them here. My husband and I met with our Retirement Guy a couple of weeks ago and after that we had a long financial talk. We have 30+ years before retirement but it’s never to early to start preparing so our big goals for this year are:
    1) Pay OFF Car (which would make us debt free except for the mortgage)
    2) Put $5,000 into our retirement savings account which would meet our $25,000 in retirement savings goal by the end of 2011.
    3) Take Dave’s Ramsey’s Financial Peace Online Class. I’ve heard so many amazing testimonials that I thought it would awesome to take his class and learn more.
    These are big goals but after running the numbers we think we can pull it off.
    Crystal, thanks so much for providing encouragement especially during tough economic times like these. It’s refreshing.

  8. Debbie says

    One of our main goals is to shave off $15,000 from the principal of home mortgage. Just refinance to a 3.75%/15 year mortgage and I love to see how our balance is going down considerably already. We are also paying our son’s college tuition cash and hope and pray that we can fund his college education completely (cash only).

  9. Leighann says

    My only financial goal in 2011: pay my bills, on time, every month. No savings, no big purchases…just get through the year and be able to pay my bills. If I can do that, maybe next year I can start a savings account.

    • Sarah says

      @Leighann, I feel the same way! While we do have some money in savings from an inheritance, we have determined not to touch it. But with our income, when you look at the numbers, adding to that just isn’t going to happen. I can get discouraged other people write goals with over $30K going into savings in one form or another… but that’s not where we are and I have to be fine with that. We’ve been blessed with enough, and that’s good enough for me.

      • says

        @Sarah, don’t get discouraged. As one of those people planning on saving about $30K, I have to say I am probably older than you and many others on here (age 43). Also, I had parents who were wise financially, which meant, in part, that they paid for college for me and my siblings. Because of that, I was able to start my working career without any debt. That made a huge difference in being able to put money away year after year. Everyone has different circumstances, and as long as you are doing the best you can with the financial place you are currently in, there is no reason to and feel discouraged. Wishing you a successful year financially!

    • says

      You know what, back a few years ago, just making it through each month and staying out of debt was a big accomplishment for us. So please do not be discouraged. It’s better to stand still than to go backwards. :)

      I’m listening to John Maxwell’s book, Today Matters, right now and it might be a real encouragement to you. Also, if you haven’t already, you might go read this post of mine:

    • Debbie says

      @Leighann, Please don’t feel discourage, I’m 41 years old and my husband 52 and in the last few years is when we’ve been able to do a little more financially. In 2003, I went back to school to get a teaching degree and my hubby worked three jobs for three years so that I could finally earn my degree. Your time will come, I promise!

    • says

      @Leighann, We’ve all been there at some point. Keep plugging away, spend as little as possible on non-necessities and one day the money won’t be as tight as it is now. Hang in there and good luck with your goal.

    • Amanda says


      This too is my goal. My husband decided he loved another woman four months ago and left me with a part time job to pay the bills. Luckily he pays for rent and half of the electric until I am able to find something full time. Right now I feel like I am drowning in the bills and the debt is adding up. I am trying to find a part time job at the moment just to help out. Between car problems, Christmas, and my children’s birthdays all happening within 4 months of each other I keep getting discouraged. I just keep telling myself, “This too shall pass.”

    • Kelly says


      I totally understand! My husband hasn’t been able to take a salary from his business in over 1 year. Unemployment benefits are up. My goals are to simply pay our bills, pay off medical debt from the birth of my son last year; to do those things, I’m going to try to get our grocery bill from $100/week down to $75/week and put the $100 saved towards bills.

      Oddly enough, we used to be the people who maxed out retirement accounts, had emergency funds and took vacations. We bought a lot of commercial real estate that tanked in the recession and we are paying dearly for it and probably will for the rest of our lives. It’s really hard when you know the ‘right things’ to do but just don’t have the means to do them!

  10. Aimee says

    It has been wonderful to have several columns from you over the last several days! These are very encouraging and inspirational. Congratulations on the wonderful progress you’ve made!

  11. abbie says

    Thank you for bringing this back. It is great to read other’s goals! :-) Here are our goals:
    *Have 4 months of Emergency Savings (done in a couple of months)
    *Save money each month to replace our vehicle. (Praise God every month that the vehicle holds on!)
    *Put $ in roth IRA in addition to husbands retirement through work
    *Put $ in college savings for children
    *Pay cash for husband’s marathon

  12. Lyn says

    We are following the babysteps. Our goals this year include finishing the e-fund this month, fully fund a Roth IRA, pay cash for a new roof, start college funds fir the 3 kids, buy an $8000 car with cash and basically to keep plugging along on those babysteps.

    Also, my goal is to get back into couponing and lower the monthly grocery budget.

  13. says

    I mentioned last time that we were adjusting to life with an emergency fund. Now that we aren’t putting huge chunks into it each month, but are instead spreading our income out into different categories such as home maintenance, vacation, car replacement fund, etc. it was feeling much tighter somehow.

    But today was a milestone. I called the exterminator and scheduled an appointment . . . in January!!! That’s a milestone because we rarely have any room in the budget after the holidays, and usually the exterminator is something we have to find the money for within that month’s budget.

    But this time, we had enough in our “home” account to just go ahead and do what needed to be done. See a bug . . . call the bug guy right away without having to readjust the budget, what a concept!!!

    We also are starting to see our vacation fund grow into something significant, and that’s so exciting!

  14. Erin says

    Save up 6 months of expenses for our emergency fund.
    Save up and buy a toy hauler.
    Continue to increase the amount we tithe.
    Put the max we can tax-free in my husband’s 401k ($16,500) and the rest in an after tax 401k acct until we have successfully saved 15% of his 2011 income towards retirement.
    After the above is done:
    Start working on increasing our emergency fund from 6 months of expenses to 1 year (I don’t see this goal getting accomplished in 2011, it is planned for completion in 2012. But I hope to start in 2011)

  15. Valerie says

    1. Pay off the last of my student loans in July, which will be followed by a call to Dave to shout ‘We’re debt free!!!’

    2. Save 6 months of living expenses by December 31st.

  16. says

    Crystal you both are doing so good -it’s great when two can work together to acheive your financial goals.
    I didn’t post this on my blog lately but we are still working on getting our grocery bill down to $50.00 a week for a family of three adults.
    I plan on spending a lot less for Christmas this year so we can save to start our cabin in the woods! It make take a few years to see that dream come true but we are working on it.
    I’m working hard everyday to help bring in a little money to get it started.

  17. says

    My fiance and I started financial goals in November… Each of us having a fully funded emergency fund before we get married this summer, setting aside two months of rent, establishing a car maintenance for him (he’s a pizza delivery driver… it’s kind of important!), and finishing this semester of college with no new debt. Progress report here:

    Another unofficial goal (and one that’s not *technically* financial)… a year’s supply of household items (i.e. toothpaste, deodorants, etc) before we get married!

  18. says

    Crystal, you certainly are an inspiration!
    We are working on getting out of debt… My goal for tomorrow is to revise our budget so I can have more specific numbers!
    Question, if you don’t mind me asking:
    Where does your business income fit in your budget? Do you include it, or do you still try to live off of one income?
    Thanks in advance!

  19. Ashley says

    Our goals for this year are as follows:

    -Fully fund our IRAs for both my husband and I
    -Put $200 per month towards our daughter’s 529
    -Have $12000 in savings for a new to us car to be purchased next year
    -Put $550 extra per month towards our mortgage (will, in theory, make our 30 year mortgage into a 15 year without refinancing)

    We’ll see how it goes!

  20. Amber says

    Save $25,000 towards future first home purchase
    Contribute $5000 to each of our Roth IRA’s.
    Continue to contribute 20% of my income to my 403B
    Successfully use the envelope system.

    Boy it feels good to write them down!

  21. Jessica says

    I am currently a grad student participating in an paid-internship type position that pays after taxes about 15,000 for 10 months. I am hoping to find some summer work that will allow me to reach my financial goals sooner. I am extremely lucky because my family does help me out some but it is up to me to manage the money they give me and make the most of it.

    Current goals reached:
    Pay cash for fall 2010 semester of grad school
    Pay cash for spring 2011 semester of grad school
    Pay off my only credit card
    Save all summer 2011 tuition.

    Goals for the next year include:
    -Save $1300 for summer rent (my position is only 10 months so I only get paid for 10 months.
    – Save $130 for summer utilities
    – Pay fall 2011 tuition in cash
    -Fund professional conference trip in cash

    I still have $4500 in student loan debt (undergrad) and $4500 left on my car loan. My goal is to use any extra income to pay down that these two loans. I am currently 23 and my goal is to be debt free by 25!

  22. Jennifer says

    I’d love to know what sort of bunk beds you bought. New or used? I’ve been looking for used wooden beds on my local CL, but the prices/quality are all over the place. I need something sturdy and space-saving without paying more than necessary.
    If you bought new, are you happy with what you bought?

    • says

      @Jennifer, Hi Jennifer! We were able to find really sturdy bunkbeds on CL, but only after a bad experience calling on an ad in the paper. The price was so low and sounded so good, PLUS they would deliver, so I agreed. This was a BAD mistake, but fortunately we were able to sell them once we found a better deal on CL.

      The current ones are very sturdy, and were a good price because their son had ‘decorated’ them with a marker. This wasn’t an issue for us since our children were younger and we figured they’d get marked on a little anyways. A simple sanding took care of most of the marks!

      You also might check some of the surrounding CL cities, or see if you have a local Freecycle/ Cheapcycle.

  23. says

    I would like to start with sharing a couple of HUGE monthly debts that we have had over the last few years.

    In 2004, we bought a brand new SUV. We paid nothing down and had a $798 a month payment, for 6 years. We tried to justify the payment by saying we always had old vehicles that would break down and we were having spend a lot of money to get them fixed and blah, blah blah! In my thought process now, there is never a good reason to buy a brand new car, unless it’s been through hail damage and you can get it for a heck of a deal—and pay cash for it!

    In October of 2009, we made the decision to move back south from the very cold north. At that time we owned a home up north and moved before we had sold it. The economy was still slow, but we thought that after the first of the year, in 2010, things would pick up and our home would sell and everything would be fine.

    We were so wrong, our home did not sell and everything was not fine. We had a $1650 mortgage to pay up north and rent to pay down south. Months past, and still nothing! Finally, after being on the market for a year and a half it sold–Praise God!

    Matter of fact, the day we closed on our home was the same day that we sent our last payment off on our SUV. We were doing happy dances in our home–even our children were excited!

    We like Dave Ramsey’s “Snowball effect”, so the freed up monies will go toward our other debt. We will also be starting an emergency fund.

  24. says

    We became totally debt free in October 2010 when we paid off our mortgage 23 1/2 years early! We did this with no financial help from anyone else, and in the 6 1/2 years we had the mortgage we also paid cash for a new to us car, my husband was unemployed for a while, and we continued to fund our IRAs and our daughter’s college. We also had medical expenses that included 2 surgeries, 2 childbirths and a mental health hospitalization for me.

    We want to pay cash to replace our car with a “new” to us car and we need to do some cosmetic improvements to our kitchen and paint our house before putting it on the market. Besides that, we plan to continue to add to our childrens’ 529s and our Roth IRAs. I might be quitting my job this year.

      • says

        @Dawn, One neighbor who moved in after we did, is a convicted murderer. Another, who was released from an out of state prison, is a convicted rapist. As if that weren’t enough, there aren’t any other young families near us for our kids to play with.
        We paid the house off because no other investment was getting 5.625% return the past 6.5 years.

  25. Ems says

    I need some advice if anyone has some to share. The only debt my husband and I have is our mortgage. I’m starting to budget this year for the first time. We do use credit cards and I find myself spending way too much so I plan to use more cash and focus on saving more. We both contribute to our 401K/IRA at work. We have $23,000 or so in the bank and $8,000 or so in investments which my husband has had since childhood. My question is what should we do with the extra money we have and will have by saving more? I am currently paying $150 to $200 extra a month on our mortgage but would like to put any “extra money” we have to work for us.

    • says

      @Ems,I am not sure if you are a Dave Ramsey fan, but I would highly recommend reading “The Total Money Makeover”. It has worked so well for us because we focused our money on one step at a time.

      Is your saving account large enough for your needs? Do you need 6 months or 1 year of living expenses? Will you need to replace a car in the next year or make any improvements to your home? Getting savings to meet your needs would be my next step.

  26. Jennifer says

    This is the year (Lord willing) that my husband and I become DEBT FREE! We figured we could plod along slowly and be done by Sept. or push it really hard and make an incentive if we get out of debt by the start of summer (june 21). Not sure what our incentive will be yet :)

    Most of that debt was my college and graduate school loans. To any young women reading this, seriously and prayerfully consider college loans (or even going to college for that matter) if your desire to eventually be a Mom and stay home. I’m a stay at home mom with a lot of letters after her name…and my kids don’t really care about that! :) After having children, staying home with them looked more important.

    • Barbara says

      I agree about the student loans and the necessity of advanced college educations for moms that want to stay home and raise their children. I always knew I wanted to be home, as did my husband. I even homeschooled my children and loved every minute with them. On the other hand, my father had the hindsight to encourage me to be college educated because he said you just never know what might happen in life. He wanted me to be able to take care of myself.

      I am a registered nurse and was thrown back into nursing after 12 years of being home. Not because I wanted to, but because I HAD to. I was thankful for the 2 letters behind my name and that I was able to pull a decent income when we needed it most. I’m not sure what would have become of us if I had had to take a minimum wage job to make ends meet. Life would have been much bumpier then it’s already been. Just a thought…

      • Jennifer says

        @Barbara, I agree, Barbara. I am glad I do have a degree and a fall back plan if I needed to support the family in the future…or even to just go back to work for “fun”. I want my children (girls and boys) to be well-educated, but I guess I don’t want them to go as deeply into debt as I did to get there! It’s been a long road digging out! :)

    • Shauna says

      @Jennifer, I am also a stay-at-home mom but also finished my education. A year ago I was worried I might have to go back to work and I was so grateful that if I needed too it would be as a teacher in a classroom and not a job I hated.

    • Annie says

      @Jennifer, I couldn’t agree more!! I got a 4-year degree from a private (EXPENSIVE) university. I thought I was doing well to only have $16,000 in student loans. I worked full-time using my degree for 4.5 years before quitting to stay home full time. That was more than 2 years ago, and I still have $8,000 to pay! I know that God is working it out for my good, but it’s still a LOT of money to repay. And how much better off would my marriage be if I didn’t bring that burden into it? Currently, I’m doing bookkeeping for one client that doesn’t even pay for my monthly student loan bill. To the young ladies that are considering college, either take classes as you can afford to pay cash for them, or work hard at something you’re good at that will allow you to stay home with your children and earn a bit of money at the same time.

  27. Megan says

    Great goals, Crystal! I love seeing them crossed off one by one. I am curious, though, to learn more about why you and your husband have chosen investing in real estate as your next big goal. As a renter (I’m 29 and in grad school) I’ve rented at a number of apartments and seen how miserable it would be to be a landlord! But perhaps there are hidden major benefits that I’m not aware of 😉 Looking forward to hearing more about this in the future – and thanks again for all the encouragement!

    • says

      Great question! We’re continuing to invest in mutual funds, etc., but we’ve done a lot of research and feel that investing in commercial real estate would be a good ROI and additional income stream.

      However, we’re looking into commercial property, not residential property. Probably an office building, though we’d like to possibly consider a restaurant or storage center down the road. We have some longterm goals and, if those pan out, we’ll likely start a commercial property management company and hire people to work for us. But our first step is saving to buy our first piece of property. :)

  28. Sunny says

    Hi Crystal, I have the same question to you as Megan. My husband and I are trying to decide our next financial goal too. How did you decide to invest on commercial real estate instead of other investment choices? Will there be more work to manage a real estate? And will you take a mortgage for it? Thank you for sharing. This post and all the comments are SO VERY inspiring!

    • says

      We’re committed to only paying cash, so we’re planning to start with something smaller and gradually add more property as we’re able to. We’re still investing in mutual funds, etc., but we see real estate as a way to diversify our portfolio and create an additional stream of income.

  29. says

    Our major goal is to become DEBT FREE (expect primary mortgage) this year! You can read more of our story here :

    It has been amazing to realize that once the money is focused, you can really knock your goals off your list. If any unexpected $$ comes in, we are throwing it right to our goals. And God has blessed us with (small) unexpected money about 4 times this past year. He is amazing to us!

  30. says

    My year’s goals are here ( but I’ll type a bit more specifically for a moment here. We’re working through our baby steps…and now have $1000 in savings! Now, it’s on to finish paying down the last bit of my husband’s graduate loan. We continue to strive to be good stewards of God’s many blessings! It’s been good to read the comments and see how we’re all working to save money.

  31. whitney says

    I read everyone’s goals and just feel poor. lol. Especially the ones about having 6 months-1 year of expenses set aside…or putting 5k in each Roth. We only have a few hundred dollars after bills each month, but at least that’s only temporary as my husband is opening up his own company (next month, eeek!!). At this point I’m just thankful I can pay my bills and not rack up any credit card debt. I am VERY frugal in everything I do. We may not be able to give much monetarily to our church right now, but with my coupon savings I CAN donate a lot of food I get for free or close to it, and it makes me feel so good. We have 32k in student loans (my husband’s parents dumped them on us after they said they would pay for his school), and I try to put everything I can into savings……I just need to remind myself I am very thankful I can stay at home, a roof over my head, etc… and that my husband has a job! We have about 15k in retirement but cannot afford much contribution at all. I suppose that’s decent, I’m 24 years old…and as soon as my husband starts making more money I’ll be socking away more and throwing more at those pesky student loans!

    • says

      A few hundred dollars extra each month is nothing to sneeze at! If you can save/invest even $10 or $50 per month or use that money to pay off debt, it can start adding up. Be encouraged. Set small goals, keep living frugally and amazing things can happen!

    • Erin says

      Hang in there! You are only 24, and it’s amazing how much can change in such a short amount of time.
      I am 32 and 6 years ago my husband got out of the military. We had some credit card debt and a truck payment. and $0 savings (other than $2000 we had saved for a move, which we used up right away). We lived paycheck to paycheck and things were tight. Fast forward 6 years later….
      during that time we ADDED to the CC debt, and added another car payment. BUT, we changed the way we did things after reading The Total Money Makeover and paid off $58k in CC debt and cars. We have some savings that we are working on for our emergency fund. We bought a house with a downpayment last year. We have 2 vehicles that we have NO payments on. We have money in a 401k.
      I look at how much things have changed, I would have never imagined we would be in this spot. But getting rid of the debt was the key. We had to stop living the American “Debt” Dream.
      The fact that you are even thinking about your finances, AND you have money in retirement is HUGE. There are many 24 yr olds that can’t say that. Sadly there are 40+ yr olds that can’t say that. Way to go!

  32. says

    We’ve been working on paying off our student loans for about 2 years now (started with over 50k).

    Two big goals:
    1) Have our student loans 85% paid off.
    2) Research and expand my husband’s business into a whole new area!

    Once we pay off our loans, we want to save up cash so I can take time off to start a family :)

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