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The Smartest Decisions I made in 2011 ....

January 1st, 2012 at 03:47 pm

Apparently, I am destined to be one of those people who post only a few times a year. I did keep track of everything, but I do need to get better about posting DURING the journey …. regardless, I feel like a lot was achieved and I need to take a moment to reflect before beginning a new year.

I set some pretty hefty goals in 2011 – I wanted to pay off 25K worth of debt, I wanted to get into good shape and run a couple of half-marathons, I wanted to start writing a book, I wanted to build on my career certifications, and I wanted to help my mother (the hardest working woman I know) retire and begin a new chapter in her life.

Through a lot of hard work, all of that was achieved in one year … but it was NOT easy. Not every work goal was achieved, my savings were depleted due to repairs needed to home, vehicle and a broken crown. There were a lot of low moments at various times when I felt like I was getting nowhere, but I stuck with it.

Today – since 1 January 2011, I have paid off 25K of debt, lost 20 pounds, ran my best half-marathon time, supplemented my mom’s income enough for her to retire and gotten half-way through writing my book. Again, I did not achieve everything I wanted or do everything perfect, but if you will indulge me, here is what I did right and maybe it will encourage you as well ….

1) Made goals just out of my reach:
Having adopted a more frugal (and smarter) lifestyle the previous year with organization; reviewing and reducing all our bills; using free resources; changing all the “little things” (see the list of changes I made in 2010 – I kept doing all of that!) it was time to take it to the next level. I knew I could pay off ten or twelve thousand without too much pain but twenty-five thousand was going to challenge me … and hurt a little. The same goes for losing 20 pounds instead of five. My husband, who recently retired from the military likes to say, “If you want to break someone’s nose – aim for the back of the head.” So I accepted challenging goals, broke it down month by month and stuck to it.

2) Keep at it and have someone holding you accountable:
My husband, who “helped” me train for half-marathons, also had another saying … “The only way to run faster, is to run faster.” In other words, setting the goals was the easy part – the rest is just work. No other magic formula. Each month, I wanted to give up. I would feel I worked my tail off … only to lose a half pound a week. I would put the majority of my paycheck towards debt and feel “broke” all the time. It bummed me out. To ensure I wouldn’t give up, I made several people aware of what I was doing … I kept a chart that my husband could look at to see my money progress, I weighed-in each Friday with co-workers and I would keep my siblings in the loop about my writing. Inch by inch, it all moved forward. By the end of July 2011, I could see real progress and it helped propel me the rest of the year.

3) Ignore the Comments. Ignore the Joneses. Ignore the Haters:
With this economy, I never thought I would get the flak about my frugality that I got this year! Seriously, I haven’t had this much “peer pressure” since middle school. Most of it was light-hearted, but there was a LOT. My co-workers and friends made fun of my older car … my assistant constantly told me that her best friend “in high school” drove the same model and my company VP told me that I should get a car that suited my status in the company (I am one of the executive officers). I ignored them all and drove my paid-for low gas mileage car to work (while saving and looking for a good sedan, but I never intend to have a car payment again). My girlfriends at work laughed at my packed lunches and called them “meals on wheels” or “prison food.” They could not believe I would never eat out with them and or that I would stick to my weight loss regime (chicken breast and vegetables) or drink the office coffee while they shook their heads and sipped their café-bought lattes. By the end of the year, however, they were calling me “Ms. Skinny Minny” because of the weight I had lost and bemoaning the fact they didn’t lose a pound. Another fashionable woman in my office, was shocked to learn that I would check out library books instead of buying them (“I could never …” was her actual comment). She was also in disbelief that I was not buying a new outfit for the holiday party and cut/colored my own hair … but come Christmas-time, I had money set aside for all my gift buying and she was bummed out because she was either broke or maxing out credit in order to buy gifts. Additionally, no one remembered what I wore in previous years to company parties and my new slimmer shape, got me compliments in my little black dress as did my hair.
Half-way through the year, my husband and I visited his co-workers who had just spent a fortune remodeling their new house. It was beautiful! Returning to our modest home, he wanted us to consider building a new house. I convinced him to repaint our living room and complete a major do-it-yourself deck instead. The result was we still love our paid-for-therefore-no-mortgage house and he has taken pride in his new skill and what we own again. Whenever the “Jones” weaken our resolve, we spruce up the landscaping, change a picture on the wall or plan a new project and we are content. Plus, never having a mortgage payment is wonderful!

4) This website and others.
I LOVE reading your blogs. Reading your journeys encourages me. Thank you for being more diligent than I am! I also checked out many others, but this site was my favorite. I also read lots of books over and over (Tightwad Gazettes, America’s Cheapest Family, American Frugal Housewife and of course, Little Women – to keep me focused on what is important.) I can’t underestimate the importance of the community of people who share the same goal of living debt-free!

Well, there you have it! Again, I did not share anything that you didn’t already know, I just wanted to share “how we did it” strategies of 2011. I guess it is time to set some new goals ….

Happy New Year! May God richly bless you and your family!