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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!

13 Responses to “The Smartest Decisions I made in 2011 ....”

  1. CB in the City Says:

    I am writing a novel in which the main character is confronting situations like yours in point 3. I don't really get criticized that much -- I work in the non-profit world for a pretty low salary, and I am divorced, was a single mother since my (grown) kids were pre-schoolers. So I think in my milieu and with my history, people expect me to be a little tight with money. Most do, anyway. There are some who tell me to "live a little." Yeah, that's the point. I prefer to live!

  2. CB in the City Says:

    Oh, and really awesome achievements! Congrats!

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    I enjoyed this and laughed out loud when painting the living room & building a new deck substituted just fine for building a whole new house. Smile Would love it if you could find the time to blog as you go.

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    Excellent job! You have some wonderful perspectives. Please blog more.Smile

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    I think #3 just kind of becomes easier with time. I think I mostly tune it out, but I was raised very frugally and am very confident in the positive results of being frugal. Wink Anyway, I do think it is possible you are extra sensitive to the comments because you are in a new stage in your life, and it is a very positive change and you aren't feeling the love. BUT, trust me, over time people will see the positive changes and respect you more. I noticed it more when I moved to a new city, people would be downright mean and judgmental about our lifestyle choices, but fast forward 5 years I have had several come around and want to be friends. (& I think - why on earth would I be friends with you? I've never met people so rude in my life?) But once they see that you are really doing well, they do come around and at least give you a little more respect. I Was in a situation where my spouse was out of work and I was on leave with our kids, and people would be really rude and judgmental. Of course, I Was only extremely pinching pennies so I could be home with my kids for a time. So then people just pigeonhole you as "cheap" and "no fun." I get weird comments since for being a little less tight with money. Well, my income has doubled now that I am back to work? Of course I can spend more money??? Sacrifice to be home with my kids was very short-lived? Hello? I Wasn't living within my budget *just for fun* or *just to annoy you.* (See - I am sensitive too. LOL!)

    Of course, in a work environment like that it will always be harder. IT's probably always been easier for me as an accountant - co-workers always very frugally minded, for the most part. IT's got to be so tough in a profession where *image* becomes so important.

    Of course #4 - the support group to deal with all that - is a very awesome thing - so hope you blog more in 2012!

    Happy New Year!

  6. MonkeyMama Says:

    "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,"

    Sounds like you accomplished MUCH - be PROUD!

  7. Ima saver Says:

    Wow, you should be very proud of yourself!

  8. retire@50 Says:

    nice post - I'll look forward to reading more from you

  9. Gamecock43 Says:

    Happy new year! I enjoyed your post and need to think of my accomplishments too!

  10. baselle Says:

    Happy New Year. You might post only a few times per year but when you do you really bring it. Love the philosophy about the stretch goal "aim for the back of the head". FYI - if you feel a need to vent about the "haters" and the "teasers", just blog about it. As a community, we can be just as catty talking about the other side!

  11. pretty cheap jewelry Says:

    you are a female executive! lead with your head, stay above the emotional fray! be true to your smart financial lifestyle and point out positive aspects of your choices to co workers.

    Easier said than done? Perhaps, but you got to the top by being good, right?!

  12. Alliecat Says:

    Congrats to you! I admire your tenacity. Can I borrow some?

  13. Jerry Says:

    Sounds like you had a 2011 that would lead most people to bust their buttons with pride, I think. No year is perfect, and there may be things that you didn't get to, but I hope that you have the insurance of some good people around you telling you that you kicked some booty this past year. Smile Jerry

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