The year in review
WordPress helpfully sent me a year-end report on my blog, which was fun to read and also made me think about the past year of blogging, and finances in general. Apparently I wrote 38 posts in 2013, so about 3 per month. Not bad!
My DreamHost renewal comes up in January, so I have to decide whether to continue. I think I probably will, but I doubt I’ll be as prolific. I started this blog because I was bubbling over with opinions and advice that I wanted to impart, and I spilled all of my biggest ideas about finances this year. I don’t want to become one of those personal finance sites that posts anything they can think of just to keep going, recycling the same advice over and over, packaged slightly differently each time.
However, my views and practices do change from time to time, as evidenced by my recent shift to annual vs. monthly budgeting. And I learn the occasional new strategy that I want to share, like when I figured out how to cut my dental bill in half. So I think I’ll renew ordinarysavers.com and see where I feel like taking it in 2014.
The League of Ordinary Savers Facebook page may become more active as the blog becomes less so; I can see myself sharing other people’s thoughts when not creating my own, and Facebook is a more convenient way to do that.
What I learned this year
Although I only started this blog when I felt like I’d figured out most of the mysteries of personal finance, I did learn a few new things this year.
- 401(k) fees are out of control, but we’re not helpless: There are ways to minimize expenses and good-quality low-cost places to stash retirement funds.
- It never hurts to take a step back and rethink your plan, even if you think you’ve got it all figured out.
- I realized that the biggest successes I’ve had in making a drastic change were when I started immediately rather than dithering.
The basics remain the same
But the main truths about personal finance that I believed when I started this blog have remained the same. In a nutshell:
- Spend less than you earn. I mean, this is really the only piece of advice anyone needs to follow in order to keep their head above water, and encapsulates all the other pillars of personal finance that follow.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Once you see the whole picture of income and outgo, it makes it harder to spend money you shouldn’t, because you know it’s just going to make things harder for yourself.
- Get (or stay) out of debt. Avoid credit card debt like the plague. If you must borrow for a home, an education or a car, have a plan to pay it off, preferably ahead of schedule. If you do have consumer debt, attack it like it’s a zombie looking to destroy you, because it basically is. Think about it: The thing you purchased is probably long gone, yet its shambling corpse follows you around in the form of credit card bills. Die, zombie, die!
- Save up for emergencies and big purchases. There are always going to be unexpected expenses that will trip you up if you don’t have money stored away for just such an occasion. Likewise, you’ll always have bigger things you want, whether it’s a new computer or a trip to the Caribbean. Saving up for them prevents you from putting it on a credit card and losing ground financially.
- Put something away for retirement. I admit I’m still clearing up the mistakes of the past and haven’t fully focused on retirement yet. But I’m putting 10% of our income toward it anyway. I may have to play catch-up later on in life, since I haven’t always put aside 10% like I should have, but I figure anything I do now, even if it’s not enough to have a dream retirement of leisure and travel, will improve the picture from where it was. Which leads me to the one big piece of advice, for anyone who is feeling hopeless about having neglected their finances for too long:
- Don’t ever think it’s too late. Seriously, anything you do to improve your finances will improve your finances. The longer you ignore them, the harder it will get to fix them, just as the longer you wait to start saving for retirement, the less growth you’ll see in your accounts. But letting that stymie you any further is a fool’s game. Wherever you are right now, things can get better, and any measure of improvement is better than wallowing in self-defeat.
And all of the above adheres to my three basics of personal finance: control your present, then fix your past, then secure your future. No matter how you dissect it, that’s what being an Ordinary Saver is all about.
Here’s to a prosperous new year!