2013 in Review

So I’m doing my annual review a bit backwards–I set my targets for habit development before I actually did a detailed review on my financial and life situations. But I was able to do this mainly because I’ve kept a loose record of most of my habits and expenses.

What Went Well in 2013?

It’s as important to figure out what’s going well as it is to determine what’s going wrong, because all too often if you do the second without the first, you’ll end up “throwing out the baby with the bath water” as it were, and destroying the very things that give you pleasure and wealth.


My son got married, and it didn’t put us or his new husband’s family into deep, deep debt. In fact, I think we did better on the frugal scale than even Squawkfox did! A big part of the savings came from actually being well known active members of the church where the wedding took place, and being on good terms with the staff. Not only were the facilities very inexpensive (we paid for the auditorium where we held the reception, but the sanctuary was free), but because it’s a first marriage for both of them, and they are both in regular attendance at church, they had the banns called, and therefore didn’t pay the $135 license fee. We catered it ourselves (with help from some of the guests), the DJ was a friend of David’s, and we decorated ourselves. The most expensive clothing items were the boys’ shirts, which I bought as a wedding gift to them — about $180. We didn’t have an open bar, or any kind of bar for that matter. We did have belly dancers, and a great deal of fun. Food service was provided gratis by some of the ladies from the church (and one man).

Compared to the sixty thousand dollar extravaganza, we did it cheap, and the fond memories linger. But when my daughter gets married, I’ll be going for a caterer, if we can find one who can manage a decent vegan gluten-free, strawberry & blueberry free menu!

My paper routes increased from four to five, adding about $35 income each month. I know, not huge, but every little bit helps. And one of my new customers has since become a friend.

I managed to pay off my housing arrears. I still haven’t got the knack of budgetting so that I have the full amount on the first of the month, but at least I’m not paying on debts acquired two years ago. One debt down, six more to go!

I won my third NaNo in a row, and I’m confident now that I can win from now on. My goal for this year is to carry that November enthusiasm with me all year round, and to write as near to daily as possible.

Physically and emotionally, I remain on an even keel, for the most part healthy and emotionally stable. I believe that the daily exercise involved in delivering between 75 and 85 papers six days a week plays a big part–I seldom have a day where I spend the whole of it indoors.

Also this year, I broke the bank and saw both my dentist and my optometrist for the first time in seven or eight years. I now have clean teeth with repaired fillings, and new glasses, including proper reading glasses that have literally transformed my life! I really didn’t realize until I got them that much of the trouble I was having in orchestra was because I couldn’t see the music clearly!

While those two items cost me over a thousand dollars all told, it was a thousand dollars well spent. And I’ve learned my lesson–I’d have spent less if I had regular dental check ups, and I would have enjoyed life a lot more if I’d had regular vision check ups. Some things are worth the price you have to pay.

Also in the life changing category, I had elective surgery to “lift” my bladder. Laughing is no longer an embarassing prospect, and I feel much more confident when I’m out in company. ‘Nuff said.

What Didn’t Go So Well:

From January to March last year, I kept track of all my expenses on a daily basis, and it worked. But then I felt I’d learned enough about what I spent money on, and stopped doing it.

Big mistake.

A year end review shows that my eat out expenses climbed steadily through the latter part of the year, except for November, when they shot through the roof, and didn’t come back down until, well…

Let’s hope today. I totaled up all the direct debits from my bank account that were eating out related, and added in the cash and gift card and credit card expenses that I could find, and came up with a total of over $1100! That’s approximately six percent of my rather meagre yearly income! Clearly I’m going to have to develop some rules around eating out, because affordability or lack of it doesn’t have any sway over my stomach. I’ll also be looking at what routines can best reinforce the eating at home requirement, especially in November, when things go absolutely haywire for me. (Not only do I participate in NaNo, I’m part of two very small planning teams for two very big events that take place at the end of the month, and I’m in an orchestra…)

Also gleaned from my bank account was the fact that I had six NSF charges (for a total of $270 wasted dollars), and six housing charge deferral fees at $25 each. The NSF charges were mostly the result of simply not keeping track of my bank account on a daily basis, and getting rid of them in 2014 is the main reason I’m developing the habit of daily financial reviews, which involve writing down on a calendar what payments come out when, and looking at both my bank balance and said calendar daily. The deferral fees should also become less of a problem as I take time daily to get a handle on my financial position.

My credit card debt grew from nothing a year and a half ago to about $4500 today. My major financial goal for this year, after paying off the car loan, will be to take some major strides at getting rid of that debt, and to actually close out one of the cards I’ve got.

Physically, I’ve regained some of the poundage I lost when I started delivering papers. I have no doubt that once I curtail my eating out, I’ll begin to drop my weight again. I have no specific goal for this, other than putting into place a couple more habits that will help me very gradually increase my health.

So that was 2013 for me. How did things go for you, and what are you looking forward to this coming year?


About Ruth Cooke

Ruth Cooke B.A, M.Div., MPS is a writer, public speaker, and itinerant preacher whose areas of expertise and interest include poverty issues and solutions, parenting exceptional children, sexual orientation, and the place of religious institutions in society. If you would like Ruth to come preach, speak or lead a class or group, please contact her via email.
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