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10 Lessons Learned in 2010

December 31, 2010 · 58 comments

in Life, Personal Finance

A lot has been written the last couple of weeks regarding resolutions and what the year 2010 meant to different people.  I hadn’t really thought about what I had learned over the past year until I read a post over at Squirreler’s the other day.

His post related to key personal finance things he learned over the last year.  As I read through his article, I realized that my own personal finance perspectives have changed a lot over the past year.  I paused and wondered what caused this change.  I think it is a couple of things:  My job situation changed, and I started blogging.

When I started blogging, I thought I would just be writing some of my random thoughts and share some tips to make life easier and help people save some money.  Once I got started, I found it went much deeper than that.  Blogging isn’t just about writing, it is a lot about reading, and building a community.   I have ‘met’ so many great people and learned a lot about the ‘personal’ side of finance.   I was reading about great ideas every day, and some of these ideas challenged my own beliefs.

Not only did my ideas about personal finance and life in general change somewhat, but I also learned that you can make a side income doing something that requires very little financial investment.  Although I will probably never get rich from writing, I learned that it is an alternate income stream that I had never considered prior to this year.  Not having a ‘real’ job helped me realize this, as I now had the time to actually pursue writing somewhat.

I want to extend a sincere thank you for a great experience with blogging this year to all of those who have encouraged me, and also to Yakezie, which is a great group of bloggers that always seem to have an answer when I have an issue.  Writing is something I have always wanted to try, and it is truly the best ‘hobby’ I have ever had.

Now, I would like to share some of the lessons I learned from 2010:

  1. Look for a fresh perspective. I have worked on and off in the same job for the last 18 years.  I was ‘on break’ from February – November, and that respite was exactly what I needed.  I am not saying everyone should quit their job for a few months, it is just how it worked out for me.  When I left in February, I was frustrated with every little thing with my job.  Now that I am back, I see things totally differently.  I don’t take little things so personal anymore.  I have accepted my job for what it is – money.  Sure, I try my hardest and give my all, but I am not letting it spill into my personal life like it used to.
  2. Have goals, but don’t fixate on them. Since I wasn’t working, I was nervous about spending every dime because I had saving goals.  (I think a lot of that feeling actually came from reading more personal finance blogs, because when I didn’t work before, I was vigilant about money, but didn’t stress about it.)  There has to be a balance in life.   It is ok to eat dinner out sometimes and treat yourself to this or that.  I am not saying everyone should go have a spending free for all.  But, life should be enjoyed, and as long as you are generally financially responsible, why not enjoy a nice night out once in awhile?
  3. Help those who are grieving. If someone is grieving, no matter what, take the time to show you care.  I lost my father this year, and the kindness many people showed me is something I will always remember.  It takes very little effort to show your support, and it is something that people will always remember.  (If you DON’T show you care, it may be something that people never forget either…)
  4. Focus on making money. We have no consumer debt, but we do have our mortgage.  My single-minded goal had always been to pay the mortgage off as soon as possible to reduce our monthly expenses.  However, through blogging, I realized that making more money can be way more beneficial than reducing expenses.  (Optimally, you can do both.)  The amount of money you can make is unlimited if you work hard.  However, you can only reduce your expenses so much, and you may make yourself miserable in the mean time.  Cutting expenses is still very important, but it is just as important to look at the ‘revenue’ side of the equation.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try something new. I have said this before, but one of the hardest things for me to do was to hit that ‘Publish’ button when I wrote my first post back in March.  I was terrified nobody would read what I wrote (and not many did at first), and even more scary was the prospect that people would say negative things.  Putting yourself out there can be very difficult, but the payoff can be great.
  6. Take care of yourself, no matter what. I went through a bit of a rough spell this year, and I realized that “I” was gone.  My life revolved around running around for everyone else, and I wasn’t taking any time for myself.  I found I wasn’t exercising, wasn’t eating right, was just caught in a major rut.  The thing is, it was all my own doing.  Nobody told me to do this or that, I just put it on myself.  Everyone else’s happiness came first, and I suffered for it.  In the end, I don’t know that I made many anyone happy because I was feeling pretty darn miserable.  I have since made more time for myself, and it does feel great.
  7. Anything can happen. Watching property values tumble, bailouts, strategic defaults, etc has kind of shaken up some of my core beliefs.  I kind of always thought of real estate as an investment, but that sure doesn’t seem to be the case right now.  (Unless you own rental properties.)   I thought if you didn’t pay your mortgage, you would lose your house.  Now, the government may come rescue you and you can use the system to lower your mortgage.   I have learned that what I thought were pretty sound financial rules may not be rules after all.  Therefore, I plan to be extra careful,and just try to save what we can so we can take care of ourselves.    The US economy may be built on a house of cards given all of our debt, so I have learned to try and diversify as much as possible.
  8. Humans make mistakes. This has been a big one for me.  I used to be so hard on myself for every little mistake, and worry about it incessantly.  I don’t know where this revelation came from, but I am truly human, and so is everyone else.  Little things don’t bother me nearly like they used to, and I don’t review my own mistakes a million times in my mind.   It has been very freeing, that is for sure.
  9. Save with goals in mind. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before, but I now have separate savings accounts for things like vacations and taxes.  It is so nice to just pay that winter tax bill from an account that just has the money sitting in it for that very reason.  Money made from blogging goes straight into the vacation account.  It is very rewarding and motivating to add to these accounts.  I learned about the online bank called Smarty Pig from reading other PF blogs, and it has made a big change in how we save.
  10. Plan for big expenses all year long. This somewhat goes along with number 9, but I really realized how much less stressful it is when you budget for big items each month.  For instance, my kids have summer camps that are really quite costly.  I save a little each  month toward that goal, and then it isn’t as painful in June when I have to write all those checks.

So there are my exciting lessons learned from 2010.  It is funny because before I wrote this post, I felt pretty darn negative toward the year 2010 as a whole.  However, when I really think back, there were some good things that came from this year.  I feel like I made a lot of changes this year, and I am really happy about that.  Maybe I am growing up at the age of 43!

Happy New Year everyone, have a fantastic 2011!

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai December 31, 2010 at 6:10 am

I’m glad you went from negative before you wrote the post to positive! That’s some catharsis right there!

It’s great you got to go on break, and it’s even greater that you got to come back in this environment! I’d love a 3 month break myself.

Again, sorry to hear about your father. You make an insightful point about helping those who are grieving, and they will never forget if you do and if you don’t. My friend recently got an e-mail from another friend saying her friend passed away with an invitation to the funeral. She is torn b/c she hasn’t seen her friend for 6 months b/c her friend is always too busy for her (wasn’t father related). Do you think my friend is obligated to go to the funeral? Or can she write a letter of condolence and send a card? Funerals are tough for her.

Regards, Sam

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 8:39 am

Sam, is the funeral far away? I don’t know, I think people never regret doing what is perceived as the right thing. I am not sure of your friend’s situation, but it looks like her friend is having a hard time with the death if she reached out to your friend and basically asked her to come. I don’t think now is the time to lash out at the fact that her friend has been too busy for her the last 6 months. That is something that maybe should have been addressed before this point?

Now, if your friend cannot go because the funeral itself will be too hard for her, could she go to the visitation instead? If it is truly going to make her miserable, then maybe a card with a note explaining it is too hard for her to go emotionally would suffice, along with some follow up support?

Tough call for sure.

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Financial Samurai December 31, 2010 at 12:21 pm

The funeral will probably be a 45 minute drive away, not a flight.

The notification was made in a blast e-mail – does this change anything?

I would think for this type of friend, who never attends anything of my friend’s, and who seldom responds on e-mail or anything, a phone call/personal e-mail would suffice, no?

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Well, that being the case, I would buy a card and mail it. Then the recipient will have it forever.

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DoNotWait December 31, 2010 at 8:55 am

Kris, that is one of my favorite post from you. This morning, I thought “I’ll read those quickly” as I have a lot of things that need to be done before tonight. And I ended up reading each word of your post. Seems like you’ve learned a lot in 2010!! For some reason, I relate to some of your points also. There have been many changes for me this year and all ended up being positive. It is amazing what a year can do in someone’s life. Younger people I know (not that I am old myself, but I am still older than many!) sometimes tell me: “6 months is too long, I don’t have one year to loose…” I once thought that too but now I answer: “What is 6 months in a lifetime, don’t you think your whole life does not deserve a single year of patience and work?”. That is exactly what you gave yourself in 2010 and it seems it deserved it!

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 9:08 am

DNW- thank you so much for the compliment! Also I am glad you didn’t read through the post quickly! 🙂

I did learn a lot this year, much more than in other years I think!

I think a lot of my ‘wisdom’ is because I am older. I don’t think I was paying enough attention when I was younger. I was much more impatient and demanding. At the age of 43, I accept that things will happen when they do. It doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, but I don’t need immediate results.

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DoNotWait December 31, 2010 at 9:47 am

If I told you my age, you might laugh at me thinking I am way too young to say I think the same way as you do… You might be right also! I still got many things to learn, and I hope I always will. But as much as I loved being 16 or 18, I would not go back then. At almost 30 (well, I said it!), I love my life as it is and love the person I am also. And I am sure I will love it even more as the years go by. Anyways, I am not trying to pretend I know as much as you or people older than me, but it can of feels good to get more mature.

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Nicole December 31, 2010 at 8:57 am

Great post! I had no idea you’ve only been around since March. I thought you’d been around forever.

I’m so sorry to hear about your father.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 9:09 am

Nicole, my body is starting to feel like it has been around forever, but my website is still an infant! 🙂 (FWIW I thought the same about you guys!)

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Nicole December 31, 2010 at 10:09 am

We started waaaay after you, like 4 months or something (just before FGA). I think you found us straight away.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

That’s what I mean, I thought you were much older than you are. I noticed your archives or something the other day and saw you were younger than me.

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Nicole December 31, 2010 at 1:09 pm

We’re just extra mature for our ages. 😉

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

and wise, and the best academics! hee hee.

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Nicole December 31, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Nah, best academic title obviously goes to you and you alone!

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Money Reasons December 31, 2010 at 10:47 am

Great post 🙂

Number 8 really resonates with me! I’ve even taken a similar approach. I no longer worry or remember silly mistakes I make or others make.

I’ve embraced the saying from the movie “Fight Club”: which is “Just slide”.

Actually, all of your 10 points are classic! 🙂

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 11:09 am

MR- I like that fight club quote, I may just take it for myself!

I am glad you are letting go of mistakes some too. I really wish I knew what made me suddenly be able to just accept that mistakes are a part of life and that the world will not end because I did something wrong. Then I would teach my technique to the world!

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Joe Plemon December 31, 2010 at 10:50 am

Kris,
Sorry to hear about your dad’s passing, but your point about helping others who are grieving is profound. Many of us tend to avoid those who are grieving.

In fact, I love all of your lessons because they are all based on real life experiences, with the subtle (or not so subtle) message that we need to be flexible and ready for anything to happen. I don’t take this as pessimism, but reality. Great life lessons involve preparing for unexpected contingencies. Thanks for these.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 11:13 am

Joe, thanks for the niceness! I learned so much about the process of grieving this year. The only good thing that came of it was I learned the absolute importance of taking the time to either go to a funeral, or buy a card/send flowers/make food for someone who is suffering. (Lesson transfers to anyone having a hard time.) There were people that showed support that I didn’t expect, and to be honest, there were people that didn’t even send a card that really surprised me. I don’t ever want to be the person in the latter group, that is for sure.

This was one of my favorite posts to write this year, it was very therapeutic. It kind of changed my view of the year.

I really appreciate your nice comment, thank you.

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krantcents December 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thank you for your post. I have only been blogging for 4 months and you are right it is more about reading than writing. In the short time (1 month) I have been associated with Yakazie, I feel that sense of community. I have learned a lot from everybody and I hope I can add my perspective as well.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 11:37 am

Krantcents- you have a great blog, I really enjoy your posts.

It is fun to go around and read other perspectives. It really has opened my eyes to other ideas, that is for sure.

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Jaymus (RealizedReturns) December 31, 2010 at 11:29 am

great post. I agree with all of those lessons learned. Especially your comments on #2. We all have to take a day here and there to treat ourselves, goals be damned.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 11:38 am

Jaymus- I am working on my goals for 2011, and maybe I will include ‘goals be damned’. I like that. You are entirely right though. Some days, you just need a ‘day off’ from everything not just work.

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retirebyforty December 31, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I learned a lot from all the Yakezie blog as well and that’s the best thing about joining Yakezie. At first I thought it would be nice to join a community and get some help with blogging, but it became so much more. Sorry to hear about your dad, it’s so difficult getting older and seeing things change. I try to stick to the golden rule and try my best to be nice to people.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 1:10 pm

The Yakezie is great. I love how I can hop over there and post a question and get a ton of instant replies. Not to mention the general support you get.

Getting older is a bummer at times. I remember my grandma was lamenting one day because everyone she knew (except immediately family) were gone. At first I was kind of upset because I was still around. But she explained that all her ‘contemporaries’ were gone who could really understand what she was going through. Then I understood. It is always nice to talk to someone in your shoes. I guess it is one of the negatives of being 97 like she was at the time.

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Moneycone December 31, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Sorry to hear about your dad Kris. You make a great point about showing support to those who are grieving.

I don’t have much to add to what others have already said. So I’ll keep it simple. I really enjoy your posts and you are a natural when it comes to blogging. Keep writing! Happy New Year – may 2011 be a much better than 2010!

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Thank you Moneycone! I will keep writing, and you should too!

Happy New Year!

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First Gen American December 31, 2010 at 3:55 pm

What a wonderful article. The taking care of yourself comment is particular timely. I pinched a nerve in my back which is killing me right now and it’s 100% related to not doing my core exercises.

The grieving comment is an interesting one. I think people deal with death very differently. I know when I was grieving, I did not want to talk to anyone for a while..and I ate a lot, but my in-laws ate nothing. Maybe the people who didn’t send anything thought that might be what you wanted…to be alone with your family. Anyway,I agree, it’s better to be safe and have your card go unopened than not sending anything at all. My MIL said that a lot flowers at a funeral make a person seem like they were loved, so I always send flowers.

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Kris December 31, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I need to work on my core too. A pinched nerve in the back sounds incredibly painful! I hope it feels better soon.

It is true that people do grieve differently, and it can be hard to know what to do or say. I really didn’t want to talk to people right after my dad passed as I cried so easily. So my husband is the one that contacted people. However, I think that many people find funerals/visitations just uncomfortable and take the easy way out. Even though I didn’t want to necessarily call people and talk about my dad’s death, I certainly appreciated all the caring from the people that did come to the service, and also from those who sent cards and food. If someone has a service, then those who care should be there in my opinion.

You are right, flowers can make a difference. I was also touched by those who sent donations to the American Lung Association on my dad’s behalf. Just taking those few minutes to do a little extra for someone can make a real impact.

Good luck with the back!

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Deidre @ TransFormX December 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Kris…I’m sorry to hear about your Dad passing. I hope you have found a measure of peace and blessings to your family.

I thought your post was incredibly well thought out and written. Its funny how writing goes isn’t it? One starts out with a certain idea and ends up with something totally different yet awesome!

Looking forward to reading ETT in 2011!

Happy New Year to everyone!
Deidre

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

Deidre – thank you for your nice words! I really, really enjoyed writing that post as it also gave me a fresh perspective. It was very interesting, I wish I would have taken up writing sooner!

Hope you have a fantastic 2011!

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Suba @ Wealth Informatics December 31, 2010 at 6:31 pm

We have a post with same title. Tis’ that time of the year I suppose 🙂

Another great post, Kris! The taking care of yourself part is great. I should learn to do that more. Instead of thinking things through, I tend to go into self-pity. Should change that. I am really sorry to hear about your dad! I agree with your, any small way you can let people know that you care can make a very big impact in that time of great loss.

Heres to another year year of learning and writing!

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

Suba, I just popped over to your site and saw your post, how funny! I think some of our lessons were similar too!

Lets have a great 2011, ok?

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Andrew @ 101 Centavos January 1, 2011 at 9:20 am

Kris, heartfelt condolences on your father passing away. We had a similar pall cast over our holidays with grief over the death of a family member. It’s a cliche, but time and support from family and friends are really the best cures.
I agree with the change in perspective. The more you write, the more insight and ideas that come forth, even though it’s bloody hard on some days to squeeze creativity out of the ol’noggin (speaking only for myself). I like #6 too. For the sake of the people around you, you have to take good care of yourself.

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 11:52 am

Andrew – thank you for your nice comment. I hope you are ok, can I ask what happened over the holidays?

It is amazing what the support of family and friends can do, that is for sure. I hope you are doing ok…

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Daddy Paul January 1, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Thanks for sharing. It is so good to write what you have learned. Keep doing it. Just think you will have learned in 10 years!

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

DP- You are right, I will be even wiser in 10 years. But will I have forgotten all my wisdom? 🙂

Thanks for commenting!

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Kris, this is a very reflective post. I am sorry to hear about your dad. Your comment about reaching out to someone grieving is so on point.

I did want to say that I’m so grateful that you do blog. Thanks for sharing with us!

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Shawn, thank you so much!! I always look forward to your posts as they are so in depth and I can always identify with what you write.

Have a great 2011!

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Squirrelers January 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Excellent post, Kris. You’re introspective in your posts anyway, but this one was especially so. Really good lessons here, and its great that you shared. This is one of my favorites of your posts thus far.

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Kris January 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thank you so much Squirrel! I am never sure if I am ‘revealing’ too much and boring my readers with too much about me. I don’t necessarily want to sit and talk about myself, but it is the way that it is easiest way for me to get the point across.

Happy 2011!

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Invest It Wisely January 2, 2011 at 12:13 am

I spend a lot more time reading than I do writing, though I should probably start writing more often. I admire how you and some others are able to keep up such a consistent and regular writing schedule!

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Kris January 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

Kevin, remember, I only work 20 hours a week, so I have a little more time on my hands for writing than you do. I may not be posting daily forever as I plan on scheduling my days a bit differently this year and putting some constraints on my blogging time!

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Invest It Wisely January 2, 2011 at 11:05 am

If I can get at least 3x posts per week consistently that would be fine, but everytime I want to wake up extra-early or find the time, I fall back on my bed, haha, and for some reason the holidays have been busier than I thought they would be. The downtime I was looking for wasn’t there, but it’s ok. I think the next few weeks will be back to a regular schedule (aside from the move!) and that time should be there.

I didn’t comment on your list BTW, but I think it’s a pretty great list. I’ve also learned a few lessons myself over the past year, and blogging has helped out because it’s a good platform to bounce ideas off other people; many of whom have the same questions as you do. You have a great decade ahead, and I look forward to continuing to see the blog grow. 🙂

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Kris January 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I wish I could wake up extra early too, it is actually going to be one of my goals for 2011. I wonder if I have any hope of actually attaining that one. I used to be such a morning person, don’t know what happened. Actually, I think I do know what happened. I lost my schedule once I started staying home with the kiddos and I didn’t have that ‘urgency’ to get up and get going like I did when I had to be at work.

You will be right back to normal soon. The holidays have thrown me off too!

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Daniel January 2, 2011 at 4:24 am

I love number 4! It’s great to save to a certain extent, but at some point, it cuts into your enjoyment. By making more, you get the same result of saving more, but you also get to live the life you want. Happy New Year!

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Kris January 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

Daniel, it took me many years to realize that making more money can be more effective than cutting costs. I guess having a second revenue stream taught me quite a bit this year. I still clip coupons and save as much as I can, but I don’t have the urge to cut my cable or anything to save a few extra bucks.

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The Biz of Life January 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Kris,

A lot of good lessons there. #7 and 8 resonate for me. The black swan is always just around the corner looking for an opportunity to appear as well as Murphy; he is always just a step behind.

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Kris January 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Murphy has been lurking around a lot lately. I thought he might avoid me after living in my house for much of 2010. Unfortunately, I think he has moved in…

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Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom January 2, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Kris, I found so many things similar to yourself around the age of 40. In a sense you’re at a perfect crossroads at that age – you have some wisdom of experience (drama queenism seems to die down) :-), the feeling that you still have lots of time to do all of the things you want to do, but also some sense of your own mortality. The 40’s are my favorite decade so far!

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Kris January 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Jacq, I think my 30s was my favorite decade thus far. I do agree though that my own emotions are more controlled now than when I was younger. I was a mess during my early 20s.

Glad you are in such a great place!!!

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Lindy Mint January 3, 2011 at 8:59 am

These are all such great lessons. I wonder what I would come up with if I sat down and did a full retrospective like this. It’s so easy to live with what you are learning “right now” without remembering the things you learned over the entire year.

I can relate to learning to give yourself a little grace. It’s so easy when you start reading so many pf blogs to feel badly about the money that you spend. But eventually, it starts to balance out and you can determine what is important to you, without the stress.

Actually, I can relate to all of these, so I’ll stop now or else this will become the world’s longest comment.

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Kris January 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I love long comments!!! It really was interesting to write that post. I highly suggest it. It sure made the year seem better then it felt.

I have felt both ways from reading PF blogs. Some make me feel bad, but some make me realize I need to enjoy life and not go too far.

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