2021 has been my year to focus on my health and wellbeing (see my review post on that), but I’ve also been keeping my personal finances ticking along which were my primary focus in 2020 (see my 2020 review post here). This is my review of my personal finances for 2021.

Budgeting

Once again, I have kept to my habit of entering my expenditure into my zero dollar budget tracker each payday. This helps me plan my financial goals for the entire year, check my progress, and analyze the year in this review. It was particularly useful this year as I had a few different savings goals so I could prioritize progress against each one.

Savings

My savings rate this year was 43%, down slightly from 2020 which was 45%. I’m pretty happy with this rate. Although it’s not the most aggressive it allows me to relax a bit when eating out and socializing, and also allows for a few big expenses associated with house improvements.

I ticked off a few big savings goals this year:

  • I paid off the rest of my car loan, a conscious purchase that was made after our old car got destroyed in a hail storm, and our cheap and cheerful replacement turned out to be not so cheerful.
  • I built my emergency fund back up to $5k.
  • I paid off my student loan which had almost $15k left on it (see my post on this ’emotional’ decision)
  • I made $8k in extra payments on our mortgage.
  • I made extra contributions to my Super (the Australian retirement fund)
  • I added just over $9k to my investments.

A little bit all over the place, but all heading in the right direction.

Spending

My biggest expenditure was the minimum repayments on the mortgage (excluding the extra payments I made). Our interest rate has reduced, and the principal has been reduced a bit, but we have kept our ‘minimum’ repayments the same as what they were when we first took out the loan. A little trick to make sure we overpay by a little each month, even when we aren’t consciously overpaying.

My second biggest expense was house renovations, and miscellaneous purchases which included all clothes, hair and beauty, some car seat covers and other bits and pieces that I didn’t record. Next year, house renos should be pretty minimal as we are not planning any more improvements, but I’m still budgeting for unexpected house expenses. I have also split my 2022 budget into a few more categories to avoid putting too much into ‘miscellaneous’.

Elsewhere, my ‘luxury’ non-essential expenses have been on eating out and drinks, where I’m happy with what I’m spending. I’m also happy with what I’ve spent on health and wellbeing, and if anything I want to increase expenditure here.

Plans for 2022

I’ve already done my zero dollar budget for next year, and planned out exactly what I want to spend and save.

I’m planning to pay off an additional $36k of my mortgage next year. I’m constantly flipping between wanting to invest and pay off the mortgage (see my post on this), but at this point I’d like to focus on reducing debt. It was a great feeling paying off my student debt, even though it didn’t make mathematical sense as it only had 1% interest, and I think I’ll get the same feeling from being mortgage free.

I’ve also been doing a some calculations on how long it will take me to achieve financial freedom through FIRE and the 4% withdrawal model. Although I’d probably aim to only get to 12.5x my annual expenditure, enabling me to work part-time and then ‘cruise’ to full financial freedom, this milestone will still take me longer than it will to pay off the mortgage. Finally, I know the mortgage is a great source of anxiety for my partner so I’d like to contribute to reducing that.

I’m not completely abandoning my investments – I’ll still be contributing extra to my Super fund, and $300 a fortnight to personal investments.

I’ve also made a conscious decision to limit the amount I put aside in savings and debt repayment, so that I can allocate more funds to things I value. 2020 was my financial focus year, and last year it was hard to spend money on things I enjoy because of Covid. More on this in my 2022 planning post!

How did your finances fare in 2021? What are you planning to do differently next year?