Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sizing Up 2011

Taking stock of the year already? Yes. The Saturday before Thanksgiving always marks something of a turning point for me. Normally there is a one-week break from teaching, so the weekend before Thanksgiving feels like the beginning of a vacation (though I will be at work for three days before the holiday).

Today I find myself mulling over the finances of 2011. I'm finally at peace with what has been an expensive year. In part this is my own doing . . . I went on something of a binge buying electronica. Also, my tendency to get better things when making a big purchase has drained my funds. I couldn't just get any new black suit, could I? I couldn't just get the base model replacement camcorder, could I? I guess 35 isn't too young to have some deeply ingrained tendencies, and for me it's that I rarely like to go the bargain route when spending on bigger items.

I will look back on 2011 as an interesting transitional year: It was our last year of writing checks for two kids to have a pre-school education. It was the first year in which we started paying substantive amounts for the kids' enrichment (i.e. dance lessons and soccer).

We also decided that we had enough of living cheaply: We took two significant vacations. We have decided to eat out on Fridays. We hired a friend to do housecleaning every other week. Sherry and I are starting to value our time differently.

The last month has seen me experience some angst because I've come to the realization that we won't hit some savings goals I had established since our prospective house purchase in April fell through. Then again, I guess reckoning one won't hit savings targets is better than incurring more debt.

Sherry and I survived our 20s better than a lot of young couples I know. A lot of consumer ed. blogs talk of how one's 30s is the decade in which people typically fix the financial mistakes of their carefree and cash-strapped 20s.

So I'm looking at 2012 as a year in which we can adjust spending habits, especially with credit cards which, though we faithfully pay them off each month, are nasty reminders of last month's excesses. This upcoming year will also likely be the year we more purposefully lurch toward the next home, saving a more meaningful amount of money for that. After all, 2011 was the year we learned that goals like that don't just happen on their own.

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