In my last post about my personal finance guiding principles, one of the key items I identified was the importance of setting goals and objectives and tracking my progress against them.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to have an added layer of accountability in place for my personal finances. By putting my views, practices, goals, and objectives out there for anyone in the world to stumble across, it gives me the feeling that there might be more people out there than just me and FM keeping us on track. Whether that’s actually the case or not isn’t especially relevant to me – the feeling that this might be the case is enough to establish that “added layer” for me.
To help establish and maintain that added accountability, it’s my intent is to publish my annual goals and objectives with the first post of each calendar year, post updates on my/our progress at the beginning of each quarter (April, July, October), and write an end of year review to close out the calendar.
Despite the fact that this blog didn’t get started until well into the year, I wanted to stick to that plan for 2018 as best I can.
Before I get into what I’m specifically targeting in 2018, I wanted to give a brief overview of the process I follow to arrive at my final list of items.
I first came across Chris’ writing purely by chance – a co-worker had left a few printed copies of his 279 Days to Overnight Success guide sitting next to the printer and the cover caught my attention. I grabbed my print job, went back to my desk, and downloaded 279 Days to read on my lengthy commute home on the train. I’ve been hooked on his writing ever since.
While reading Chris’ blog many years ago, I learned about his process of conducting an annual review and making plans for the coming year. I started loosely following a similar process, taking a few hours over the course of a couple of weeks in December to review how the outgoing year had gone and make plans for the year ahead.
Over the years I’ve refined my version of this process and have arrived at five categories of goals and objectives that I focus my attention on: Family, Finances, Health, Personal, and Professional.
During my “annual review” time, I make lists of what I’d like to accomplish under each of those headings. I then apply the “S.M.A.R.T.” criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely/Time Bound) to help weed out things I can’t reasonably expect to accomplish and develop a final list of the top five priorities for each category.
Of course, things can and do change over the course of the year. After putting myself through this process for several years now, I’ve discovered that things can (and will) change and you need to be flexible with your goals.
Some are so easily achieved that it seemed unnecessary to include them as major milestone in the first place. Others require modification due to changing circumstances. Occasionally, some need to be abandoned entirely.
The point though, is to create something of a roadmap that can help keep you on track. I’ve found this to be an extremely helpful process to go through each year and would strongly encourage you to develop a similar system to track your own progress if you aren’t already.
So what did I come up with for 2018?
Well, since the focus of this website is intended to largely be on our finances as parents, I won’t get into details on the other four categories. After all, my goal is to share tips and tricks for keeping costs down and making the most of your money while raising kids. I don’t really expect that you’re here to learn that I want get my weight back down to 170 pounds or accomplish the ambitious goal of reading four books over the course of the year (yes, YEAR – while I’m a big reader of blogs and news, I’m not usually a heavy reader of books).
My list of what I’m aiming to achieve this year in the Financial Category includes the following:
- Contribute $2,500 to each child’s RESP.
This will allow us to maximize the grants available from the federal government.
- Increase my RRSP contributions by 10%.
Last year I managed to get $5,200 into my RRSP, so this year’s target is $5,720.
- Put $2,000 in my TFSA.
I’m prioritizing RRSP contributions until I’ve used up the available space, but want to build this account as something of a personal emergency fund in the event that I need easy access to some cash.
- Maintain our mortgage prepayment plan.
We currently pay the maximum of 25% on top of our regular accelerated bi-weekly payments, plus another $100 in lump sum payments on the principle every two weeks.
- Reduce discretionary spending by 10% (both personal and joint/family).
We do our best to be frugal, but I’ll be the first to admit that we spend unnecessarily from time to time. There’s always room for improvement!
At the outset of the year I expected some of these goals to be fairly easy to achieve, while others would take a substantial amount of discipline, restraint, and focus to accomplish.
In keeping with my planned schedule, I’ll post a year-end wrap-up outlining my successes, failures, and progress in achieving those goals with my final post of 2018.
In the meantime, feel free to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for regular updates on my frugal adventures in shopping, investing, saving, and affordable family fun. You can also get in touch by emailing me at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading!