Setting goals

Crystal recently posted about setting financial goals for your family. This is pretty good advice for many parts of life -- not just money, but careers, family, faith, education, etc. Even Paul talked about working toward a goal: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:14)

If there's one thing we've learned since coming back Stateside, it's that we need to set boundaries and we need to have goals. Okay, so that's actually two things. But let's not get picky! :o)

I thought we had done fairly well with saving when we were in Japan, but we went through quite a bit of culture shock once we arrived on station here in the States. We had enough in savings to pay off my husband's truck and still have money left over.

But, we didn't have enough to buy a car without a loan (we know how to plan better for next time -- if there is a next time).

We were living pay-check to pay-check those first few months because we just weren't used to keeping track of every penny. We couldn't figure out where the money was going. (Solomon noticed the same thing: "...[riches] certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." Proverbs 23:5)

Now we're learning that we don't really "need" too many things. We've down-graded our internet and phone service to the bare minimum (not quite to dial-up, though), opted out of cable, begun menu-planning, set a budget, quit eating out, and generally started paying attention to our finances.

We've done all these things so that we could pay off our car in a year -- praise the Lord, we are right on track! We are so close to reaching our goal, and we know we couldn't have done any of it without the Lord's blessing.

We've come so far in the past 8 months. It's taken a lot of discipline and determination to get where we are, but -- truth be told -- we want to do a lot better.

I have to say, my husband is a wonderful steward of what the Lord has given us. He is very generous with our tithe and faith promise (missions) money, and I really believe that is another reason the Lord has blessed our finances.

(The liberal soul shall be made fat... Prov. 11:25a... that might be taken out of context; I'm not sure. :P But the verse still makes me smile; we certainly aren't in any want for food around here! There are other verses to apply, however. Malachi 3:10, Luke 6:38, and a number of others)

He is really great at handling money matters, and I know if it were up to me, we'd probably be in a mess and in debt!

Since we've started to vigorously pay down our loan we've discovered how much we really need to survive... and it's not nearly as much as we thought it was. We're not suffering on this newly-implemented budget; in fact, there is a lot of freedom knowing that we will soon be out from under those payments, which will free up a lot of money for other things.

Which brings me back to the topic at hand... our future goals. We don't have too many right now as we've just begun to discuss these. For now, after paying off the car, we'd like to:
  • Pay cash for a home by our 15th anniversary
  • Have enough money in savings to provide 3 months' living expenses
  • Save up for a honeymoon (like a trip to Europe... okay, maybe I'm just wishful thinking and just threw that one in for myself, hehehe)
We also plan to put away a certain amount each month for our child(ren)'s educational expenses.
Those are the big ones I can think of right now. Anyone else think of something we haven't? Care to share any goals your family has set?

ETA: We're already putting money away into TSP for retirement, in case you're thinking I missed the most obvious one. :o)


Anonymous said...

I dont know about there, but here in Florida you can prepay your child's college tuition. We are going to start that up soon. And if your child decides not to go to college, or something else happens, you get all the money back! So it's like a savings account :) You should look into something like that.

roanne said...

Just my $.02; but, paying cash for a house is all well and good, but there are better ways to go about it.

I was just talking to my parents who had $500k for their retirement house, and were originally planning on paying cash for it. But, instead they put down 20% and got a locked mortgage at 6%. Their investment broker put the rest of the money in an account with at least a 9% return guranteed. And now the interest that they're paid every month pretty much covers their $3,000 mortgage and will be paid off in 15 years (gave or take), when they'll also still have some $250k left over from their initial $500k. Not bad!

So, yeah, talk to a good financial advisor. Just something to think about....=D

Arlene said...

Lau, I think I've heard about something similar to what you're talking about. Only, there is, like, a "penalty" if the kid decides not to go to college or something. If that's the case, we'll just have the money set aside in an account, and if they don't go to college... we can go to Europe! ;)

Roanne, wow, that's great that your parents were able to get that done; you're right about having a good financial adviser!

We have the ideal goal of being able to pay it all down without a loan, but if something like you mentioned were an option, then we wouldn't have a problem with that.

I think, for us, the point is that we don't want to have the feeling of being tied down to the house... the bondage that a payment brings isn't something we're excited about. Even though we've been able to pay down our auto loan very quickly (it is a 4 year loan, but we'll have it paid by the 1 year mark), we still don't like the feeling of the payment looming over us.

Hence the reason we are planning to pay cash for a house... just so that we can scrimp and save as much as we possibly can. Then, if we still have to finance something, at least it still won't be a 30 year loan!

Thanks for the tips you gave, though; I'll certainly tell him about your parents' situation. Definitely good advice!

Vicky said...

Hi Arlene,

Great job on your menu planning to help keep your expenses down! :) For $34/week, what kind of meals to you and your DH eat? Just curious. :o) I've been working hard to get our food budget down as well, so any creative ideas I can get from other bloggers is a huge help to me! :)

BTW, your little one is adorable. Congrats on the breastfeeding - I just hit the 1 year mark myself and I am so thankful to the Lord for blessing me and my daughter this past year!!

Arlene said...

Hi Vicky!

I would post an answer here, but I'm afraid you won't see it... so I'll just pop over to your blog and comment you there. (of course, if you don't check back here, you won't see this in the first place, so I'm really just talking to myself now, huh?) Oh, well. I do that all the time anyway, LOL! :o)

Adele said...

Hey, if you're wiling to stay with us when you take your trip to Europe it will be more affordable than you might think! AND, if you go in the off-season, the tickets aren't nearly as bad as in the summer. It will take us some time to get there, so you have a few years to save. :)

Arlene said...

Sounds like a plan to me! We know quite a few other missionary friends in Europe, so looks as if we won't lack for places to sleep! ;)