Wise Bread's Best and Worst Financial Decisions in 2010

Photo: wragg

With all the rush and stress of the holidays, I find it difficult to spend my late December reflecting on the last 12 months of my life. But now that we're nicely settled into 2011, some of my fellow Wise Bread writers and I have been doing some thinking about 2010 and the great (or terrible) financial decisions we made last year.

One of the best decisions I made in 2010 was to splurge on a half-off certificate for housecleaning from LivingSocial...for a house I wasn't living in. I usually consider housecleaning services to be an unnecessary waste of money: Why pay someone when I can do it myself? But this year I moved during the aforementioned stressful December, and I realized that I could avoid so much extra work and fretting by hiring someone to clean my previous house for me. Being able to spend less time dusting baseboards and more time with my friends and family was so worth it.

One of my worst financial decisions of 2010 also comes via LivingSocial...and Groupon...and all of the other daily deals websites I've signed up for. I love trying new dining and drinking establishments, so I frequently purchase bar and restaurant certificates from these sites. However, multiple times in 2010, I lost track of expiration dates and accidently let certificates I purchased expire. This year, I've vowed to keep better track of these purchases, and every time I buy one, I now mark its expiration date on my calendar.

Here are some more of our writers' best (and worst) financial moves of 2010

Temporarily Leaving the Rat Race 

Thursday Bram: In 2010, I made what turned out to be a great financial decision. I took a month off from work.

I run my own business, working for clients on various projects in order to bring in work. I've been doing so full-time for over three years. But I also have plenty of my own side projects that bring in money. I've written ebooks, run blogs, and and generally focused on using my strengths as a writer to build income sources. But I'm constantly frustrated by the fact that I don't have a lot of time to work on these side projects. Personally, I prioritize client work because it's cash in hand — I get payment a lot faster than when I'm developing a product of my own.

In September, though, I told my clients I was taking a month off from work. Honestly, I'd hit a point where I was burnt out, and I was dealing with a family situation anyhow, so I needed some time away. I certainly didn't work straight through October, but in addition to taking a much needed vacation, I figured out a new product that will make it possible to cut back on my client work — and I got most of the preliminary work done on it. I'm still working part-time to finish it up.

Taking a full month off of client work was a tough decision for me — I had to plan my financial situation very carefully, and it caused me some problems. But it remains one of the best financial decisions I made in 2010.

Taking a Sub-Par Summer Job

Margaret Garcia-Couoh: I was all excited when the college I teach for asked me to teach American Lit and World Lit this summer. Normally, I'm bogged down with composition classes so I was super excited to expose kids to literature instead of nagging them about paper writing.

Of course in my excitement I forgot that my own kids would be out of school and would have to be in daycare. Then the price of gas went up in our area. Then I found out that since summer school was for less units and for high school students, I wouldn't be paid my regular salary.

I'd have made more if I'd have just gone on unemployment. Instead I wound up paying my babysitter and the gas station nearly all the money I made from summer school! On top of that the high school students never read and were ill prepared for discussion. I killed my own summer for no reason at all. Never again! Much more cost effective to just stay home with the kids and have fun!

Asking About a Deal

Linsey Knerl: Our local Walgreens is over 20 minutes away, so making special trip is not a good use of gas money (or time). When I found out from a deal blog in May that they were clearing out all of their store brand diapers for $2 a pack, however, I jetted down and cleaned them out. I was worried that I was too much of a "deal hog," so I checked with the manager to see if it was OK. Not only did she approve me buying out the shelves, she brought several more packages up from the back to sell me. "Please take these off our hands so we can stock the new products," she begged. I went home with my Suburban full of diapers in all sizes and less than $50 spent out of pocket. My new baby, born in June, is set — for the rest of his diapered life, anyway.

Setting Aside Specific Savings

Julie Rains: The greatest financial decision for 2010 was to set aside money specifically designated to pay real estate property taxes and homeowner's insurance. We haven't had to take such basic actions in the past because my husband and I just recently paid off the mortgage, and these expenses were included in a monthly payment (held in escrow and then paid by the loan servicer).

Seeing how much needs to be set aside is somewhat of a wake-up call; that is, though we could afford to make house payments on a larger house (and probably snag a great bargain right now!), certain things — like property taxes, insurance, plus upkeep — would still be high.

In recent years, we haven't been as disciplined about designating savings. Making this decision helps us focus on saving for saving's sake and reaching longer-term goals.

Did you make an especially great or terrible financial decision in 2010? Share it in the comments!

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Guest's picture

I'm usually a compulsive saver, but when my grandmother gave us a generous anniversary gift, half went to getting my husband a missing tooth and the other half is going toward tuition for me to go through an editing certification program. I had been putting it off until I could save up more money, but I'm so glad I made the decision to just go for it. I'm going to be able to increase how much I charging my editing clients, and also start taking on additional assignments from publishing houses. Plus I love the classes!

Meg Favreau's picture

Investing in the editing certification program is a great idea, especially when you're enjoying the classes so much. I love those kind of purchases that feel like you're splurging on yourself, but also help you invest in your future. A couple of years ago I took the money from a good freelance gig and used it to get coaching for voice acting, something I was always interested in. I had such a fun time doing it and was able to pick up some side work after.

And I'm glad you were able to get your husband's tooth fixed!