When Goals Aren’t Getting Accomplished as Quickly as You Hoped
Have you ever seen the movie “Up”? You know in the opening montage when Carl and Ellie are saving up for a trip of a lifetime, and over the years they make some progress, but then something happens and they have to use that money to take care of a problem (i.e., the roof, car tire, broken arm, etc.). Yeah, that feels like us in 2016. Every month, we comb through our budget looking for ways to improve our margin, find things to trim, plan for upcoming expenses, and get a little bit closer to our financial goals. And every month, something seems to happen that takes precedent over our goal for the moment and we’re left either dipping into our emergency fund or adding only $33 to it. Can you relate?
It’s not that we are overspending (well, of course there are always discretionary budget categories that we can improve upon). Our fixed expenses on a monthly basis have really been stretching us lately. For example, it’s not easy keeping up with an 82% increase in premium costs for health insurance for myself and the kids.
We find ourselves in a financial position we didn’t want to ever be in again. In debt. After Finch’s visit to the emergency room and two days in the hospital in March 2016, I spent the next few months sifting through medical bills and Estimate of Benefits statements from our insurance company. And when the dust settled, we found ourselves obligated to pay over $5,000.
We were unable to pay for all of that at once, so we set up a payment plan with the hospital. So, while we’re trying to build our emergency fund back up, and move on toward other financial goals, we had to severely slow down those other goals in order to get rid of the medical debt.
I don’t know anyone that likes to take steps backward, but that’s where we find ourselves. Sometimes it’s things we can’t control (like medical bills), and sometimes it’s poor decisions. Regardless of the reason for the set back, they happen to everyone at one point or another.
How do we deal with financial setbacks? What do we do, when the plan falls apart?
Faced with this for most of this year, we’ve been doing what we can to rebuild our plan, keep floating, and re-adjust the timing expectations of our goals.
Dragging Down Our Budget
The details of your situation might be different than yours, but replace the items I list below with the things that have shocked your budget, and I think you might be able to relate.
- Medical Bills: $5,000 in total bills, we’ve now set up a payment plan to pay this off at $200 per month. Finch will be 3 by the time his first ER/hospital stay will be paid off. Meanwhile, our kids still get sick and other medical expenses need to be paid along the way (face palm).
- Washer: In July our used washer that we bought when we moved into our home 9.5 years ago stopped working. Happy 10th Anniversary, Kelsey! Appliances you can’t lift on your own are the proper 10th anniversary gift, right? (I’m so romantic.)
- 10th Anniversary trip: Out of all the items on this list, our 10th Anniversary trip was the only one that was fun to pay for. Because of everything else going on, we didn’t even do anything extravagant. I mean, we took a weekend trip to Omaha, NE. Two hours away. You can read about it on Kelsey’s blog. When we were married, I figured I would take her to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for our 10th Anniversary (her dream)… we settled on Omaha. (lack of planning… maybe for our 20th?)
- Increased Healthcare Costs: If you pay for your health insurance out of your own pocket, you probably feel me on this one. If your employer pays for any of your health insurance, you should be grateful. We actually have a little of both. Kelsey’s has insurance through her employer, and I pay for the kids, and myself. Premiums increased 82% for the coming year. (I can’t say anything nice, so I’ll just leave this right here...82%!)
How our Strategy Has Changed (How We are Moving Forward)
We’ve come to terms with the fact that we are not going to be able to make progress as fast as we did when we didn’t have kids. They are a huge blessing, but drain a good bit of our finances every month. But, let’s be serious... we are keeping two little humans alive.
Here are a few ways we’re adjusting our budget in the coming year:
- Total healthcare costs: We have our premiums that are going up, and then we have the ability to fund a Health Savings Account (HSA). In 2016 we contributed the maximum family amount ($6,750) we could into that account. But, since we don’t have a lot of extra dollars in our budget on a month to month basis, we’re going to slow down our contributions to offset the increase in premium costs.
- Slowing down our other goals: We have some large purchases we’d like to make that will just have to wait until we’re in a better financial spot. Things like: finishing our basement and purchasing a different vehicle or two.
- Extras: Medical debt aside, we would likely be able to accomplish most of our goals through a tax refund, bonuses, or extra income throughout the year. Instead, we plan to use all of those extra dollars to help us catch up our HSA funding in 2017 until it is maxed out. We are also paying the medical debt off through the HSA.
All in all we are blessed to be where we are in life. Both Kelsey and I have jobs that we love, we are able to put food on the table, and a roof over our heads. This post is a lot of the details about our situation, that I hope provides perspective and perhaps motivation to fine tune your plan for 2017.
Sometimes a little focused intensity goes along way… and other times, a lot of focused intensity barely moves the needle. Either way, you’ll likely be in a better position if you work toward a new plan instead of letting life drag you along. We keep chugging along, doing the best we can… I hope you do the same.