One year ago today, after many months of considering starting my own blog, I finally sat down and hit send on my very first post. All the thanks to Joe at Retire By 40, because for whatever reason, his post on how to start a blog finally got me off the sidelines as a reader and to become someone fully immersed in the online personal finance community.
I had read debt freedom and financial independence blogs from years, ever since I was focused on paying off my student loans, but I was a passive listener and hadn’t made significant changes in my own life based on what I read. We’ve always been pretty frugal and have always lived within our means, but beginning my own blog and committing to public accountability has significantly changed our financial lives.
A year ago, we were saving just over 20% of our incomes over the course of a year, and not soon after I started this blog did we have to dip into our cash emergency fund. We were living within our means, but we weren’t living within our values; we made sure to spend less than we earned every month, but we didn’t pay much attention to where that money went beyond that. Big expenses took us by surprise, and there were more months than I’d like to admit where I’d float funds on a credit card for a week or two until payday rolled around again.
Things would always even out at the next payday, and money would continue to go to savings, but it was way more stressful than it should have been. We didn’t have control of our money. Our money got spent, and then we looked at where it went. Even after starting this blog, things didn’t change immediately. I wrote about how stressful our big expenses were. I wrote about the impact of unexpectedly large vet bills. And finally, after having to write out that stress, I’d had enough. While living on a 20% average margin may not be stressful for many, it was to us. Floating the occasional (and more than occasional) big expense was not a way we wanted to continue to live.
November rolled around, and I decided to embark on a No Spend November challenge. This wasn’t a special month where we would spend zero dollars, but one where I would track every single penny and know for sure where it ended up. I shared my progress on Instagram, and again, I found that public accountability to be key to the month’s success. Knowing I would share it online meant I couldn’t cheat – I had to keep track in order to share accurate numbers.
Shockingly, we ended that month with a 52% savings rate, more than doubling what we normally saw, and that included a week long anniversary trip to Hawaii. From that point on, I was hooked. Accurate tracking, and sharing those numbers online every month was a game changer for our finances. I actually had to double check to make sure I had paid our mortgage that month because we had so much more cash at the end of the month than I was used to.
Could we have made these big changes without me starting a blog? Perhaps. But the accountability and the online community made all the difference for my focus and intensity to get things done.
The Online Community
That same month, Military Dollar finally convinced me to join Twitter. I’d never had a personal account and wasn’t certain I needed one for my blog, but she told me that was where I would find “my people,” and she was absolutely right. Starting a blog in the first place may have been the catalyst to take a more active role in my finances and step beyond a passive interest, but growing those friendships online made the community a real part of my life.
Since then, some of those online friendships have bled over into real life friendships. Budget Epicurean came out to Washington and we spent a couple fabulous days together to bookend her trip to Alaska. Bethany from His and Her FI joined us for an awesome dinner in Portland (and hopefully a camping trip or two this summer). Reaching For FI and Military Dollar met us in Virginia and we had a wonderful evening of snacks and drinks and Cards Against Humanity, followed by a day exploring the history of the area. And some day I will convince Millennial Boss to make the trip around the lake so she can see why we love the Eastside (though spending a Sunday in Seattle isn’t so bad either).
As a serious extrovert, it’s the people and my community that makes something so wonderful for me. Comments – and real relationships – are the very best part of blogging for me, even beyond the significant improvement that it’s brought to our finances.
My Favorite Posts
It’s interesting how your favorite posts as a blogger aren’t always the ones that are most popular or hit a nerve with people. Instead of sharing my top performing posts, here are my favorites of my first 127 blog posts:
This post was written as a reaction to a comment from a big blogger who said he didn’t know more than one or two women writing about financial independence. I knew way more than that, so I felt like the list needed to be created. Little did I know how much of a catalyst this would be in the coming months to really start talking more about women in finances, but I’m loving the dialogue and am honored to be a part of making that conversation happen.
My first Rockstar Finance feature! I am currently 16 months into this clothing ban and hoping to make it to a full two years. There was a recent conversation on Twitter that made me reconsider running shoes as a clothing item and that it should really be under health/fitness. What do you think?
Considering the name for this blog, and my life’s passion, I feel like I should have more posts devoted to sustainability. I realize most of my Friday posts reveal the connection to the environment in my daily life, but I really enjoyed writing a post specifically about sustainable changes. Stay tuned for some more posts in this vein in the future.
I go into detail in this post, but I feel very strongly about keeping my blog solidly in the “hobby” category right now. I love that I am writing exactly what I want, and that I’m not feeling internal pressure to work on the “business” parts of the blog that is no fun to me. Now if someone wants to update the technical side for me for fun, I won’t say no 😉 Sticking to the hobby side also helps keep me in check so I don’t devote more of my limited time to this blog than I really want to have time for.
This post ended up being a bit of a stream of consciousness, but this is a topic I feel very strongly about. Like with the blog hobby, I know there are other parts of my life that I want to have time for – weekend trips with my family, long runs, time in the garden – so I have to temper my yes with all parts of my life in mind.
I felt very vulnerable putting this physical disability out there, but I’m so glad that I did. This community shared so much back to me with this post that I’m feeling a bit more secure in talking about it in real life as well.
We spend so much of our time exploring the Pacific Northwest and camping in my husband’s truck, and this post lays out how we go about it.
One of my earliest posts, it’s not the most polished writing, but it’s the foundation for how I’m living my life now. I want my days to be shaped as much as I can to look like they would if money were no object.
Again, when I’m missing my park ranger days, I have this reminder as to why I can’t say yes to everything. It was a wonderful 6.5 years, but I love having my weekends more these days.
I adore Christmas, and I want our son to grow up with memories of the things we did together, not the stuff we bought him.
My take on FIOR before Mad Money Monster coined the term.
Chelsea at Mama Fish Saves put together an amazing #WomenRockMoney collaboration for International Women’s Day, and this was my contribution.
Another early post, but still true. Having found my partner early in this whole life journey has so much shaped where I am today and is the foundation for our financial successes.
Guest Posts & Podcast Interviews
Over this first year, I’ve done a just a few guest posts and podcast interviews. If you missed the, here are the links:
Blogging About Blogging
To be a stereotypical blogger, I’ve had to write about blogging at least a few times (this post included). While I may not write about it a lot, I hope being transparent helps others who are just starting out / considering giving it a go. Blogging isn’t easy, a lot more work than it sounds, and may feel a little like shouting to the void when you just start out, but it is also absolutely worth it.
While I’ve shared glimpses of my numbers occasionally, that’s not what this post is about. Blogging for me has been much less about the numbers than the intangible rewards that come with the community, the more tangible rewards of the increased savings we’ve seen as a result of public accountability, and watching this site grow into something than I’m proud of. Just a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined how much blogging would become part of my life, and how much more it is than just typing out words onto a page. Thank you for following along with me this past year, and I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.
Cheers and much love to you all.