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You Know What I Hate? Transitions!

stop and go

The past few  years of my life have been full of changes. In 2009, I transitioned from married to separated to divorced. I spent 2010 getting used to single mom life – taking out the trash myself, having no one to reach the stuff in the top cabinets, and being the sole organizer/taxi driver/homework helper/chef/bill payer. (Oh wait, none of that is really any different than when I was married! Anyway…)

2011 has been all about my financial transition from spendaholic to spendaholic in remission. And now, weeks away from 2012, I realize I’ll be spending yet another year in a state of change, as I move from miserable employee to (hopefully) happily self-employed. I have to learn all kinds of new things, like how to deal with months when I may have very little income, how to deal with taxes and health insurance now that I don’t have an employer doing it for me, and how to keep my writing interesting enough that people are still willing to read it.

And I’m just tired.

I’ll be 29 years old in a few months. In my 11 years as an adult, I’ve grappled with more than some people deal with in 20 or 30 years. I’ve learned EVERYTHING the hard way, and that trend doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. I just keep wondering when and if my life will reach some kind of stability.

Transitions Are Hard on Goals

No matter what goals I’ve set for myself at any point in my life, something always came along to derail them.

When I think back to the end of 2008, I remember the goals I set for myself for 2009 – goals that had nothing to do with getting divorced, remodeling a house, and moving. Yet that’s what happened. At the end of 2009, I had just moved into my house and had several goals for 2010, none of which I accomplished (except buying living room furniture).

This time last year, I made goals to stop overspending and start getting out of debt. And while I’ve accomplished that for the most part, the specific financial goals I set for myself last spring? Not so much. Changing jobs, which resulted in getting paid much less than I was initially promised, killed any chance I had of meeting my goals for 2011.

Time to Give Up?

I already know 2012 isn’t going to be very steady. I have no idea what my income will be or what I’ll be doing to earn that income – at least not for sure. How do you plan for something when you have no way of knowing what lies ahead? You don’t.

But one thing I will not do is allow myself to float along, spending money carelessly because I’m not sure what will happen. I did that for years and it didn’t work out too well. I know next year is going to be yet another year of transition, but that knowledge alone is enough to help me make some loose plans.

For example:

I will save as much money as possible. I know what my basic expenses will be each month. Once those are covered, I need to throw as much into savings as possible. I don’t have a guarantee that I’ll make enough to pay the bills every month, so I have to be prepared for that.

I will weigh opportunities before I accept them. It’s easy to freak out and say yes to everything, just so I know I have some money coming in. But if something is going to take up all my time and pay very little, it’s not worth it. I will NOT act on impulse just to make a buck.

I will continue to look for ways to minimize expenses. I’m not going to become frugal anytime soon. But I can keep an eye on my spending just the same. It will be easy to say, “Oh, I’m not using a ton of gas to commute to work now, so I can go out to eat!” But I have to remember that giving up full-time employment is a huge risk, not a ticket to do whatever I want.

I will keep my head above water. I do not intend to be homeless, hungry, or certifiably insane in 2012. And I’ll do whatever is necessary to prevent those things from happening. I may have to be very creative at times, but I will not let life get the best of me.

The Point (Which I Always Get To, Eventually)

A lot of personal finance bloggers are setting goals for 2012 lately, and if you read those sites like I do, you may be stressing out about your own goals. You may be in a state of transition yourself, trying to figure out how to make ends meet or survive on much less than before.

In a perfect world, all of us would have steady income, stable expenses, and no surprises. If you live in that world, please let me know how I can get there. Otherwise, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. I see all these posts about maxing out retirement accounts and taking vacations in 2012, and it makes me feel like I live on a different planet. Those are luxuries right now, not things I can reasonably expect to attain. At least not this year.

Set goals that make sense for your circumstances. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else, because they don’t live in your house or walk in your shoes. And don’t let transitions get the best of you. Changes aren’t always welcome, but sometimes they’re necessary to get to where you want to be.

Is 2012 going to be a transition year for you? What kind of goals have you set, despite the uncertainty ahead? What goals have you given up for now?

About Andrea Whitmer

Andrea is a freelance web developer and mom trying to maintain a sense of humor in an otherwise chaotic world. She blogs in hopes of helping others avoid the same mistakes she made in the past. Join in the discussion here on So Over This, or connect on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Google Plus. You can also subscribe to new posts via RSS so you never miss out!

Comments

  1. "Oh wait, none of that is really any different than when I was married!" – Ha this is so true. I always had to get my own stuff off the top shelf. Short people problems.

    This post is so accurate and your echoing a lot of things I've been feeling. I too went through my divorce in 2009 which wasn't in my plans at all. I didn't plan to quit (one of) my jobs this year, or end up being single and self dependent. Life happens and I'm learning to roll with it.

    I like your goals, they are specific yet will work with any changes that come your way. Also, if anyone knows how to find that perfect life, I'd like to know that too! 

    I hate transitions too, or rather I hate change. I like my little comfort zone, carpet under my feet and where everything is clean and organized. Such is life I guess…

  2. I'll be transitioning in 2012, too! I'm quitting my job in May and giving it a go as a full-time freelancer after that. I'm not sure exactly how that's going to turn out, but I'm optimistic about it. I'm still working to save up $10k to do that, and I'm about on track.

    You're right: it is hard to look at others' goals and not feel that you're not doing enough. My net worth isn't anywhere near six figures yet, I don't even have a substantial emergency fund yet, and I suck at budgeting still. But I'm happy and excited for where things are going to go, and that's the most important and motivating thing for me.

  3. I love this: "
    Set goals that make sense for your circumstances. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else, because they don’t live in your house or walk in your shoes. And don’t let transitions get the best of you." This has so much truth to do.  Wonderful advice that  poeple should follow.  Transitions aren't always a bad thing, they can actually be a time of personal development and the path to somewhere great! 🙂  

    • I agree.  You can't compare yourself to others.  We all have different problems, and different circumstances.  You don't see them behind closed doors.  Transitions are tough, but they always grow you in the end.  I know I grow the most as a person, and a believer in Christ, when I'm put through trials and times of transition.  Be encouraged–and turn to Christ….He'll help you carry those burdens!  Merry Christmas!

  4. I don't know where you can find perfect stability and no surprises – but I cut down on mine by moving to Silicon Valley after I graduated.  For an engineer, this is about as stable as it gets.  I bet you'll eventually find "what's right" for you, even if it's not where you're currently located.

    When you said "I hate transitions" I was really witty and thought of these.

  5. I don't know where you can find perfect stability and no surprises – but I cut down on mine by moving to Silicon Valley after I graduated.  For an engineer, this is about as stable as it gets.  I bet you'll eventually find "what's right" for you, even if it's not where you're currently located.

    When you said "I hate transitions" I was really witty and thought of these.

  6. wow you've been through so much at such a young age. you have some good goals ahead of you, but don't knock yourself down too much if you don't achieve them all. you've still come a long way.

  7. AmericanDebtProject says:

    Great post!  I loved your goals, they are totally sane and reasonable for 2012.  Based on how fast you've grown your site so far, I think you will hit new income levels pretty soon at So Over Debt.  2012 is a transition year for me too, I want to make my side businesses more established and I want to become a better, more professional writer.  That doesn't mean I'll stop editorializing (it's what I love to do), but I want my blog to be interesting to all types of people.  Plus I have two other non-finance sites where my opinion is not the interesting part, it's the content I provide!  Financially, I just want to pay off as much as I can.  But I also have to be able to pay all my bills each month, so as long as I'm decreasing debt each month and not adding to it, I'll be happy.

    And then I have at least 20 non-financial goals, but that's for another time!

  8. "Don’t compare yourself to everyone else, because they don’t live in your house or walk in your shoes"…Very true! Over the last 5 years I watched friends and family have huge expensive weddings, nice vacations, buy all the latest gadgets and doo-dads and at time felt a little jealous. Well the hubs and I worked hard and saved and got our priorities in order. Now some of the people are broke, divorced/getting divorced,in serious debt,. etc. while hubby and I are packing for our (finally) honeymoon and paying cash for it. We recently got life insurance, wills & trusts in place, and paid cash for a new flat screen TV for our room (we like to watch our movies in bed while cuddling and our old TV went out on us weeks earlier). Of course some people think hubs and I are in debt & were beyond surprised to find out we aren't. Can't always judge a book by it's cover I guess.
    As far as your goals, you have a lot ot deal with and have dealt with. Be proud of the progress you have made and will make because you are detemined, strong willed, and a hard working. You would be surprised to know how many people lack those quailities so be proud of that!!!

  9. I set goals to be more of a roadmap…. and when transitions come along (And they ALWAYS do) I just change the goals for a different direction. 

  10. 2011 was a transition year for me — moved in a cohabiting partner, weathered said partner's temporary un/underemployment, got engaged, started grad school, survived another round of layoffs, starting accumulating savings after paying off school debt in 2010. Now that I'm on solid footing, I'm planning like mad for 2012 (yes to the maxed-out IRA, but the vacation has to wait until 2014). But I had the same feelings when looking at otehr people's goals — some of them are just in a very different place (financially, career-wise, life stage) than I am.

    Keep in mind that you're transitioning TO something, and that you'll eventually have the same stability to use your money in bigger ways. And you know what your priorities are! That's something to be proud of.

  11. Good luck on your self-employment!  It sounds like you are off to a great start!

  12. 2012 is going to be a huge transition year for me, I anticipate. I do not think I will stay in grad school, and that means a new job and maybe another cross-country move, if that's what it takes to find said job. I have been procrastinating making my 2012 goals for that reason, and it really helped to hear a reminder from you that just because I am *so* far from maxing my 401(k) does not mean I should not try my best. 🙂

  13. Yup – we are all different both historically and our prospective futures.  Your goals seem sensible but dream to the future, cast all aside, what do you want to do, where do you want to be etc in 5 years or so.  Then slowly work out how to get there.  Maria posted this on the MoneyPrinciple blog.  Go read!

  14. I find goals helpful because they give you something to aim for.  Rather it be "save an emergency fund of $20K" or "make my bed everyday" the goals help you focus on something you want to improve upon.  Goals shouldn't be compared to those of others.  I hope this being a transitional year doesn't get too stressful for you… be excited about all the unknown surprises (the good ones) that you will encounter! 

  15. Little House says:

    I've been going through transitions myself. If completed my teaching credential program this month (whoo hoo!) but I had to take 4 months off of work  – which I didn't plan for very well. This coming year will also be a time of transition. I have to find a job! And, there are no teaching jobs anywhere near me which means…..I'm gonna have to move.  My 2012 goals will be just as difficult to accomplish as my 2011 ones. Why, oh why, do I do this to myself!?

  16. "The past few  years of my life have been full of changes. In 2009, I
    transitioned from married to separated to divorced. I spent 2010 getting
    used to single mom life – taking out the trash myself, having no one to
    reach the stuff in the top cabinets, and being the sole organizer/taxi
    driver/homework helper/chef/bill payer. (Oh wait, none of that is really
    any different than when I was married! Anyway…)"

    THIS IS MY LIFE. Same time frame, everything.

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