Back to the Future: 2010 End of Year Reflections

We were so glad to see the year 2010 come to an end – it still holds the record for the worst year we’ve ever endured financially. Everything seemed to go wrong that year, and it ended in the worst possible way – our beloved dog died. In spite of that, we managed to pay off nearly 40% of our debt, an amount that stuns me now. I’m still not sure how we accomplished that.

We kept going. Emergencies and other problems still reared their ugly heads in 2011, but nothing at the pace we endured in 2010.

2010 End of Year Reflections

Can I say again I will be so glad to see the last of 2010? I had hoped to be back online a couple of days ago, but our little guy, Tag, became sick again last Thursday evening and died this past Monday (the day after Christmas), and we have been grieving mightily around here. Tag was a dog happy to be where ever he was. Every person and every dog he met was a friend. To say we miss him doesn’t even begin to describe the depth of the sorrow around our home right now.

2010 will be remembered as the year of the emergency expense. Looking back, I just cannot believe everything that went wrong or needed to be fixed during the past year. We had to replace our washing machine and had both our oven and dishwasher repaired ($$$). Brett had three expensive dental emergencies, although the last one, with our new dentist, cost considerably less than we expected, and has us thinking we were perhaps being way over-charged by our previous dentist (actually, we did catch them padding the bill once . . . hmmm.). We sold one of our cars, but necessary repairs on the other turned out to cost double what we had budgeted along with some other unexpected maintenance. On top of everything else, there were all the trips to the vet and their accompanying costs. And, Mr. Losing It’s laptop gave up the ghost in November; we have yet to deal with that expense. We added up all that we spent on these emergencies this year and figured out that we could have had paid off two more accounts if not for having to cover all this other stuff.

There were positives this year as well. Brett got quite a large pay raise at the end of the year and received a nice end-of-the-year bonus from his company as well. We’ve paid off an incredible $26,317.75 of our debt, just a little over 40% of what we started with last year. We still have a long way to go, but three accounts were paid in full last year and closed and we are close to done with two more. Best of all is that we did not add any debt in 2010, and that makes me feel better than anything. I am so proud of the whole family because in spite of everything no one has complained, or whined, or did anything but contribute to our effort to get rid of debt.

Here’s what we accomplished in the last quarter of 2010:

  • Debt Paid: Total debt paid during the last three months of 2010 was $4031.71. One overdraft account was finally paid off, and we are now zeroed in on the other. As an added incentive to not use the overdraft account, our credit union now charges a fee if you have to use it (they want us to close it and switch to a credit card account – NO WAY).
  • Emergency Fund: What fund? Brett asked the other day, “What’s the point?” because it appears that as soon as we get something into it, something else happens to drain the account. Still, replenishing and building this account is a priority.
  • Meet the Grandson Fund: It’s a boy! We currently have $1,334. 50 saved for our trip to Japan next May. That will cover at least one plane ticket. Actually, fares are starting to drop now, and we should have enough for both tickets by the first of February. Both Brett and I need to get our passports renewed, but that expense has been budgeted in for January. Lodging and food while we’re in Tokyo are taken care of, but we plan to save an additional $1000 for other expenses (although this will not be a sightseeing/shopping type vacation).
  • Purchases: Other than Christmas presents, we bought nothing else this last quarter. I spent over an hour in Goodwill one morning and saw several things that were a good deal and would have been nice to buy, but we didn’t need them so I left empty-handed. What a change from the beginning of the year – I would have rationalized reasons to purchase everything. We spent just $600 this past Christmas and stayed within our budget. We still have to get Brett a new laptop but decided to wait until we get our tax refund for that as it will give him lots of time to shop around for the best price. The good deal from his company for buying one apparently ended earlier this year, but just as a fun point of reference, his old laptop, purchased a little over seven years ago, cost nearly $3000. These days he can get one with more features and more memory for around $800. Technology is the only thing that gets less expensive over time these days!
  • Groceries: I have been easily able to stay within our weekly budget of $140 this past quarter. I’ve pretty much gone back to bi-weekly shopping trips though, leaving some cash set aside for milk and produce shopping.
  • Meals Out: We had only one meal “out” this past quarter, and only because I felt so miserable one evening I couldn’t get up to cook and asked Brett to order some pizza. I have gone out for coffee a couple of times, but those were “business meetings” (school auction planning), and were paid for out of extra from the grocery fund. I received a Chinook Book for Christmas, and there are lots of great coupons for dining out, so I am hoping to get out a little more next year. Brett and I will be having breakfast at Bob’s Red Mill on Friday, for example – two breakfasts for the price of one!
  • Savings: Our annual summer camping trip is now fully funded! Beginning in January, the amount allotted for that fund will start going into an account for WenYu’s school trip to China in 2012. After our trip to Japan, funds that currently go into the Meet the Grandson Fund will go into building up the emergency fund.
  • Swagbucks: I used almost all of the ones I earned this past year for Christmas presents, but I’m saving again for some more Pyrex storage pieces. All of my referrals have maxed out, so earning Swagbucks will go more slowly this year.
  • Miscellaneous: Braces in 2011 for WenYu will be an added expense. I had originally wanted to pay for them with our tax refund, but since the payment plan offered by the orthodontist is interest-free, we’ve decided to stick with the monthly payment for the time being and use our 2010 tax refund to pay off an account that does charge interest!

Reading this post, one thing comes especially to mind: I recall how we lived in fear back then that Brett would be laid off (he worked in aerospace and layoffs happened more frequently than you might imagine). We were very lucky, and his job provided good benefits as well. What’s going on now because of the COVID-19 pandemic makes our predicaments look like child’s play, and my heart goes out to those who will struggle to cover daily expenses for themselves and their families and those having to postpone savings, retirement, and dreams of the future, let alone live with the fear of catching the virus.

16 thoughts on “Back to the Future: 2010 End of Year Reflections

  1. 2010 was awful. I was in holding pattern and there was absolutely nothing I could see to get out of it. First part of 2011 is when I lost my job and took me five months to find another almost three hours away. So 2011 was both the worst and the best. I am still in that “new” job here in 2020 and can retire at any time but probably won’t because I need to work longer for bigger pension. My, we have certainly been around the world in emotions and financial ups and downs in the past decade haven’t we? And you have traveled the world!!!!Who would have known in 2010? Hope your daughter gets home safely to Hawaii tomorrow.

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    1. I don’t think anyone ever really recovered from the losses endured during the Great Recession, which is why I fear so much for those who are losing everything now during the pandemic. You just never come back, at least not to the trajectory you were on. We ended up OK, but we lost a lot we never got back.

      This has been an incredibe decade – thank you for the reminder because I hadn’t really been looking at it that way. We certainly couldn’t have imagined back in 2010 how our lives would play out.

      Fingers are crossed for YaYu’s return tomorrow!

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  2. How timely is this post! We will need more of your wisdom when “this too shall pass” actually happens. Counting on you.

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    1. I think what people will be going through following this pandemic will be far worse and more difficult than what we endured. My life’s motto though is that everything always changes, whether it’s bad times or good times, and that we should appreciate them both for what they can teach us.

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  3. There is so much relevance in this old post. You should send this to a newspaper to have it published so more people who feel so lost and hopeless today may find a little hope that all this shall pass.

    These days there is a completely different perspective on things. We all have been through ups and downs and setbacks, diseases and life in general. But nothing got to be so abrupt as it is now -maybe just when my dad suddenly died I felt so off balance. Although I personally don’t have any financial struggles at the moment, I am deeply concerned about those who found themselves without any income just like that, in a blink of an eye.It must be terrifying for so many families, my goodness! And we don’t even know what’s next. Troubling times indeed.

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    1. What’s happening now will eventually pass – everything does. But what it’s going to leave in its wake is the great unknown right now. We may come out of this better and stronger, or we may not. We are currently standing on a fence pole and could topple either way.

      Abrupt is a good way to view how this overwelmed us, like one of those “”sneaker waves” we’re always warned about down at the beach. Lots of small, manageable waves and then suddenly a huge one capable of sweeping you out to sea. I feel for those who have been laid off, and especially here. We heard yesterday that the Grand Hyatt laid off 600 people and are getting ready to let more go – they are closed now through May 20. And that’s one hotel – all the others have closed down as well as restaurants and all other tourist activities. There is nothing else on this island for all those people to do, no where else for them to go. We are going to do our best to support local businesses and farmers, but even that is hard right now as most places are closed to shelter in place.

      And yes, we don’t know what’s coming next. We have an idea though, and it’s frankly frightening.

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      1. I am optimistic.
        I sitting here praying that your daughter’s flight is easy and you have her in your arms by the end of the day.

        One of the things happening here is the farmers are going to Facebook Market place. Tomorrow I will have to drive around a bit. I am picking up cookies, eggs, tomatoes and some beans from “farm stands”. They put out locations and bags ordered. Trust is hard- but it is happening here for safety.

        Today was my nephew’s last day with Hyatt until they reopen. That makes my brother’s entire adult family (four 20–30 yr olds) out of work. His ex wife is an emergency room nurse….and she is their huge support system. My brother is stepping up- even out of work. It is causing a wonderful new dynamic.

        The other thing? I am hearing about more 10-14 year olds who want to go into medicine–not for the money but to help. We could get our universal medicine in line for the future…

        It will be different, I am optimistic that the future is going to be better then the past.

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      2. YaYu is home (and glad to be back). I finally had to contact Delta and get her on a different flight because the one she was on kept getting cancelled or pushed on to another day. She had an easy trip, but it was a long day for her.

        I’m not on Facebook any more, but that’s a good idea for finding farmers. We’ve seen a couple of stands set up so will try and hit those one of there days.

        Our new landlord is the Ops Manager for the Grand Hyatt here – they’ve already laid off 600 and more will go soon. So many people are out of work but there are no tourists – it’s like a ghost town here, or maybe more like it was back in the 1960s. Nice in some ways but eerie in others. We are trying to support local businesses that are open as much as possible, but so many have closed. Such a difference from when we were here in January.

        The potential is there for a huge, more positive realignment in this country after this is over. I hope we don’t blow it.

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      3. Oh, wow. That’s the first hotel I ever stayed at in Hawaii. It was overwhelmingly beautiful, and in the days when DH had points from all his business travel. It’s hard to imagine what this will do to Hawaii given their tourism focus.

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      4. Hawaii is hurting deeply right now – so many out of work. Those with family ties here will probably make it, but there are so many others who won’t. It’s going to take years to bring it back, if it even can be done. And maybe in the long run that won’t be such a bad thing. IMO tourism here was growing out of control. Did Kaua’i really need five different helicopter tour companies? More condos but with no accompanying upgrades to the infrastructure? Without tourists, the water in Venice’s canals is clear again. The same may happen here – without tourism good things may return. It will be interesting to see how things develop here, what changes stay and what resumes.

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      5. I am so glad that she got home! Woo Hooo!.
        My great aunt lived by China hat – in the jungle. She and Uncle David had lived in the house since 1948. It was lovely and quite and very, very poor. Pearl was still quonset when we visited in the late 60’s. It would be interesting if things really retracted. I wonder how many recent immigrants (any ethnicity) would move on? It is going to be interesting.
        I wonder the same thing about universities. School, in general, may really change. It needs to anyway. We have moved from manual industry to technology. We need schools to catch up.
        But really, this is about, WOOO HOOO YaYu is with you!

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      6. I spoke with a local guy (from a distance) last night at the airport before YaYu arrived and he said it was like the old days now, and he wouldn’t be sad if it stayed this way. Of course, he was working.

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  4. It is so comforting to read this post from 2010. I believe that you are right that the current crisis will make the 2010 one pale in comparison. But your post does show that slow and steady wins the day. You made it through a challenging year without adding credit card debt – a lesson many could learn from today. When I went through my own challenging time, in the 1980s in the Rust Belt, I learned that it is easier than I would have thought to just stop buying. To this day I am something of a sock nut, owning way too many, in response to those years when I would not even buy a pair of socks as my old ones wore out. But I came through it with no credit card debt.

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    1. I think the best lesson I got from 2010 was to have a plan and then stick to it. Keep plugging along no matter what. Stuff happens – there’s no escaping it. Easier said than done though now, I think. This crisis may be a game changer though and new rules created. You can have a plan or plans and no way to execute them (what I’m seeing our girls go through right now).

      I still tend to overbuy food – I was always so afraid we would run out back then.

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  5. Such an interesting post looking back. That was a really tough stretch for a lot of us. I do agree this one has so many unknowns it’s hard to feel it will be back to any kind of normal soon. Whatever normal will look like.

    I was touched by your loss of your dog in the middle of all that. Our dog will be 13 next month, and he is nearing the end of his time. It’s making both of us really, really sad at a time when I’m already a bit overwhelmed. My DD in England has now been told her partner can’t go to any of her remaining midwife appointments, and she’s feeling the struggles that are natural with that last stretch of pregnancy…discomfort, anxiety, etc. It’s so hard not to be able to help her.

    Fingers crossed for YaYu’s arrival on time. 🙂

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    1. The loss of our little dog was a turning point for us – the whole year had been a struggle and then our beloved dog dies? We became more determined than ever to see the journey through.
      This time there seems to be so many unknowns . . . for everyone. We are all going to be changed somehow, but I hope for our country we turn in a more positive, unified direction. These past few years have shown how deep the rot is, but I believe we still have the power to heal ourselves going forward. Hopefully that’s the new normal.

      Thinking tons of good thoughts for your daughter, and hoping it all goes well. It’s a cliche, but this really is going to be one of those times when family stories and legends are made.

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