Our Financial Accomplishments for 2018

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2018 flew by faster, it seems, than any other year I’ve spent in this world. Probably because I was busier than I’ve ever been. While I enjoyed the new things I got into last year, I’m going to focus on slowing things down a bit in 2019. I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to slow down, but it’s a nice thought anyways.

I spent some time this week thinking back on 2018 and thought it would be good to write down what we accomplished throughout the year. Making a note of the progress you’ve made is a great way to stay motivated. If you don’t take a minute to think about where you’ve come from, it can feel like you aren’t moving forward very quickly. By making small improvements each week, you’ll eventually look up and realize you’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

Without further ado, here are my 2018 financial accomplishments:

Discovered FIRE

This is a pretty significant accomplishment as it changed the course of my life. Back in the beginning of 2018, I was an avid Dave ramsey follower and didn’t know anything about financial independence/retiring early. I figured I was going to be working a normal 9-5 career until age 65 and hopefully retire a millionaire.

Thanks to a friend introducing me to the Mr. Money Mustache blog, I’m now on a path to a much earlier retirement and have a completely different life outlook. All of the other accomplishments on this list are due to finding the FIRE community.

A couple of months ago, I started listening to the ChooseFI podcast and instantly became addicted. Jonathan and Brad along with their guests, walk you through all of the little details of FIRE and I have learned a lot from their podcast.

Started this blog

This may not seem like a financial accomplishment and it actually cost a little money to start the blog. There are a lot of intangible benefits that come along with starting a personal finance blog though. I’ve done a lot of research to learn more about money and having a blog was what motivated me to do it.

One thing I didn’t realize before starting a blog was how big of a community there is in the personal finance blogging realm. I met many other bloggers last year who all share their unique stories and perspectives. Since I’ve got so many other bloggers to learn from, my money knowledge skyrocketed in 2018.

On top of the benefits I’ve already gained from starting a blog, this blog could potentially be a source of income in the future. I haven’t done much to monetize this site yet, but making money blogging is a slow process. I’m just going to keep sharing my story through the years, and maybe see some money come in later down the rode.

I haven’t shared any stats for the blog publicly yet, so in case you’re wondering how this site did in its first 8 months, here’s the info:

our financial accomplishments

I definitely wouldn’t say these are amazing results, but for someone with no prior writing or website experience, I’m pretty happy with this. The personal finance blogging niche is pretty saturated at the moment so I’ve got a lot of competition to go up against. It seems like my readership went up significantly when I started writing about my eBay business, so I’ll be sure to keep producing that kind of content.

Started earning travel rewards with credit cards

Before 2018, I was on the Dave Ramsey – no credit card bandwagon. I realized that was a dumb move and have started accumulating travel rewards points by putting our regular expenses on credit cards. Just from one credit card, I was able to earn $800 in cashback rewards and that paid for most of our Christmas expenses.

If you’re responsible and pay off the cards in full each month, you can essentially travel to any destination for nearly free. It takes a little time to learn all the tricks involved with “travel hacking” but it’s totally worth learning how to do it. By learning how to travel hack, you can start traveling wherever you want a couple of times a year and spend very little money.  

Started tracking our net worth

If you’ve been on this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen that I do net worth updates each month. I don’t personally like to do these updates publicly, but the whole point of starting this blog was to see how long it will take me to reach a million dollar net worth.

I don’t share my net worth to brag, and there’s nothing to really brag about at the moment anyways. I just want to share my journey as transparently as I can and hope to encourage you that you can become wealthy with the right steps. I’m just an average guy with an average income, but with a few life hacks, I’ll be retired in my 40s and be able to devote all of my time to the things that matter most to me.

Discovered the power of index fund investing

Before I discovered FIRE, I had no investing knowledge whatsoever. Thankfully, there are smarter people out there who have shared their knowledge freely and I’ve been able to learn the best things to do with my investments. I did have my money in a Vanguard target retirement account but I transferred all of our investments into VTSAX – the holy grail of investment funds.

I’ve been reading the Jim Collins stock series and it’s a great source to learn about stock market investing. Jim has impacted the FIRE community in a huge way by putting our minds at ease and showing us the simple path to wealth. Unlike many things in life, the right way to invest your money is also one of the easiest ways.

Cut our expenses

We were living pretty frugally before 2018, but we really stepped it up a notch last year. We still spend a little too much on eating out, but I’ve went through our budget and tried to cut every expense by as much as possible.

We haven’t sacrificed any happiness by cutting our expenses. We were just paying more for things because we weren’t really thinking about it. Since I’m putting all of our financial information out for the world to see, I’ve been a lot better about cutting things down and optimizing our budget.

I’ve also embraced the ideas of minimalism to a certain extent and have realized I need a lot less than I thought I did. Around the time I started this blog, I decided I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes for the rest of the year. I was able to hold to that commitment and now I don’t see myself buying any new clothes for the foreseeable future.  

Started an eBay business

This is probably my favorite financial accomplishment of 2018. I wish I had taken eBay more seriously years ago! I made a total profit of $5,096.18 in 2018 and had fun doing it. I’m looking to grow my eBay business this year and the sky's the limit to where this could go.

eBay is a great side hustle and can even be a full time income source if you’re willing to put in the work. You’re also doing the world a favor by keeping things from ending up in the landfill and sending items to customers who are actually going to value them. I also support a lot of nonprofits in my area because they’re a major source of inventory for me.

Started selling antiques at an antique mall

This kinda came as a side thing to my eBay business. My mom and dad started selling antiques at an antique mall and I noticed that I came across a lot of things that I could put in a booth when I’m out shopping for eBay items. My dad and I decided to go half and half on a booth together.

Selling antiques at the booth has been great because the items I’m selling either wouldn’t sell for much on eBay or they’re big and I wouldn’t want to deal with shipping them. I only made $476.01 in the three months of selling at the booth in 2018 but that doesn’t bother me. I literally only have to stick a price tag on the items and drop them off. The antique mall has their own employees that handle the cash register, so all I have to do is take items to the booth and collect my income. I think I should earn a few thousand dollars this year from the booth with very little time commitment, so it’s great.

Increased our net worth by $8,948.92

I wasn’t tracking our net worth until April of 2018, so the total amount for the year was probably $12,000-$13,000. When you take into account the stock market dropped significantly in December and our household income is below-average, I think we did pretty good. I’d like our income to go up so we can really see some progress, but I’m sure that will come with the work I’m putting in.

I think tracking your net worth is essential when pursuing financial independence. By seeing your numbers, you’re able to plan ahead and analyze your progress. I use Personal Capital to track our net worth and it has become my favorite money app! The best part about it is it’s free!

Gave $4,460

Giving money away may seem counter-intuitive to talk about on a personal finance blog, but for many Christians like me, it’s essential. Our church is funded by the people who give and can only grow by getting more donations. We also support missionaries in different parts of the world.

I thinking giving money to church/charity is a great way to keep yourself in a generous mindset. We live in a world of abundance, so it really doesn’t affect our lives negatively to give away 10% of what we earn. I think once I do become a millionaire/financially independent, I’m going to focus a lot more on giving back.

Financial failures

It wouldn’t be right to only talk about our accomplishments and not acknowledge that there were some failures. I don’t think there were any major failures. Going out to eat was probably our biggest unnecessary expense of the year. We also spent a lot more than we expected to on our trip to Costa Rica.

Hopefully, there aren’t going to be many financial failures from here on out. With all the great information I’ve learned and continue to learn each week, we should only make smarter decisions with our money in the future.

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