FINANCIAL PEACE: 2019 Debt Paid and 2020 Goals

I feel as though the beginning of a new year, a new decade, is the perfect push to get me back to blogging. If my 2019 had a word it would be...flourish. I worked incredibly hard in the past year- I studied for more hours, days, weeks and months then I can count. Those hours of studying were hours not spent with my family, so I refused to squander them and even make failure an option. I passed my second of two exams in May that my job required and then decided to go one step further and sought out a professional designation just for me. I passed that exam on the first try too.

However, I didn't just flourish in a professional sense. This year felt like the first in Chuck's and my married life where we made momentum toward our financial goals. "Broke" has been the name of our game since we met in 2010 (no thanks to my student loans). We're not exactly making it rain, but when I look back at all the financial progress we made just in the last year, for the first time it feels like the end might actually be in sight.

If you read my The State of the Family post then you know that our biggest goal right now as a family is becoming debt-free. We still have a long way to go, but in 2019 we rid ourselves of ALL our credit card and medical debt! This felt like such a huge win and a great boost to our morale. Getting rid of those pesky smaller debts made us feel like our debt snowball was finally gaining momentum!

Recap of my 2019 financial goals

Last year was the first year I shared about our debt-free journey because last year was the first year we were actually working toward it and not just prolonging it. Becoming a two-income family again was a game-changer and so we got right to work. You can read more about our 2018 Debt Payoff, but the abbreviated version is that in 2018 we paid a total of $30,500 toward our collective debt with the largest category being our mortgage at 32%. I also made the following goals for 2019:

GOAL 1: Improve my credit score by 5% After a lot of fluctuation over the year I ended with a total increase of 8% (only 5 points difference) from January 1- December 31, 2019.

GOAL 2: Pay off my auto loan. Unfortunately, I have about $1,700 left until it's paid in full, but I'm eight months ahead of schedule!

GOAL 3: Save up enough to buy a minivan in cash. This was definitely my least impressive goal. I am not a naturally good saver which is something I'm really trying to work on. I'm going to need a new car in 2020, so it's time to kick this goal into overdrive!

GOAL 4: Pay off remaining credit card debt. Complete in May!

GOAL 5: Pay off remaining medical debt. Complete in July!

So, how'd we do in 2019?

Last year, we paid a total of $37,250 (a 22% increase from last year) toward debt! Check out the breakdown:

It's so interesting to me to see the category changes from the prior year. This year our mortgage only accounted for 24.5% of our total debt paid as we shifted funds to payoff those annoying smaller debts and get our debt snowball rolling.

One of the best things I did this year that contributed to our success was nailing down my own personal zero-based budgeting approach to paying our bills (which is a Dave Ramsey term that means every dollar is budgeted until you're left with zero dollars). Chuck and I get paid on alternating Fridays which is so awesome for helping me manage our finances. Using a combination of Word, Google Calendar and Google Sheets, every week I budget for our weekly expenses- gas, groceries, and childcare. Then, I pay all of the next month's bills and minimum payments and apply whatever is leftover toward our smallest debt. Because Chuck's earnings fluctuate with his commission, I've found this to be the most helpful way of staying on top of our debt payoff goals. The Credit Karma app has also been a game-changer for keeping me encouraged. It updates weekly and even if my score doesn't change, my open balances total continues to decrease which makes me so happy.

This is the first year in a long time where I don't anticipate any huge changes to our family life (knock on wood!). We don't foresee accruing any new debt and fingers crossed that our household income will only continue to increase! With that in mind, here are my five financial goals for 2020:

5 Financial Goals for 2020

GOAL #1: Payoff my auto loan. This is obviously a carryover from 2019, but is definitely doable within the first few months of the year. Once my current car is paid off, I'll begin the hunt for a new one!

GOAL #2: Purchase a new car. I've got it narrowed down to two different vehicles, so it will ultimately depend on my savings and local vehicle inventory.

GOAL #3: Payoff a student loan. This will require some discipline, but it's within reach for my smallest loan.

GOAL #4: Payoff personal debt. We have a couple small miscellaneous debts that won't take more than a month or two to knock out.

GOAL #5: Cash flow our family trip. One of my best friends is getting married in May and I'm going to be a bridesmaid! Since we got rid of our credit cards for good, we're cash flowing the wedding expenses and trip to Maryland. We're also planning on adding a quick detour to our itinerary to take the boys to DC for the first time!

If you made it to the end, you must be a debt-free nerd like me! Obviously, finance has become a huge part of my life in the last two years and I can't wait to continue to flourish in 2020.

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What are your financial goals for the next decade?!

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