This post is by staff writer Honey Smith.

Now that I’ve taken stock of where I’ve been in 2013, I’m ready to set goals for 2014. I want my goals to be ambitious, realistic, and personal in addition to being SMART goals. They should also take into account my goals for the previous year. This includes whether or not the goal was achieved and how easy it was to achieve. I need to be aggressive, not complacent!

2014 Goal 1: Pay off $10,000 in student loan principal.

2013 Goal 1: Pay off $5,000 in student loan principal.

Status: Achieved

I achieved my goal of paying off $5,000 in student loan debt this year, and even went slightly over (the total was $5,036.04 before December payments). My current student loan balance is $92,738.61. I want to be more aggressive in 2014 and pay off $10,000. My stretch goal is to have the first number in my debt total to start with a 7 instead of an 8.

My regular monthly payment is auto-debited on the 28th of the month. I’ve been making extra payments on or around the 15th of the month. I’ve also been directing my entire extra payment to my small balance (currently $34,413.83). However, my student loan servicer has been frustrating since the beginning.

When I make my extra payment, I click the box that says “do not advance the due date.” My due date is advanced anyway. Then, when my regular payment goes through, the entire payment gets allocated to my large student loan instead of being split between the large and the small loan. And the due date on my large loan gets advanced also. Argh.

Fortunately, last week the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that they will begin supervising certain nonbank student loan servicers for the first time. The type of issue that I am having is one that this supervision is intended to specifically address. So I have high hopes! If my payments are applied the way I am intending to make them, I’ll pay off my balance a lot faster.

2014 Goal 2: Buy a house (or move into a better rental)

2013 Goal 2: Buy a house (or move into a better rental)

Status: On hold, carry forward

We didn’t end up moving in 2013. However, I can’t really say that I failed at my goal because Jake and I still made the best decision possible at the time. Even though the right choice wasn’t obvious, we stayed put.

We may have no choice about moving in 2014. Our unit is scheduled to be auctioned off on New Year’s Eve. But even if it’s not foreclosed upon, depending on whether Jake takes a job offer and starts commuting, our current place may not be in the best location. So while this remains a goal to carry forward into 2014, it will evolve depending on a variety of factors I can’t predict yet.

2014 Goal 3: Continue to save for travel

2013 Goal 3: Saving for travel

Status: Achieved, but carry forward

When I took stock of 2013, I mentioned that of the $7,000 that I have in savings, some of it is allocated toward medium-term goals. One of those goals was travel. I had originally set aside a thousand dollars for travel in 2014.

My first trip is for a bridal shower in south Florida the first week of January. (Thank goodness I bought my plane ticket before the bowl games were announced!) I already bought my ticket for that, about $500. I will be splitting a rental car while I’m there, but I am staying at someone’s house and don’t need a hotel.

The wedding will be in Atlanta, and Jake and I are probably going to stay a week for two reasons: 1) it is the week of Spring Break, so I can get the time off, and 2) my sister lives just outside Atlanta and I have never visited her there. We can stay with my sister while we’re in town for the wedding, so we won’t need a hotel. We will also be able to grocery shop and eat meals in at home. This will enable us to save money while traveling.

I did save some for travel, but not enough to completely cover those two trips. The wedding is in March, so I’ll be devoting my first three months’ worth of income to that. However, I don’t anticipate any other major trips in 2014. I would like to do an international trip in 2016. Jake and I celebrate our anniversary based on the day we met, and 2016 will be 10 years. So I will continue to prioritize travel savings as a goal.

2014 Goal 4: Continue to expand my freelance work

2013 Goal 4: Expand my side gigs

Status: Achieved! Carry forward

My goal last year was to bring in at least $5,000 in side income. Well, I blew that goal out of the water. By the end of the year, I will have made just over $14,000 from my side gigs. That’s amazing! Especially since my side income did not really start taking off until May.

As a result, I feel confident in setting a goal of $20,000 in side income in 2014, with a stretch goal of $25,000. If I can add one more large client to my roster, I may reach the point where it makes sense to consider transitioning into full-time freelance work. This will especially be the case if Jake moves back to full-time employment.

Unfortunately, I don’t get to keep all that money. I’ve been working with our accountant to make sure everything’s on track and setting some of my freelance income aside for taxes. And next year my quarterly payments will be based on this year’s income, and those quarterly payments will need to be made no matter what. That really puts the pressure on to match that income going forward!

What are your goals for 2014?

This year I am being more aggressive about two main aspects of the personal finance equation: paying off my debt and earning more money. However, I continue to put focus on making room for other things that aren’t necessities, like travel and a larger home. Other people (in debt or otherwise) may have different priorities. It’s all about doing what works for you.

Do you set financial goals each year? Is there another method of goal-setting that works better for you? What do you want to accomplish in 2014?

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