Planning for 2011 - The Time is Now

posted on: January 2, 2011

I consider myself to be a pretty fearless person.

After all, I don't mind: going swimming on a beach where sharks have struck before, jumping off a cliff while showing my chunky body in a swimsuit on youtube, scaling a rock climbing wall even if I don't have the right shoes on, letting people see my house when it's not the cleanest it could be, going out in public when I look less than stellar, sharing my ideas even if they get criticized, trying a food I can't pronounce and have never seen before, dancing while I'm waiting in line, bursting into song when a good tune pops into my head, or being the first to offer a hug to a complete stranger. Yeah, I think that makes me pretty fearless...

Except that there are still some areas in my life where I'm holding on to a bit of fear.

It's time to take the plunge!
(video taken by Leigh Miller, at the Rockhouse in Jamaica)

Money. That lovely bartering system made of paper, metal, and plastic that we've devised as a society to help us trade goods and services. As I mentioned in my 2010 year end review, money no longer controls me... but that was only half true. While I no longer have an emotional attachment to money, it can still hold me back from doing something really risky. Those student loans will never go away on their own- nope, not even declaring bankruptcy will take care of those bad boys (and I'm not advocating that bankruptcy should ever be an option.) While I managed to pay off my car loan in 2010, I did not manage to make significant progress on my other debt. Debt that has been lingering since those lovely college days of overspending with the promise of making it all back when I got a "real job" and the early days of starting my business when buying that expensive lens today was OK because it was going to be paid off with the next job.

Problem was, I was making the money I needed, but I wasn't paying things off.

I can't even really tell you why I was only paying minimums on my credit cards when I was able to afford more, other than I always wanted to have the most fun I could at any given point in time. I didn't want to subscribe to the idea that life should be enjoyed after I was wildly successful- it should be enjoyed right now in whatever way possible. I wasn't thinking about the longer term things in life like buying a house or preparing for a comfy retirement- I was fully invested in living right NOW to the fullest enjoyment and indulgence without a care for what tomorrow brings. After all, the world could end tomorrow- why stress about it today?

Who wants to pinch pennies when you can attend a rock concert in Norway?!

Here's a little something from Sondre Lerche, who I was able to see play live in... you guessed it... Norway. ;-)

It wasn't until I dreamed a crazy big dream that my priorities started to change.

Suddenly life wasn't about me being able to indulge every moment in whatever I wanted. My hedonistic ways shifted to a philanthropic vision of helping others find the happiness and joy that I've been able to find. No, not through racking up credit cards and only paying minimums, but from feeling an internal sense of success and confidence in the things that make each person unique. So far, I've been fairly successful with this "mission" by utilizing several outlets: - to help photographers be more successful as small business owners - to help support artists and creatives in my local community
• business coaching and mentoring other artists and small business owners to develop sustainable profitability and make smarter business decisions
• teaching and mentoring students in low-income areas to find confidence in their unique gifts and talents through the creative arts
By many standards, I've already achieved a certain amount of success toward my goal... but I'm not satisfied.

I know I'm capable of doing more and helping more people.

One of my great big crazy dreams is to create a creative arts community center in my lovely town of Lowell, MA. A place where people from all walks of life and backgrounds can come together to take a class in the arts and develop their personal creativity to become a more confident and empowered person. We have a lot of the ingredients needed to make it happen already- but right now people are buckling down just trying to keep the awesome culture our city already has going strong through rough financial times. While I know there are other people who share my mission and are on board with it, I also know

I am the only one who has the drive, desire, and total vision to actually pull everything together to make it happen.

The only thing holding ME back is that I don't have the finances to make it happen because of all that fun I've been having when I haven't been blogging. In order to get the finances to make it happen- like a bank loan or venture capital investments, I need to show that I actually am very capable of being responsible with money. Which starts with paying off my debt. How much? Five figures worth of debt. *gulp* Yep, just thinking about the amount makes me want to throw up a little. You know what's even crazier? I want to pay it off in ONE year.

I'm just a little bit terrified that I'll fail.

After entering the numbers in the CNN Debt Reduction Planner Calculator, I received a strategic plan for paying off the debt in the amount of time I specified: one year. Oh boy. This is not for the weak, that's for sure. It's also not for people who love their luxuries, as I have over the last few years. It's for the disciplined, the frugal, and the people who love to just collect money and watch the numbers stack up in their accounts.

It's for the Warren Buffets of the world.

To this date, I have not been one of these people. However, I know ordinary people who have done it, and I know that I have their support. I know what adjustments they made and how it forced them to be creative with what they already had. If Warren Buffet could live out of his car when he wanted to save money by not paying rent, than I can make more lattes at home and eat out less. But I'm not going to give up my 69¢ wash & fold laundry dude- because he actually saves me money! Just knowing that this will stretch my creativity and force me out of my comfort zone makes me more excited to do it. I no longer see it as a restraint on my fun, but rather an an adventure in doing even more with even less.

Bring. It. On.

I am publicly declaring that this journey starts now and I will be documenting my successes and challenges along the way. If you would like to join me on this journey- please comment and declare your intentions as well- or just let me know that I have your encouragement. Together we can make this happen. Together we will challenge ourselves to have more financial freedom by doing more with less. Let's do this. Let's light some fireworks:

One more thing before I go- I have a second crazy big goal for this year as well: To help 20 small businesses earn 20% more revenue in 2011. I'll share more about that later, but I wanted to make sure you knew that it was coming. ;-)

14 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Anne,

    I love what your doing! My husband and I are working on a goal similar to this, as far as wanting to be debt free! It is such an exciting and scary thing, but will be well worth it!

    Also I can't wait to hear more about your 2nd goal!!

  2. Your honesty and openness are so refreshing and inspiring. I know I have to take a long hard look at my situation, and wipe the fear off my windshield to see the path clearly - but its SCAWY! :)

    I can tell you're going to have an INCREDIBLE 2011, and can't wait to hear more along the way. PS - I love your 2nd goal, looking forward to more on that!

  3. Anne,
    I hear you! I"m down to 2 cc balances left and its been a long journey. I would love to shorten it up but I cant do it one year - perhaps 2? hmmm... Thanks for the link top that CNN site.

  4. Anne,
    Congratulations on the new plan and your inspiring posts on where you've come from and where you're headed. I'm so excited and encouraged by you, since in many ways we (my family) are in a similar situation to you. All my prayers and best wishes, and do feel free to call/write/whatever if you need a word of debt-reduction encouragement (or commiseration).

  5. This is SO PIMP. I am goin with you on this ride, I don't think I can pay off my families debt in a year, but I can make a plan and get started! Can't wait to go with yon on this ride!

  6. Wow Anne! I didn't realize what you had planned BEFORE starting your community art center. Good luck to you!

  7. Dear Anne,
    Good luck and God Bless on your plan! I'm developing my business plan right now for my photography business and I can't agree more with your goals.
    Here's to your success and I can't wait to read your "Reflecting on 2011" blog about your achievements!

  8. All on board! Wow, very honest and inspiring post. You have my encouragement. I can't wait to read your future post about 0 credit card balances!

  9. Neat! Ali and I are trying to pay down almost $70k this year! >>>

  10. Anne, you are one of my heros - I am so thankful that there are people like you out there who are so talented, but yet so open and honest about your struggles.... as a fairly new photographer, I find this to be such an encouragement. Thank you for all that you do!

  11. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Wait, Anne, I am totally confused.  

    First can you please explain how you are able to help other businesses when you yourself have so openly struggled with having a successful business?  As I recall at one point it was taking you 12 months to get images to clients, and at another you were considering quitting the business all together.  Then I think you recently said that 2010 was not a good year for the business at all.  I'm not criticizing, just not sure how you can offer anything other than "what not to do" advice.  Can you elaborate?

    And secondly, to pay off how much debt?  Five figures can be 10k, 30k, 90k.  How much of your household income is derived from your photo business and how much from your husbands job?  How much of your income from the photo business is used to pay the households core bills?  This is an interesting post, with huge missing details.  I totally hope you full it off, but your only kinda, sorta being as open as you claim.  You are really leaving out some key data that would make this a really interesting story.

    Student loans are totally different than 75k in CC debt...  And paying off debt is a lot easier when your income is not the primary source of paying the bills.

  12. I love how your blog is so different from the others I have read. The difference is your honesty and vulnerability. Thank you for this inspiring post! My husband and I are just diving into Financial Peace. I find it hard to budget with the photography business. Oh, I have so much to learn and am looking forward to it! Good luck with your decision! I know it's exciting but it will not always be easy! Thanks again!

  13. Dear Anonymous.

    I appreciate your hard questions- many of which I have already considered- and I embrace the honesty and openness that it takes to answer them. I sincerely wish you had the honesty to give your real name when publicly and openly criticizing someone. What do you really have to lose? Aren't I the one in the vulnerable position here?

    First off - I have NEVER had a client wait 12 months to VIEW their images. The especially difficult project I experienced actually received ALL of their images on hard drive the DAY AFTER their wedding. I knew that it was going to take me longer because of the breadth and depth of work that needed to be done to meet that particular client's expectation, and made sure that they had their entire set of images immediately after the wedding regardless of what happened along the way. This is something that I've LEARNED from former experiences and was able to apply and anticipate in a new situation.

    I think all people go through a process of questioning themselves, their abilities as artists and as business owners. It is this fragile time that some people actually just give up. I was able to hold on, and I look forward to helping others who are in the fragile balance be inspired to hang on as well.

    I don't feel comfortable disclosing EXACTLY how much that number is and I hope that you respect that I do have a right to some amount of privacy for my sake and for that of my family. However, I am comfortable disclosing that we have shared the responsibility for the household income ever since I started my business, and that percentage has changed over the years based on situations, but that we are currently contributing 50/50 to the household.

    If you would like to learn more about me over coffee where I can be free to share less public details, I'm happy to do so, but I would need you to reveal yourself publicly first.

  14. This blog post needs a LIKE button!! I like it anne! :)


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