Hello, friends! As we’ve officially made it through our first year of working to pay off debt and get our financial crap together, I thought it’d be a great day to put our 2014 goals out there. Last year, we were focused mostly on just making it through each payday. When you’ve got a 65% DTI and are short each month just to pay the bills, survival is the only goal. Well, we survived, praise God, and are now in a bit more comfy of a place financially. That means we can work on setting actual real goals this year – woohoo!!
I originally had a plan to kind of stay on course with what we did for 2013, but the other night, that plan changed. In December, we decided (mostly due to the LONG winters here) to get Netflix. As we were perusing the fun stuff in the Netflix Library, we came across a series called Alaska: The Last Frontier. For those not familiar with this program, it follows a second and third generation family living a seriously homesteading life in the Alaska wilderness. I’m talking WAY more homesteading-ish than what we do, as in: hunting most all of their meat, providing all of their veggies, etc., for the year, and totally heating their homes with wood. Serious stuff.
Whereas another show we’ve found, TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates, makes one eager to spend money, lest they fall into the habit of dumpster diving for dinner, The Last Frontier made us realize how very much waste there is in our family. Ya’ll know I’m not big into sharing specific numbers regarding our debt levels, but when I added up our total expenditures for 2013, the numbers were WAY higher than what is necessary for a family to live on. And 33% of those expenditures went specifically toward paying off debt. This is NOT acceptable to me. We were lucky in that, with Rick’s overtime and a gift from his aunt, we paid cash for all of those expenditures, but it still bugs the crap out of me that we blew so much money. Ok, we didn’t blow it, we managed it quite well. But I can think of better things to do with that kind of cash than pay other people with it.
So, whereas I felt pretty great about how we managed our money this year, after watching The Last Frontier series, I realized that we can kick it up a notch. We’ll do that, primarily, by doing two things:
1. We’ll work even harder to reduce our debt and reduce the amount of interest we’re paying to big companies who don’t give a rat’s a___ about us.
2. We’ll scrutinize our expenses and look for ways to reduce them, primarily by growing and preserving more food, working harder at searching out deals on things we have to buy, and analyzing our energy expenses.
Here are our more specific goals:
1. Reduce food expenses. We’ll work to reduce our grocery budget by 17%, getting it down to $4800 this year, or an average of $400 a month. We’ll work to accomplish this by growing and preserving more of our own food, and by working harder to spend less by buying in bulk and on sale. Waste wise we did pretty good as far as food is concerned, I’d say we wasted no more than 5% of our total food.
2. Reduce entertainment expenses. We did pretty good in this area, but I’d like to do better. We spent an average of $74 a month on entertainment for our family of six, and we also took a “staycation” this summer, which cost us an extra $704.16. I’m okay with the vacation numbers, but we’re going to work to keep our entertainment budget at no more than an average of $60 a month.
3. Reduce gas and energy expenses. I spent $2206 in gas monies for my car, and we spent $3973 on propane and other energy costs to power our property. I’d like to get gas costs for my vehicle down to $150 a month average, a reduction of 18%. I’d also like to cut our energy costs by 10%. We’ll do this by hopefully getting our wood stove installed, and by continuing to search for ways to use less energy.
4. Add extra to debt. We didn’t do so well in this area, as we only paid $262 over and above our minimum payments to our consumer debt this year. Remember, we’ve got a high DTI, so any extra toward debt is a blessing, but we’d like to add at the very least $600 this year, or, $50 a month, over and above our minimum payments. We should be able to do this provided we meet our other goals in cutting expenses.
For our first year of homesteading, we didn’t do so bad. We started to learn the basics about growing and preserving your own food, living off the land, and harvesting wood to heat our home. Nonetheless, there are improvements to be made here. In 2014, we’d like to:
1. Grow and preserve MUCH more food. Preferably a year’s worth. We’ll do this by expanding our garden, tending to it better, and freezing/preserving a lot more of the bounty that comes with it. We’ll need to educate ourselves a bit more on canning and preserving, but we can do it. We are also looking to add some chickens into our homestead, and maybe do some hunting as well. I am a huge animal lover, as is the rest of the family, so this may or may not happen, as I’m a bit wimpy about stuff like that. Rick would like to bag a deer for the freezer next fall, though. We’ve also given some thought to going meat-free for the year too.
2. Consume less energy. For 2014, we’ll continue to find ways to use less energy and use the God-given energy sources, like sun and wind, instead. Not sure what this is going to entail, exactly, but it will start with getting our wood stove up and running so that we can heat primarily with wood next winter. We’ll also continue to do things like line dry our clothes, and wash them in cold water only.
3. Work toward more off-the-grid living. We’ll continue to make our own detergent, use natural cleaning supplies like vinegar, instead of commercial cleaning supplies, and learn more about natural healing, uses of herbal medicine, etc. I also got a great book on natural power supplies that is really packed with info. I’d like to finish reading that by the end of the first quarter too, and see if it has any good info in it for us. Basically, we’re working toward minimalizing our need for help from others for survival. We’re doing this not because we hate people 🙂 , but because we feel it’s just a good practice in general, if we’re to be prepared for natural or other disasters. I’ll be updating periodically on our homesteading life and be letting ya’ll know how it’s going, what changes we’ve implemented, etc.
Also, look for our upcoming post on What to Do if You Wake Up and Find Yourself Deep in Debt. January is that time of year when those Christmas credit card bills arrive, and I know it’s a time of year that can get people really freaked out about their money, so we’re going to talk about how to handle that “a-ha” moment.
I want to thank all of you, so much, for your support, encouragement and comments this year. Your support really has been instrumental in helping us to reach our goals, and we’re eagerly looking forward to a successful 2014.
What are your 2014 goals?