Year in Review: 2019

We had a pretty great year in 2019 in many respects. The market gave us some nice boosts and we were able to maintain a higher savings rate. We achieved this primarily through decreased spending. We paid off our last car loan! It’s nice to know that’s something we’ll never need to have again. During the year, we crossed the halfway mark on our nest egg goal. Let’s look at our predictions for 2019 and how accurate those were. 

How did we do in 2019?

2019 will be all about fighting lifestyle inflation and banking those bigger paychecks

Traveling Vines, Year in Review: 2018

2019 will be the year we finally get our travel spending under control. I’m dreaming of shorter, domestic trips and staycations

Traveling Vines, Year in Review: 2018

These predictions were accurate. We increased our investments by more than the car payment that we retired. That loan (which had 0% interest) matured as planned and the savings happened by attrition. The spending reduction that took a concerted effort was in travel (nearly a 50% decrease). We cut back significantly on restaurants. Spending dropped in nearly every other category as well. 

Our spending cuts were not painful. Sometimes in the moment it felt difficult to say no to a weekend trip we might otherwise have taken. But our weekends were never boring or dull or lonely. Instead, we spent that time enjoying activities closer to home. The trips we did take were more economical thanks to use of points and maximizing our timeshare.

Cutting back our restaurant spending was a big adjustment and one that still requires vigilance. We go out with friends and still spend more than we should. Sometimes we’re plain tired and out of time and revert back to old habits (like ordering takeout pizza). But we are making great progress towards eliminating the frequent restaurant visits that used to be so common. That required planning. We try to ensure that we have a small stock of quick to the table meals like a frozen pizza or spaghetti sauce in a jar. It also helps that we have a neighborhood grocery store so it’s easy to run out for a few things to put together a quick dinner. 

As for what to expect in 2019, our budgeted spending is pretty well optimized.

Traveling Vines, Year in Review: 2018

The 2019 budget is about as low as we think we can reasonably go.

Traveling Vines, Year in Review: 2018

It is funny how our perspective can change. I think we can go lower in 2020. Mr. Vine projects our budget a year in advance. With his projections, we already expect to invest more on a monthly basis (and also thanks in part to Mr. Vine’s pay increase from his job change late this year). 

Overall, we did a great job of implementing big changes in 2019. We reduced our spending by close to 20%. 2019 will go down in our history as the year we got serious about pursuing early retirement. 

How did the spending cuts feel?

For 2019, we focused on lifestyle deflation. Our big three: housing, transportation and food are now close to optimized. We can and will continue to work on the restaurant category. At the beginning of 2019 we were most concerned with whether we could realistically achieve financial independence by 2024. We consumed a lot of media on this topic. But there was something we didn’t consider. 

We didn’t give much thought to how we would live our lives or how lifestyle deflation might feel. Fortunately, we made inexpensive or free substitutions that left our lives more full than ever. For the most part, that 20% reduction in spending did not hurt one bit. If you’re a regular reader of our monthly progress updates, you’ll get the idea. This is the reason I don’t place any countdown tickers on this website. I also rarely talk about how much time remains until we hit financial independence, outside of occasional milestone posts. Because we are preoccupied with making every day count, even while making the climb towards some big goals, I don’t ever want to count down our precious minutes.   

What’s next for 2020?

For 2020, I made a list of 20 goals to accomplish across the decade to come. These are both financial and not. So rather than set a specific set of resolutions or predictions for 2020, I’d prefer to check in on the progress we make towards our 20 in the 2020s. 

To serve those goals, we will need to continue to increase savings and decrease spending. We still have a bit of lifestyle deflation to do. I’m also looking to potentially change jobs to capture a 15-20% increase to my income. I’m somewhat underpaid and believe a (potentially last) job change can remedy that, as well as secure our plan to retire early after the first quarter in 2023.

Beyond the financials, we hope that the new decade brings us more balance. We continue to work on how to be present in the moment while looking forward to the future. With our savings and investing plan largely automated, we want the countdown and thoughts of “are we there yet” to creep in more rarely. Now that we’ve automated our investments, we’re looking to automate lifestyle deflation. 

What are your goals for 2020? Do you incorporate gratitude in your daily life? What methods do you use to transform stressful days or cope with prolonged periods of stress? 

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