Choosing to See the Best // Our Non-Resolutions for an Inspiring New Year

we hope you had a wonderful christmas last week, if you’re into that sort of thing, and that you have a wonderful new year’s celebration later this week! we’re still on vacation, so this is our only post this week. see you next monday!

something you might not know about our next life is that we only use photos on the blog that we’ve taken ourselves. and the vast majority of those were shot with my iphone 5s. including the beauty in today’s header, which i snapped luckily on christmas before the slope got chopped up by powder-hungry skiers. (seriously, if you haven’t seen a pristine slope get devoured by skiers on a powder day the way a dead animal might get devoured by piranhas, you’re missing out on a wonder of the world.) most of the time, we don’t retouch the photos, but once in a while, we’ll fiddle the knobs. like in today’s photo. i was myself a part of the powder frenzy, so wasn’t in the mood to take a bunch of pictures (the secret to getting good ones: shoot a lot), or to wait to get the light just right. it was a rip off the gloves, snap a quick phone photo, pop the gloves back on, swoosh on down that powdery goodness moment. but when i looked at the photos afterward, i thought, wow! that photo would look great in black and white. the contrast on that peak would be perfect in grayscale. seeing the way that peak would stand out if i switched the photo to black and white is one example of choosing to see the best in the situation. i could be annoyed that at least four snowboarders are in the shot, or that someone cut a traverse track right under the rocky part, all of which the photo would look better without. but none of that stuff matters, and those things aren’t what drew my eye. it’s cool if you don’t love the header photo as much as i do, but i was super stoked to get it. i’ve skied that run hundreds of times, looked up at that peak more times than i can count, but it looked more beautiful and rugged in that shot than i’ve ever seen it before. something familiar and almost mundane became much more special to me in that moment. i was practically giddy about slapping it up here on the blog, and i couldn’t even wait that long to post it on instagram.

we’re not really new year’s resolution people, but we have definitely been on a journey to see the best in situations — from appreciating beauty more of the time, to looking on the bright side at work, to enjoying the journey of early retirement instead of always focusing on the end goal. so we’re determined to ride that wave into 2016. embracing gratitude every day. relishing the fresh air in our mountain town. appreciating the small kindnesses that others bestow upon us. paying it all forward. we plan to do more of all of that as we cross into the new year, and beyond.

seeing the best in situations and people has a financial aspect as well. we’re hitting our targets in our fast track early retirement plan, but we’re surrounded by friends and family who are currently on more perilous paths. several friends have just bought more home than they could afford, and some of those have even sunk additional money into renovations before they moved in. other friends are stuck in high spending cycles without realizing it. some can’t talk about money openly in their relationships. a family member has racked up significant credit card debt dealing with health issues, and we’re going to do a bail out loan to help out (post on this to follow in january — promise!). it’s easy to want to help all of them, and it’s even easier to judge. but who are we to judge? we’ve made plenty of bad spending decisions, and lord knows we’ve blown plenty of money during our baller years. we’ve been in debt before (and we’re still in debt if you count our mortgages on our home and rental property, though not for long). we’ve made some bad investment choices. and we’re not savers by nature. a huge part of our financial success comes from earning higher than average incomes, and that’s attributable in large part to luck and privilege. on christmas, we went over to the new home of some of these friends who overspent on both the house and renovations, and it would have been an easy occasion to think to ourselves, whoa, look at that new ____. what must that have cost? but what would that judgment have gotten us? it wouldn’t have helped us or our friends, so instead, we focused on what cool material choices they made, and what a great home it will be for their growing family. what they spend is none of our business, and we’re keeping both our noses and our thoughts out of it. which is not to say that we won’t talk about money when prompted. that night, one of those friends asked if it’s true that you need $5 million to retire, and i promptly rebutted that ridiculousness that the financial services industry loves to quote, and shared our target number, even though we don’t share it here. we’re happy to talk money, but we’re going to let them start that conversation, like our other friends who borrowed our copy of how to retire early and are now aggressively paying off their remaining student loans.

thinking about our own finances, we’re determined to see the best in them, even when the markets don’t cooperate. it’s why we shifted our goals earlier this year to focus more on our inputs (what we can control) and less on the market’s outputs (what we can’t). our savings is almost 100 percent automated, with the exception of year-end bonuses, so we really don’t think we deserve any kind of medal for saving a high percentage of our incomes. we just hide that money from ourselves and make sure it gets allocated into index funds that keep pace with the markets, and give it very little additional thought. and though one of our goals for 2016 is to think about money less, we do want to pause periodically to give ourselves gold stars for sticking to the vision we mapped out and staying on track to retire by the time we’re 38 and 41, in just two short years. it’s why we’re currently on a trip together through new year’s, because we wanted to reward ourselves with a fun experience for working so hard in 2015. we promise we’ll take pictures. ;-)

finally, a subject where it’s not tough at all to see the best: everyone who reads the blog and comments and connects with us on twitter. we don’t tell you all how awesome you are as often as we think it, because then we’d have to change the name of the site to our next blathering post about your awesomeness, but we can’t stop ourselves from saying it from time to time. because we’re sure we wouldn’t have written 100 posts in 10 months without your thoughtful comments and encouragement, and your friendship. so if the views dip down one week, or the comments are a a little quieter on one post, we’re not going to let that bother us either. (blog comments and traffic are just like lifestyle inflation — you don’t see them creeping up, but then you suddenly feel as though you can’t live with anything less than you have now, even though you were perfectly happy with far less not long ago.) we have connected with more of you this year than we could ever imagine, and we’re super duper grateful. now let’s all do great things together in 2016!

what are you resolving or, like us, not resolving to focus on in 2016 and beyond? any new perspectives you’re bringing to your life and finances? or any awesome new year’s plans that you want to share? we love hearing it all!

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60 replies »

  1. I realize this was not the point of the post, but I can’t stop chortling at “blog comments are like lifestyle inflation” :-) Congratulations on a great year.

    I also have several friends who have bought very expensive houses recently (the houses themselves are mostly quite modest; they just happen to live in insane markets) and I do worry about them. But like you, I think it’s best to focus on what I can control: the amount *I* spend, and the amount of support I can give them in whatever way they need.

    • Haha — thanks. It’s true, though, right? At first you’re stoked to get ANY comments, and then suddenly you’re sad when you ONLY get 20. :-) In my past blog, I would have killed for the comment numbers we have now, and yet I still notice if we have a down week. All the more reason to focus on what we can control, and put the rest out of mind. :-)

      Same situation for our friends — nobody has bought a mcmansion, just modest homes in expensive places. But it’s still money! It just gets so easy to justify those kinds of decisions when everyone around you is spending huge sums for a basic house. Here’s to focusing on our own finances! Happy (early) new year! :-)

  2. Your photos are lovely! I resolve to take more photos that I can use for the blog and fewer cat pics. Ha!

    For us, this year is about finances, fun and freedom by way of paying off all debt, increasing income and having a ton of fun in the process. I’m really enjoying this FI journey! Looking forward to your next 100 posts to keep me motivated!

    • Hey, cat pics are great too! ;-p

      It’s so awesome that you guys are enjoying the FI journey — that really comes through from both of you on your blog. Look forward to following along with your continued journey — though prepare to hear our envy when you crush the last of your debt. :-) Happy new year’s to you and Garrett!

  3. I’ve dubbed 2016 the year of experimentation. We’ve got a lot of things we’re testing out (including becoming parents of two kids, transitioning to a single income equivalent, and not working full time).

    My goal is to hold the decisions we make with a loose hand, as we figure out what’s really best for us.

    • I love that — the year of experimentation. You guys certainly have a lot on the horizon, so giving yourselves time and space to figure it all out makes a ton of sense. Happy (early) new year!

  4. I absolutely LOVE the photo!! (No offense to people who use stock photos, but I think using personal photos on blogs adds so much to the reading experience.) I’m excited to see more from your vacation!

    Hooray for working to see the best in everything! I need to figure out my New Years intentions soon — I’m waiting until the last minute so I can steal as many ideas from other people’s lists as possible, hahahaha.

    • Totally with you on the photos — I’d rather if folks just leave out the stock photos, though of course the blog conventional wisdom says that readers want pictures! So I definitely get why people do it.

      And, haha — I love your idea of borrowing intentions ideas from others! No new ideas, right? :-)

      Happy new year’s! Can’t wait to hear all about what’s in store for you in the new year!

  5. Thanks for sharing ONL! We only have 3 hopes for 2016, and they are pretty darn simple. 1. Healthy; 2. Fulfilling work; 3. Net worth equal in 12 months to what we have now. Those may sound easy enough, but we have a lot of change coming in 2016. May it work out well. Happy New Years and I hope you guys enjoy your trip!

  6. I too have been working on skipping the judgment. It’s so easy to look at others and just wish they would snap out of the spending and debt craze, but that does no good. I’ve found that even if I lay my life out in detail, how I’m planning to achieve early retirement, most just roll your their eyes. You can’t change an entire lifestyle with a few comments, but you can plant that seed of simplicity!!!

    Happy new year to both of you – it’s been a great one for your blog! Congrats!

    • I love how you put it — planting the seeds. I do think that’s the best way to go. Or leading by example. That’s all we can do really! Thanks for the congrats on the blog — you knew us early on, and it’s crazy how much it’s grown since then! It’s pretty awesome, but we’re trying hard not to get sucked into “blog inflation.” ;-) Hope you guys have a fab new year’s!

    • Haha — It’s almost like the very concept of a resolution is setting people up to fail in the first place. No thanks! We’re just trying to do a little better every day. :-)

  7. I’ve also felt concern for friends who are making certain choices, but what can you do? Not much unless they ask for help, and I’m the first to admit I’ve made huge financial mistakes in my life. Next year will be pretty low key. Just focus on doing well at my new job and rebuild my finances. I don’t even think I’m going to take an international trip, even though I “could” next year.

    • I’m sure the transition to your full-time job after being freelance for so long will take some time, so it’s great you’re focused on keeping things low-key, and allowing yourself time to adjust. I know when I went from working in an office to working from home, it took me almost a year to adjust fully — hope the transition is faster and easier for you!

  8. I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking – I think I am good at it 50% of the time, but I am going to try and make that 80% this year. Besides that I don’t have any resolutions – just be healthier and try and be a better me every day. I like your idea of trying to see the bright side of work. I need to make a plan of how to make the work day better and not just a waste of time where I trade time for money.

    • That’s a great goal — shifting the balance of positive to negative more in favor of the positive. We’ll be thrilled if we can get to 80/20 — though most of that 20 will come from air travel delays. :-) I don’t have any concrete ideas to offer for making work feel like it’s not a waste of time, but I can say that just making up our minds not to be negative about it has made a huge difference. Hope you guys have a wonderful new year’s celebration!

  9. Glad you are enjoying your time off. It’s tough to keep quiet about finances when you see others, especially family members, going down the wrong path. I tried to broach the subject a couple times over the last week while visiting family, but I could tell they’re either not ready or just don’t get it.

    As for my goals/resolutions, I’ve spent a lot of time lately learning about myself and what’s really important to me. This coming year, I need to figure out how to balance these desires with family responsibilities as I get closer to voluntarily leaving the workforce at the start of my peak earning years.

    • It’s so hard to keep quiet, because you want to help them! We have these weird taboos in our society where if someone is jeopardizing their health, you’d save something, but if someone is harming their finances, you stay quiet. Oh well… here’s to focusing on our own business. :-) I love that you’re really owning that self-exploration and figuring out what will make you happy long-term. Sending you guys good wishes for a happy new year!

  10. Your positive attitude is inspiring. We will be thinking about money a lot in 2016, because we want to make a drastic reduction in our consumer debt. This past year was focused on making changes to set us up for success – we bought new cell phones to switch to cheaper plans, we took care of some big expenses like the new roof, and learned new things like how to garden and can tomatoes. Also, we took some time off to welcome our third child into the family. As we enter the new year, we are ahead on our bills and ready to make more money and save more money so we can kick ass in the debt department.

    PS – the pictures on this blog are beautiful, keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks, Harmony! Seems like a bunch of great reasons to focus MORE on money — sending you good vibes to crush that debt and save more money. Happy (early) new year!

  11. I try not to stress over the decisions made by friends and family, but its tough. I’m pretty good about only worrying about what I can control, which is evident by the fact that I don’t flinch when the equities markets are basically flat all year. I just control the heck out of what I can, and what I can’t I just try and let be. I sometimes will try to slip in words edgewise when I see people going down a path which I wouldn’t necessarily want to, but you can sense quick when they want your advice or not. Here’s to only trying to control what we can in 2016!

    • Hear, hear! To focusing on what we can control! You’re so right, of course — it’s quickly obvious if people want to talk about money or not, or take advice. Happy (early) new year!

  12. Terrific photo(s)!

    Be careful on how you think about the loan to bail out a family member. Assume you won’t get the money back. I went into one of these with the best intentions, only to have everything everyone warned me about come true. As long as you think of it as a write off from the start, you’ll keep your positivity.

    • Thanks! Yeah, totally hear you on the loan. We are heeding all of the conventional wisdom and advice, and know there’s a chance we won’t get it back. We have a double back-up (cosignors and a guarantee against an inheritance that is getting written into a will) that is providing enough insurance to be willing to do it. But we still know that this stuff is tricky and messy.

  13. Not to totally post a comment that ignores the theme of your post of being optimistic and seeing the best but D*#%! I’m jealous of that picture. We’re still waiting for our first turns of the season with temps in the 5o’s through the weekend, though we have been hiking and rock climbing outside in December so I guess we’ll just have to learn to appreciate that. Happy holidays and enjoy your vacation!

    • Yeah, sorry. :-) But you know we’ve had a bunch of rough snow years in a row, so we kinda feel like we earned this snow the hard way. Hope you guys get some colder temps soon and some snow, but glad you’ve still been getting out there in the meantime. Happy new year!

  14. Can I just say that I’m thrilled you used the phrase “super duper grateful” – I am ALL about that! :) Congratulations on such a great year, and wahoo! You two are so so close to your early retirement. I have a few goals for 2016 – but I have been striving to work on living each day intentionally (not just at the beginning of a new year). This year, this is what I’m trying: I’ve written about 15ish goals for 2016 in the back of a journal. I’ve set it down. I have action plans in place, but none so much that will drive me mad. I’m trying to find a great balance! Two years ago, I was the “yes” person where I took care of others way too much before myself. This year I learned to say “no” more, and focused more weighted towards my individual goals. For 2016, I want to find that optimal point between the two where I can approach independent milestones & not lose sight of helping others consistently along the way (not just sparingly). I feel as if my fiancé & I have an awesome system right now, but there are others close to us that could use some help that yes, may delay some of our goals a bit – but it supports our values of helping those when they need it. It’s a fine tuning process, but that’s the beauty of it!

    • Haha — Yeah, it’s my inner (and sometimes outer) goofball that made me write “super duper.” :-) Your goals for 2016 sound great, and very grounded. I love that you have such a strong orientation toward helping others, but I’m also glad that you are learning to say “no” — that is SO important in life! You guys are going to have such an exciting 2016 — can’t wait to follow along with your journey! Happy new year. xoxo

  15. Love the blog, the photos and following your journey! Thank you for sharing, it’s great to tag along. As far as resolutions, I’m not usually a resolution person, but I’m changing that up for 2016 and resolving to hold monthly non-fixed expenses to a certain amount. I tend to be very casual about expenses like groceries, particularly since I work so hard at frugality in other areas (read: rationalization). I’ve noticed quite a bit of slop developing in the variable monthly expense area, and since we have a goal of never touching the principal in our investments except for big ticket items (new roof and gutters, for example), it benefits us to build up a healthy reserve account on a month to month basis, something we’ve lagged on doing as we get our feet wet in retirement. Limiting groceries and fuel to a fixed amount every month will create better cash flow and hopefully reduce waste, two great goals for 2016. Once you begin living on a fixed income it’s very easy to justify spending all of what you’ve budgeted every month, but there’s actually plenty of room for improvement around here and I’m looking forward to making progress toward an eventual 50% savings rate in retirement.

    • Thanks for that! Your goals for 2016 seem like great ones — we had been the same on the grocery front until we started tracking groceries more closely — so I understand! And that’s such a good point that you can easily justify spending your whole budget even if it’s not necessary. We’ll have to prepare ourselves for that tendency, since we don’t currently budget. Good luck hitting your goals!

      Happy new year!

  16. Wow – It is unbelievable that you get to look at landscapes like your picture all the time. That is one of the unfortunate things living in Wisconsin – while there are some beautiful areas, there isn’t a lot of diversity when it comes to landscape.

    I love your plan to try and see the best in everything. I have been trying to do that, especially seeing the best in people, more and more. Life is to short to sit around judging people around you. And you never know the demons that they might have in their lives that you don’t know about. Be kind and treat everyone with respect and life will be that much more enjoyable. Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

    • It’s not like that’s the view from our house or anything. :-) But yeah, we know how lucky we are, because we both grew up in much flatter places!

      Also — you’ll be so proud! We both just got all of our expense reports in for 2015! We’re completely caught up. ;-)

      Love the way you’re thinking about things, and you’re so right that everyone is dealing with challenges. Happy new year to you and your family!

  17. Sounds like you have another great year planned out filled with fulfilling priorities! We’re happy to hear you had a great 2015 and just wanted to say we think you and your blog are pretty great, too! We have similar goals for 2016 and can’t wait to get started. Thanks for a great year of posts and looking forward to next year’s!

  18. I gave myself a coffee mug for Christmas that says ” Find Joy In Each Day” (big mug, lovely colors). Since my habit is morning coffee as I journal, it’s how I will remember this year’s resolution! I’m into year 2 of my early retirement, and still adjusting to the new lifestyle. I commend you for how you are working towards your future, from paying your retirement fund before you see the money ( we did the same!), to still living life and not delaying gratification (we did not). But, now I am learning how to live each day looking for the best… and really loving it. Happy New Year!

    • Thanks for your sweet note, Pat! I love hearing how it’s all going for you, so please keep sharing your journey with all of us. :-) Your resolution sounds great — and that mug sounds like a perfect way to remind yourself each day. Happy new year, and good luck with your continuing journey!

  19. I really enjoy your photography, continue the great work!

    Here we are too early in our FIRE thinking process to avoid thinking about money.
    However I have to really rethink the way I manage my time. With a toddler at home, we are really having a great time, but this is much much harder to organise to get extra stuff done (At least for my part!). So for the moment, I mostly rely on my photography archives!

    So for 2016,
    I think I’ll have to make an effort to avoid little time waster, in order to make the most of 2016.
    And we are really looking forward to go hiking with MiniRR in a backpack! (However I suppose it will mean leaving the real camera behind…).

    Happy New Year!

    • Thanks! Thinking more about money makes sense for most people, and is not a bad thing! Good luck getting things done in 2016, and taking Mini RR out in the backpack! We are almost always happy just to have a cell phone camera, and never wish we had our “real” one. :-)

      Happy new year!

  20. That is an awesome picture. iPhone too – wow! 100 posts in 10 months. That is incredible. I can’t even imagine – it took me two years to get there. Happy New year and looking forward to following along in 2016.

    • Thanks, MM! Honestly, we wouldn’t have been nearly so prolific if not for the incredible support and friendship of other bloggers like you — so thank YOU! :-) Happy new year!

  21. totally unrelated from post but related to your blog . . . ! Are you guys planning a big “reveal” at the end of your 24 months. Are you going to share your names? photos of yourself? I’m just curious, and I’d respect it whether you chose to reveal a bit more about your identities in this way or not.

  22. I can’t get over that you shoot all of these awesome photos yourselves! WOW!

    Shifting goals and trying to enjoy the process rather than just the destination is something that we’ve been dealing with/struggling with lately. We want to be free, but also don’t want to wish years of our lives away. Knowing that we’re going to be free sometime soon actually helps to make work more tolerable, and I have a feeling that it will be extra-tolerable when all of that money is going into our pockets and not to service debt! Yipee! I think that Choosing to work versus HAVING to work will give us a feeling that we’ve never felt before.

    We have similar goals for enjoying life and NOT obsessing so much over money, as it is quite a boring subject ;-) hahaha.

    Can’t wait to see what you stir up in 2016!

    • Thanks for the photo note. It is a fun hobby. :-) It seems like a super normal struggle — the tension between focusing on a future goal and enjoying the present. Not that that makes it easy! But getting out of debt will be awesome — can’t wait for you guys to get there (and for us to get there when we pay off the mortgage!). Here’s to great things all around in 2016! :-)

  23. There are indeed great pics on this blog. I even appreciate them more know that I know the source!

    One friend once told me to adapt our lifestyle to our income. I am happy we did not, but makes me also think to life now. My future self might be mad as well when he has no memories of great experiences.

    One if the 2016 unspoken resolutions would be to go ski again.

    • Thanks for the note on the photos! :-) Thank goodness you didn’t listen to that friend! Though we agree with you completely — you can’t put off living your life until you reach FI. Especially for you, with kids, it’s so important to make wonderful memories now — and we hope you can go ski again this year!