How I'm Getting Over My Financial Hangover and Setting Big Goals In 2018

7 minute read | 5/1/18May 1, 2018

Everything is going to be okay...

It’s already March, but many people are still be dealing with a financial hangover after last year’s holiday season.

Why do we put ourselves in this situation time and time again? It can be downright maddening.

If you’re like me, you may be tempted to freak out, sell everything, and eat cheap ramen noodles until your finances are back in order.

But please...don’t do that.

You have other options.

And, if you’re giving yourself a hard time about some of the financial moves you made in 2017, let’s put a stop to that as well. That’s in the past now and all you can do is move forward.

Planning For a Successful Year

Instead, take some time to plan out how you can improve your situation this year.

This is your year!

Here’s my recipe for success:

  • Learn from previous mistakes
  • Do a self audit of your finances
  • Kill bad habits
  • Earn more
  • Plan out your financial goals

I go through these steps every year, and while it can be uncomfortable confronting past mistakes, it’s so important to learn and move on – that’s how we grow.

What’s a Personal Financial Audit?

So, what’s a personal financial audit you ask? I guess it’s kind of something I made up. Well, actually, not me, but it’s not really an official term per se.

It’s similar to an IRS audit, only you perform it yourself and take an unflinching look at the following:

Spending Habits

Where is your money going each month? It’s important to get to the bottom of this question since spending more than you have will always mean you’re spending way too much.

It’s painful to admit, but in the last several weeks, my own audit revealed that I’ve been spending way too much money on going out for coffee. It’s something I love doing but buying four cups of coffee outside of my home per week is not really feasible for me anymore.

Even though I was buying the smallest size of coffee each time, I was still spending an average of $10 a week, or $40 a month, or $480 a year (yikes) on buying coffee – and that’s just when I'm out and about, not what I drink at home.

Things have to change and I’m making an effort to cut that cost in half (at least) this year.

Monthly Expenses

This one can be tricky since monthly expenses tend to be considered non-negotiable. Things like rent or mortgage payments, phone/internet services, auto insurance, and so on.

Now, I know many of these expenses aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure you’re getting the best price you can. I find myself questioning these types of costs all the time and am regularly surprised by how easy it can be to save money by making small changes.

An easy switch I made last year was dropping Verizon for Cricket Wireless for my phone service. That one change saved me $900 the first year!

Miscellaneous Expenses

This will likely be the most complex part of going through your finances. Sometimes it feel like you have to be psychic when planning financial decisions for the year. I try my best to anticipate these costs, but as you know, it’s not the easiest thing.

Expenses that fall into this category can include things like travel, fun, weddings, accidents, helping out family members, and education.

For me, I know I’ll get my eyes checked this year, visit my dentist for a routine checkup, and maybe go on a trip or two, so I try to plan these expenses out as much as possible.

Planning Financial Goals

After my yearly self financial audit, I also like to map out the financial goals I want to achieve that year.

I’ve found that thinking about goals and setting goals are two completely different things.

If you take the time to actually set a goal (write it down, take it seriously), you have a fighting chance of actually accomplishing it.

"Thinking about goals and setting goals are two completely different things."

My Money Goals

  • Earn more money
  • Pay off debt
  • Save more money

Goal 1: Earn More Money

Thinking about all the ways I can bring in more money this year is both intimidating and incredibly addicting. I’ve had to work through some money mindset issues previously and know that a lot of people feel the same way.

Since I’m self-employed, here are some ways I’m planning to increase my income.

Let people know I’m looking to earn more. Obvious, sure, but I’ve gained several new money-making opportunities just by telling friends and contacts that I’m interested in making more money.

Pitch more stories to write. As a freelance writer, it’s important to pitch article ideas to potential business partners regularly. I’m making an effort to reach out to new businesses every day to secure work for the upcoming months. Think of it like planting a garden – the more connections you make, the more likely it is to find more business!

Get serious about side hustles. There are seriously a mind-blowing number of side hustle opportunities available, so pick a few and get serious! I like to focus on side hustles that make as much money as possible in as little time as possible like, focus groups, surveys, and working fun events.

How I Earn Money Now

I like to keep my income streams diversified and therefore usually have several side hustles going on simultaneously. Here are some ideas you can get started with as well:

Freelance Writing

Nearly every company has a website and blog these days and they need writers to help them with content. If you enjoy writing like I do, consider putting some feelers out there by pitching your writing services. 

When you’re just starting out, the pay for freelance writing gigs can be dismal, but with experience and a solid set of writing samples, you could eventually earn upwards of $1,000 per post, depending on your client list. 

Professional freelance writers – especially those who can write fast – can make some serious bank with their writing skills.

Brand Ambassador Work

In my experience, most brand ambassadors get paid around $18-$35 an hour, depending on the type of promotion they’re hired for.

I like working with local companies based in CO (where I live) and have had some great experiences working as a brand ambassador. For instance, one company I worked for sent myself and another person to Winter Park on a regular basis to hand out yogurt. Not only did we each get paid $20 an hour to hand out yogurt, we also got our own personal suites at the ski resort for the weekend!

There are, of course, a few downsides to consider, like being a contract employee means paying your own taxes, and some companies use the ‘net-30’ payment method which means you’ll need to wait 30 days to get paid after you’ve done the work. I usually avoid gigs that enforce this policy since I like focusing on quick financial wins, but I know a lot of people who don’t mind waiting for their check to arrive.

Demo Representative Work

Grocery store food samples, anyone? I love doing demo rep. work! I can usually make $20 an hour to hand out samples and talk to interesting people. There are a few things to be aware of though:

Demo reps typically have to sell a certain percentage of the product during a shift. If the goal isn’t met, you might lose the gig. It’s happened to me a couple of times but there’s always another gig.

You might be scheduled for a few shifts in a single day. I always make sure to factor in gas expenses and drive time to shifts.

Driving for Lyft or Uber

Becoming a driver-partner for Lyft or Uber (or both) can earn you some serious dough. You’ll need to be comfortable interacting with people in your car, of course. But if that works for you, I encourage you to try it.

You can set a really flexible schedule and drive as much or as little as you want. Plus, you’ll get to meet interesting people along the way.

[editor’s note: now you can also signup with Uber Eats to deliver food from restaurants to customers in your area – no passengers required!]

Instacart Grocery Delivery

Making money with Instacart is one of my favorite side hustles. Basically, I get paid to shop and/or deliver groceries to people in my area. 

Some customers just want you to shop for them and have the groceries ready when they arrive at the store to pay, and others request you to shop for them and make the delivery to their homes. Both are relatively easy requests and I enjoy doing it.

Back to 2018’s goals...

Goal 2: Pay Off Debt

Like most Americans, I’ve got some debt to pay off. 

I’m working my way through what used to be an overwhelming list of debt using the Debt Snowball method, which essentially means focusing on the easy wins first (paying off my smaller debts), then shifting to paying off bigger debts.

This strategy has helped me make progress on paying down debts, which is such a relief.

Goal 3: Save More Money

People are notorious for being terrible savers. 

I know this all too well because saving money has been one of the most difficult financial habits I’ve worked on for years.

It feels like every single time I walk out the door, I get sucked into a ridiculous number of opportunities to spend.

Walk by a coffee shop? I could go for a cup of coffee and a scone.

Hopping in the car? Looks like I need gas and maybe a car wash.

See a sale at my favorite store? Well, I guess one quick look won’t hurt.

You get the idea….

Realizing I’m not the only one who struggles with saving money helps keep me motivated and focused on the goal.

In June 2017, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that Americans are saving just 3.8%, which is down from June 2016, when it was 5.1%. 

That might not seem like a lot, but say you’re making $40,000 a year:

  • Saving 3.8% a year would be $1,520
  • Saving 5.1% a year would be $2,040
  • A difference of $520 per year

When you take into account that every little bit helps you get ahead, it definitely makes a difference.

If you’re not sure you’ll be able to save money this year, consider enlisting the help of your payroll office (if you have one). 

You could:

  • Direct a certain amount of money each paycheck to a savings account, so you never have to wrestle with it in your checking account.
  • Ask for help reconfiguring your taxable income to change the amount of money being deposited into your retirement account(s).
  • Make sure you’re getting the best interest rates for your savings account. Oftentimes, online banks now offer much higher rates than most traditional banks.

You Can Do This

It may take some focus and hard work (who am I kidding, of course it will), but if you follow the guidelines I’ve shared above to cure your financial hangover, you’ll be in much better shape financially at this time next year.


Bounce back from your financial hangover with ease using these steps:

  • Confront, learn, and move on from previous mistakes (the past is in the past!)
  • Figure out where all your money is going
  • Kill bad money habits
  • Set achievable financial goals

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