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.

Public Accountability

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.

Regular Instagram updates to keep myself accountable

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).

Walking to Woodinville wine country with Budget Epicurean

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:

1. Meet The Women Of The Financial Independence Movement

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. 

2. What A Year Long Clothing Ban Taught Me About The Privilege Of Minimalism

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? 

3. Ten Simple Changes To A More Sustainable Life

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. 

How can you see this view and not want to protect it?

4. Why My Blog Is A Hobby – Not A Business

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. 

5. The True Cost of Saying Yes

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. 

6. Suddenly Deaf: Health Care And Financial Independence

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. 

7. Our Family’s Frugal Alternative Instagram #Vanlife

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. 

Just another truck camping weekend

8. Live Like You’re Financially Independent (Even When You’re Not)

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. 

9. Why I Quit My Awesome Side Hustle

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. 

10. Christmas Traditions Don’t Have To Be Filled With Stuff

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. 

11. Retire Early From Obligation (Not Necessarily Your Job)

My take on FIOR before Mad Money Monster coined the term. 

12. Take Control Of Your Future Wages And Raises

Chelsea at Mama Fish Saves put together an amazing #WomenRockMoney collaboration for International Women’s Day, and this was my contribution. 

13. Marrying Young Was My Best Financial Decision

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:

1. My Story: Guest Post On Abandoned Cubicle

2. My Podcast Debuts: FIRE Drill and Countdown To FI

3. Women On FIRE: Interview At Chief Mom Officer

4. M$M Guest Post: My $3,500 Wedding And Honeymoon

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.

1. What I’ve Learned In My First Six Months Blogging

2. 100 Blog Posts In 9 Months: Q&A

3. Why My Blog Is A Hobby – Not A Business

The Stats

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.

86 thoughts on “Tread Lightly Retire Early Turns One

  1. We were living within our means, but we weren’t living within our values….so eloquently put. Congratulations on your blogiversary! It has been a joy following you in the last year and I look forward to what’s ahead!

    1. Thank you!! It’s crazy to think I’ve been writing for a year already, but then again, we’ve come a long way in a year.

  2. Yay yay yay congrats on a year, friend!

    You’re so right about how starting a blog/having that public accountability suddenly forces you to actively take control of your own finances. I also spent months reading about FI and thinking it was something I wanted to do, but nothing really moved the needle until I started blogging. Cheers to a better life (financial and otherwise!) and to year two!

    1. Crazy how long you can read about FIRE but not really make any changes to your life until writing it down sort of forces the issue. At least in our cases 😉

  3. for me the best thing about your page is that your personality shines through. you can tell it’s real like a conversation. running shoes are a health/fitness item. don’t get hurt from worn out shoes (or falling over). keep up the great writing.

    1. Thank you – that’s definitely how I try and write 🙂 I actually do have new (to me) running shoes right now because I got a pair of almost new hand me downs from my mom, but when I do wear them out, I won’t put off the next pair. Unfortunately I don’t think that will help with the falling over 😉

      1. that’s funny. when i was running a ton in my teens and 20’s my dad would always take my hand me down shoes. he just had to pass the old fart national guard fitness every year or two.

  4. Love this and congrats on the anniversary!! One year is a major accomplishment and should not be downplayed at all. You’re officially a seasoned blogger! 😉

    Btw, I think running shoes should definitely be counted as health/fitness related.. not having proper support while running/walking could lead to many health issues down the road (no pun intended 😉) so you shouldn’t put that off just to keep your streak alive!

    1. Thank you – it feels like a big milestone for sure! And I think I’ve been swayed by enough people that I will definitely be counting running shoes as health/fitness from here on out 🙂

  5. That is huge! Congratulations!!

    What I like about your blog – you make everything sound so effortless. And I like the way you write – Almost always I find myself smiling.

    And whether you know it or not, you have helped me in many ways – I started trying to buy nothing and went through a particularly bad patch. You told me that it was going to get better, and that is the only reason I stuck to it.

    And you inspire me. If I can write the way you do one day, I will be over the moon.

    1. I’m not sure it’s effortless, but it’s nice to hear that it comes off that way. And I’m loving having you as part of this community – so glad you pushed through when you were in a low spot.

  6. Congrats on one year blogging! It’s amazing what accountability can do for your finances, I know we too were spending on things we didn’t value until we started actually looking at the numbers. And yes! The community is the best part.

    1. It’s so easy to trick yourself with your spending if you aren’t creating debt, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a spending problem. Thanks for reading, friend! 🙂

  7. Congrats on one year! I can’t imagine what you are feeling right now. But I sure hope you are feeling a sense of accomplishment and some well deserved pride.

    You’ve put together a wonderful site and the content is fabulous!

    1. Thank you! Definitely feeling accomplished for hitting that one year mark 🙂

  8. Congrats on one year! I look forward to reading more of your upcoming posts on sustainability!

    1. Thank you! It’s been really fun to write a couple of them, but I’m realizing I want to put out more of that kind of content 🙂

  9. Way to go on one year ! Woohoo 🙂 Glad it has been such a great year for you and well done on all that you have accomplished personally and the mental health it has improved as well. Wow, 100 posts in 9 months is crazy…I’m over 5 years and only 107 posts hahahaha
    Anyhow I gotta go read that camping out of the truck post now 🙂

    1. Yeah, I write quite a lot… the Friday Frugal Five helps that more than a little 🙂

  10. Happy one year!!!! I’m so glad to call you a blogging friend 😀

    Love seeing your no-spend November data! It is inspiring all kinds of ideas for me right now…

    The accountability and community is amazing. I’m totally jealous of all the people you’ve met in person so far and definitely look forward to meeting up someday 🙂 we think alike when it comes to so many things.

    1. Thank you!! And I’m thinking about doing another intense no spend month again soon because it was so dang powerful. One day we’ll be IRL friends too ❤️❤️

    1. Thank you! Hopefully this will be the year for an in person meeting! Are you going to the Women’s FI retreat in November?

  11. Congratulations on a major accomplishment, Angela! “The True Cost of Saying Yes” is one of my favorite posts of yours. Really hit home. I love the fact that you are keeping your blog a hobby and not a business, as well. Keeps things very authentic and genuine.

    I continue to be amazed at how active you are at both blogging and commenting on the work of others, and how selfless you are with your time. If there were a blogger title for “Comment Queen”, you’d own it!

    Kudos on making it to one year!

    1. Thank you! That’s definitely how I’m trying to live my life when there is so much good to say yes to. And with commenting, the community is my favorite part of blogging, so it just makes sense to write a lot on other posts as well 🙂

  12. Happy blogiversary! It was fun seeing which posts have been your favorites over the past year. I’m proud to say I am familiar with all of them. 🙂

    By the way, I think it depends on the person when deciding if running shoes should fall under the health/fitness category or the clothing category. For an avid runner like yourself, I would include it under health/fitness. For someone who is purchasing running shoes for casual use and/or fashion, I would classify the purchase in the latter category. Just my two cents…

    1. Yep, I definitely won’t put my normal shoe wear in the health/fitness category 😉 Now I’m curious what YOUR favorite post of mine is!

      1. The first post of yours that really “hooked” me was about your No Spend month (I think it was November, right?) but I think my favorite post was about your non-instagram #vanlife style of camping. Do you think I could fit my family of five into the back of a truck for a camping weekend? 😀

      2. Yep, that was November! And I guess you could fit all of you if some slept in the bench seats up front 😉

  13. Congrats on hitting one year!

    I was also moved by your comment that Single Income Life highlighted. We often forget that money is a life currency, not just something we toss in a wallet, use to pay bills, or buy things with.

    Here’s to many more years!

  14. As a new reader to your blog, this post served as an excellent intro and touchpoint, and now I’m hooked! Looking forward to binge reading. I especially love how sustainability and being gentle to nature seems just as important to you as the financial impact of your decisions. You’ve got a new fan.

    1. Glad you found the blog! I would have to say that sustainability tends to guide my decisions even before I think about the money aspect.

  15. Happy first year!! I’ve learned a lot from you over the past year. It feels like you’ve always been here, and I hope you always will be! <3

    "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?"

    YES. I am the worst at this but yes yes yes. It is a health and fitness item.

    1. I plan on always being here! And yeah, by hoping by putting it out there I’ll follow through on the running shoes and not put it off like I usually do 🙂

    1. Thank you! And yes, amazing how much better this blog is in just one year 🙂

  16. Yay, congrats on hitting the one year mark!! Here’s to many more years of blogging and many more internet and real life meetups 🙂

  17. Happy One Year!! Does that mean you have one year of published posts done on your phone?! (Insert impressed and amazed emoji here!) Thanks for sharing your family’s journey to early retirement and sustainability! Love your voice and what you have to say and your weekend adventures! Also cute pics of your kid are always appreciated too 😉

    1. Hahaha 90% of them anyway. And he is really darn cute, so I can’t help but share 🙂

    1. Thank you!! It’s definitely the community that jazzes me up and keeps me motivated to continue writing 😃

    1. Oh I know exactly what you mean! Especially after that first six month mark, the time just flew and suddenly I’m here already.

    1. The real friendships are the side effect I didn’t expect but absolutely couldn’t see blogging without at this point 🙂

  18. Girl I love you beyond words, you are my hero in a lot of things. So #blessed to have met you through the internets and then even more so in real life. (hashtag said sarcastically, the rest of it 100% real). <3 Here's to high fiving on YOUR 7 year blogiversary. 😉

    1. Ha by the time I hit 7 years you’ll be well into the double digits! Now to convince you that the west coast is the best coast….. hard cause I can’t argue with the awesomeness of the Carolinas 😉

    1. Thank you! And the consistency is part of the kind of person I am – I do better with some rigid parameters to keep doing what I want to do 🙂

  19. One year — you’ve already outlasted the typical blogger and I see every reason to believe you’ll be writing a 2-year update a year from now. Enjoy the ride!

    -PoF

  20. You are an overachiever, super mom, professional and blogger! And they say millennials are lazy, no wait, I said that. Proven wrong again! I know year two is going to be just as great.

    1. Ha, overachiever is something I’ve been all of my life. I guess I have a bit of trouble sitting down and relaxing though 😉

    1. Thank you! And the second six months goes by in a blink compared to the first six 🙂

  21. Congrats Angela and happy blogiversary! Even though I think you are bit crazy for typing posts on a phone, you are otherwise awesome. Can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

    1. Hahaha *otherwise* awesome. And it IS easier to type on a computer, but I take the time I can squeeze in, which is usually in pieces on my phone 😉

  22. Yayyy, I think you know this already but we both started our blogs at the same time. I have my 1 year post this week as well. Congrats on making it to one year Angela!!
    So cool that you have progress so much within the past year by appearing on podcasts and being accountable on your finances. Interacting with the personal finance community will do that to anyone…hahaha!! You become more mindful on your spendings and it shows with progression on your savings rate.
    Thanks for sharing your financial and family journeys through your blog posts and on Instragram. You are one of the most supportive bloggers out there.

  23. Congratulations, Angela! I’ve always enjoyed your posts, but this one is special. I really get a sense of the value you place on community. It was also nice to hear which posts were your favorites – I see a few I’ve missed that I want to read now!

    1. I’m glad you felt that way – it felt pretty special to me while I was writing it. Who knew writing about one year of blogging could be so emotional ❤️❤️

  24. Happy happy blogiversary Angela! Your progress in this time has been awesome and totally inspiring. Looking forward to many more years of blogging along side with you 🙂

  25. I had no idea your savings rate increased that much just from the accountability of blogging…that’s so awesome! Clearly I need to go back and read some of your original posts! Or binge all 127 one day? 😀
    Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Confession: I actually sorted out my spending recently (I don’t really have a “budget” exactly, which is in the plans soon) and it helped me make a MUCH better decision about something. And also see where I could and should cut back. Definitely caused by people reading about my finances, lol.

    1. Well, not 100% from blogging – there was a tiny bit from the tax code change and a small raise, but almost all of it was from diligent tracking, which is a little ridiculous to think about.

  26. Congrats on 365 days! You’re such a pleasure to interact with on Twitter and I LOVE your posts. The quote “We were living within our means, but we weren’t living within our values” really hit me hard and took me back when I was in the same place. So grateful I learned (and am still learning, with the help of the PF community) to prioritize saving. Here’s to another year plus!

    1. Thank you so much ❤️❤️❤️ It’s amazing how living within your means really isn’t the whole picture.

  27. I’m going to help you get 100 comments on this one my friend! You’re on your way to a Golden Nameplate award, that’s for damn sure.
    Too bad you guys don’t live closer otherwise we’d have more friends to play CAH with. I never laugh harder than when we play that game. Could be the wine that keeps the guilt at bay…?
    Keep up the great work Angela – You’re a wonderful, positive force in the community!

    1. Ha, I think I’ll end up a bit short of 100 😉 If you’re ever in the PNW, there’s a CAH game with your name on it!

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