Twenty Twelve: The Year I Changed My Life

Twenty twelve has been a year of big changes for me. On January 1st, I moved back out into my own apartment in Victoria. In September, I accepted a new job and moved to Toronto. But there were so many details, moments, and goals met in-between that got me from one place to the other. So, I’ve decided to take a look back and see just how much the various areas of my life have changed this year:

Finances
2012 was obviously the best year my finances have ever seen. First, I paid off more than $11,000 of debt, including all of my credit card debt. And second, I learned how to save – not much, but it was better than nothing. This year, I saved more than $1,600 in my RRSPs and have about the same in an Emergency Fund. I know, those numbers are small… but I’m the girl who used to pull from her savings on a weekly basis. In doing all of this, I’ve gone from having a negative net worth at the beginning of the year to finally reaching a positive net worth. Today, my net worth is about +$7,250. It can only go up from here, right?

Career
I spent the first six months of this year finishing my BA in Communications, while working full-time and interning at LearnVest. To say I was constantly working on a deadline would be the biggest understatement of the year. There were nights (and weeks) I barely slept, because I had so many papers and posts to write. But learning how to manage my time and priorities taught me so much about myself, including learning how to recognize what I wanted out of my career. Everything I did (school, work, and my internship) helped me see what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what I was good at. I wouldn’t trade a single sleepless night, for where it’s taken me today.

Travel
My three travel goals for this year were to visit Toronto and New York City, as well as travel to and attend #FinCon12. Toronto was a no-brainer for me – I knew I would go for at least a week, at some point. But New York City seemed like a bit of a fantasy… Well, you all know that those goals became realities. Although, instead of visiting Toronto, I ended up moving there. I changed the dates on my flight to Denver and went to #FinCon12 in September. And you’ve read all about my trip to New York City this Christmas. While I’m happy to have achieved all three goals, what I’m most proud of is that none of the trips put me into any amount of debt (even if I did go over budget in NYC).

Health
In February, after weighing in at an all-time high of 206.2 lbs., I decided to stop making excuses and I started working out. For the first six months, I was working out anywhere from 3-5x per week and losing weight and inches fast. Although my workout regime has become basically non-existant over the last few months, I’m still happy to say that I’m down 24 lbs. for the year. It’s been incredible to see how the numbers start to mean less and less, as fitting into smaller clothes means more and more. I’m currently down two pant sizes and one shirt size, which means I fit into something in every store again. And I’m so grateful that the #pfworkout crew has been with me along the way!

This Blog
If there was ever a year to document my life, this was it. Blonde on a Budget has not only been my personal diary, it has become a tool to help me with my career. In 2012, I was picked up by various media outlets, had my picture taken for a feature in the Toronto Star, got to write a post for Forbes, wrote a number of other guest posts and won the West Coast Social Media Award for Best Personal Blog. Writing about getting out of debt is the reason I have my new job in Toronto. And none of this would have been possible if I didn’t finally choose to stop writing anonymously. Telling my family and friends about my blog was one of the scariest decisions I made this year. But it was also the best.

It might sound corny to say this but I honestly can’t believe how different my life is today from January 1st of this year. Twelve months ago, I was still drowning in credit card debt, scared to move out and lose track of my debt repayment progress. I felt completely held back by my financial situation. I was also the heaviest I had ever been and I was paying little to no attention to my health. Over the year, in learning how to manage both my finances and my time, I discovered that it was possible to have the life I had always wanted; a life with less debt, better health, and more fun. And while I may not have saved as much as I had hoped, the experiences this year gave me were worth every penny.

Did you do anything to change your life this year? Tell me about it. :)

Image: Andrew Williamson

48 Comments

  1. Wow, I am so proud of you, lady! It has been a joy to watch and cheer for you all year.

    This year I changed my life, too. Let me count the ways:
    * lost 35 pounds and got my cholesterol back into the normal range
    * went from not working out regularly for 5 years to tearing up 50 hot yoga classes from the end of September till now, and completed a 5K
    * left an ill-fitting academic environment, somehow squeaking out an MA from a top university in the process (still can’t believe that one)
    * stopped accumulating debt (though I have a long way to go to pay it off)
    * cut ties with someone who was abusing/manipulating me
    * moved from San Francisco to Boston
    * started a great job and expanded my professional skills
    * moved in with my BF
    * broke up with my BF
    * started really concentrating on and loving myself
    * as an unintended byproduct, started repairing and rebuilding a healthier situation with same BF, taking it slowly
    * started back in therapy, adding group therapy, personal coaching, and medications, making a huge monetary/time/emotional investment in ME
    * learned to cook, working up to some very complicated dishes!
    * started reading for fun again
    * pared down my possessions to the point that they truly reflect my values
    * became an Aunt and started saving for my nephew’s future

    Thanks for listening, writing it all together like that is really inspiring! May 2013 be even more awesome for both of us!

    xo, Deena

    • Cait

      December 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

      Deena, thank you so much for sharing all of these points! I was smiling by the end and almost teared up at the comment about your nephew. I’m so happy you are finishing the year of strong, as I know there were a few bumps along the way. But you are one strong woman, if I do say so myself. Happy New Year, girl! xoxo

  2. I was just thinking about this the other day about how much your life has changed! I hope 2013 is a GREAT year. My life has changed in so many ways as well, and I have a whole long post dedicated to that soon :)

    • Cait

      December 28, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Aww, thanks M! You’ve definitely had a great year yourself and I can’t wait to read all about it :)

  3. Boy oh boy, how can we blog readers compete with you, eh? :-)
    Congratulations Cait on all that you have accomplished this past year.
    You definitely have purpose and direction in your life these days.

    My predictions for you for 2013:

    Eventually you will be blogging about your investment strategies more than how you are getting out of debt because you will then be totally debt free.

    You will continue to thrive and grow in your career and in your new job and I predict will be even more successful if you seek out someone to casually mentor you.

    You will continue to travel since life isn’t just about saving money in some bank account but also spending some money to enjoy life’s rich experiences.

    Next year I expect that you will beat this year’s progress in health improvement since you are in better control of who you see yourself to be as a well rounded focused person. Remember though that losing weight takes time and can’t be rushed if you want to stay healthy. It’s a lifelong journey.

    Above all, I think that you will agree that the key driver in your life has been this blog as it has served as a way to document your goals on the way to achieving them. I expect that it can only grow in popularity and readership in 2013. I have only one suggestion: Personalize your blog even more by retaining that lovely picture of you (contained in this latest blog posting) at the top of each future blog post entry. Of course it’s your decision.

    As for me, what did I do to change my life in 2012? I finally retired.
    Sometimes now however I think that I should have stayed at work – if only to get some rest !!! :-)

    All the best in 2013 Cait!

    • Cait

      December 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Hahaha… busy in your retirement, eh Rob!? Thank you for all of your comments and predictions. I am going to add my picture to the ‘About’ me page soon. Happy New Year!

  4. Happy New Year Cait, and all the best in 2013 … I’m happy I’ve discovered your blog and it’s a pleasure to follow along!

    Dayle

  5. What a year 2012 has been for you! My year in review post is going up on the 30th :) What are your plans for 2013?

    • Cait

      December 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

      Ooo, I can’t wait to read it, Britt! I have some pretty big plans for 2013… some I’m going to blog about next week, some that will have to wait… ;)

  6. You had a totally amazing year, girl! I have to say, 2012 seriously sucked for me in a lot of ways. But I’m hopeful about 2013, and this post reminded me that putting my mind to some of my goals is the best way to make it a great year.

    Go you!

  7. Cait, you’ve had an incredible year, financially and just overall! I love that about the end of each year… being able to look back and actually quantify our accomplishments. You should be very proud of yourself! Thanks for sharing, and here’s to doing more in 2013!

  8. What an amazing transformative year you’ve had! Congratulations on all your success and I hope your 2013 is just as awesome! For me the biggest change is getting a grip on my finances and doing my blog. Now this year it’s about making better income!

    • Cait

      December 28, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Thank you, T! I would say 2012 was a year of self-discovery for you. You really figured out what you want out of life… now it’s just time to make it happen! Happy New Year!

  9. What a fantastic year! Congratulations on all of it! Can’t wait to hear what 2013 brings :)

  10. Wow Cait! You are seriously a rockstar! You should be proud of everything you accomplished this year – especially the paying off your credit cards and stashing away a little bit too. That’s a tough thing to do for sure.

    Also, thanks for your openness and honesty about everything. When I first started following your blog, I immediately connected with you and here we are, good blogging friends (and IRL friends). Thanks for taking me along the journey with you this year – I can’t wait to see the big things you do next year!

    • Cait

      January 2, 2013 at 10:23 am

      I think you meant to say we are BBF (best blogging friends)! Thanks for your constant support, Carrie. <3

  11. I feel so inspired by reading about how successful you were in regards to finance, career, travel, and the blog but what inspired me the most was reading about your accomplishments with your health! You are one brave woman for writing about your weight Cait! Congrats on a wonderful 2012 and may 2013 be an even better year for you :)

    • Cait

      January 2, 2013 at 10:24 am

      Hey, if I can share that I once had $28K of debt, what’s so hard about saying how much I weighed? The # only serves as extra motivation to lower it!

      Thanks for your comments, lady :)

  12. This is great! Loved reading about your journey and can’t wait to see what 2013 holds. It’s also been a whirlwind year for me – a year ago I was starting my second internship, continuing to panic about my future and still in debt. By summer I had paid off my debt and finally started a full time job in PR. Now almost 6 months into my job and saved up a good stash to start investing next year! I also promised to reboot my blog come new year…quickly approaching!

  13. Big life changes for you this year. It’s those that allow you to really grow as a person. I found myself becoming very comfortable with our situation so having a baby really put a change to that. It allowed us to totally rethink what we were spending money on because the little one is going to just cost more money the older she gets.

  14. AMAZING. You should bookmark this post any time you’re feeling a bit down. You can accomplish amazing things! I’m glad I got to meet you in person, I love the way you write.

  15. Elizabeth Pearce

    December 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Yay Cait! You have the proudest Auntie ever!!! :) <3

  16. Congrats on all of your achievements! What an inspiring read. :)

    Best of luck in 2013 – can’t wait to read about your upcoming goals!

  17. It’s been a great year for you and I’m so happy to see how far you’ve come! 2012 was perhaps not the best financially but was good in all other aspects. 2013 is going to be even bigger. I can’t wait.

  18. Yaaaaayyyy! You are a rockstar! 2012 was really a crappy year for me, but a lot of good happened. I am SO looking forward to 2013! I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next year!

    • Cait

      January 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Thanks, Brittany! I’m glad you can still see some of the good, when there was also some bad. Happy New Year <3

  19. Congratulations Cait! I’ve been following along with you here for a long time and you always have something exciting going on. You can sense how proud you are about the way 2012 has turned out for you and that you are optimistic about 2013. Not everyone can make it to the other side of understanding their financial health and doing something about it. Keep up the hard work with your weight and before you know it the weight will melt off. Sometimes I think if we all just focus on eating right and getting fit instead of obsessing over it then it becomes a lifestyle rather than a race. You should be very proud 24lbs is a huge success! Keep up the great work and let’s see what 2013 brings for Blonde on a Budget!!! Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Cait

      January 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Thank you for continuing to follow along with my journey, Mr. CBB. I appreciate all of your support. Happy New Year!

  20. That was quite an impressive year for you, congratulations on achieving so much! I moved country, started fixing up a new house, and living a much simpler life, that was my big change. Here is to a fantastic 2013!

  21. Alternate title: 2012, the Year Cait Kicked Ass and Took Names.

    Crazy, happy proud of you. BIGGEST hugs.

  22. It’s been quite the year for you Cait! Holy crow. My year doesn’t seem nearly as exciting in comparison. I received a healthy raise in early spring, paid off my consumer debt in April, put a good chunk of savings away, and then purchased a replacement car to my dying beater in November. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings us both!

  23. Congratulations! 2012 was your year to ‘draw a line in the sand’. No more old way of living, you are a NEW you.

  24. You had a great year! 2012 was really good for us too. Your blog was a HUGE factor in us deciding to scrap the house fund last year and pay off our debt first. It has been a real blessing. My main goal is money related, and that is to bank all of J’s income and live off of mine alone. I know we can do it! In a perfect world I would also tone up and be able to wear a bikini with pride…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

    Looking forward to changing and growing even more in 2013!

    • Cait

      January 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

      I am still so excited that you and J are debt-free! And I know you’ll make living off one income work just fine, A. Can’t wait to see how much you guys save, this year! xo

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