Will tap dance for feedback

By | March 7, 2016

Let me get the uncomfortable part (for me) out of the way first. I read Judge Judy’s memoir recently and this passage spoke to me.

Being fearless means standing up for yourself. Timidity does not make you happy. Women are notoriously bad self-promoters. I always understood this about myself, so I let other people toot my horn. I figured that instead of concentrating on ways to promote myself, I’d concentrate on excelling so that others would do the heavy lifting of praising me. That’s a good policy up to a point. It doesn’t mean allowing yourself to get stepped on. Sometimes you have to speak up because no one else is going to do it for you.

Thanks for the advice, Justice Sheindlin.

I’m asking for your help, my brilliant reader who is also susceptible to flattery. If you like anything I write, consider sharing it using the sharing buttons I found a couple of months ago that are now splattered around the site. Consider dropping the website’s name in casual conversation. Print out my articles and shove it under your neighbor’s door. Actually, don’t do that last suggestion; that’s a bit creepy.

If you have any constructive criticism, please let me know how I can do better. Non-constructive criticism (e.g. “your mama dresses you funny”) will be promptly deleted. I read every comment. I also read every email (and the nice ones I read many times when I start to doubt myself), but my reply rate embarrasses me. I apologize in advance. I realize how awful I sound soliciting emails with the caveat that I probably won’t write you back.

Goal Setting

Let me explain why I’m soliciting attention. I’m a huge proponent of goalsetting and measuring those goals. One of the reasons I like goal-setting so much is that you then have a clear picture of when you can celebrate. Everyone’s version of success differs, so normally the first step is to define what exactly you want and then you can, you know, go after it.

https://pixabay.com/en/man-karate-sports-kick-fight-160102/#_=_This tendency of mine to ferociously go after goals is why I’m so surprised at my inability to set any plans in relation to this blog. I don’t have any targets. I don’t measure my successes. In fact, I don’t think I would recognize “success” for my website if it came up and kicked me in the face.

I would like to aim high, but I also value realism. I have to keep reminding myself that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, failure is often a prelude to success. Or maybe a different route to success. Or maybe a different type of success. Or maybe failure is the kick in the face that you need to give up on the dream and focus on something else.

I don’t know why there’s so much face-kicking in this article.

I think the only time I’ve ever directly succeeded in my goals was when I tried to pay off my student loans and then when I went for financial independence. I feel like a bit of a fraud when people tell me that I’m inspiring based on that achievement alone because, frankly, those successes were not that difficult for me. I never valued consumerism and I don’t care for stuff. My tendency to eschew consumption coupled with my high salary made my journey relatively straightforward. That’s why so many of my rants denigrate depreciating assets. Once you value your time more than the crap offered at stores, you’re well on your way to mastering money. 

In thinking about what I want for this website, I dusted off an older post of mine and followed my own brilliant, yet somehow still modest, advice on how to set goals.

Dream: Create a successful website

whimsical rainbow

whimsical rainbow

Tip 1: Understand exactly why you want this dream to come true.

I want to feel like I’m making progress on making the world and my life better (and not necessarily in that order). I also do better with external accountability. I think this blog is a good way of kicking a variety of different attempts out into the void to see which ones ripple back well.

What I want for you and the world:

I want to entertain you. I want to help you change your habits when you realize money’s amazing superpowers. I want to challenge ingrained and unhealthy societal norms that just bug me. I want to share my mom’s delicious Indian vegetarian recipes with you. I want you to agree that this is the best food in the world and eat less meat. Or I want to inspire someone to stop spending money on crap and instead focus on making his billions by making meat in a laboratory that tastes EXACTLY like the real thing, but is 90% cheaper to produce with 90% fewer resources. I’ll be happy with either scenario. Especially if that someone names me in his or her billionaire club acceptance speech. That’s a thing, right?

What I want for me and my life:

I want to be a successful writer. I want to be widely-read and respected. I want people to consider me talented because (i) without constant reassurance, I will die and (ii) because talent helps tilt the scales of luck. I consider this site my “job” for this year and since I spend a good chunk of time on it, I want acknowledgement with aplomb. I like the word aplomb. Even after looking it up, I’m still not sure if I’m using it correctly.

I want to learn to cook and I want to make a cookbook because that would allow me to cross off Life Bucket List Item #6 (Write a book) AND Life Bucket List Item #3 (Learn to Cook Like Mom). Can you imagine how satisfying that day is going to feel?

And then there’s the ineffable part, I want a website that I’m proud of and that I would enjoy reading.

Tip 2: Break the dream down into smaller goals.

This is the scary part – setting actual goals down on paper, er the screen. As soon as you tell the universe what you are trying to do, that opens the door to the possibility of failure. When I set goals, the words of Marge Simpson always seem to run through my brain:



“Listen to your mother, kids. Aim low. Aim so low no one will even care if you succeed. Dinner’s in the oven. If you want some butter, it’s under my face.”

Failure sucks. It’s a gut punch to your ego and it just doesn’t feel good. But if you learn from the failure and persevere in the face of failure, it may lead to something better in the end through enhanced character or knowledge about yourself and your limits or some other silver lining voodoo people tell themselves when they fail.

Whenever the fear of failure challenges me to a staring contest, I dredge up some of my past failures to reassure myself that even if I fail, it’s only a moment in time and not the end of the world and not even necessarily the end of that chapter.

One Example of My Many Past Failures

I graduated law school in 2009 right as the recession was tampering with the economy. My firm offered me a paid year off to ride out the turbulence and I chose to spend that time seeing the world, working on life bucket list item #1. I first wandered around Europe for a month mostly solo and built up my confidence. Then I flew to Egypt with my sister and had plans to meet a friend in Thailand directly afterwards.


Don’t Bee Anxious.

Except I had a panic attack in Cairo, admitted defeat and flew back to Chicago to lick my wounds and berate myself for my cowardice. Two therapy appointments and three weeks later, I hopped back on a plane and flew to Australia and New Zealand for three months, collecting adventures like bungy jumping and working on a farm. I then road-tripped around the United States for a bit and lost my fear of traveling.

Part of the reason I kept going was because I had certain goals I made for myself at the beginning of the deferral year, a certain number of countries to cross off, specific life bucket list items to tend to and my all-consuming desire to draw a satisfyingly thick line across the paper signalling victory over my anxiety. I lost a battle in Egypt and returning to Chicago felt like a big, fat, giant manure-pile of failing. But I think I’m winning (won?) the war. That particular war anyway.

Okay, so I’ve made up a list of goals for this website. You can check them out here. I might fail. I might fail spectacularly. And publicly. It won’t make a lick of difference to you strangers reading and, as long as I learn something through the process, that should, theoretically, be good enough for me.

Whew. Scary! Anyone else terrified? Just me? Okay, then.

 Tip 3: Make time for your goals

Starting in March, I’ll set aside five hours a week on research and implementation on how to grow a blog. I’ll read the books, do the research, embrace the technologies, hop on those social medias, take more of these WordPress tutorial thingies, understand SEO, optimize my titles, document my progress, keep creating groovy content and whatever other crap I can think of.

Tip 4: Measure the goal

I’ll call this project Operation Big Time and put it on my resolutions chart. And of course, I also plan to update this page when it strikes me.

Wish me luck! Share my posts! Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter. Do something with me on Pinterest (I don’t really understand that site yet). I know that’s asking for a lot of things from you and you’re really only prepared to do one favor at this stage of my blogging. I prefer you wish me luck. A lot of people have talent. Not everyone has the luck. My choices are half-chance. But so are everybody else’s.

Update: I gave up on this goal a couple of months later. Read my ‘scuses here.

41 thoughts on “Will tap dance for feedback

  1. InsiderAccountant

    I wouldn’t be ashamed of chickening out of Egypt – my wife freaked out shortly after we arrived there and never really felt safe again until we left the country. And that was before all of the political unrest!

    I think it was something about the way even their officials were openly corrupt (and I’m talking about the immigration officials at the airport on the way in!) and the way that women were seen as pieces of meat that made her feel so uncomfortable the whole time. I never knew that grown men could be so reduced to their most basic animal instincts in such childish ways, but it was everywhere when you walked down the streets and she was wearing very conservative clothing.

    We have two daughters and we decided that we would pay for their tours with a reputable tour operator if they ever wanted to go there, rather than manage it themselves like we did. If you were there on your own I can see why you would have wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible!

  2. Allen

    There is nothing wrong with failure… there is only failure if you don’t try!
    I just started reading your blog. and i think it’s a wonderful perspective from a successful woman that inspires.
    I am retiring May 23rd and I hope your blog will help me stop spending on cr__p I don’t need and guide me through the retirement years.

  3. Josh

    I really like your writing style. There’s a ton of personal finance blogs, but you’ve got character. Keep writing! For every comment, there’s probably 10-20 people that feel the same way that aren’t commenting.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Katie: My hovertext over that link says “Username is Powerofthrift. That’s all I’ve done for it so far. Sorry I suck.” I didn’t put it in the actual article because I haven’t done anything for that and knew few people read the hovertext. 🙂

      To all the comments: I’m speechless, but I’m sitting at my computer blushing profusely. Your kind words brighten my life.

  4. Andy

    Hey Thriftygal, I really like your writing style. I laugh out loud more than once while reading every article. Normally, I never subscribe to anything and I actively unsubscribe with aplomb from any mailing list I end up on. I’m happy to remain subscribed to your site though. Congrats on being my first exception in years and years.

    I think you can pretty safely cross off bucket list item #13. It’s pretty clear to me that you’ve made a positive, lasting difference for almost 2000 people through this blog alone. We haven’t met, but I know my life is improved knowing you exist. A gal who shares my values, is funny, and bold enough to write a public blog? I’m so glad to know I could meet someone like you in person some day. I interact every day with people with such different values. It’s easy to feel crazy and that my views are so rare I’ll never meet someone who shares them. I feel less isolated because of you.

    And that doesn’t even count the people you’ve met in person. No doubt your upbeat attitude has had a permanently positive impact on hundreds of people, at least.

    So keep writing! I’ll continue to look forward to reading =)

  5. Ppd111

    I particularly enjoy your blog because there are not a lot of women doing what you are doing. I applaud your conviction and your courage not to mention your fierce independence. The blog resonates with me because I retired about 9 months ago and am working on my own life 2.0 plan and it’s great to see what others in similar situations are doing.

    I’m a “failed blogger” and have huge respect for those who can make it successful. For me the issue was focus. I was focused on too many other things and failed to make time to blog. So I guess my only suggestion would be to make and take time every day to collect your thoughts and ideas – the posts don’t always have to be long and eloquent. Just letting your readers know what’s happening is ok too!

    Best to you !

  6. Frog Meadow Creations

    I stumbled on your blog recently, and I can’t wait to open your link when you have a new posting. I like your writing style and your message. I am a long time vegan, so I won’t need to be converted in that area. Your perspective on finances has impacted us. We had a car loan that still had almost a year and a half to pay off. It will be paid off in 5 months instead of 17, because we are on a mission now and focusing our money in a new way. You influenced that change! We live in a rural area, so that is why we have one vehicle. If we lived in town, we wouldn’t even bother with one. Keep writing and thank you!

  7. Abigail

    Pinterest is the perfect venue for your cooking goals, and for sharing tips you may find while researching how to optimize your blog! I discovered you through Mr. Money Mustache–really glad to have found you!

  8. TJ

    I think you are being too hard on yourself without giving credit for reaching FI. Eschewing consumerism is natural to you, fine, but you still admitted to blowing $$$ on alcohol and other costly habits. That is an achievement worth being proud of, and all you have to do is look at your peers who will have to work until their 60s because they don’t understand the concept of prioritizing their spending.

  9. Idonia

    You are doing great! Already inspiring women like me to keep heading toward that goal of financial freedom. Keep up the great work!

  10. MrJones2015

    In my personal experience, stumpling upon new blogs i actually subscribe to happens almost exclusively when a blog is referenced or recommended in another blog im already reading.

  11. Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope

    I’ve been blogging for a year and a half now and am just starting to feel like a somewhat-successful blogger. Everyone is correct, it just takes time. Of course, you got an awesome boost by being featured on Mr. Money Mustache’s site. That, in and of itself, is a huge win! Keep the posts coming and you will notice a steadily increasing number of readers. FWIW – sharing is caring, and it goes both ways.

  12. TooTall457

    Enjoy your blog very much. Keep it up! Excellent ideas about thrift that make me think. I am a 68 year old but am still learning.

  13. Randy

    Great post and great blog. I find myself bookmarking your posts and reading them again later. I’m a practicing attorney and generally enjoy it, so my goals don’t involve leaving work, but the underlying goals you express (independence, happiness, giving back) are universal and I view your posts as inspirational.

  14. Angelle Conant

    Followed you on Twitter and I already follow your blog on Feedly! 🙂

    And as someone has already mentioned, I found your blog because of Mr. Money Mustache.

    Good luck! 😀

  15. Linda

    I like your stuff Thriftygal! Here’s a thought….. less attention to the goal/destination and more to the journey. 🙂

  16. Don Mertle

    I found your blog via the Mr. Money Mustache site. I found him in the New Yorker Magazine last week. My sense is that you will pick up a lot of attention, from his high profile. Since I do not visit any “social media sites” I can not help you that way. I realized long before Snowdon’s disclosures that the surveillance state fed on the information and personal connections they disclose. I can’t justify making their work any easier, so no facebook for me thank you. I did however immediately recommend you to like minded friends using my own methods. Happy trails.

  17. Cindy

    I also found your blog through Mr Money Mustache. I love it, thank you for doing it! I personally find myself quite discouraged that, as a 59 yr old widow, I feel that I have found this philosophy way too late to make much difference. I would dearly love to retire by 62, but there is no way to sock enough away that it could create income or be anything other than cash, which is good but…enough? IDK. If you or MMM would like to take me on as a project I would love to participate tho:)! Meanwhile I keep working in a job that I hate…

  18. Ally

    like Don Mertle, I eschew social media, partly for his reasons, and partly because I’m less worried about surveillance state than I am about corporations using and selling my data.
    That being said, if a rookie nfl’er can write a book about saving money http://www.marketwatch.com/story/financial-advice-from-an-nfl-player-who-lost-millions-2015-04-14, so can you.
    On the blog front, I think the key is posting often and having lots of content. (advice, teachings, pictures, charts). I would take a page from thepioneerwoman.com, who turned her little blog into a money machine by virtue of her cooking and camera skills, plus musings on her life. With cooking and camera, she could post how-to’s on the recipes and she also had a blog section on photography how-to’s in an approachable fashion. The photography lessons are now in an archive section with her recent (now very corporate) website overhaul, however, but that is after years of growing her following. Here’s her tips on blogging from 2010: http://thepioneerwoman.com/confessions/ten-important-things-ive-learned-about-blogging/ Or the Julie and Julia blogger.
    The popularity of Mr Money Mustache and the Tiny House phenomenon shows that your time for growing your blog is at hand!

  19. tim

    Politics and hard core ‘tude notwithstanding:

    Mike Cernovich @ danger & play; excellent advise for creating something from a standing start. (Another ‘recovering barrister’)

    I enjoy your musings.

    Consistent with Mike’s advise: write frequently. Your travel observations and ‘slice of life’ material are funny and entertaining. Integrated with your financial words of wisdom and backstory- a potential winner.


  20. AnnW

    I liked your comments about forcing yourself to do things and making friends. I think you should expand on this idea. With concrete examples. AnnW

  21. Ally

    Beyond my comments above, you are the only blog I have actually subscribed to (although I visit 2 or three others).
    That is so I catch your most recent riffs on frugality, recipes, and life

  22. Tissue King

    Oh, I get where you are coming from. I’ve wanted to ask my readers to also shout my blog name and push my ideas just as you started off.

    I enjoy your blog and continue to read so keep up the good work.

  23. Brad

    I got the sense from some of your earlier posts that you don’t do the social media or the website stuff because you don’t enjoy it. If you have a passion to learn that stuff, that’s one thing. But I don’t really get that impression. And you know what? That’s one of the traits I like about you and your blogging. Your attitude about that stuff is so different from a lot of the other bloggers in the personal finance sphere that have podcasts and ads and every single social media account pumping content. As much as I like to limit my consumption of things, I like to limit my consumption of information. It’s just too much. Your short and sweet blog posts are a welcome relief – something you can be sure I’ll click on. It seems that you are competitive by nature (not a bad thing) and just want to have the same type of recognition as bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache so you can feel like you’re successful. I say, if people like me are reading your blog, you’re probably already there. You have a niche here and that’s the most important thing. Food for thought.

  24. Thriftygal Post author

    Hi Brad, I really appreciate your comment and think you may be right. It’s March 7th and I’ve done….nothing for Operation Big Time except Tips 1 and 2. I’m supposed to spend 5 hours a week learning about building a blog and haven’t touched it yet. It *is* the writing that I enjoy more than anything and I could very well see myself failing at this goal of building a blog. I think that’s why I spent so much time going over past failures to tell myself it’s not a big deal. 🙂

    I can’t remember my Twitter or Pinterest password and have been procrastinating on touching those sites again.

  25. jan

    I absolutely love your humor, ramblings, charts and self therapy!
    Your blog is the dessert in my day of emails…please know that you are
    loved and read, and have influenced many…
    thank you for your efforts and inspiration
    Practical Pollyanna

  26. Aperture

    Thriftygal, I love reading your blog for some of the same reasons mentioned above – it is brief, personal, unpredictable and an opportunity to look deeply into the life experience of another human being.

    Counting views and being disappointed that you have only 10 or 100 or 1,000 or 10,0000 makes me feel a little bit icky. When I examine why I feel that little bit icky – I feel like I am being made into a means to an end, instead of being treated as an end. That is not my experience of your blog. You reach out as a quirky unique person and let others into your parlour where you share whatever is going on from your heart. That is lovely, passionate and wonderful.

    Please keep doing what you’re doing and also keep examining the desire for growth and success. Those are reasonable impulses, but may be a mismatch with who you are working through this medium. (Example – I worked as an oil painter in my 20s. I put paintings out in the world and felt great anguish because I felt like my soul was on display all the time and because I seldom got any satisfying feedback. It was like throwing a message in a bottle into the sea. Expecting that someone would read the message and come and rescue me was silly. It was a mismatch between my desire and the medium I was working in.)

    I really enjoy your posts. You are one of only writers that I read as soon as you drop in my email. I will put you up on my facebook stream. Thanks, Ap.

  27. Jason

    First of all, I love your blog and am so glad Pete let me know you had started it. You’ve got a unique style of writing that I really like – self depreciating, witty, corny at times, hard on yourself, and a tad stubborn. Reminds me a lot of myself I guess. Keep up the good work. I never comment on your blog (or anyone’s blog for that matter) but I read each post.

    As for the face kicking, I think you need to just keep doing what you’re doing – write about what you want, trust that you are making a difference, and enjoy the process without worrying about ‘success’. Hell, you’ve already achieved that title in my book. If you hadn’t busted your ass, retired early, set numerous goals throughout your life, traveled by yourself, blah blah blah you wouldn’t have time to spend on a blog in the first place. And you wouldn’t have the experiences many of your posts are based upon. The success of your life is revealing itself through the blog. That’s how I would look at it. Screw the blog analytics or whatever and keep on trucking as long as it remains fun.

  28. JR

    I look forward to reading your posts! I love your writing style and blog. It is inspiational without being preachy.

  29. walter

    hi Thriftygal,

    just be careful what you wish for. if you ask me, it sounds like after reaching FI, you want to work yourself into another job! as young as you are, there still is an urgency to live life in the here and now, which is the daily kick in the face i look forward to reading about in your blog. if the blog takes too much time, and time is limited… a bigger blog sounds like more time consumed doing something other than what’s listed on that bucket list.

    if you want to add something else to that bucket list of yours, what are your thoughts on purposely consuming bugs as a source of protein? i hear lots of bugs have way more high quality protein per ounce than filet mignon, at a much lower price! surely in your travels you may have jumped across a salted roasted grasshopper or two? smiling w/a grasshopper leg sticking out from between your teeth is more acceptable in other countries. bon appetite!

  30. Brittany Murphy

    For what it’s worth, I really enjoy reading your blog as I appreciate a down to earth, female perspective on financial independence and also like following your journey to make the most of your life and share it with others. I’m on a similar journey to live a frugal life while enjoying the crap out of it in a beautiful way.


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