2017 – That’s a Wrap!

I was listening to a Mad Fientist episode the other day and was thrilled to hear the guest, Chris Hutchins, speaking about a habit I too have formed for myself over the years.  He was saying that each month he does one thing significant so he can look back on his life and know that he made the best of it.  He can pinpoint exactly what he was doing at the time – whether it be learning a new task, breaking a bad habit, or volunteering on a project.  I too have adopted this idea throughout the years, I just never wrote it down…until last year.

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2018 – A Fresh Start! (FYI  this picture was taken at 10am…NO SUN!!!)

At the start of 2017 I took a normal size calendar ($1 at Dollar Tree), cut all the months apart, and pinned them to our bedroom wall (very romantic – in hindsight the kitchen would have been better) – 3 across, 4 down.  In a few minutes, I had a giant wall size calendar to keep track of our crazy lives.  My work trips, my boyfriends (John) work trips, Dr appointments for us and the boys, birthdays, anniversaries, sleepover’s (for the kids, not us), vacations, dog walkers – everything went on the calendar.  Important things were highlighted and slowly, one by one, the days were crossed off.  This method made it super easy to see everything at a glance and make sure I was accomplishing all of the things that I had set out to do.

I won’t bore you with the details, but a few of my highlights from 2017 are as follows:

  • Multiple meetups hosted by yours truly via the Rockstar Finance Forum – heck, I even crashed one in MSP!
  • Travels abroad to Cuba, Budapest, and Prague
  • The almost purchase of a caboose (more on that soon)
  • Community-based events like Camp Mustache, Lola Retreat, and FinCon
  • More charitable donations than ever before including Houston Food Bank, Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House and PAWS (you know I can’t forget the pups!).
  • A last-minute opportunity to attend Tony Robbins’ seminar Unleash the Power Within (UPW)… (also, more on that soon!)
  • And taking my mom on a day trip to NY to do a crown tour of the Statue of Liberty

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I also had the opportunity to meet several friends during overnights from work.  Anyone care to guess who is responsible for this madness??

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In 2018, I would like to shake things up to my calendar method by adding additional categories to each month.  Volunteer once a month, read a book, visit someplace new, take someone to lunch, learn a new skill.  I want to practice living my whole life (mind/body/spirit) on a regular schedule.  Balance is not my favorite word because it puts pressure on people to make things perfect.  Perfection is annoying – I know, I tried to attain it for many many years.  Instead of trying to balance, I finally have a tool that seems to be working a bit better…

At UPW, we did an exercise called the Wheel of Life.  Basically,  we wrote on a scale of 1-10 what level we felt we were in each section of our lives including finances (9!), work, time, relationships, and more.  The premise of the exercise is to point out which areas of our lives show some weakness and where are our strengths.  Instead of trying to get each level to a 10, they said to raise the lower levels (our weaknesses) to the higher ones before trying to raise the higher ones (our strengths) to 10’s.  The theory is that a wheel won’t roll until the edges are smooth.  If you are a 1 in one category and a 9 in another, making the 9 a 10 only makes the edge sharper.  Round it out, bring the 1 up.  Try to raise your weaknesses to your strengths, don’t focus on making your strengths stronger.  Novel idea.  Why didn’t I think of that??

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I have my worksheet from the seminar and plan to use it for an upcoming post so I don’t want to dig too deep here, but shifting my mindset to this exercise has become invaluable to me.  That in itself could have paid for the cost of the ticket!

Anyhoo, personal goals moving forward are as follows:

  • Lose the 10 lbs I managed to put on this year.  Not sure what happened and as much as I would like to attribute it to age I am pretty sure that isn’t the case.  Regardless, it goes hand in hand with the next one…
  • Make an effort to get outdoors at least ONCE per day despite the weather – letting the dog out to pee doesn’t count.  😉
  • Find projects to keep my mind/hands busy.  My job is wonderful but it doesn’t fulfill certain aspects of my nature.  I love to create things – like, real tangible proof of my usefulness.  I have a special project coming up that I can’t wait to get my hands on and share with you and another on the line after the first is done (provided timing works out)!
  • Ditch the negative, focus on the positive.  Have y’all read The Happy Philosopher’s post on Alligators and Kittens??  One of my favorite people I met this year and hands down one of my favorite posts.

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And now for the Money, Honey…

Anyone who is reading a personal finance blog most likely has several finance-related goals set for themselves such as a specific net worth or income, savings rate, yearly spending or debt pay off.  Here are my goals from 2017 in order of what I feel is most important:

INCOME

Since I am not salary, I always set hourly goals for the year.  My goal in 2017 year was the same as 2016 – work 100 hours a month.  As of a few days weeks ago, the final tally is in: 1223.12 hours.  ROCKED IT!!

Despite working 100 hours less this year (2016 = 1336.80), I still managed to make more in 2017 than I did in 2016, thanks in part to our retro pay at the start of the year plus a minor bump in pay.  According to my year-end pay stub, I earned 9k over 2016.  My side hustles also got a little bump and came in a few hundred more than last year ($11655).  Here’s the thing – you can make TONS of money year after year but none of it matters if you don’t know where it is going.  This leads me to my second goal…

SPENDING

This is the bar that changed the most in 2017.  After last years method of being a tightwad, I finally let loose to see what would happen.  Not much, it turns out.  I was still my frugal self, preferring low-cost activities and cheap travel to expensive nights out with my spendy friends.  I also took the opportunity to immerse myself in this community EVERY chance I got (if you’re sick of seeing me, I’m sorry).  What I didn’t do was hem and haw of every single purchase or expense.  If it made me happy, I did it.

2016 spending = 18278.79 (avg $1523/mo)
vs

2017 spending = 23462.89 (avg $1955/mo)

Ouch!!  That’s an increase in spending of $5184.10!!!  But hold on a sec, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Most of the excess spending is well justified…

selling black market GIF by Feliks Tomasz Konczakowski

In 2017, I went from paying for my condo in the city to paying for my condo + paying rent at John’s place in the burbs, therefore, adding an additional $4198.83 to my total.  In September, I finally got the chance to rent my condo and the new tenant is paying $975/month.  As an added bonus to the tenant, I now benefit from not having to pay the gas and electric for my unit which in 2017 cost me $491.31.  All this being said, my yearly expenses would have been around $19562.89 if I had factored in my tenant’s rent.  I’m hoping to have the kinks in this equation worked out for my 2018 tally.  🙂

SAVINGS RATE

In 2016, I set a savings rate goal of 75%.  I calculated my savings rate with my 401k and without it, then averaged those totals to get 75.03% (without 401k was 71.95% and with was 78.11%).  All that is fine and dandy going from month to month on hourly pay, but the end of the year totals are the true number to be looking at.  In an effort to simplify, this year I decided the only number that matters is my savings with the 401k (though I still track the other + with my match).  I set the same goal of 75% for 2017 and came up with…

Income: 89496.82
Savings: 67994.68 = 75.9% 

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I’m on FIRE…well, at least close to it. (Taken at CampFI last weekend!)

It is always my goal to have every cent accounted for but sometimes I slip (especially when cash is involved).  Now that you have seen all my numbers, taking my spending into account, it would seem there is an additional $1961.35 unaccounted for.  If you number freaks want to get geeky, I am happy to assist.  At the start of 2017, I had $1607 in cash.  At the end, I had $267.  That accounts for $1340 in money magically diverted to savings.  The other $621.35 is a sheer mystery but most likely due to random cash I made/found/or was gifted over the past year.  I am never concerned unless my numbers show a huge deficit.

NET WORTH

At the start of last year, I pulled a nice round number out of thin air, set it as the lofty net worth goal for myself, and hoped to hit it. I didn’t…I came up a couple thousand short (perhaps I should have worked those extra 100 hours!).  The thing is, I reached for the stars and landed in the clouds but I am still over the moon about it…if clouds were to exist over the moon (too much??).  Thanks to the insane stock market this year, I got veeeeeerrrrryyyyy close to achieving what I thought was damn near impossible.  What was the number?  I’ll never tell (though past me did in a prior post if you care to find it).

Here is the fab news – with all that stock market push I am a couple of months away from hitting my original FI number!!  YEAH!!  And now for the reality, that is no longer a realistic number.  What I realized halfway through 2017 is that I wanted to focus on a higher quality of life than what I had originally planned for.  It isn’t that my plans starting out were bad, it’s just that I was operating from a different point of view back then.  I was trying to figure out what was the lowest cost of living I could survive on.  Now I want to know the lowest cost of living I can thrive on.  Both important numbers to know.  I must repeat the very important lesson that I learned last year – DO NOT FRUGAL YOURSELF INTO A CORNER.  This will continue to be my mantra in the future.

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These goals and numbers are benchmarks for me and are flexible with my goals in the future.  Many of us are on a journey to financial independence.  Some of us are planning to retire.  Others are just trying to get their shit together enough so they can breathe (BEEN THERE!!).  Reading this post at all means you are actively doing something to strengthen your game.  Maybe you are deciding what areas are important to focus on or what things you can loosen up (can I tell you how much better I felt about finances in 2017 compared to 2016?!).  Maybe you are just curious how/what others are doing on their journey.  Maybe you need inspiration.  Maybe you are just stalking me.  😉 Whatever your reason for reading, remember that all this shit is personal.  We have different goals, different lifestyles.  We have learned from different failures lessons and have experienced different accomplishments…sometimes even pure dumb luck.  None of that matters.  What matters is that we are all supportive of each other.  There is no master of ceremony – you get to be your own master.  So, what are your goals going forward??

Until next time…

PS – My little break from the blog started with a 3-week travel stint but has since stretched for over 2 months!  This seems to be a habit that I run into every Nov or Dec but I’m usually better at hiding it (hmmm…could it be the chill in the air and clouds in the sky that seems to damper the mood?).  Regardless, the outcome is always the same.  My inner gypsy kicks in and makes me want to run for the hills (preferably to a nice warm location).  I get restless, I can’t focus, I get twitchy and my palms start to itch.  Instead of running, which is not conducive to this weather, I stick my head under the covers and hibernate.  Today’s heat wave of 20 degrees got me up and out to the library.  Thanks to those who are still standing by to read and to those who touched base to make sure I still had a pulse. 🙂

61 thoughts on “2017 – That’s a Wrap!

  1. Pingback: Are We FI Yet?! - Financial 180

  2. lakegirl7926

    In 2017, I also stopped being quiet so frugal crazy – I even stopped trying to track every penny. I didn’t go wild and my spending didn’t get out of hand. But a 2018 goal is to track every penny. The more I try to simplify the more complicated it gets! I just discovered the Wheel of Life Exercise too. Looking forward to trying it out. Nice post!

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  3. TJ

    One of my highlights of ’17 was meeting you of course! I’m so excited for you. I agree about frugaling yourself into a corner. It can be dangerous.

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  4. I first came across the Wheel of Life about 20 years ago. It really does work. It enables you to focus on the weaker areas of your life, and get things in better balance. However, I hadn’t heard the comment about peaking in one making the points sharper… A great way of putting it.

    I picked up on this goal setting again last year after quite a long gap. I think it really made a difference

    Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks, Erith. Visualizing it as a wheel rolling down the street made a lot of sense to me too! One of my goals for this year is to work on smoothing the edges. I want all 7-10’s by the end of the year!! 🙂

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  5. “If you are a 1 in one category and a 9 in another, making the 9 a 10 only makes the edge sharper. Round it out, bring the 1 up. Try to raise your weaknesses to your strengths, don’t focus on making your strengths stronger.”

    Welcome back, Miss M. I live for your posts. Why? Because I’m always freakin’ learning something.

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  6. Good to see you emerge from your hibernation and congratulations on that stellar savings rate. Over 70% is bananas.

    I hope your 2018 kicks ass!

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    1. Mrs BITA!! I feel like it’s been forever. How is my roomie doing? I am very satisfied with that savings rate but would love to be making you income to really kick ass!! 😉 As for 2018, I feel a slowdown in savings but an uptick in adventure coming on. Ill keep you posted!

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  7. I’m glad you’re back! I kept checking. You and Mrs. BITA provide so much inspo for me. I have also been mindful of frugaling myself into a corner because you really don’t have much more room should issues arise. I always thought to myself that you can control your spending more than your income and that’s true to a degree. I’ve defined frugal as choosing to make choices based on expense at times in order to pay for other things that add value to your life. For me, adding value almost always involves new experiences and/or added time. Time is more valuable to me than the dollar. I’ll pay for laser hair removal because it saves me from spending 7-8 minutes shaving every other day. I can definitely put that to better use. I won’t pay for hair salon visits because they are an absolute time AND money suck. I endorse/love the calendar idea. My boyfriend’s company produces 3 month at a glance wall calendars and we love them! Great to see a quarter at a glance and countdown the paychecks till I’m LeanFire!

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    1. Yes – it’s definitely easier to control spending although once you get on the right track, making money becomes easy too. You just have to get creative!

      As for spending, the only thing that interests me now is experiences…and food! All else is by the wayside. That makes it very easy on a day to day level but a little more difficult when watching the travel channel. 😉

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  8. It’s funny because I’ve known you more than just a blogger this past year, but when I see everything summed up on one blog, you accomplished a lot!! I really want to hear more about the caboose and the experience with Tony Robbins! I really need to sit down and figure out truly what my savings rate is. There are so many schools of thought that its left me confused! Hope this year is awesome! Come visit me whenever you need to warm up!

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    1. Right?! I guess that’s as good a reason as any to keep the calendar. It’s adventure tracking!

      Caboose and TR are high on the post to write list!! As for your savings rate, I am happy to help you figure out the best way for you…but first you have to be tracking your spending!! If you’re already doing it, the rest is easy. I’ll help you in person soon. 😉

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  9. I’ve been stalking you but got disappointed that I couldn’t find you. Then I saw your comment on Tonya’s site about your recent post and jumped right over. Welcome back!

    Glad to see how much you learned about yourself in 2017.

    Looking forward to that caboose post!

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    1. Aww – thanks for keeping an eye out for me. I’m back and hope to stick around for a bit!

      Loving reading all about the new house build. I’ve always wanted to build something from scratch but I think I may start small with something like a dog house. 😉

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  10. theteacheronfire

    That is some serious savings rate goals! Very well done. I like how your savings rate stayed pretty much the same even with a more relaxed mindset regarding frugality. I think we can enjoy things while remaining smart about money – and your story certainly shows that!

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    1. It’s funny, I never thought as myself as frugal until I got in this community. I knew my friends spent a lot but I just figured to each their own and went on with my day. When I found out about FI, I really started looking at my spending and wondering if I could improve it any…turns out, I could but not by much. I already lived a pretty streamlined financial life (minus the insane amount I spent on failed real estate). Now that I lived that super tight year on 18k, I am way more comfortable with where I am. I know that I can buckle down if I need to but I will get to FI quickly regardless of that extra few thousand…AND BE HAPPY! Which, lets face it, is the end goal. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The Gypsy Returns!! (Alternative title for today’s post!). You’re KILLING it with a 75% savings rate (of COURSE the 401(k) counts!), and I love your 2017 learning “Do Not Frugal Yourself Into A Corner”. I could have retired years ago, but my wife and I decided “FAT FIRE” fits us. Life’s about balance. Square wheel’s don’t turn very well, after all, right? (BTW, we just bought our retirement 5th wheel this past weekend!!). Officially, 145 Days To Fat FIRE! Look forward to seeing your Gypsy Soul somewhere out and about in 2018!

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    1. Haha – thanks, Fritz!! When I was first figuring out a blog name I tried to factor Gypsy in a ton of ways. It never quite worked…maybe for my next bog??

      I am glad to see your road to FAT FIRE is almost complete and paved in gold. I’ll be a few year behind you but I WILL get there. Congrats on the 5th wheel – I assume you will be posting pics soon?? Looking forward to seeing them!!

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  12. Congratulations on a great year! Your savings rate is incredible! 🙂 I’m very curious about the almost-purchase of a caboose. As in a train? Sounds like the seminars and meet-ups were highlights of the year. I always learn so much/get so many ideas/change my perspective with meet-ups. Thanks for sharing the awesome alligators and kittens post. What a great analogy! Here’s to an awesome 2018!!!

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    1. Ahhh – thank you!! I intend to get that caboose post written asap. It’s all about not making emotional decisions…even if they don’t cost a ton! And yes – it was a fricking train!!

      Happy 2018 – let’s kick this years A$$!!

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  13. Wow! Great review. I like the calendar that you’ve got on the wall although I haven’t got enough room to put that much stuff up in my room (I live in a flatshare so can’t use the kitchen) so I will probably do the same but only a quarter at time. I’m trying to make incremental changes this year. Focus on getting really good at a small number of things (sports and work related) and challenging myself monthly to build new habits / change old ones. I started this month with Dry January, will do Pilates everyday in February and then give up (buying) junk food in March.

    I also want to invest in low-frequency index funds by December and lose about 36 pounds over the course of the year.

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    1. Yeah, I looked for a smaller calendar for this year and was happy to find a pack with 2 in it – one normal size and one that is 5in x 5in. I still put the big one on the wall but I am using the smaller one to keep with me.

      Dry January seems to be a tough one for me. I really love my nightly glass of wine!! That being said, I have plenty of nights that I go without due to lack of restocking…can I just count dry nights?? 😉 I think it’s awesome to build those habits monthly. I tried that last year and got a few things down but failed a few others. I will start again this year. The one good habit I made in 2017 was to stop obsessing over my spreadsheets. It took a whole month of financial celibacy to get me there but I am way more chill now. Whole weeks go by that I don’t input a thing!! I consider that my success story. 🙂

      Let me know what tips you pick up to lose the weight. I have stayed steady in my weight my entire adult life and this year it all went to shit.

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    1. Joe – Missed you at CampFI!! I learned that I can’t go months in between seeing my tribe. Time to make some big decisions and looking forward to seeing where they take me. I hope they take me to see your smiling face soon. Say hi to Ali!!

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  14. Congrats to getting close to your original FI number! Obviously the market craziness is helping us all but we as personal finance ninjas still have to resist spending the extra loot and inflating our lives.

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  15. Oh man, I absolutely love HP’s post on Alligators and Kittens too! Such a good one!!

    Loved hearing you on the ChoseFI podcast today, you totally rocked it. I’m also glad we had the chance to meet and hang out this year. Hoping for even more next year!!

    And BTW, that one picture looks familiar, just can’t quite put my finger on who it is ;o).

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    1. Sooooo glad we met this year!! I was a bit nervous meeting you’d strangers on and overnight but Tanya assure me we would love each other! I just didn’t expect to hop in your car within seconds of seeing your face. Most Dateline specials start that way!! 😘

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  16. 2018 will be big on house projects – so spendy! I love the idea of setting monthly goals. The journal I used last year followed a similar approach, setting a key focus for each month, but I didn’t wind up using it that way and I just used it as a bit more of a planner and notebook. It also had the 1-10 ratings for different areas of your life, along with some other prompts, which I did do – and you check back in 4x through the year to see how things are changing in each aspect. You get to really see how your balance ebbs and flows.

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    1. Soooo jealous of your house projects!! I need to get my hands on some repairs like that. How long is the flight to NZ?? 😬

      Love the idea of checking back throughout the year. I think it’s helpful to see our growth and the ebbs and flows like you mentioned. Sometimes we learn the most from those low points!

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  17. I don’t know who made you drink all that beer… but yeah.. what a bunch of jerks!!!

    Sounds like it’s all working out. You know something we’ve found is that it’s more a habit than it is a conscious effort after a while. You just don’t think the same way, it just becomes a way of life and you aren’t interested in the old way of doing things. So you don’t have to restrain yourself.

    Hmmm… I think there’s a place for you to run away to that’s sunny…

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    1. Jerks indeed!

      I have built many great habits over the years (though I am almost certain I was born frugal, both good and bad. I have found it is easier for me to add to the good than eliminate the bad which is why the Alligator and Kittens post was such an eye opener for me. Here is to 2018, less alligators and more kittens!!!

      Oh, and how do you feel about 65lb black fur shedding animals?? 😉

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        1. Over a lifetime works too! The main point is to be seeing improvements and changes for the better in whatever areas you choose to explore. Looking forward to seeing what the year brings…

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  18. We do something similar with the calendar on our fridge, mostly to remember where we are bringing HP in the mornings 😉 Unlike the one morning when I drove him all but two blocks away from my work. Whoops. My goal for this year is to keep plugging away on our mortgage. We cracked $150k, and I’m so excited STILL. I cannot believe it. We have tons to go but the reality that we could be under $130k or maybe even $125k this year makes me positively giddy. Another goal is to just enjoy being a human (mom, wife, daughter, friend) more. To not just do things, but savor them.

    And can I just say how happy I am that you’re back?! Woohoo! I love the photos included in this recap, and I love all the teasers. I cannot wait to read more and hear how you knock 2018 out of the park ❤

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    1. Yikes on HP!! Just be happy you didn’t get there and forger about him in the back seat. I can totally see how people do that!! Unfortunately our climate doesn’t work for forgetfulness most of the year. As for your calendar, I remember when I was a nanny and the parents gave me my own calendar to fill out with poops (including consistency), pees, feedings. Everything was so detailed! Such a hard job…and maybe why I don’t have kids! I may not know you well in person but everything points to you being an AMAZING mom – all the props to you, sister!!

      As for the mortgage – YES!!!! What an awesome accomplishment. It’s nice to have something to push yourself forward. I think I was lacking that a bit this year (minus the ultimate FI goal) so I need to get some things like that to push me a bit more in 2018. Being a better human is always a well received goal.

      Finally, thank you for the kind words of encouragement. I hope to pick up right where I left off…time to get back to reading everyone’s blogs!! And, of course, more TWITTER!!! 🙂

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    1. I can’t wait to get up there again!! I found the downtown area to be fascinating with the endless maze of gerbil tunnels…specifically one that led me to the best muffins I have EVER had (and I generally don’t like muffins). April sounds like a better time to go – less cold, more opportunity for outdoor adventure. I will def take you up on a stay at your place. 🙂

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  19. here’s the calendar i’ve been using for years. free. https://www.vertex42.com/calendars/2018.html
    nice to see you back among the living. our goal is to figure out with the 6 weeks and one day of paid time off i’m getting this year. the freedom came with me taking a pay cut for better hours and a better life and mrs. smidlap not being employed the past 9 months. before we had all kinds of cash and no time and now lots of time and cash strapped for luxuries. oh! the irony! gotta find some budget activities outside the trip to msy for the big 5 oh.

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    1. Nice – and thanks for the welcome back! 6 weeks (and 1 day) off is amazing and budget activities are my specialty. Now that you have fewer hours you should have plenty of time to do the research. Volunteer trips are great because they are cheap but you get to know an area while also giving back to it. My other favorite is Groupon Getaways – they have super cheap trips if you are flexible with your dates. Oh…and then there is the Camino De Santiago. My ultimate favorite cheap vacation. You can fluff it up with rest stops in some of the cities along the way. Enjoy your new freedom!!

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  20. I’m using that calendar trick! And I love the wheel analogy – I love the “relentlessly eliminate the BS from your life and eventually you’ll have a life that’s free of BS” quote & it dovetails nicely into the spiky wheel. Congratulations on a successful 2017 and best of luck on an even better 2018!!

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    1. Thanks, TY! It’s been a really strange year for me. Last year I was so focused on the FI goal that I don’t even remember most of what I did! This year, thanks to the calendar, I see how many days were used being productive and how many just passed by. With the wheel, I realized I was being complacent in certain areas of my life that are important. I am stoked to see this new tool in action! Of course, we will chat more when I get that other post written…in 2 months. 😉

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    2. Can we say “Bullshit” on here?!? 😉

      Welcome back, Miss M. I love that little golden box on the nav bar too. You made my day. Thanks for inspiring the gypsy in me. You write about being able to “breathe” from a financial standpoint. Some of us yearn to breathe from a “get out of dodge – this Minnesota winter shit sux!” perspective. Living vicariously – keep on writing!

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      1. So glad you saw my nav bar shout out to you!! 🙂 And, YES, of course, you can say bullshit on here…I’m surprised TY abbreviated knowing my penchant for all curse words.

        I am about to breathe from the “get out of dodge” standpoint as well… I hit the road tomorrow!! I promise to be posting pics along the way but I also hope to be writing. Only time will tell!

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