Where’d time go?!

Holy crud, it’s already November!! I’m excited for snow and visiting family over the holidays. I’ve got some cool gift ideas and I’m excited to get the things in motion. 😀

The end of a year often brings introspection and I think I did a lot of things right this year:

  1. Development Chops: Overall I’d say the time it takes me to get started on a new thing is getting shorter and shorter! This means that I spend less time in the weeds and more time deliberately creating. It’s been very gratifying to see my progress and next year, I have a plan to ship/ship/ship a bunch of personal projects that have been marinating on my poor Windows system. Yes, I still use a Windows PC and I cannot wait to get my Mac. I have used a Mac at work for years now and the experience is like heaven.
  2. Finances: I hit a lot of my savings goals, succeeded in beating back old debt & not taking on new debt. I attribute that to a deliberate focus on making savings a priority and planning for expenses. This has been a theme through out my blog and it’s really only dawned on me just how much I’ve grown in this department. 🙂 Here are some of the successes I’ve had:
      1. fully stocked 8-month emergency fund (EFund). In reviewing older posts, I’ve talked about a 9 month fund but I will make it a goal to surpass this next year. I’m proud of this achievement despite major events and part of the reason was my dedication to saving which meant the big expenses that came our way this year were handled just fine. It is very disconcerting that many Americans are a firing-away from being broke and I am striving to not become a statistic like that.
      2. maxing out my 401k account – with every pay increase and bonus I received, I updated my pre-tax contribution amount and thanks to that work, I’ll hit my 401k plan limits before the year runs out! In related news, the IRS has increased the contribution limit for 2019 to $19, 000 from $18, 500! I already can’t wait to bump up my contribution to meet this limit! 🙂
      3. regular contributions to other investment vehicles – Despite the turbulence in the stock market, I’ve made investment a priority this year and made consistent contributions.
      4. high credit score – maintained a 8xx credit score for the latter half of the year. I attribute this to no changes in debt load and a good mix of account types.
      5. use of sub accounts to plan for expenditures: I use Capital One and I particularly appreciate the ability to create sub accounts for various goals (aka ‘money baskets’).  For me, the major benefit of this type of tool is that it gives my money ‘work’ to ‘do’. For example:
        1. For holiday travel, I created a travel fund to which I contributed throughout the year. This meant that I was able to book tickets at my convenience and not impact the monthly budget.
        2. Rent payment is never a surprise since (you guessed it) the rent funds go into a sub account
        3. Next year, I am planning on a Macbook purchase next year and guess what, I’ve already created a Macbook fund to remind me of my promise to myself. 🙂
        4. For a planned health event, I created a sub account and this ensured that I got through the experience without any new debt (major props to the decent insurance plan I’m on via my workplace). Next year, I think I will continue this sub account so that any medical expenses will come out of that first before a need to dip into other accounts.
        5. And so on… If all that money was just piled up in my checking account, I guarantee that I’d forget about a few things! I’ve mulled the question of automating bills but I’ve had a few scares where various service providers billed me wrongly and come to the conclusion that I’d rather not be out of funds while things are being fixed. As long as my bill pay reminders are firing off, this is a low priority item.
      6. student loans paid off! I am inordinately proud of myself for this and this was a large contributor towards being able to hit the EFund goal. In retrospect, I paid what I call stupid tax by not planning my repayments out more efficiently but live n learn! The car
  3. Philanthropy: I scaled back a bit on this (mostly on political contributions and Patreon support) but I increased the time I spent on volunteer efforts. In addition, there are three charitable organizations I currently have on auto-pilot:
    1. Pamela Atkinson Homeless Fund – money goes to organizations that work to help homeless people
    2. Let’s Encrypt – helping the world be a slightly safer place
    3. Human Utility – helping folks with water bills

    I could stand to do a lot more in this arena so stay tuned.

  4. Personal:
    1. Food: we’ve made some deliberate choices in what we eat and put on our bodies. This is part of why our grocery budget is still embarrassingly high but I’ve started cooking and looking to continue this trend into next year. My husband and my body clearly love what I’m making so this is great positive feedback to keep me going. So far, I’ve recreated a not-too-shabby version of Egusi soup (looked great and tasted great), jollof rice (looked meh but tasted good!), and tomato stew (looks good and tastes good!). I hope to expand my cooking repertoire.
    2. Body: we’ve been much more aware of what goes into skin care products and as a result, I find myself spending a bit more for higher qualify skincare with ethically sourced materials and a bias for natural ingredients (less is more!). My skin looks supple and even M’s sun-beaten arms are looking fresher than ever! The skin care budget pretty much doesn’t exist and I regret nothing! lol
    3. Work: Continuing with last year’s trend of working smarter, I continued to keep my laptop home for most of the year and I felt great about this choice. My work output did not suffer and it made me focus a bit more. I made a conscious decision this year to be more thoughtful with my feedback and I feel I’ve made significant headway in my journey to becoming a senior developer. I look at majority of the PRs I get notified about (GHE does this if you watch repositories) and where I understand the code base, I provide actionable feedback. It’s been a great learning experience for me to think through someone else’s work and look for potential bugs or design concerns. I am looking for some specific outcomes from my work come review time so I am excited to share my achievements when it comes to review time.
    4. Mental: conflict resolution was a biggie for me and I feel I did a decent job of standing up for myself this year. I did not let real or perceived slights bother me as much as they would have in the past and this is a huge win. M was a boon to me in this regard and I talked through things with him to place events in the proper context.

I did not expect this list of successes to be as long as they turned out and boy am I glad I took the time to list this out. Today, specifically, I got to feeling blue but a call from my mom, a kiss from M, and me counting my blessings have turned things around. 😛

Some things I look forward to tackling in 2019:

  1. Philanthropy:
    1. either being more active with my current organization or picking up an additional position within a different organization.
    2. Increasing the monthly donation budget by $25 to $50
  2. Finances: This article talks about a lot of the considerations I’m making and provide good backing for the targets I’ve chosen:
    1. Max out 401k again next year
    2. Pay off car loan by June 2019.
    3. Purchase Macbook using funds from sub-account (no cheating, trust the process!). ETA anytime before second quarter of 2019
    4. Improving savings rate (off net pay) from 20% to 25%
    5. Make 8-month EFund a 9-month
  3. Personal:
    1. Health:
      1. A dedicated workout session at least 2X a week. I haven’t done as much physical activity as a young’un my age needs. While that hasn’t translated to additional pounds (I hover around 120 – 125lbs these days), I feel squishy and it’s not good for my heart!
      2. Meditate at least 1 hr a week (spread this over 7 days)
    2. Development:
      1. Dedicate 4 hrs a week to learn something new or read something that is not related to fiction.
    3. Family:
      1. Continue to communicate with my immediate family more! Thanks to technology, I have conversations with family across the pond at least weekly. When I’m feeling less vulnerable, break the ice with my mom’s relatives who are in the US as well
      2. Continue to plan on monthly support for parents
  4. Work:
    1. TBD; I haven’t fully fleshed out what my 2019 work-related goals are but the watch phrase is “Know your worth!”

That’s about it for now. Happy holidays in advance and here’s to being grateful for how far we’ve all come and for the new paths to be trod in the new year!