New Year / New Plans / New Goals

For the past five years, my wife, Kelsey, and I have created some space in our schedule toward the end of the year to talk all things family. I wouldn’t call them New Year’s resolutions, because it’s bigger than that. It’s a time for us to come together and chart a course for the upcoming year.[We created a PDF of the process we walk through every year - The Family Playbook]

Before we had kids, this was pretty easy and was more of a personal goal sharing session. It’s evolved over the years into more of a yearly strategy meeting. But, I think that makes our Family Playbook process valuable: instead of just stating our goals, we come prepared to put them into action.


We use the time that we have to figure out the “why” and the “how” of our goals. The “how” is what had prevented us from achieving what we wanted in the years prior to starting this playbook process.

Instead of just writing down the goals, we write down how much our goals are going to cost, both in real dollars, but also what they will cost in time (if applicable). We leave the meeting with an action list that jump-starts our goals for the year. It also helps us unify our vision for our family for the year.

We also map out vacations and other events that we need to start saving for, along with additional expected expenses outside of our monthly budget.

We tend to leave the meeting inspired, united, and excited for the year to come.

New Year

For the past few years, with two children in daycare and health insurance costs rising at an astronomical rate, our budget has been extra tight. But, as I was prepping for our meeting, and looking ahead to 2017, there seems to be a break in the clouds coming on the horizon.

By the end of 2017 (all things being equal), we should have an extra $693 in our monthly budget from reduced expenses.

That’s a lot of money every month! It comes from various places, but they all seem to revolve around our kids, so this might not be applicable to your situation, but if you do have young kids and two working parents, it might offer some hope.

New Plans

  • Preschool: Rooney will graduate from 4-year-old preschool in May, saving us $190 per month (at least for a year or two until Finch goes to preschool).
  • Daycare 1: When Finch turns 2 (June), his rate will be reduced, saving us $136 per month.
  • Daycare 2: Rooney will go to kindergarten (can’t hardly believe it), and not having her in daycare will save us $367 per month (not counting the price of school lunch, which we’re expecting to be $50/month)
  • TOTAL: $693 per month by September

Considering that we have been ever-so-slowly creating the tiniest of margin in our monthly budget over the past year, this was a very exciting discovery.

And don’t get me wrong, we love our daycare, and we love Rooney’s preschool education, and they are worth every penny, but there is a real cost to these things.

On the expense side of the budget, we’re also planning on approximately $250/month of expenses, some of which we usually cover with a tax refund. Expenses like…

  • Kids’ birthday parties
  • Family pictures
  • Iowa State Fair
  • Camping/Exploring/Picnics/Adventures
  • Vacations (Okoboji)
  • Family entertainment budget

We’re excited about spending money on all of the above, but without having our annual meeting to talk about these things, we’d be frustrated as the expenses came at us if we hadn’t already put numbers to them and figured out how they would fit into our budget.

It seems every year, we get a little bit smarter and better at planning ahead. Example: Family pictures usually sneak up on us in the fall. It’s something we want to have done, but continually forget to plan for… this year we’ll be prepared!

New Goals

One of the best things that has ever come out of our annual meeting is when we instituted quarterly date days. Kelsey calls them “Wednesdays with Eric.” She has every Wednesday off with our kids and calls them “Wednesdays with Rooney and Finch,” except every quarter we plan a day to send the kids to daycare and have an all-day date.

They usually start with brunch/coffee somewhere, a quick check in on how each of us are doing, how we are doing on our goals, and then fun the rest of the day. This usually means lunch somewhere we’ve never been together, or an afternoon movie, or sometimes both.

These date days have been so good for us. We don’t have family in town that can watch our kids for regular date nights, and babysitters can be a strain on the budget, so we’ve found that taking some time off in the middle of the week less frequently gives us something to look forward to and provides a nice break throughout the year, without breaking the budget.

At our family meeting, aside from our family goals, we share our personal goals as well. The past few years, I’ve been working on developing deeper friendships. It’s been tough with kids to feel like I have connected with guys on a regular basis. Life goes on and before I know it, I haven’t spoken to some of my friends for months, sometime years.

As I’ve prayed through this and talked about it with Kelsey over the years, things have slowly started to progress toward a healthy balance of friends/family time for both Kelsey and I. Here’s what I/we have instituted so far:

  • PTO (Personal Time Off or Parent’s Time Off): We’ve encouraged each other to take time away for ourselves and connecting with friends. It sounds a little rigid, but it’s been freeing for us. We know that being home taking care of two kids is draining, so we’ve started a PTO system where we each can freely take time away from home to recharge every month.
  • Accountability group: I recently started meeting with a couple guys every other week with the goal of holding each other accountable and developing deep, meaningful friendships.
  • Fun: I also try to get out and have fun with friends at least once a month. This might be a movie, bike ride, or watching a sporting event. Whatever it is, it’s helps me connect and bond with friends.

Some people may have already given up on their 2017 goals and resolutions, but you don’t have to. Maybe they just need revising or a spark to find the motivation. At the end of the day, getting where you want to go will take work, but if it’s important enough, you’ll find a way. So, keep pressing; keep trying to find a way to make what’s important to you happen.

As we’ve done this for the past few years, I’m amazed every year as we review the previous playbook to see all that we accomplished. Sometimes things we thought were priorities changed as the year went on, but that’s OK. The really important things we wrote down and made them happen.

Here’s to a new year, with new plans and new goals.