Balance. For any working parent, it’s the impossible dream. And frankly I don’t think it’s possible. But in 2019, I’m going to give it a better try.
I felt like 2018 was majorly out of balance – and frankly, it stressed me out. Too much focus on work, not enough on family. Too much effort spent in the wrong places on this site. Not enough time for the things I value, and generally too much everything.
One mistake people often make when seeking financial independence is to get out of balance in their overall lives. Saving every penny and sacrificing too much, hoping that the future will be better.
I’ve learned through my 38 years on this planet that you don’t wait for a future “someday” to pursue happiness, health, wealth, or anything else. That “someday” may never come. Or it may look totally different than you thought it would.
I can tell you that 28-year-old Liz would never envision the kind of life led by 38-year-old Liz. I’m pretty sure that means my current self can’t really imagine what I’m going to want/need at 48.
All we have is today. Each and every day is a new opportunity for us to make a difference in this world, however large or small. And every day is a new opportunity for us to find happiness today, not in some indeterminate future that may not come, or may be totally different than the one in our minds.
So this year, my focus will be on balance while pursuing my various goals. A balance between myself, my family, and the world.
Lets take a closer look at what this means to me.
That’s the summary. I’ve kept the same categories as last year, but tweaked the specific goals for 2019.
Oldest – He’s on the home stretch to Eagle Scout now. For those of you not familiar with the requirements of an Eagle Scout, here’s a guide to Boy Scout ranks. Essentially, he needs to complete all the requirements of every rank in order to be awarded Eagle.
Right now, of the Eagle requirements, he needs to finish up 1.5 more merit badges, do the Eagle project (easily the most daunting part for a 15 year old), and serve in a position of responsibility in the troop for six months.
It would be wise for him to achieve this before his 16th birthday. He turns 16 about a month after starting his junior year of high school, and things will only get harder then. As parents, we try to strike a balance between encouraging our kids and letting them do things themselves. So we’re having discussions on why this is a wise idea, but we’re not going to force it.
On the job front, our son has expressed interest in getting many of the trappings of teenage boys that come with a cost. Mainly, a car. Not only a car, but all the costs that go with it, like insurance, gas, and repairs. This means only one thing – a J-O-B.
It’s going to be hard for him to get a job, though, because of the school he goes to. He attends an arts magnet school, getting on the bus at 6 AM and returning at 5 PM. He’ll also need time to keep up with academics (see: continuing to get honors), and so we’ll need to work together on what kind of job will work for his situation.
I know some parents will simply foot the bill for a car, insurance, and gas. And if you want to do that (and can afford it), more power to you. For us, we want our son to have a deep appreciation for his car, insurance, etc. And that means letting him pay for them. We’ll explore this more throughout the year, as he approaches his 16th birthday.
Middle – He needs work on his organization skills, and staying focused in class. He loves all the various clubs he’s involved in – band, drama, gardening, book – and his activities like strength training at the YMCA. I’d love him to continue those, and use middle school as a place to explore his varied interests.
But job number one still needs to be school. Any parents or teachers out there who have tips on how to work on this with an 11 year old, I’m all ears.
Youngest – Ah, the fun of being a little kid! I’m looking forward to seeing him wrap up his first year at preschool, start the next one, and continue to improve fine motor/reading fundamental skills. Right now he’s actually sitting in the living room with my 11 year old, doing science experiments.
Husband – He’ll find out about this goal when he reads this article (surprise, honey!) but I’d like to make time to go out as a couple one night a month. It’s been a challenge these past few years, but especially this year, to do things together without the kids.
Since our oldest son is now certified as a babysitter and in CPR, the little guy is a bit older, and everyone is generally more responsible, I think we can make this a goal in 2019.
Not that I want to spend money on an expensive fancy date night each month (sooo off-brand). Time together doesn’t have to equal money. Things like going for a hike, thrift-store exploring, Groupon activities, and other such frugal outings are what I prefer.
So start making a list of fun & frugal outings, dear!
Day Job – My goal for my day to day job sounds pretty much the same as last year, doesn’t it? It is, and it isn’t. The project I’m on ran into some significant roadblocks late last year, which is part of what contributed to the lack of balance.
I needed to travel with late notice more than I expected, and spend more time at work. I also had originally been planning to take more time off than I was actually able to. Usually, I save some of my time off days in case anyone gets sick, or I need to take unexpected time. If I don’t use it by November/December, I’ll normally take a few three day weekends and half days. It didn’t work out, though.
This coming year, I’ll still have plenty to do in the first month or two to get things sailing smoothly again, but I’m hoping after that it will be more predictable. I’m looking forward to this project becoming a success, continuing to help out with an agile transformation in my “new” (ish) team.
I’ll finish up year one in June and take stock of how things are progressing, as well as other opportunities within my team. I’ll also be looking for opportunities to join in activities/groups at work that are outside my day-to-day job, both to expand my network and to learn new skills. I like to always be learning something
This Site – There are so many things I want to do here, but I’m limited by one simple thing. Time.
In order to help and inspire them, I need to expand my reach. That’s why I’ve set the goal of doubling my site by the end of this year. That’s a big goal. to be sure. I’ve already reached a point here that I never thought I’d be in.
What steps am I going to take to reach that? Partnerships – I’m partnering with a friend on his Full Potential Movement site, helping out with the financial advice section. I love his mission:
” The Full Potential Movement is a group of influencers, innovators, leaders, motivators, philanthropists and technologists looking to help change the world. We share our ideas and experiences to empower people to improve their lives and reach their Full Potential.”
I’m going to focus on growing my two weakest social media platforms, which are Facebook and Pinterest, in addition to growing the two I like best (Twitter and Instagram). Engaging with other content creators, and participating in forums.
I’d love more major media features, but I know I can’t count on those. I’d also love to get more comfortable with pitching the media. Which I, well, I don’t do. Although I should.
I’d love to create content in other formats to help more people. That means podcasts and YouTube. I’ve been paralyzed here by analysis paralysis, feeling like my ideas/equipment/etc. just aren’t good enough. I’ve really got to get over this and break out of my comfort zone.
I’m also going to be seeking out podcast and guest posting opportunities. So if you have a podcast, or are looking for some quality guest post content, be sure to reach out!
I’ve discovered these past two years that like many content creators, I like the process of creating content a lot more than I like the marketing of it. And as far as making money, I have no plans to turn this blog into a full-time business. I made enough last year to cover expenses, which was my goal, and I’m happy with that.
This year, though, I want to earn enough to cover expenses and fund a scholarship at my sons school. I mentioned he goes to a magnet school. Half of the kids at that school are from Hartford, and many are economically disadvantaged. I’d like to be part of helping kids that need a hand to go to college, just like I plan to help my own kids.
This has been a long-held dream of mine, something I thought I would do once my kids were grown and set for school. Why wait, though?
In addition to this scholarship idea, I’m going to be on the lookout for other causes to help kids with their money. I’d love to take a more active role in bringing personal finance education to those who need it most.
This is an area I want to put more focus on this year. I suppose you could put writing in as a creative pursuit here too (and I would like to write an eBook before the year is out!), but I still don’t think of myself as a writer.
Says the person who’s written almost 400 posts.
One new recipe each month should be easy, and I know I’ll find the time for a new art project each month. But what about re-doing the room in the house? This is a holdover from last year, where I failed this entirely. I’d love to re-do the kid’s playroom.
It hasn’t been touched since we moved in January of 2006, is in desperate need of more insulation (gets cold), and has ugly wallpaper. Plus there’s just way too much kids stuff in there. I’d love to decorate it in a fun, creative, light way that looks cheerful and fun rather than dark and depressing.
Originally I’ve planned to pay off the mortgage in 2020, hopefully in time for my 40th birthday. But I think I just might be able to pay it off this year. It fully depends on some factors outside of my direct control, but I’m still putting this out there.
For the kid’s college, if we can get rid of the mortgage, that’s where all the extra money will go each month. It’s the next goal in line, and by the time 2019 comes to a close, we’ll have only a year and a half left until our oldest son heads to college. Time is not on our side when it comes to his college fund, and brute force savings is the only way to get there.
Maxing the retirement account and the HSA is on auto-pilot, so I’m confident of those two goals.
This was an area I feel I fell short in last year, mostly because I didn’t get to go along on that road trip with the rest of the family.
I’m determined not to repeat that mistake this year, though.
I really, really want to take the family to Japan while my oldest son still goes on trips with us. I have a “dream” fund that I started shortly after my wedding, back when I was 21, in hopes that one day my husband and I could go back to Japan (where we went on our honeymoon).
In addition to the Japan trip, we’ll want to do our usual camping and a family road trip together. We’ve had a lot of fun on our past road trips and I’d love to do it again. Hopefully more West this time, we’ve spent a lot of time on the East coast.
Mental and physical health are equally important. In many New Years resolutions, it seems that physical health always takes the stage, with people vowing to get healthy, get fit, lose weight and get in shape.
I want to not only focus on continuing to improve my physical health, but also de-stress through regular meditation and yoga. I’ve gone through times where I’ve done yoga regularly for years at a time. But ever since the little guy was born, it’s fallen by the wayside. I think three times a week is realistic for me.
I’ve also decided to generalize my goal of exercise. Instead of walking three times a week at lunch at work (too narrow, not realistic given my schedule) I’m making it three times a week period. That should give me the flexibility I need to succeed.
2019 – The Year Of Balance
I’d love to finish the year feeling that I had found a good balance between these six aspects of my life. Like many people, I have a tendency to get out of balance if it’s not something I consciously work at.
It’s easier for me to pay attention to work and to money than it is to carve out time for art or travel. It’s just how I’m wired. But “all work and no play makes Liz a dull girl.”
I hope you’ll tell me more about your 2019 goals in the comments!