Last week I wrote about the progress I made on my financial goals in my 2018 Annual Review post.
Today’s blog is a look ahead at what I’m hoping to accomplish with my personal and family finances in 2019.
To recap, each December I set aside some time to conduct an Annual Review. I take a look back at the progress that I made in achieving my goals and objectives in the year that was, then develop a (mostly) new set for the coming year.
I consistently focus my attention on five categories: Family, Finances, Health, Personal, and Professional.
For each category, I write down as many things I can think of as possible, then whittle down the list by applying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely/Time Bound) criteria to each them. The ones that best meet each of those criteria make the short-list, which I then rank in order of priority. What I end up with is a list of five goals in each category that I aim to achieve over the course of the year.
The focus of this blog, of course, is largely dedicated to the financial aspects of parenthood, so that’s the only category I’m going to go into any detail on today. You may find the occasional reference to the other categories’ goals and objectives on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram though.
So without further ado, here’s what I’m aiming to achieve in 2019!
- Contribute $5,000 to the kids’ RESP
This is a repeat of one of last year’s goals.
FM and I are firm believers in the value of an education and we want to do our part to ensure our kids have the opportunity to pursue college or university studies in the future.
For parents unfamiliar with RESPs (if that’s you, I’d strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Gail Vaz Oxlade’s Saving for School) , the Canadian government offers very generous grants as an incentive for saving for a child’s post-secondary education. 20% of annual contributions to an eligible RESP are matched to a maximum of $500 per child.
That’s an automatic 20% return on your money, which is pretty much unheard of!
As frugal parents looking to make the most of our money, maximizing the government grants became an absolute no-brainer financial priority the moment we entered parenthood. We intend to max-out the grants again in 2019.
- Increase our mortgage prepayments by $25 per bi-weekly payment
Our mortgage is the single biggest obstacle standing between us and making substantial progress towards financial independence. FM and I are both extremely debt-averse. A few years back once we were both established in our careers, we decided to make it a priority to pay down our mortgage as quickly as possible by taking advantage of the prepayment options available through our mortgage holder.
In 2018, we paid the maximum of 25% on top of our regular accelerated bi-weekly payments, plus another $125 in lump sum payments on the principle every two weeks.
This year we’re aiming to increase that by another $25 per bi-weekly payment, which works out to an additional $650 over the course of the year.
I have already contacted our bank and had them make the increase. If my annual cash flow forecast is accurate, we should have no problem keeping that up for the entire year. It’s definitely helpful that FM will be heading back to work after her maternity leave ends in just a few short months and earning substantially higher income than her employment insurance payments currently provide.
- Make “round-up bonus debt payoffs” with each PCMC billing cycle.
This is an idea I got after listening to Episode #286 of the aforementioned Chris Guillebeau’s inspiring Side Hustle School podcast. In it, the subject of the episode had developed an app to that rounded up the “spare change” from his purchases and put that money towards his student debt.
I’m going to try something similar this year, albeit through a manual process I’ll be doing myself at the end of each billing cycle for the joint credit FM and I use for our family spending.
The plan is to round each purchase up to the nearest $5 and put the sum towards the loan on our van each month. Let’s say our weekly grocery bill comes to $106.70. I’ll round that up to $110 and put the $3.30 towards the van loan. I’ll do this with each purchase that appears on the statement.
A quick analysis of a few months of bills from last year tells me that we’ll be putting an extra $150-$200 per month towards paying off the van.
- Use unplanned income to pay off our van loan (on the family side) or to invest (on the personal side)
When I develop our annual cash flow forecasts, the only income I factor into the projection is what we know for certain we can expect. For 2019, this means my paycheque and FM’s maternity leave employment insurance payments and her paycheque when she returns to work in a few months.
But what about money coming in that we aren’t necessarily expecting and/or can’t be accurately predicted?
I’m talking about things like mileage claims I make through work when I need to take my personal vehicle on company business, returning empties to the Beer Store, Paypal cash I earn through Swagbucks, cashback through Checkout 51 or my Tangerine Mastercard, and the like.
In the past, those items would just go into our bank account and help fund our normal day-to-day expenses. This year though, we’re going to give that money a more specific purpose by using it to pay down our loan on the van and augment our retirement savings and investments.
I’m very interested to see just how much these little top ups will add up to by the end of the year!
- Make automatic monthly contributions to my TFSA and RRSP
FM is on maternity leave until around the end of April, so our adult allowances will remain fairly low until a regular paycheque starts coming in again.
Because of the reduced income that comes with being on maternity leave, we hit the pause button on the automated retirement savings contributions for much of last year. Instead, we relied on making lump sum deposits if/when the money was available.
As someone who like simplicity, predictability, and automation with his finances, I didn’t like that approach one bit. I found that I was much looser with my spending because my bank balance gave me the illusion that I had more money to spend than I normally would have. The end result was a massive miss on one of my financial goals from last year.
This year, I’ll be returning to automated payments immediately. My TFSA and RRSP both currently reside with Tangerine (sign up for a Tangerine account with my Orange Key number 17131375S1 and get $50 for free!) in a series of investment funds and they have an incredibly simple system to set up those automated transfers through. The cash flow forecast I created for my personal account shows that I’ll be able to make the minimum required deposit on a monthly basis without any issues.
It may not be as much money as I’ve put aside in the past, but such is life with kids. The important thing is to get back on the regular schedule and let compounding do its thing!
So there you have it, my financial goals and objectives for 2019.
In keeping with the spirit of accountability that I want this blog to bring me, I’ll be posting quarterly updates on my progress over the course of the year. My final post of the year will once again feature an annual review that outlines my successes, failures, and progress in achieving those goals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another new post next Saturday!