My 2019 Goals: Create, Collaborate, and Get Out of the US

Each year I create a list of goals and resolutions, and I publish them here to keep me accountable. I’ve learned it doesn’t actually matter if other people read the posts, just *me knowing* that I’ve publicly stated my goals and will review them at the end of the year helps keep me accountable. You can read last year’s goals here and find out how I did here.

In 2018, I pursued a 15 goals  – including the goal of saving $10,000 despite earning about $18,000 take-home – at the expense of some of my own mental health.

So, here’s the thing. This year I’m focusing on what makes me happy. You know what makes me happy? Creating things, serving my community, and travel.

I like creating things. I am happiest when I get into flow editing a video or podcast, designing a zine, cleaning up a dataset, or writing a script. I love having things to look back at and say “I made that!” Even better if people tell me that what I created helped them.

I also really like teaching. Second only to focused creation, I am happy being in front of a group of people, giving a talk or walking through a complex concept. It’s not limited to being in front of an audience – but just having someone to teach. In the radio studio when I’m live on air reading the morning news, I’m probably the happiest when I get the chance to explain a concept like an Inverted Yield Curve.

And well, I’m focused on doing things that make me happy. I haven’t been very happy lately. Pretty much since August, I’ve been constantly stressed out trying to juggle a full-time temp job with running a business (which I did largely to meet an arbitrary  savings goal); when I’m traveling for business I’ve been stressed about missing work at my other job back home; I haven’t been caught up on my email inbox for nearly 4 months now*; and I turned down a few pretty great opportunities due to taking a full-time temp job and not being able to make more time.

Plus, all that left me burnt out and rolling around giggling hysterically on my floor dressed in a fuzzy dragon onesie – for pretty much the entire month of December.

Luckily, I’m finally recovered and back to being excited about doing things again; but I’d like to set up my life to not repeat the experience of a month of dragon-onesie-giggling-burn-out again.

*I finally fixed this on January 1st!

Creating Things

1. Make a video on youtube every single week.

If I accomplish nothing else this year, this is it. This is the thing I’ve been procrastinating on for 10 years. More details on the project on youtube (and please, subscribe. It will help keep me motivated, and I hope will entertain and educate you!)
The cool part about youtube is that it’s baked into a lot of other goals – improving my technical video editing skills, improving my on-camera skills, teaching and expanding my audience with more financial video content.

2. Make 45 episodes of Oh My Dollar!

That is every week with some breaks for rebroadcasts. Focus on creating content that serves my audience and helps them with their financial goals! Over 2 years of making a weekly show on a relatively mundane topic, it’s easy to struggle to find new exciting content without just falling into the trap of interviewing the same people like every other personal finance show. But with a revitalized editorial calendar, I’m finally looking forward to new show styles and collaboration in 2019.

3. Collaborate with people I admire

I tend to work in a silo as a content creator, but the work I’m most proud of involves engaging other people. So I’m setting my sights on 9 collaborations for the year  – most of which are in the planning stages.

4. Find the fun, creative part of making websites again

Because I have been so focused on the radio + print side of my business, I’ve been transactional with my websites and haven’t been working on them much for the past 2 years. But ever since I learned HTML over 20 years ago, I used to love the creative side of building websites. In high school I would stay up til 3AM, getting lost in things like CSS tweaks and creating the perfect front page flow. Playing with websites is good for my creative muscles and for my business. It’s a win-win.

5. A 52 Week Self Portrait Project

Because I miss the community on Flickr, but can’t commit to a 365 project. Here is the project.

Financial Goals

6. Come out ahead this year

That’s it. Not saving a certain percentage of my income, not hitting a net worth goal, no arbitrary earning amounts – just letting go of my fears about eating into my savings and trying to earn enough to support my basic living expenses and my preferred indulgences. Here’s a lot more line-by-line detail on my budget.

Here’s what this doesn’t mean: I’m not going to break my back trying to work a bunch of extra contract jobs to hit a $10,000 savings goal, I’m not going to be mad if I spend more than I earn in a specific month since my income is wildly variable, and I’m just going to let things unfold with Oh My Dollar! as they come.

I have no debt, and I have a big cash buffer – about 6 months runway before I’d need to even touch my emergency fund (not to mention my less-accessible assets like my IRAs). I am giving myself permission to eat into my buffer that I worked my butt off to build up – because it was meant to give me the freedom to try things out, not be scared and play small for fear of losing it.

Thanks to Patreon and other random drips and drabs of income I almost always have enough coming in to cover my bare basic expenses. So I’m going to focus on making things I care about, pursuing opportunities I’m excited about, nurturing my community, and hopefully, it will work out.

And if whatever “it” is doesn’t work out, I know can live on a minimum wage salary, I own a fair amount of re-sellable assets,  I have an abundance of privilege, I have a support network, and have a pretty diverse marketable skillset, so I can make a new financial plan if needed.

The big unknown here is health care, but I can say with reasonable certainty that I will continue to have insurance for at least 2019, and that most likely, I’ll have no out-of-pocket expenses for health care after early March (curious why? Read this about the weird health care loophole I fall into.)

Additionally, my current month-to-month premium cost is heavily subsidized based on my income, and that subsidy could really disappear anytime after 2019 given the state of American health care politics. At this rate, I may need to go find a corporate job after this year to even *get access to* coverage since I have an uninsurable pre-existing condition. Because of the various uncertainties linked with health insurance, this is the best year to date for me to invest my time and savings in my business and projects, and live the fully self-employed life-while I still have very cheap subsidized insurance coverage.

7. Continue monthly financial reports 

 

8. Halve total clothing spending from 2018 levels

I like clothes, particularly ridiculous clothing. A lot. I always have. I don’t wear designer or high-end stuff, and I try to get almost everything used and a lot of my clothing I have sewn myself.  But, regardless, I don’t like how much I’ve been spending on clothing the past two years, and I have plenty of clothes (I have catalogued all my 210 pieces of clothing in a 3,000 cell spreadsheet, in case you’re interested.)  I had a high-spending clothing year in 2018 (5% of my income), so my goal is to halve my clothing spending from 2018 totals (so <$25 per month average).

My biggest risks are poshmark and ebay, where I tend to stalk things for months and then buy them in moments of emotional weakness. This is especially bad because I sell some clothing on Poshmark, and sometimes I just don’t cash out my profits and they…umm…magically disappear by being spent on other clothes. Most of those things I don’t *need*, I just *want*.  In fact, things I need for like, daily living (like tights without holes in them), I tend to procrastinate on getting more than, say, glittery blazers that make me look like Johnny Weir.

I considered a complete clothing buying ban for this year – as I successfully completed in 2016 ($0 spent). That seemed a bridge too far, with an upcoming trip to Japan (where most things are my size) and London (where clothing is cheap if you hunt and haggle).  I expect to buy a few things in both cities (not much because as much as I like clothing, I’m still very cheap and won’t pay for anything bigger than hand luggage on the flights home – for example, I bought one shirt for $6 in South Korea, and that was my only clothing purchase on my 13-country trip in 2017.)

Initially, I was pretty set on an online shopping ban all year (a workaround meant to force my lazy butt to go to store if I need replacement clothing, which I hate doing, thereby reducing my clothing spending). But right as I had decided on that, my weird Hong Kong asymmetrical gingham suit arrived and fit perfectly, and frankly, I want another one of these strange $45 suits from China, and I’m not flying to Hong Kong to pick one up. So, I am aware I have a silly suit problem. (My twitter followers encourage this habit).

I got a new suit

Travel Goals

9. Travel to 5 new-to-me countries 

This is the list of countries I’ve been to. I have some pretty extensive travel hopes & dreams in 2019, you can read my full budget for each trip over on this post. The new-to-me countries I’m hoping to visit are: Japan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania.

10. Spend at least 5 weeks out of the United States

Related to above goals. Already have 3 weeks of planned international travel in the first 3 months of 2019.

Health Goals

11. Plan downtime into my schedule

I’m terrible at this and then my body ends up forcing me to take downtime at the most inconvenient times. This is meant to be true downtime, not just “out of office time” or “work travel time”  This includes some time to JUST sit on the couch under my cat and read trashy novels – where I’ve pre-recorded and uploaded the show and outsourced shipping orders.

12. Get into a work out groove again that makes me feel good (~5 times/week)

I’m pretty good at working out, but I have struggled to find something that’s super fun. It’s possible I’ll decide to got back to figure skating again as I miss it – but it’s an expensive hobby, and because I used to be on the competition circuit, it’ll be hard to for me to do it casually. Here’s my beeminder graph for working out.

13. Keep flossing every day

This isn’t very hard for me anymore since I made it a resolution 6 years ago, but it still feels nice to note it.

Project Itches (not yet sure I will do any of these)

These are “itches” – things I’d like to do, but am waiting to see how funding and time and energy work out. Just noting here for posterity.

  • Live Podcast Tour with partner organization
  • Record an EP for Jane & The Austens
  • Drag Queen Build a Website Day
  • No Proof Cocktail Society
  • Go back to volunteering at the library weekly

Not-To-Do List

  • Uncompensated speaking gigs not for community non-profits
  • Tax prep volunteering (I love it but it’s time consuming this year unfortunately)
  • Work a bunch of part-time side jobs below my skill level instead of on my own business
  • Beat myself up for not having a “real career”

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