March Goals / February Revisited

Ah, hello March! It’s hard to believe Spring is practically here. This school year has been passing quickly. February came and went in a blink of an eye. So, how did I do with my goals for the month of February?

1. Complete my first course for principal certification with an A – Check! I’m officially six weeks into my program at this point.

2. Rollover my retirement savings into a traditional IRA – Check – sort of! I definitely got the ball rolling, and it’s about 90% taken care of.

3. Post at least twice a week and grow this blog – Epic fail, but my expectations were not very realistic in the first pace. For March, I will set monthly goals instead of focusing on weekly ones.

4. Dedicate at least six hours a week to language learning – Check!


Well, we live and learn, right? Here go my goals for the month of March!

1. Work on the landscaping around my house – Spring is almost here, which calls for plenty of outdoor plant maintenance! Last Spring we planted many tropical plants in our back yard, and the year before that, we completely revamped our front garden beds. I’m looking to improve on what we already have and add some more awesome plants over Spring Break!

2. Continue improving my Spanish language skills by dedicating at least six hours a week to language learning – I’ve completed the Duolingo Tree, so I’m continuing to use the “Practice” function for additional practice. This month I want to finish the Destinos series, and get some talking practice in through Italki.com

3. Work out at least 4x a week. This used to be so easy for me, but with so many commitments, exercise has truly taken a backseat. Well, not any more… this is a healthy lifestyle blog, for crying out loud. I should be setting a better example!

4. Write 8 blog posts – Instead of setting a goal of posting twice a week, I’m going to set the goal of at least 8 posts for the month of March. That seems much more doable with Spring Break coming up, and some weeks being busier than others.

5. Plan for summer travels. Justin (my husband and I) are undecided on exactly how much traveling we will be doing over the summer, due to our graduate school schedules and the demands of keeping up with our house. At the very least, I would like to spend 1-2 weeks in Mexico participating in a language immersion program. If we can make it to a couple camping trips in some National Parks, that would be even better, but who knows? It is going to be a busy summer.


Wish me luck with these! What are your goals for March?

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5 Steps to Paying Off Debt / How We Paid Off $30k in 1 year

In November 2015, my husband and I purchased a brand new SUV that was well over $30k in value. All things considered, the vehicle was a pretty good deal and were able to shave off some of the cost by trading in an old car. Purchasing a brand new SUV was not a wise financial choice, per se– brand new cars lose a majority of its value in the first couple years of owning it. I learned this from Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover after the fact, and in all likelihood, our next car purchase will most likely be used.

Regardless, we suddenly had about 30k of debt to pay off. Just some background: My husband and I are not fans of debt. We were both fortunate enough to not have student loans or credit card debt when we met each other, and managed to pay for our wedding out of our own pockets. I learned from my childhood experiences that credit cards are a bad idea until you have the self-control and ability to pay off your balances every month.

So how did we do it?

5 steps to paying off debt - pinterest photo

Step #1: Write down your total monthly income and necessary expenses each month

How much money is coming in each month? If you are not on a predictable salary schedule, look at the last few months of bank statements and make your best estimate. Once you have figured that out, make a list of all necessary expenses you have each month: rent or mortgage, utilities, cell phone, home/car insurance, groceries, internet, child care, any loans you are paying off, etc. These are things that don’t automatically come out of your paycheck.

Step #2: Figure out where else your money is going

This can be a hard pill to swallow. Look at your past bank/credit card statements and calculate how much money is being spent on unnecessary things. How much money are you spending on eating out and entertainment? Impulse purchases? When we made the decision to save money more aggressively, we discovered that we were spending upwards of $300 some months on things that were not as important as paying off our debt.One of the biggest problems with people who are not able to pay off debt is that they spend more than they take in. They live beyond their means and wonder why they don’t have the money when an emergency pops up. Figuring out your biggest money-sucks is absolutely critical to your financial health.

Step #3: Set a monthly savings goal

How much money are you trying to pay off? Is there something like a wedding or down payment on a house that you are working towards? Maybe both? Calculate how much you need to save on a monthly basis in order to get there. It’s also important to be realistic. If your house is living on one income and you have 10k in debt to pay off, it’s going to be hard to reach that goal in 3-4 months without gaining another income.

In our case, we had a $30,000 car loan and a two-income household. We knew anything under 1 year would be nearly impossible to pay off with our incomes, but if we started to pretend as though we were living under one income, we could reach our goal in about a year and still have money for vacationing and high quality of living. Keep your goal written on the fridge or bathroom mirror so it’s always visible and easy to remember!

Step #4: Create a budget and plan each month before it begins

Now that you know your monthly income, necessary/unnecessary expenses, and savings goal, it is time to create your budget. Tools like Every Dollar and You Need a Budget make it very easy to create an online budget that automatically links to your bank and credit card accounts. Of course, you could always do it the old fashioned way and create a paper budget or an Excel spreadsheet, but in my opinion, non-electronic methods require more work and are therefore harder to follow.

budgets
EveryDollar.com

All these steps are important, but this step requires the most work on your part and is most critical you follow — particularly if you are the type who easily forgets where their money is coming and going from. Revisit your budget throughout the month, and more importantly, at the end of the month. Get in the habit of monitoring where your hard-earned dollars are going and hold yourself accountable when you don’t stick to your budget!

Step 5: Get creative!

It’s possible to pay off debt quickly simply by religiously sticking to the steps I talked about above, but what if you live in a one-income household where it’s already hard enough to make ends meet? Get creative! There are tons of amazing Frugal Living blogs such as Frugal Florida Mom that provide tons of helpful information in budgeting and saving money. Aside from staying away from unnecessary expenses, you can also…

  1. Sell things you no longer use or need – host a garage sale or sell online!
  2. Create DIY projects and sell them on Etsy or Facebook Marketplace
  3. Teach yourself a skill, such as graphics and web design, and charge for your services
  4. Teach or tutor online if you have a skill, language, or subject you know a lot about (I did this when I was scrapping by during my 1st year as a poor teacher)
  5. Buy more expensive items, such as meat and certain produce, when prices are lowest and freeze
  6. My favorite: CROCK POT MEALS. Make these in bulk and thaw/cook as needed!

I’m just scratching the surface here. Financial wellness and literacy is a huge source of interest for me, and I can’t wait to share more information with you as I become better versed in the world of investments, retirement accounts, and next-level saving and budgeting! Tune in for more!

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February: Goal-Setting

February so far has been absolutely nuts for me. I know it makes much more sense to make a goal-setting post at the beginning of the month, instead of 10 days into it, but what can I say? This idea presented itself to me a couple days ago, and I’m just now able to write about it. I’m sick at home with what might actually be the beginnings of a flu… fingers crossed that it is not!

I’ve always been big on lists and goal-setting. It keeps me organized and gives me a clear vision on how to properly allocate my time and energy. It was creating lists of goals that allowed me to graduate college with honors a year early, earn scholarships to pay for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, pay for our wedding, down payment on our house, lose 40 lbs, etc. Goal setting = good. So here are my goals for the rest of this month:

1. Complete my first course for principal certification with an A – I’m at the tail end of my first course for my administrative certification program. So far, I have an A, but there is a lot that still needs to be completed and graded. This program is way more demanding than I initially gave it credit for.

2. Rollover my retirement savings into a traditional IRA – Several years ago, I opened up a retirement account with my first school district. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I figured at some point I would need to save for retirement. Going with this particular type of investment strategy and company ended up being a mistake, so I’m finally trying to get the ball rolling on putting this money into an IRA without all the ridiculous fees I was paying before!

3. Post at least twice a week and grow this blog – With so much going on, it’s easy to ignore this blog. I’m going to make every effort to not let that happen. I enjoy blogging and meeting new people/blogs on WordPress; it’s fun and relaxing. I’m interested in learning from more seasoned bloggers how to improve this one.

4. Dedicate at least six hours a week to language learning – I’ve written about my quest to improve my Spanish twice in this blog so far. Six hours a week is much more realistic than 1 hour a day, since my schedule doesn’t always allow that kind of time for explicit language learning. Typically I use the weekend as my catch-up time!


Those are some pretty big goals for the next 17.5 days, so I’m going to leave it at that. I will follow up on this blog at the end of the month to check my progress and set new goals for March!

Love,

Eva

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New Year’s Goal Setting: 2017

How could I allow an entire MONTH to pass by without updating this blog? Bad Eva. Fortunately, however, we are about to embark on another year– and keeping this blog updated at least once every two weeks (until I get into the swing of things) is in order. My husband Justin and I had an awesome holiday with his little brother and my aunt. Since Christmas, I have been studying Spanish intensely and haven’t had time for much else. I could make an entire Christmas break-themed post, but I rather focus on the task at hand: New Year’s Goal Setting for 2017.

  1. Become fluent in Spanish – I’ve allowed 27 years to pass without really being able to speak Spanish. Considering I am Latina and from South Texas, where Spanish is basically the “unofficial” language, this is unacceptable. Enough is enough. Not knowing Spanish is inconvenient on so many levels, and knowing the language fluently will make me more marketable in my career. There is no excuse not to! I plan to achieve this goal by finishing Barbara Bregstein’s Easy Spanish Step-by-Step, then progressing to her advanced level book; using the Duolingo and Memrise apps on a daily basis; listening to Spanish music and watching Spanish films; conversing with my husband and coworkers in Spanish as much as possible.
  2. Re-dedicate myself to fitness – This is always on my list, and to be fair, I do maintain a fairly healthy eating and moderate exercise regimen throughout the year. Since this will most likely be my last year without a baby, this year will be a little different. I plan to complete the RIPT90 workout DVD set Justin purchased for me and continue eating 85-90% clean. I do not have a weight goal, but I am shooting for 19% body fat. I am currently just under 24%.
  3. Earn my principal certification – This January I will be starting a principal certification program while Justin begins his Master’s program in Educational Administration. I am due to complete the program in September, then take the certification exam to make it official. This is another goal I want to accomplish before we start a family!
  4. Be more consistent with blogging – Blogging used to be such an important part of my life, and I dumped it to the wayside when I moved to Houston and started my career. That is going to change. Blogging is therapeutic and allows me hold myself accountable and preserve precious memories over time. For 2017, I want to focus on being more consistent with my blog while gradually seeking to increase traffic on this site.
  5. Be financially healthy – Like fitness, this is something I aspire to every year, and for the most part – I was true to this resolution last year. We paid off our car, more than $30k, in less than one year! That was a huge accomplishment. This year I want to focus more on building up our retirement accounts, paying off our mortgage more aggressively, and saving money for our nest egg.
  6. Learn Microsoft Excel – I am trying to learn a lot of things at once, so Microsoft Excel is going to take a backseat until I am more conversational with Spanish. I intend to treat learning Excel as a major summer project while I continue my ESL and principal certification studies. This is simply too useful of a skill to not learn/master and add to my resume.
  7. Travel more – Justin and I travel as much as our schedule allows, taking road trips to various national parks and making the occasional trek to Puerto Rico to visit my aunt. This year, I would like to see some new places– preferably Spanish speaking countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, maybe even Cuba? As I progress in my Spanish prowess, I would love to go to Spain and a few countries in South America… but that will be later down the road. We have not decided whether we will go camping up north this Spring Break, so we shall see!
  8. Last but not least, I want to be better about maximizing my time so I can be the most productive self I can be. Normally, I am pretty good at this, but there are definitely times where I get sucked into social media or websurfing meaningless topics. This is exactly what I want to avoid. The way I see it, every minute is precious– it could be spent achieving my goals, whether that is learning Spanish, excel, dedicating time to fitness, etc. Life is simply too short to waste time.

Well folks, there you have it. GOALS, not simply resolutions, for the new year. I intend to achieve each and every one of these and update this blog on my progress. What are your goals for 2017?

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