Wednesday, July 18, 2012

YOLO! (sort of)

I can't believe that more than half of the year is over already.  Summer is half over as well, and like usual, I worry that I'm not taking enough advantage of it.  It's hot and disgusting, but I'm dreading shorter days, cold winds, and above all, snow.

I've had a very decent first half of the financial year.  My calendar year 2012 savings and investment goal is $65,000, and I'm $900 short of being halfway there.  (I'm not counting the $6000 gift repayment windfall towards meeting this goal, but I invested the whole thing as soon as I cashed the check.)  Thanks to cashing in accumulated cash-back credit card rewards, I'll be able to close the $900 gap by $500 this month.  My FICA taxes are paid up for the year by mid-October, so barring losing my job or something big and expensive happening between now and the end of the year, I'm on track to hit $65,000 by the end of December, with one caveat:  I have to maintain focus and not start slacking off!

In case it's hard to tell, I'm on fire with savings and investing again.  One new variable this year that's making me work a little harder at it is the fact that since my mom gave up her independent living townhouse in January, I now have to pay rent on a place in my hometown.  I lucked into a really outstanding arrangement that's only costing me  two hundred dollars per month, but between that and higher gas prices coupled with frequent travel to see her, it's a lot more money out the door for family stuff than I was spending a couple of years ago.  I don't mind at all, but it means I have to be more creative and stretch a little harder to hit an aggressive savings target.

Another cost center is my better half.  We've taken a couple of short trips this year, and we have a long weekend away coming up.  We also go out for dinner at least a couple of times per week, although we have started cooking together from time to time on the weekends.  (I can't get him to eat in when it's like a furnace outside, though!)

Being black-belt frugal with a husband who decidedly was not of the same mindset didn't kill my marriage, but it certainly hurt it.  One year into this relationship, my significant other and I are serious.  We're not talking marriage, but I think we're in it for at least a reasonably long haul, and in fact more and more I'm starting to believe that I've found the love of my life.  On that basis, I've decided that spending a little more money than I would do if left to my own devices is an investment in the relationship, and that investment is well worth it to me.  I also keep reminding myself that it's not all about living for tomorrow.  My parents gave me a GREAT start by paying for my undergraduate education, but I sacrificed a heck of a lot in my 20's and 30's to put myself on a solid financial footing.  Now that I'm hitting midlife, I want better balance.   To that end, as long as I'm debt-free, employed, and planning well for the future I want, having fun today counts for a lot.

Another reason for wanting more balance in my life is that I see my mom's life gradually drawing to a close.  She's doing significantly better than she was a few months ago, but the aggregate changes in her health over the last twelve months have been immense and very much for the worse.  My gut feeling is that while she is stable now, that can and very probably will change in an instant sometime down the road.  I don't think she has a whole lot of time left, so I am not going to put off any opportunity to give her enjoyment today.  (YOLO, Mom, YOLO!!!)

I realize that everything I just wrote about where my spending has increased sounds like it doesn't map one iota to saying I'm doing well on aggressive savings, but it correlates better than it appears.  Prioritizing my spending the way I have has actually helped me keep on track with my savings goal because spending mindfully on the things that are important to me (my mom, my relationship and our travel, plus the occasional manicure!) makes it a whole lot easier not to blow money on things that don't matter.

How did you do on your financial game plan over the first half of the year?


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