Things certainly have changed since I repaid my New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (NJHESAA) NJCLASS loan earlier this month. For example, I’ve spent the last twelve months checking, rechecking, assessing, and reassessing my personal finance spreadsheets two or three times each day. However, since I repaid that NJCLASS loan I’ve probably checked my spreadsheets once or twice every other day. Sure, that’s still more than the vast majority of Americans and yes, I have a tighter control of my finances than other folks in my position – but it still feels weird.
It feels weird not having to decide whether or not I should drop my checking account down to $20, $30, or $50 so I can make that much bigger of a payment to NJHESAA. It feels weird checking my personal financial spreadsheets and seeing that I have a few thousand dollars sitting there instead of less than $100. It feels weird to think about reaching other financial goals that involve me paying myself first before paying some outside loan company (i.e. saving money instead of paying down high interest debt).
It all just feels weird.
None of these feels unknown, though, and that’s a strong distinction to make. You see, I’ve lived life as someone who didn’t worry about the money he was spending. When I was in college I had a troubling mixture of credit cards and semesterly student loan surplus payments that I used to wreak havoc on my personal financial situation. Hey – young people do stupid things, right?
But the big difference this time around is that while I am a little taken aback at the financial freedom that I’m now able to work within, I’m not overwhelmed by it. In other words, I’m not spending my money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Instead, I’m eagerly awaiting this Saturday to get here so we’re officially in 2011 and I can start attacking my new financial goals. Some of you might ask, “Why not start hitting those financial goals now, Joe?” And I would respond by saying that there is a clear method to my madness.
Each year I set out some 15 or so financial goals. These goals include how much I want to donate to certain charities (and, specifically, to which funds within those charities), how much money I want to save, how much money I want to invest, how much of each of my debts I want to repay, etc. Well, I never actually hit all of those goals each year… until 2010. Not only did I hit all of my financial goals in the past year, but I shattered them good.
So I’ve opted to let the few dollars that have come in from my various paychecks over the last two weeks just sit in my checking account so that on January 1, 2011 I can start aggressively pursuing my 2011 financial goals. Hey, maybe I’ll post those goals on here for you folks to read – that might make an interesting entry!