Fresh Start: Budgets, Bujos, Blogging, and Books, Part 1
The times they are a-changin...
And sometimes that is a good thing! Especially when there is good news about personal finances involved, right?
For the first time since I started writing about money matters, I DO have some good updates (and a few positive lessons I've learned too!).
Working and Scraping By
In December, this blog turned 2 years old (wow!), and I decided to take a longer-than-usual holiday break. Because I had been working every single day for two straight years.
Why no breaks?
Around the time I decided to go full-force with blogging, my husband was laid off work after a back injury, and was never hired anywhere else. What followed were two miserable years without any steady income except what I could scrape up each month online.
I would love to share some inspirational story of becoming a superstar blogger during that time, but that didn't happen. We were literally living day-to-day on odd jobs, selling our things, my dabs of income, and what we eventually had to borrow from friends and family.
(Since my goal when I started this blog was to become debt-free, having to borrow was a major disappointment and a set-back.)
I won't go into a lot of grisly details; suffice it to say that every single day was full of frustration (when neither of us got any calls back on applications, nothing sold, or there was no help needed around town), and stress.
Now I can have a sense of humor about it...I remember sitting down one day to write something on frugal living, and getting mad before I could write my post.
It seemed positively absurd to give anyone advice on money at all, and we were at that point where we couldn't "save money by reusing a sandwich bag" because we couldn't afford sandwich bags to start with!
I didn't dare take a break from blogging or drawing because every penny helped a little. I wasn't going to make any huge income because I was scraping by with the most basic of free tools. ( I actually cried a little when PicMonkey changed to a paid-only version.)
We even survived with our sanity (somewhat) intact. We now have a steady income, and all that hard work I did actually did pay off. I was able to cover a lot of everyday needs and some of the bills with what I was earning.
December (the anniversary of my blog and the month after we got back on our feet financially) saw my biggest amount of income since I started working online back in 2011.
And my earnings remained fairly steady through my little hiatus too. (That's the major test right there, isn't it? When your sites can breathe on their own without life support?)
In that time, we even managed to eliminate two large debts by making some big sacrifices. (And we decluttered a BUNCH of stuff from our shed too!)
I also learned some important things about household budgets and personal finance:
1. If you don't have a steady or regular income, you cannot create a realistic budget. You can ONLY guess. The only absolutes you will have will be a few certain bills. (Even utility bills will fluctuate and make you panic.)
2. Tracking your income and spending is vital when you are living day-to-day. (Or odd job-to-odd job).
3. Don't read financial advice if you are very, very poor. Sounds weird, huh? Trust me...it is nothing but frustration when you read yet another piece of advice that says to "limit your Starbucks" or "cancel a gym membership".
(Instead, read motivational articles about ways to earn. They are will help you more!)
4. Saving money really can be impossible at times. If you are doing everything you can, then you just have to accept this bitter fact and focus your energy where it can help you get back on your feet. (Instead of worrying about your emergency savings fund.)
5. Sometimes frugal doesn't cut it.
What about after things get better?
After all, you know the value of a dime more than anyone else right?
But that's not a good idea. The longer you are "down", the more you are going to let things go. Stuff breaks, rips, fades, stains, etc. and you make a mental note to replace it all when you can.
When things start looking up, you are going to want to do it all at once. It is very important not just to budget, but to keep lists of things that need to be done or replaced or fixed. Prioritize those things, so you don't go hog wild with your new funds. (It is so tempting.)
It could take weeks, or months depending on how you are paid, to get back to normal. Don't rush it and end up short again. The best thing you can do for your peace of mind is start saving again as soon as you get paid. (Even if it is only five dollars!)
Printing out a monthly budget was actually the first thing we did to celebrate. That's sick, huh?
And when you are making your lists and budgets, don't forget to leave wiggle room for emergencies. Stuff like that doesn't stop happening just because times get better. (We had two flat tires the week we got our first paycheck. Boo!)
Every January, I like to come up with a sort of "theme" for my year. What am I going to focus on? What will be my obsession or motivation through the year? This year, there will be so much to do and celebrate, and I can't wait to share some of it on this blog.
Books will be my main theme for the year. I am rebuilding my collection and I'm excited about some ideas for building new shelves in my home, reading new books, and sharing my favorites.
I will also touch on two years of blogging, what I've learned, what has worked best for me, and what didn't work at all.
And I bought bullet journals this year to help organize both life and business. I'm very excited about getting into them and hope to share some pretty (helpful) pages with you too! ( I say "hope" because my first page was an ugly disaster!)
I will be writing those parts to this post this month. And of course, 2018 will have more doodle tutorials, money (yay!) posts, and general parenting/life/home posts.
I hope everyone else's year is going well so far, and I can't wait to see what 2018 will bring for all of us creatives!