Goals for 2017 – Learning to be S.M.A.R.T.

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Goals are important to help an individual grow in both their professional and personal lives. We hear about them everywhere: I want to lose weight, I want to get that promotion, I want to make extra money this year, etc. Some goals are easy to achieve and others are near impossible unless someone plans a course of action before stepping out to do it.

But what makes a goal reachable? There are different sets of rules to help you, and like all rules out there, there is a mnemonic acronym tied to each one. The one I like to use is the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Achievable– sanity check on if it can be done.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

There are different words that can be swapped in SMART but for the most part, it should help everyone create goals for themselves.

With the new year coming, I like to go ahead and spend some time and figure out what I would like to do. My actions are based on these goals, and using the SMART system, I make sure that I can do them. I divide my goals to fall under either Personal or Professional.

Personal

Pay off the Jeep:  At the time of this post, I owe about $8,400 on my car loan. I have enough to pay it off but I haven’t been in a hurry since the interest rate is pretty low.  The minimum payment on the loan is $450 dollars but I’ve already been paying $600 a month. I am financially able to pay it off this year if I add some extra cash on top of the extra cash I  already put on it. I will be adding an extra $100 dollars a month ($700) and my goal is to pay it off in 2017, which should free that $600 a month when its done!

Increase Deposits for 2017: I currently auto-deposit $300 dollars a month and put an additional deposit of 100-500 dollars depending on how the month goes. Some months are good while others I skimp on the extra deposit. My goal is to put at least an extra $250 bucks into the account. If I consistently do this every month, then my goal is to add an additional $3k for the year. This number is do-able I believe, even with the extra $100 going to the car loan noted above.

Get In Shape: I’ve been neglecting my health for the last few years and I need to make a change in order to get back into a healthy shape. Good health is the best investment that one can make. I will be enrolling in a local gym in my area. The cost should be around $15 dollars a month. An expense that I believe is worth it. I’m setting a goal to go three times a week.

Professional

Start Posting Weekly on DividendNoob – I like to build the website more and the way to do that is to post more quality content on a consistent basis. I’ve been posting weekly  for the month of December and have been getting good results from it.  For instance I’ve hit over 500 page views for the website and before that, I would be lucky to hit 50. Interaction on twitter and other dividend blogs should also help Dividend Noob grow as well.

Youtube – Sometimes information is easier to digest in video/audio form for some people. I would like to get a youtube channel up and going where I talk about my portfolio and bring up some potential investments that are on my watchlist and go through my thought process while doing my due diligence. The time requirement for this is pretty heavy at first but my goal is to start with at least one video every monthly portfolio update.

 

Those are my goals and I hope everybody has a good New Years and I’ll see you in 2017!

 

The Noob’s Budget

In last weeks post,  I laid out an easy budget spreadsheet that anybody can use in order to get a hold of one’s bills and routine expenses. I only think it’s fair to show my current budget to you and explain what my line items are used for.  I’m hoping this will explain any issues one might have while filling it out as well as show everyone what I have to work with.

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Income – My income is the sum of my two bi-monthly paychecks. Currently, Mrs. Noob doesn’t work so we only have one income.

Bills – Here’s a list of our current monthly bills

    • Rent – We stay in a house that’s currently owned by my parents. We pay the mortgage and utilities that are bundled together.
    • Suddenlink – Our internet service provider. We currently pay for 200 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. We also pay an extra $5 bucks a month for no data cap. We do a lot of internet in this house currently and this is a required expense.
    • Noob Car – I currently pay extra per month on my car loan. It’s normally around $400 a month but I allocated $600 a month to pay it off faster. This will let me save money on interest over the course of the loan.
    • Car Insurance – Both Lady Noob and I both have our car insurance through Geico.
    • Two phones – We currently both have plans at Virgin Mobile. It’s been the cheapest I could find for 5gb LTE and unlimited data, voice and text.
    • Roth – I take full advantage of maximizing my Roth contribution every year. When you calculate it, it’s around $458 bucks a month. Vanguard takes the payment out of my account automatically every month so I don’t have to worry about it.
    • Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/UFC – We don’t have regular cable tv so a lot of our entertainment is consumed by various streaming sites. I’ve been a fan of Netflix since they launched. We subscribe to Hulu whenever there is something we’d like to watch. I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for awhile now since we do a lot of shopping online and considering  they give free movies and books, it’s actually been quite a deal. UFC is a sport that I love to watch and their Fightpass has proved to be a good value so far.
    • Preschool – This is preschool for Noob Junior. It lets him interact with kids his own age twice a week and as a bonus, gives us 3 hours off for days he’s at preschool. Win, Win in our book.

Estimates for our Food, Gas as well as entertainment. We try to budget a little bit of play money every month for everyone. Happiness is worth it.

The only debt I carry is what’s left of my Jeep payment. When Noob Jr. was born, we needed a bigger vehicle and I went ahead and traded in my small car for a 4 door Jeep Wrangler. As noted above in the bills section, I pay an extra $200 a month to pay it off faster. It should only take fifteen more months to pay off now. Credit card balances are paid off every month. I suggest everybody does the same!

The retirement section includes my current balance in my work 401k. The company i work for currently matches up to 6% so that’s great. Also mentioned above is my current balance for my Roth account. As of right now, the federal government allows me to contribute $5,500 a year. The traditional IRA is a 401k that was rolled over from a previous employer.

But overall, I have a positive net worth which is an amazing feeling. It’s nice to see it down on paper (err..computer monitor?) and that’s all because of the budget.

I hope my budget shows people how easy it is to do!

The Noob’s Guide to Budgeting

What is a Budget?

A budget is simple. So simple, it’s only three words : In and Out. The money you have coming in (income) vs money you have going out (bills + expenses) is what you should be keeping track of. A budget gives you an idea of where your money is going and is helpful to figure out if there’s a way to save more of it.

We can use a simple spreadsheet to track it all or for the more tech savvy people, we can use budgeting software or money management websites like Mint. Whichever you are most comfortable with is fine. I suggest starting with a spreadsheet though because it’s quite a deal easier to learn.

Why a budget?

I know what you’re thinking. Budgets are lame and I know every single bill that comes into my home and how much extra cash I have at the end of the month. Let me just say this:

I still recommend that everyone take the time and carefully write down every bill that you pay. It’s easy to forget them!

If you’re trying to maximize your contribution to your dividend growth portfolio then knowing how much you’re going to spend in a given month is pretty paramount. If you have an extra $200 dollars a month to invest with, then you know you can safely deposit that into your account and not have to worry about any bill you forgot to pay!

The Noob’s Budget Spreadsheet

The spreadsheet that I provided tries to fundamentally be as easy as possible.

First off, go ahead and click the following link to download.

You can import it to your own Google Docs Account or just download it as a Microsoft Excel file. If you don’t own Microsoft Word/Excel, you can download the open source office software Libre Office for free and use that program to work your spreadsheets.

The spreadsheet has provided sample values for reference. You can simply change the values where appropriate and then delete the ones that do not apply to yourself.

 

  • Input your monthly income into Columns A& B – If you have multiple people with income (husband/wife, etc), go ahead and replace their names and income or delete what you don’t need. After you provide the value, the total in B:15 should update with the sum.

  • Input your monthly bills into Column D & E Remember, if you have an expense that’s paid quarterly or yearly, go ahead and calculate what it would cost monthly. Delete what you don’t need and after you’re done, the total in E:15 should give you the sum.

budget_ss_bills

  • Provide estimates for food and gas into Column G & Hif you’re unsure what this amount is, go ahead and take a guess. I’ve provided two additional sheets in the spreadsheet that will help you keep track of how much you’re spending. Right now, they are unlinked with this value. Once you get an average cost, go ahead and input the values into the Budget sheet.

  • I also provided columns to track your net worth if you feel like knowing where you stand with that. Just fill them in and your current net worth will be in K:18.

 

The extra income you have leftover will be calculated in H:18. Anything you have extra towards the end of the month can be added to your dividend growth portfolio!

Budgeting isn’t as scary as some people make it out to be. If you’re worried about not having “just in case” money, you should already have an emergency fund to help alleviate that before you’re investing anyways!

Need an example? Read up on my own budget.

Your budget can also answer some easy questions on whether or not you can afford something you’ve been thinking of buying. But no matter where you are in your life, it’s important to have a basic budget to help you!.