It’s my birthday today.
Since this day falls after a three-day weekend, my husband and I took advantage of our day off work yesterday to celebrate. I really wanted to go hiking, but considering it’s sub-freezing temps here I wimped out.
So, we slept in, he made me breakfast, we dropped the kiddo off, and decided to go for a day date. We drove to one of the college towns near us and just had fun walking around the old downtown – perusing cheese and chocolate shops, my favorite kitchen store, and kitschy thrift shops. I’m a low-key gal, what can I say.
I like to use my birthday as a moment for self-reflection each year. Many people also do this on New Year’s, but I think it’s good to give ourselves more than one chance to do so throughout the year.
Practicing self-reflection and self-awareness are key ways we grow as people, how we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, how we change our habits, and it’s essential for anyone who is trying to live intentionally.
For some birthdays bring melancholy, but I’ve felt pretty excited about this birthday coming up. There are many, many questions you could ask to practice self-reflection, but I’ve focused on some money-related questions here.
1. How has your financial life changed this year?
It has definitely improved! I think actively immersing myself in the world of personal finance bloggers has encouraged me to think about our finances more thoroughly.
2. If I had all the money in the world and no limitations whatsoever, would I be doing what I’m doing with my life right now?
Umm… no. I would quit my job. But, I had already made this realization earlier this year. We’re trying to come up with a plan to align our current lives more with our ideal lifestyle even though we’re a long ways away from actually being financially independent.
My husband is in the early days of starting his own business, and I see us working over the next year to try to get that off the ground.
I feel like my family life is where I want it to be, but I would just spend my days differently. More books, more travel, exercise, and gardening… fewer cubicles 😛
3. What are my most memorable moments of the last year? Why? How can I create more of those moments?
Although this isn’t phrased exactly as a money question it can be. Remember, money is tied to just about everything in life, so while the memorable moments are the focus, in answering the second part, consider how money may play into that.
One of my most memorable moments was our weeklong family trip to the lake. We got away and just relaxed for a whole week and it was magical because we haven’t let ourselves do that for a while.
We’ve been so focused on paying off debt for a while, that we cut back on travel, but this trip made me realize how powerful it can be to just change your pace for a little while. This wasn’t a high-octane, exotic trip. it was just a trip to a lake a couple of hours away, but we rented a cabin, and read, and played at the beach and it was absolutely perfect.
We definitely plan to budget in more time and money for trips like that.
4. Do I have any fears I need to conquer?
I think right now, I am wrestling with the fear of taking financial risks. As I said, my husband is in the early stages of starting his own business. We’ve been throwing around the idea of whether he should quit his job to pursue that full-time. We could make it work.
I could continue my job and get us by while he does that, but it would create change in our financial plan, our marriage, and in a lot of the security we’ve built over this last year.
We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet, but I think both sides of this decision include an element of fear.
5. What is one money mistake I can learn from this last year?
To err is human. If you look at this question and think I didn’t make any big mistakes, you’re not being honest or thinking self-reflectively enough.
While I don’t think we made any truly terrible financial mistakes this year, I think there are areas we wasted money. Specifically, I think we could cut down on our food waste. This is a horribly cliche, American mistake, but I’m trying to be more conscious about it.
I’m trying to buy less food and encourage us to truly use up all out leftovers, and I’m planning to start a compost in my backyard so that I can at least put old produce to good use.
6. Did I try something new in the last year?
I started a blog? Technically this blog is a little over a year old (my blog anniversary was in late September) but I feel like it’s close enough to count. I wish that I had written more, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I’m learning that a little grace is necessary if I don’t want to burn myself out.
For a long time I’ve felt guilty about not blogging regularly, which made me feel bad and actually kept me from writing.
Now, I’m finally owning that my blog can be WHATEVER I WANT IT TO BE. And it’s ok to post whenever.
It’s very freeing.
— Femme Cents (@FemmeCents) November 8, 2018
But I’m SO glad I took the risk to do this. I’ve learned a lot about websites and personal finance in general. Taking the leap from just reading blogs to actually writing one has definitely made me think more deeply about our financial goals and for that I am grateful.
7. Do I need to change any routines?
I need to prioritize my time better. Specifically, I need to make more time for exercising and blogging. There is plenty of time in the day, I just need to use it better.
8. How did I use my money to help others this year?
I personally don’t believe I’ve done enough of this over the past year. I’ve given donations to a couple of charities that I support, but I believe we could do more. So, I’m humbling myself and including this question on here as a point of accountability.
I’m not secret about the fact that it is our goal to become financially independent, but I believe that goal is hollow unless we help others along the way. “To whom much is given, … much is expected” We are very privileged and have a responsibility to use that to not only reach our own goals, but support others as well.
9. How do I define success and did I achieve that this year?
My definition of success has definitely evolved recently. It used to involve a high-powered job and a globe-trotting lifestyle. But now it’s much more humble and nuanced. I don’t really want a high-powered life.
Success to me is living a fulfilling life where I have time to devote to myself, my family, and others. It means that I am a present, involved mother and I’m actively pursuing my own personal goals. It means I’m doing something to improve my community.
I feel like I have achieved that – mostly. I do wish I worked slightly fewer hours, but for the most part, I am happy with what we have achieved this year.
10. What is one thing I can I do next year to improve my financial life?
Get a will and estate plan. This has been weighing on me for a while. When my daughter was born, we tried printing off the forms from one of those free legal sites, but then I learned that assets can’t be transferred directly to minors and should always go to a trust. I
became scared of messing that up by attempting to do it ourselves, but never actually went to an attorney to finish the process. At least we DO have life insurance, but we definitely need to fix the will part!