Time to begin the 2013 End of Year Review. This is something I, like a lot of people I imagine, think about most years. But it is kind of exciting to be a little more formal with it. It scares me because it means the expectations are going to be higher and harder to shrug off, but it excites me because it feels like the rewards are going to far more tangible. I can do this.
Looking back, this has been a stable, productive year for me. I didn’t get too fancy, but I was able to accomplish some goals and get some things done. And though time will tell, I think I’ve planted some seeds that should prove interesting in the years to come. But let’s first Acknowledge (Step #2) the strengths and successes I had this year to be better prepared to address the things I want to change and/or improve.
Warning: this post is, I suppose, rather self-indulgent. You may or may not be interested in the fine details of my year. But after some thought I decided to post it anyway, just to be transparent as to my process. The details might not matter so much to you, but they might give you some insight or inspiration into your own review. Which, unless you are my mother or a predatory clown, is, I assume, the reason you are reading this.
This was easily my greatest success of the year. We were able to put 43% of our take home pay into retirement savings/debt reduction, and helped by a good year for the stock market we are going to beat the goals I set back in January by a wide margin. We are far behind where I wish we were (why didn’t we start a Roth IRA in our 20s? Why????), but our progress in the past five years has been solid, and we’ve avoided most of the trappings of lifestyle inflation, keeping our discretionary spending at very low levels.
This is a tricky topic for a basically lazy person like me, and my results have been varied. But on the plus side, the elliptical machine we bought last year hasn’t yet turned into a clothes horse. I might not be using it as much as I’d originally imagined, but I am still using it, especially now that it is once again too cold to run outside.
Back in May I ticked off one item from my bucket list and ran a half-marathon in Frederick, Maryland. It was a great day, if a little cold for my tastes, but I ran well and beat my expectations. Better yet, I had no injury or ill-effects afterwards, which I took as a good sign that I might yet have a full marathon in me.
We continue to cook at home almost every night. It wasn’t that many years ago when we were still eating spaghetti and meat sauce three times a week. We’re still not perfect, but a previous resolution to eat more vegetables has now become habit. We go grocery shopping 3-4 times a week, mostly just quick trips to get the veggies we need for the next dinner or two. Roasting veggies is still my favorite preparation, and roasted potatoes and carrots dressed with butter and thyme has now, perhaps, passed up my previous favorite, roasted cauliflower.
This was a busy year for me at work. Besides my regular job as a staff nurse, our hospital also initiated a computer charting upgrade this year, and I was one of the trainers, working with both nurses and physicians. It was a great compliment to the work I do with patients, and the extra hours didn’t hurt my paycheck either. (Nor did my other job, teaching orientation to incoming travel nurses.) Better yet, it was great education for me, and it never hurts your feelings when people come to you for answers because they just assume you know what is going on. I also completed the Clinical Ladder program, which included some special projects and education over the course of the year. I’m actually amazed when I think about how much I did at work this year.
This wasn’t a big travel year for us, but we did get to go to Cabo San Lucas for the wedding of our best friend, which was a blast seeing some old and dear friends. (ASIDE: Whenever I visit Mexico, I inevitably look around and think, “I could live here”.) Then for spring break we flew west and took two of my sisters kids to Disneyland. I maintain that Disneyland is fun for adults, but bringing well-behaved ten year olds really can’t be beat.
We had a bunch of visitors this year, some family, some old friends, and some couchsurfers. We love hosting visitors, so despite the fact that the elliptical has somewhat spoiled the roominess of our guest bedroom, at least people still came and we had some fun dinners and catch-up conversations.
One of the best perks of being in DC is our close proximity to the Smithsonian museums, where we can see world-famous art for free. We’ve seen some fantastic exhibits this year, and made use of a special free day to visit a handful of smaller galleries scattered across town this spring. We played a couple of rounds of mini-golf at a special exhibit at the Building Museum. We saw Broadway veteran Jason Graae at Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center. We even got to see a corpse flower bloom at the Botanical Gardens, although to our dismay the flower bloomed at night and by the time we arrived the next afternoon the stink had already cleared.
David was in another play. He was the Emcee in a production of “Cabaret”, and of course was excellent. Somehow this was the only live theatre I saw this year.
We did though go see a silent movie version of “Peter Pan” that was accompanied by a live organ. It was a lot of fun!
We also made our third annual visit to the Christmas open house at the headquarters of the Daughters Of the American Revolution. The decorated rooms are interesting, but we go for the carolers and museum which are always fun. Their main exhibit this year was on the introduction of technology in the home, with old fashioned versions of dishwashers and irons and stoves. Unfortunately this year the scary doll collection was haphazardly closed, which I logically deduced was because they had come to life early and tried to eat some patrons.
Just the other night, thanks to the crazy warm weather, we walked over to the Intercontinental Hotel and watched some singers in the lobby, then walked to both the White House and Capitol Christmas Trees. I’m still a hater of the new LED lights (they are so cold looking!) but it was fun to be out. Previous years I’ve had to bundle under layers of coats and hats and gloves, but last night I had to take my sweatshirt off it was so warm. Excellent.
In the spring I attended the Frequent Traveler University conference on frequent flier miles. The event was here in DC so after tracking down a ticket last minute I was able to go for cheap. It was fun putting faces and voices on some of the bloggers I had been reading, and it was exciting meeting Chris Guillebeau, who had just completed his quest to visit every country in the world. He signed a copy of his book “The $100 Start Up” for me, and I told him “Reading this book is going to be dangerous.” He smiled and probably thought I was a crazy person, but it definitely was the spark to start this blog.
I also took a couple of online courses this year. One was the Frequent Flier Bootcamp over at Travis Sherry’s Extra Pack Of Peanuts. I keep meaning to say more about this course, as I really loved it. I had done a pretty good job at educating myself on how to earn miles, but I was struggling to figure out how then to actually redeem them with the airlines. (Is it any surprise that the rules for redemption are far more complicated than the rules for earning them?) Anyways, I learned a ton and it was well worth it. Between David and I, in 2013 we earned 500,000 miles through various programs. Here is a little tease – in 2014 we are going to start spending them! If you have any questions about the class, feel free to email me. And if you decide to take the course, tell Trav I sent you!
I also took Corbett Barr’s course on How To Start A Blog That Matters. This was probably overkill for my immediate purposes, but still, I learned a heck of a lot and feel like I’m better prepared for whatever else might come next. In the end, I feel like learning a new skill is never a bad thing, regardless of how much you intend to use that skill in the future. As we all know, it is just good to have skills. And when you are living an awesome life, you never know what opportunities are going to present themselves, so it is best to be prepared.
Unfortunately I didn’t keep a list of the books I read this year, but the non-fiction ones I can remember included
The $100 Start-Up by Chris Guillebeau
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by Matt Kepnes
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi
I’m linking to the amazon pages to get a synopsis and reviews, but if you’re frugal like me you can always go to your local library!
So I’ve got my list of what went well. Assessment coming up soon!