The 2018 Year In Rewind
Each month I create a blog post to recap the prior month’s achievements and accomplishments. It’s a way for me to be personally accountable to you and to the goals I set every month. Additionally, it allows me a forum to share with you, our family’s financial progress on our journey to financial independence.
In lieu of the December Wrap-Up, I am going to recap the year that was 2018.
There were many highs and a few lows. Through blogging, I found motivation and accountability like I had not experienced before in my life.
I started off January 2018 with an idea to create a website to talk about money. I love to talk money but I understand not everyone shares the same excitement. By creating a website to blog about money, only people who were interested in the topic would receive the information. It was a win, win. I was no longer annoying to my friends and family, yet still sharing my passion for money.
I made a deal with myself that I would religiously and consistently blog for one year. Yep! 12 months. My plan was to publish one post per week for 52 weeks.
For better or worse, I would put myself “out there” for the world to judge, as a non-anonymous blogger. At one point I even remember telling myself I didn’t care if anyone read my blog, which in hindsight seems pretty silly now.
I was naive. Beginning a project you are unsure how to start is uncomfortable and clumsy. I had no idea how to create a website, let alone how to operate a blog.
Not understanding the time involved or the technical mechanics was a blessing because had I known, I would have never started. But here we are one year later and my life has a new perspective in ways I can not measure, all because of a simple blog with a simple purpose.
With a free afternoon in early January 2018, I started watching Youtube videos and a couple hours later, I had my website Thesmartfi.com. I was off and running on a year-long adventure.
The highlight in January was creating Thesmartfi.com. I put a ton of time into writing blog posts in the inaugural month to create content for the visitors to my site. Incidentally, I wrote more blog posts in January than any other month in 2018. Three posts per week would be a pace I could not keep up for the entire year.
The Spend Nothing Challenge. This challenge was my first public blog challenge. It was a pledge to eliminate spending on material purchases in 2018. No gifts for myself. No new clothes. Aside from a new iPhone in November, I honored the pledge.
To be fair, the challenge was really no challenge at all. I seldom buy material objects for myself and I try to be as minimalistic as possible in my life. Lord knows we have enough crap in our house.
By February I was feeling pretty good about the decision to start a blog. My blog traffic was growing. People were reading my content and I joined two more challenges.
I joined A Frugal Lent Challenge where my wife gave up wine and iTunes song purchases for 40 days and I didn’t give up anything. I know, lame right? I’d change that if I could go back. However, we saved $100 from that challenge and that money was added to our mortgage payment that month.
The second challenge The February Plank Challenge was one I created. I let the world know that I not only love money but I love fitness. The goal was to do one plank per day for all 28 days of February.
The funny part was I was a month into money blogging and I was writing about fitness. I am a bit of a yard sale sometimes, all over the place. But the challenge was good healthy fun.
In March, I had my first guest post on this article, Start Your Financial Journey With These 4 Easy Wins. I also wrote one of my most popular posts of the year, Don’t Buy Your Next EpiPen Until You Read My Story, after I grew frustrated with the expense of buying an EpiPen without insurance.
By April, I was starting to get blogger fatigue. A large number of overtime hours at work and the constant self-induced pressure to put out content for the blog was starting to wear on me
In April I joined a fitness challenge that would keep me active through the remainder of 2018. The 5 Million Steps Challenge. I am a sucker for a challenge, as you can probably guess. I jumped at the idea of keeping track of my steps in a cumulative fashion to reach a giant goal of 5 million steps for 2018.
That challenge has since ended and I finished 2018 with 5.25 million steps. I have not set a step goal for 2019 but I am thinking I will aim for 5.5 million.
May was quite uneventful. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring was in full swing. The days were getting longer and people were outside enjoying the weather. I began to learn of the seasonality of financial blogging.
To spice things up in June I felt it was time for another fitness challenge. So I created the June Weight Loss Challenge. The rules were relaxed and the objective was simple, lose weight with diet and exercise. There would be no winner and the only competition was yourself.
I made a google shared spreadsheet so the 15 bloggers could log their progress. It turned out that getting 15 financial bloggers to follow a schedule of updating the spreadsheet was a bit like herding cats.
For the first time, I realized the value of blogging is more about the financial blogging community is the comradery of interacting with like-minded people who are on the same journey.
By July, summer was in full swing and my website traffic was starting to wane as more viewers put down their phones and headed outdoors.
My most interesting blogging achievements were two-fold in July. I had checked off a major 2081 financial goal and I ran every day in July.
August is the peak of summer in our family. We are squeezing the last bits of fun and sun from the 3 month school year hiatus. We try to fit camping trips and stay-cations in during August.
This would be the month where I wrote my most popular blog post of the year. Saving Me From Myself With DCA.
In August I began sharing my investment purchases as my taxable investing was ramping up. After I maxed out my 403(b) in June, I had the extra cash flow to divert to taxable investments.
In an attempt to be transparent for the next several months, I outlined my thoughts behind every taxable stock or index fund purchase. Check out the August Wrap-Up link below for details.
I crossed the 4 million step mark in September, well on my way to my 5 million step goal for 2018.
For Christmas 2017, I received an iWatch that tracks not only my frequent runs but also my daily steps. This fitness tool albeit expensive has been the single most motivating fitness force in 2018. I have walked the halls and ran the stairs of my work to get to my daily step goal. This is something I would have never done prior to a fitness tracking watch.
I would recommend one of the various fitness tracking watches for anyone trying to monitor and increase daily activity.
By October I could see lifestyle inflation was creeping into our life. From pay raises to increased cash flow from maxed out 403(b) accounts, I needed to reign in spending. Our family decided on a rather strict $600 per month grocery budget. You can read all the details in the October Wrap-Up.
By the end of November, it was clear that we were going to achieve all of our 2018 financial goals. This was an accomplishment I never thought possible when setting our 2018 financial goals, a distant 12 months ago.
I give credit to writing down my goals in January and partly to blogging. By updating my financial goals monthly, I was able to stay motivated even when my interest had waned.
Through this blog, I was able to either create or participate in challenges to spend less and save more. The 2018 No Spend Challenge and The Frugal Lent Challenge, are examples of those financial challenges.
2018 Financial objectives
Five 2018 financial milestones completed.
January first, I laid out my lofty financial goals for 2018. Here they are:
- Max out two 401 k’s = $37,000* Goal Completed
- Max out both Mrs. Smartfi’s and my Roth IRA = $11,000 Goal Completed
- Max out family HSA = $6900**Goal Completed
- Contribute $10,000 to taxable brokerage account at Vanguard. Goal Completed
- Add $300 dollars per month to the mortgage payment. This gets me to $20,000 of mortgage principle pay down per year. Goal Completed
You can read about my Hybrid Mortgage Payoff Plan by clicking here.
I recently published a post with a deep dive into my 2018 Financial Goals. To read all the fine details read, Savaging My 2018 Financial Goals.
* 401k and 403b contribution limit increased $500 for 2018 to $18,500 in 2018.
** HSA limit increased $150 for 2018 to $6900 for a family for 2018.
Let’s add this up
37,000 (401k) + 11,000(IRA) + $6,900(HSA) + 10,000(taxable savings) + 3,600(mortgage principal payments) = $68,500 savings/investments in 2018.
2019 Financial Goal
Inspired by my 2018 financial goal setting success, I have set even loftier expectations for myself in 2019. I have my sights on saving $100,000 across all accounts in 2019. This will stretch my savings limits to the max but like 2018, I plan to be accountable to you through regular monthly updates. You can read the details of my audacious goal in the link below.
In the world of blogging, there is something called blogger burnout. It is the idea that by feeling the constant pressure to churn out content for readers you “burn out.” Some bloggers experience runaway financial success but for most, that is not the case.
Most bloggers earn little to no money from their endeavors but are motivated by a passion for their niche. A passion to teach others about what they love. For others, it is a way to share a journey.
I don’t write about this part of blogging much but I had two particularly rough patches. At the end of July, I was feeling like I was giving up too much of myself to this blog.
Normal daily activities don’t cease to exist just because you decide to start a blog. The lawn needs mowed, the kids need dinner, the dishes need to be washed and the list goes on. Summer was in full swing and I was more interested in camping trips than spending hours at my laptop writing blog posts. To make matters worse, I still work a rigorous schedule as a Pediatric ER Nurse.
The second lull came in September and I was ready to throw in the towel. Another blogger I knew decided to quit for the same reasons I outlined above. If he could quit then I could too. It is as easy as not paying your annual web hosting fee and poof. Everything you have worked for is gone in the blink of an eye.
But then a friend a friend at work was telling me how a friend of hers from Boston messaged her to say she was following my blog. At that moment I realized that my whole motivation behind The Smart Fi was to inspire and motivate people to seek an alternate path from that of debt and financial oppression. If I quit and vanished, I might be letting down that lady in Boston.
At this point, I plan to keep going for another year because I have a passion for personal finance and I want to share that passion with you. I have a F.I.R.E. inside me to help people get out of debt and begin their own journey to financial independence.
I plan to keep posting 1 to 2 blog posts per week through 2019. I’m excited to share several new ideas in the coming months. I hope you will choose to be a part of my journey.
The best way to show your support is by sharing my articles on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and by signing up to get on my email list.