Apologies for not being around lately. I have been battling the flu since Sunday last week. I have missed 5 days of work so far and have been spending my days in bed coughing, sneezing, sleeping and taking medicine non-stop. I am feeling better now and hoping to return to work next week after getting more rest over the weekend.
I decided it was time to look through my goals for 2014 and publish an update on how well (or not) I am doing. It’s not exactly the end of March yet but, nevertheless, this is my Q1 review of my personal and financial goals for 2014.
- reduce my living expenses to 50% of my basic take home pay (does not include any bonus or commission) and allocate another 50% to debt repayment
I started off this year by spending 57% of my net salary and saving 43%. By the end of January I reduced my living expenses to 47% of my net salary and I am now able to save 53% of my net salary (an increase of 10%). My living expenses will be further reduced as from April (I will explain once all the arrangements are in place).
- save any bonus or commission that I earn, payable on top of my basic salary and at the discretion of my employer
I have not saved much this year. In January and February my focus was primarily on travelling, birthday celebrations and debt repayment. My commission for January and February has not been great either as business normally slows down a bit at the beginning of the year but picks up in March and April. My commission for March is looking very promising but I won’t receive it until the end of April. As from April, my commission will be saved in a separate savings account which serves as my travel fund. I had originally wanted to divide my commission equally between my emergency and travel funds, but changed my mind. Any extra income (from sales on eBay, for example) will be used to top up my small emergency fund. This will also serve as a motivation to get rid of stuff I don’t need and free some space.
- pay off at least £6,000 in principal debt by December 2014
My starting debt in January 2014 was £8,210. Two months in, I reduced my principal debt to £7,370. To reach my goal of paying off £6,000 in 2014, I need to be making at least £516 monthly payments, not including interest. To pay off all my debt in 2014 and become debt free in December this year, I need to be making £737 monthly payments, not including interest. Both scenarios look pretty doable to me (I am aiming to pay off my remaining debt by December 2014, one year earlier than my original debt free date of December 2015).
- increase my basic income by at least 8%
I completed this goal in January when I received a substantial salary increase (over 8%). This was not exactly planned and took me by surprise, but it was too good an opportunity to miss out on. My next salary review is in January next year but until then I will not see any more salary increases.
- join my company’s pension scheme and get my pension contributions matched
Okay… this is a tough one and I am not sure what to do. I contacted our company’s pension advisor and had a meeting with him to discuss our company’s pension scheme back in January. I can start contributing 3% as of next month and my contributions will be matched by a maximum of 3%. I was very close to sealing the deal, but then I decided I would rather pay off my debt first before starting to contribute. I must admit I am also a little scared to start contributing. Let me explain… I know I won’t see any of that money until I am at least 55 years old (that’s 25 years from now). Since I do not have enough knowledge about investments, I am a little scared to start giving away my money to a third party to manage for me. I am mostly concerned about the fact that a third party will screw up and my money will somehow disappear. I have heard a lot of horror stories about people losing their private retirement savings and this scares me a little. Am I being silly? Please share your thoughts in the comments below as I’d really like to know what you think.
- keep track of my spending on a monthly basis and aim to have at least 8 no spend days each month
I have been keeping track of my monthly spending and posting my monthly spending reports on the blog. That said, I didn’t do well in the no spend days department. I had 5 no spend days in January and 6 no spend days in February. So far, I have had 4 no spend days in March.
- spend no more than £1250 a year on groceries and £550 a year on entertainment (excluding travel).
I spent £110.11 on groceries in January and £93.63 in February. My total grocery bill for March should be in the region of £100 too. So far so good. Entertainment wise, I am well over my budget and have already spent way too much money eating out, buying clothes and generally having a little too much fun. This has got to stop! I am now watching my spending very closely and doing my best to keep my entertainment costs as low as possible.
- continue transferring £50 a month to my Grandma but aim towards £100 a month
Some of you may know that I transfer some money to my Grandma every month. She does not work and gets her pension, but something tells me it’s not all that great. I transfer £55 each month (around 70 Euros), an increase of £5 in comparison to last year. Although I’d love to be able to help out more, I have my debt to pay off before I can increase my monthly contributions.
- travel to at least 5 countries I have not been to yet. Plan two more trips (one in May and one in August or September).
I have not yet travelled to any new countries this year. My trip to South America got cancelled and although I travelled to Italy and Turkey in February, I had been to these countries before. I have a 10-day trip planned at the end of May to visit Croatia and Montenegro. I have already been to Croatia, but this is the first time I will visit Montenegro so I am quite excited about that. My travel plans are a bit vague for the second half of the year. Depending on where my sister decides to have her baby, I will either be going back to my hometown or to Cambodia where she currently lives with her partner. If I am to go to Cambodia to visit my sister’s family in August or September, I will most likely visit Thailand and Malaysia. If not, apart from going home I will arrange another holiday in August or September. I will know more in April.
- declutter completely
Apart from not buying any new items for myself or my flat, I have not been doing much to declutter. I am planning to go through my belongings over the weekend and get rid of more items that I do not need. I need to start selling on eBay again (extra space + extra money = double win!) and I am looking to list some items of clothing on eBay over the weekend.
- brown bag my lunch to work at least 4 days a week
I am quite good at bringing packed lunch to work on most days (4 out of 5). Some days I have no desire to cook and pack my lunch, but if I have to buy my lunch I normally buy it from the shop (Tesco’s) and spend no more than £3 rather than going out to eat.
- eat healthy and exercise regularly – jogging or a dvd workout at least 3 times a week
I have had a great start to my year and I exercised 3-5 times a week in January and February. Ever since I got back from Venice, I have no desire to do any workout whatsoever. I still eat healthy, but I should really start exercising again. Although it’s hard to get back into the routine, once I’ve done it I can’t get enough!
- continue cooking at home from scratch and learn one new recipe every month
I continue cooking at home and never order any take out. I do eat out occasionally but mostly I make all my meals from scratch. I didn’t learn a single new recipe in January but I did learn one in February (white chocolate rocky road, ahhhh-mazing!) and one in March (dark chocolate coconut truffles). I realise these are desert recipes, but what can I say – I love chocolate! 😉
- continue reading personal finance books and aim to read at least 2 every month
I have currently got 4 personal finance books that I borrowed from my library. I have finished 2 of them and slowly getting through the last 2. I normally go to the library once a month to borrow books so I actually read more than 2 books on personal finance every month. I may not read every chapter and pay more attention to chapters that interest me, but I’m still happy with this result.
- keep positive, hopeful and grateful. Do not stress over and worry about things outside of my control
I am generally a very positive person and always look at the bright side. However, I have recently started to worry too much about things that are outside of my control. I am not going to go into too much details as this is a very personal issue for me, but what I will say is that I am trying to overcome this. So I guess this one is still work in progress.
This is it from me for today. I hope you enjoyed this little update. Are you reaching your goals? Do share your progress in the comments below.