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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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…)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!