I’m going to be honest with you guys – I’ve completely dropped the ball, fallen off the horse, ground to a halt.
2016 was quite a difficult year for me personally.
It was a lot of big, big challenges – one after another – and having to come to terms with certain new realities that I had initially not been prepared for. In facing all of this, I sought solace and comfort in the more predictable aspects of my life. Certain things were comfortable – not necessarily the best for me, but comfortable – and I found that a useful coping mechanism is to impose order into the more mundane elements of my life when everything else is being thrown into a maelstrom. So I began to plan out and straighten up the little things like my bedroom, for example. I actually adopted this habit at a very young age; when I’m feeling like I’m in a rut or having a bad streak, I clean, re-organize, and shake up my bedroom and it makes me feel so much better. I also began to almost obsessively track my finances and made sure I was being careful, sensible, and always looking ahead for long-term benefit.
In a way, I channeled a lot of the stresses of life into productive energy. But somewhere in the middle of the year, things really began to drop close to rock bottom. I’d done a couple of short travel hops in the beginning of 2016 but something inside of me needed to get out, like legit, get the F out and really re-calibrate. That’s how my last minute US trip came about. And I’d been honest with you guys from the start, I spend on happy and travel is where my happy is. And I keep my short-term emergency fund well stocked for when I need it, and in this instance my US trip qualified as an emergency in my eyes. Like I’ve repeated before, what qualifies as an emergency to you is your own prerogative; just don’t lie to yourself over and over as you whittle away at all your savings. My personal boundary in this respect is: I don’t touch my medium- or long-term savings for travel or shopping purposes. And all the money I’d spent on my US trip was cash and/or short-term so that was a (sort of) guilt-free cash withdrawal.
Anyway, my US trip happened over the first two weeks of September.
I knew as I booked those tickets that I’d already had a trip to Japan planned for the first two weeks of November (barely two months later); I’d bought my Japan flights back in April or May. Not only that, I had a work trip to KL and a sort-of-last-minute trip to Singapore planned for the second half of November. Essentially, I spent half of November overseas. So I knew my finances were going to take a huge beating. Plus, in the two months between my big trips, I had major changes in my life. Work picked up, and I had things to catch up on after being away in the US. And then leading to my Japan trip I needed to complete and hand over a number of things too. My birthday was in October and I was very blessed to have had a bunch of intimate birthday festivities to keep me occupied. In terms of personal relationships (family, friends, partner), there have also been major developments; not all good, not all bad. But this is just part and parcel of life. We need growth, we need change, and it’s normal for friendships and relationships to ebb and flow over time like the tide.
And tapering towards the start of December I received positive news at work – which has translated into an increase in responsibilities and a larger scope of work – so that’s another dynamic element that’s kept me occupied. All in all, I’ve had a massive armful of things to carry over into this new year.
With all that being said, unsurprisingly, other things that used to be a priority for me took a back seat. My personal finances was certainly one of them. I started to really get into F*** IT! mode and shopped myself dry on all my trips… I’ve shopped like mad over the last five months guys.
How bad has this hit my finances?
Well, on the bright side – I stuck to my word and didn’t touch my medium- or long-term savings at all. The downside is my savings hasn’t grown in five months. So while I didn’t reduce my overall savings pile, it hasn’t increased either. Which isn’t the worst thing, right?
Nevertheless… I’ve had my fun, I don’t regret anything. But all good (and reckless) things must come to an end sometimes. I still stick with everything I’ve ever written on this blog though. It’s important to have and cultivate good everyday habits – finances, flossing – so when you really need to let loose and throw caution to the wind, you’re able to do it from a reasonably stable position where going wild won’t kill you. Not brushing your teeth for two days straight after six months of disciplined dental hygiene shouldn’t spell the end for your chompers; so taking a break for my usual sensible savings self hasn’t quite unravelled all of my hard work yet. I just need to make sure I get back on the ball.
And that’s already started:
- I’m back to tracking my expenses. Unfortunately, I can’t do an end-of-year round-up like I’d done a year ago because I’m missing a good 3-4 months of reliable data on Wally 😦 I can tell you that I definitely didn’t manage to spend less than I had in 2015. I spent more in 2016.
- I’m trying to slam the brakes on my accrued expenses and gain traction in building my savings again. Accrued expenses are basically expenses you’ve already made but haven’t paid for (i.e. stuff on my credit card or stuff I know I have to pay for but haven’t quite finalized payment for yet, e.g. if you’ve booksis kain but have requested to pay on payday – that’s an accrued expense.) I’ve still managed to pay off my credit card in full every month without incurring interest payments but in the last couple of months this has meant sucking my cash pile dry. This inevitably means my monthly expenses tend to get put on a credit card for next month’s salary to cover. So I’m working on putting a stop to this and reverting to the more sensible situation where this months expenses are paid for from last months salary, not next months.
- I need to do a spring clean on my finances in general. I think I mentioned I did that net worth tracking thing, where every month I just check all my accounts and note down how much I have in all of them… So I’m able to keep track of whether my savings etc. naik or turun over the course of the year. Well I gotta do that for 2017 too. My net worth hasn’t changed much since maybe September 2016. Dulu the trend was that it would steadily increase month to month (since I added savings every month), but like I said that hasn’t happened in a while… So it’s stayed the same number since September, more or less.
So that’s my update to you for now.
I’ll clue you in on more details as we go along, but I’m hopeful that 2017 is going to be a good year. Not that 2016 was a complete sh*tstorm (it wasn’t). It was just a really tumultuous one with a lot of extreme lows balanced out with extreme highs. And 2017 will see a lot of my priorities shifting, even in terms of my personal finances. We’ll talk about it eventually 🙂
Also: I’ll be honest, I won’t be posting as frequently as I had done at the height of this blog last year but hopefully once a month minimum 🙂 Before we return to our scheduled programming, I’d just like to say that… Well, I’m not embarrassed or apologetic at all about my long lapse in discipline. I think it’s important for us to realize we can’t always be “perfect” and sensible in our habits; good financial habits isn’t about being on the ball 24/7. It’s totally normal to break away from sensibility; you just need to make sure you eventually dust yourself off and get back on your feet.
Hopefully it helps to know that even I need a break once in a while.