I’ve been struggling with how to go about writing this 2021 reflection for weeks.
Taking time to reflect as the year draws to a close has been a regular practice for me for…well, years. I find the practice therapeutic.
Writing things down helps me process my experiences. It helps me make sense of things I go through.
It helps me move forward.
It’s not surprising that this 2021 reflection didn’t come easy. Because for all the good that came out of 2021 — and there was a lot of good — there have also been challenges that required significant processing.
So, after several weeks of writing and rewriting, here’s my attempt at doing some of that work (and a preview of what’s ahead).
2021 reflection: the year my entire life changed
It feels dramatic saying my entire life changed in 2021 but it did.
I started 2021 about six months pregnant, living in a two bedroom basement apartment and working at job that was (and continues to be) heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Fast-forward 12 months later, I’m in the last quarter of my parental leave, sitting at the kitchen table in the house we purchased six months ago, watching my nine month old on the baby monitor as she naps.
I am grateful for it all. However, it would be disingenuous for me to say it’s been an easy year.
Motherhood changed me. I knew it would. How could it not? What surprised me was less than it happened and more the degree.
I’ve always been more of a Type-A, perfection-seeking person and while that hasn’t changed, I’ve gotten better at letting things go. I’d love to say this was a choice, but it was almost certainly more about survival than anything. Motherhood tested limits I didn’t even know I had and shaped me into what I would consider a softer version of myself. I would say these are good things.
But, as is often the case, these changes came with growing pains. While I realized very early on that the person I was before becoming a mother doesn’t exist the way she did before, embracing this hasn’t always been easy.
My biggest struggles have also been the most paradoxical. The pandemic has resulted in a very isolated parental leave. Most days, I’m home with the baby all day, alone but never really alone. As a result, I find myself deeply craving time to myself, time which is hard to come by. Without time to recharge, it’s been challenging to do things that fill the well, like write.
But while it would be easy to look at the things lost in 2021 and feel down, I don’t. This is the season of like we’re in right now. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. I’m doing my best to live in it, here and now, and to let go a little more of the things that have weighed me down in the past.
I lost my way in 2021. But I also found it.
The plan for 2022 (for now)
If the last two years taught me anything, it’s not to get too far ahead of yourself. Setting goals and making plans at the start of 2021 felt difficult…and I can’t say it feels any different coming into 2022.
However, there are a few things that are going to happen in 2022 that will have a significant impact on our finances. Since that’s what I write about, I wanted to share some of what’s going to be happening in the year ahead.
Rebuild the emergency fund…slowly
Before going on maternity leave, we increased our emergency fund from $5K to $10K. It felt like a lot at the time but I’m glad we did it because the last nine months have been expensive! Between baby stuff, car repairs and uh, buying a house, this account has taken a beating.
I wanted to have it rebuilt by the end of 2021. I tried to make it happen. But by November, I finally realized it just was not going to happen. Not while I’m on parental leave.
After getting past the initial feeling of defeat, I’m determined to take a different approach. Instead of trying to race to $10K at the expense of other things, we’ll focus on putting a little in every month until we get it to a level where we feel comfortable. Would I prefer to just fill it and move on? Absolutely. But with the way our life changed in 2021, this makes the most sense.
Minimum payments only on the student loan
The student loan is the last of the debts we had when I launched this blog. We started with about $65K of debt and today, we owe a little less than $16K. Wiping out the first $49K took about 3.5 years.
The last $16K is going to take longer.
We have been making minimum payments on the student loan for some time now — and that’s our plan for 2022. Will we continue with minimum payments indefinitely? I hope not, but I don’t know. What I do know is while getting debt-free is a goal for us, it’s not our only goal. It definitely sucks to slow down with the finish line so close, but our budget is going to be changing in some significant ways in 2022. This is, unfortunately, a necessary move.
Welcome to the budget, daycare
I’ll be returning to work in March after taking a year-long leave to care for our daughter. While I am looking forward to drawing my full pay again after a year on unemployment, I’m not looking forward to shelling out a big chunk of that cash each month for daycare.
Our daycare charges $30/day. We both work full-time during the week, so we’re looking at about $600-$630 a month. For context, that’s only a couple hundred dollars less than our mortgage payment. While we’ll get some money back in our budget in March (no more formula! No more putting money aside for taxes!), this will be a significant addition and account for much of the money I’ll be getting back in my regular pay cheque.
The return of the car payment
This will also be a significant addition to the budget: we will be buying a car in the spring. And it will be financed.
For background: we paid off our Corolla 14 months early back in 2019. Being car payment free for the last 2.5 years has been amazing. So why on earth are we planning to finance another car?
The Corolla has been good to us but it’s a 2010. We’ve been tracking the maintenance costs and we are getting into an area where they are eclipsing the value of the vehicle. Routine maintenance is one thing, but we put more than $2K into it in 2021. That’s not sustainable in the long term.
Our goal in buying a new vehicle is to purchase something that can grow with our family for a reasonable price. We’ll save some cash and either trade-in the Corolla or sell it ourselves. Whatever we end up purchasing, we’ll buy through a dealership. Could we get a better price in a private sale? Maybe. But we’ve purchased cars both ways in the past and vastly preferred buying through a dealership.
The goal here is to get the Corolla through the winter, do some research and start shopping in the spring.
Important home renovations
As if we’re not going to be spending enough money…we’ll be doing some work on our house in 2022, too.
The good news: this did not come as a surprise for us. We had the house inspected before we bought it and the inspector gave us a really thorough report. He was of the opinion that while we would need to do a few significant repairs, the structure was sound overall. Ultimately, we determined even with the repairs, we were still going to be under budget.
Some work will need to be done sooner than later. In 2022, we’re likely to tackle the biggest one: the roof. Not only will this involve the actual roof itself, but we’ll also be looking to do some work on our gutters and adding more insulation to our attic. The other project key project on my list for 2022 is to put in some form of central heating and cooling.
The first step in all of this is going to be to have our power utility do an energy assessment. Not only will this help identify opportunities to be more energy efficient, it also provides savings for certain types of upgrades. The timeline on renovations is not firm yet but we’ll be signing up for that assessment in January.
My 2021 reflection is definitely different than ones I’ve done in the past, but it makes sense. My life looks very different now than it did even 12 months ago. And while not every change has come easy, I am so grateful for where I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing.
A couple quick blog notes before I wrap things up:
- This will be my last post until…sometime in January. I’m tentatively thinking January 6, but it will likely be the following week. Which leads me to…
- I’m still trying to find a rhythm with…well, most things in my life, including blogging. Cheers to those who manage to do it all while also taking care of an infant because I’m still trying to reorient my life and she’ll be 10 months old in a few weeks. All that to say, I’m going to continue to do the best I can, but it’s highly probable I’ll disappear from time to time…like I did for all of December. If you’ve stuck around, thank you. I appreciate you more than you know.
Happy holidays, friends!