The Money Trail
A lot has changed both personally and financially for me this year. So much, in fact, that I've been reviewing the decisions I made in light of their financial and personal impact, and evaluating. I thought I'd share the best and the worst with you.
Worst Decisions of 2006
Not Having a Specific Budget
I don't spend more than I have, and that has always worked for me. Though it still worked this year, I have no idea where large chunks of my money went. If I had a budget, and recorded how closely I followed it, I would have this record and I would know how much I spent where, and where I need to cut back.
Buying on a Whim
I don't do this very often, but I do it enough that it makes a dent in my budget. So many times, I remember having a $20 in my wallet and open it to find a $5 and change. I don't remember where the money went, but it is gone. If I thought about my purchases more, I would know where my money went, and I would be able to remember when it wasn't on the top of my head.
My time isn't always money, but I'm learning that, if I want to live the kind of life I've always thought I would, I need to value my time more. This doesn't mean that I don't need to rest, but it means I need to be intentional. If I have intentional times of work and play and rest, I will be more productive, both financially and personally, than I am now, and I will be happier because I won't feel like I spend so much time just putzing around.
Best Decisions of 2006
Consolidating My Student Loans
I'm saving so much. Recently, I received information from Sallie May on my payments if I hadn't consolidated, and they're off the charts. Plus, in consolidating with Sallie Mae, I got all the benefits I could--lower interest rates (because I locked them in last spring), and a 6-month grace period. I could make the payments without consolidation, but it wouldn't have been a smart choice.
Blowing My Savings on a Trip to England
Talk about counter-intutive, I know. But, I value travel. Highly. And so it is worth it to me, on a personal level, to have struggled financially last spring for the trip I took over Christmas last year. The experience of spending Christmas with my family in England, and getting to visit a friend over there for New Year's, was simply worth the money for me. Also, I wouldn't have been looking for a job when I was looking, and so wouldn't have found the job I'm happy in now if I hadn't done that.
Starting a High-Yield Savings Account
Since I'm planning a wedding, I've needed my money to be relatively fluid, but leaving it in a regular savings account seemed unwise. At ING, my interest rate has only gone up since I started the account this summer, and my money is available when I need it. ING actually turned out to be a better investment than some of the mutual funds I had. Though their interest rate is a little lower than some, I chose ING because I heard great reports of their customer service. At this point, I have nothing to complain about.
Overally, I'm satisfied with my performance in areas that touch on my finances this year. There are places where I could improve, but I was able to balance my money versus what it can get me better this year than I have before. I was willing to take the trip and not worry about the money, because I valued the experience more than the security. I was also able to find a solution to the problems that caused, and am now saving for the future.
Let me know if you find any of these helpful, or what your best and worst financial decisions were this year!