Self Improvement is Not All or Nothing

by Katy on January 1, 2012 · 42 comments

My project for 2012? I am going to put aside my found change and then add it all up on December 31st. They don't call me "Coin Girl" for nothing!

January first. A day of new beginnings. A day when citizens around the world reminisce on the previous year, and then look towards a new start and the lofty goal of self-improvement. Many choose to make new year’s resolutions, running the gambit from the ever popular lose weight and exercise more; to the increasing popular simplify my life and declutter my home.

Last year, I proposed a 52 Weeks, 52 Letters Challenge, which for me fizzled down into a 52 Weeks, 20-some Letters endeavor. To some, this may seem like a failure, but the challenge got me writing more letters than my usual two to three per year, which in and of itself was an accomplishment.

I am not an all-or-nothing kind of gal, as I see the value in the gradations of life.

I have worked very hard over the past few years to get my rather large house decluttered, and I am proud of this accomplishment. However, the house is not perfect. There’s still a constant rotation of untidy piles of papers in the dining room, as well as a basement full of miscellaneous Stuff that we actually do need to hold onto. But entertaining and hosting out of town guests is now super-easy, as tidying up is a breeze and my family’s possessions have actual homes. (When I was growing up my family made fun of people who said “A place for everything and everything in its place,” which made me think that this was not an admirable trait.)

My house is not perfect, but that’s okay. The messiness no longer gets in the way of welcoming friends and family into our home, even at a moment’s notice.

I’m not making a new year’s resolution for 2012, as I feel that self-improvement is a life-long process, without a January 1st start date that peters out by the 28th. Maybe others are able to keep their momentum going a full 365 days, but my resolutions never stuck and were a guaranteed recipe for losing interest.

I am going to put aside all my found change in 2012, and then add it all up on December 31st. This, I consider to be a fun project for Coin Girl, and has the potential to hold my interest. I have no idea how I’ll spend the money at the end of the year, and look forward to mulling over the possibilities. (Charity? A beach getaway? Savings?)

How about you? Are you taking on any lofty resolutions for 2012? Did you have one last year, and if so did it stick? Want to join me in keeping track of your found change for the year? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

And by the way . . . Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn D. January 1, 2012 at 10:19 am

We keep a coin jar on a dresser in the bedroom. When it is full we all (me, husband, son) guess how much is in it. Then we take it to the bank and they put it into their coin machine for free. Whoever guesses the closest gets to decide on a treat we’ll all enjoy.


Kate January 1, 2012 at 10:21 am

Well, there’s my perennial “eat more vegetables” resolution, but that one’s not very exciting. So, I’m going in a completely different direction this year – my resolution is to dress nicer – wear the pretty clothes and jewelry that don’t get worn because they might get ruined, and use the china and crystal that never get used because they might get broken. I’m already on it – I’m wearing my pretty green glass bead necklace today and just finished drinking my root beer from a crystal glass. Who knows, maybe I’ll even eat more veggies if I get to eat them on pretty china. 🙂


Katy January 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

I love this! Thank you for sharing.



Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary January 1, 2012 at 11:37 am

That’s a great resolution! I made a similar one myself a few years ago, and we have been enjoying my grandmother’s crystal goblets and some of her jewelry as well. If it’s going to sit in a drawer, I figure why even have it?

Happy New Year!


Alyssa January 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

Donna Freedman from MSN Money collects all her found change and donates it at the end of the year to the soup kitchen that she and her daughter used during rough times.


Katy January 1, 2012 at 10:24 am

I saw that on Get Rich Slowly, and it was my motivation.



Brenna @ Almost All The Truth January 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

I don’t really believe much in resolutions and think a new year is slightly arbitrary to make changes, however I do like trying to think about a fresh start and an evolution from the past year… so I try to change my perspective one step at a time and strive for it to bring about positive change.

I tend to fall into a pattern of all or nothing and that is something that never sticks. My lifelong journey is bringing me to be a believer in baby steps.


Lisa January 1, 2012 at 10:38 am

I’ll be following Zen Habit’s lead by making mini resolutions this year…one per month. The big resolution each year just doesn’t work well for me. I fizzle out quickly then feel guilty about it. With mini resolutions it’s easier to stay focused and not be overwhelmed. By the time the month ends, the new habit is usually firmly ensconced. And sometimes it’s not something new…just something that needs improvement. For instance last month I made dental hygiene a priority. This month I’ve resolved to get rid of at least one item every day from my home. (If this one sticks, by next January there will be a lot less clutter around here!) Even if all the resolutions don’t become a lasting part of my life there’s a good chance that several will!


Northwest Writer January 1, 2012 at 10:40 am

Lisa…that’s a good one…I think I’ll use that!


Northwest Writer January 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

We do the same thing in our household. Everyone holds onto their change…mom and dad have a jar…the kiddo has a jar, too. And at the end of the year we take it to the bank, turn it into cash (everyone’s) and buy pet food and cleaning supplies for the local animal shelter. Our little one has been an integral part of it – last year and this year, we even took him in to see the animals he was helping (he’s 4). He totally looks forward to putting change he finds into his piggy bank (“I found some money for the doggies and kitties who have no homes!). It’s a great idea. We usually make around 75$ – 100$ just in loose change!


Megg January 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

I participated in the 52 letter challenge and though I didn’t keep track of how many letters I wrote, I did manage to write at least 1 a month, which is definitely up from 2010! I’m going to try again this year and keep track.

I’m also resolving to enjoy the time with my husband before we have kids. This isn’t necessarily a frugal resolution, but I think it’s attainable 🙂

Thanks for inspiring me in the letter writing challenge! It was so fun that I’m doing it again, and maybe I will try to save the change I find all year as well!


Katy January 1, 2012 at 11:09 am

And thank you for the letter you sent to me!



Abby January 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

I too set a goal for myself to empty all change and one-dollar bills into our coin jar and count it on Dec 31, 2012. I also decided to keep a list of non-frugal things I would like to with the money throughout the year and then see what is still appealing after the wait.

Reading the other comments about donating the money, however, is making me feel greedy.


Cheapchick January 1, 2012 at 11:13 am

I like the coin girl suggestion – I may have to try this too.

I made a Mantra for 2012 – all the frugal ways we are spending the year as we are about to quit our jobs and move to Vancouver Island – taking at least six months off in the process. Things like growing veggies, cooking from scratch, buying used, making do with what we have, free activities. Happy New Year!


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary January 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

I *love* Vancouver Island. I have no idea what cost-of-living is like there, due to the fact that it’s, you know, an island. But it is a beautiful and calming place. Wishing you much luck in your move!


A. Marie January 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I think you’re wise to keep your “non-resolution” small and enjoyable. We’re all only human, and anything that (1) feels overwhelming and (2) feels like punishment is highly unlikely to be achieved.


Van January 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I love your “counting found change” challenge. I do think I shall set aside a kitschy coin bank to do just that. I have a big mod “Las Vegas” one suited to the task…

I believe in constant improvement and always make daily goals, but I am seduced by the new year and the proverbial fresh slate it offers. Last year I did purge stuff, eat healthier, and get more organized. This year I’ll continue those trends while taking being a creative, penny-pinching thrifter to the next level.

And it shall be fun, I tell you! 🙂 I shall continue to read the blog for inspiration.


Katy January 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm

As long as you don’t take all your found change to Vegas. 😉



Dogs or Dollars January 1, 2012 at 5:20 pm

What a good reminder to be more comfortable with ourselves, and the shades of grey we all occupy, regardless of our best intentions.

I’m with Van on on this. I’ve got goals. I like goals, and I truly believe making them helps me succeed. Although, Im good and squishy when it comes to deadlines, and I’m all about the try, try, try again. After all, if it was important enough to be a goal in the first place, it’s worth a little persistence.


Jinger January 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

My main resolution is to put all my sundry income…. surveys online, odd jobs and craft sales into savings to save the full amount of my rent increase for this coming year. It’s a challenge to myself. Maybe, I’ll even add in found change!


Renee January 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to you, I read American Wasteland. Already on my journey to cut food waste, well, all waste. I have started a worm bin, and am just more aware of taking responsibility for what I throw out.


Katy January 1, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Glad to hear you liked the book!



Beaner January 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Our family resolution is to cut out food waste. Just had to throw out uneaten raw shrimp worth $6.21. Would I ever throw cash in the trash? Yet, this is what we’re doing. Will keep track for next year.


Susan January 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I can’t do all or nothing either. Things have to happen for me in small bite size manageable pieces. My resolution is about decluttering and finishing projects!
Also, getting married on a tiny budget as well…


Karin January 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Katy, I love your approach to non- or rather small resolutions. You have made so much progress with yours over the years! Yesterday I returned my copy of “The Scavenger’s Manifesto” (by Anneli Rufus) to the library; I hadn’t finished it but liked it so much that I ordered my own copy. Were you the one who recommended it? If not, it would be right up your alley! It was only after I’d read the first few chapters that I realized that even I had been put off by the word ‘scavenger’ until now, though I’ve been buying secondhand for many years, bartering and using the “Free Store” we have on the small island where I live . . .

Happy New Year to you, too!


Renee January 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm

A couple of months ago, I found a copy of this book at Dollar Tree for…….$1. Not sure if they still have copies.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I don’t dare to make resolutions, because I fear I won’t keep them, and I don’t like feeling like a failure. I like your view of it, just to make some progress.


joanna | 365declutterchallenge January 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I make resolutions, but only little ones. I write down my personal and work goals every month. Little victories!


Practical Parsimony January 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Just today, I posted my goals for the next year on my blog. Physical and mental health are the two biggies. Basically, losing weight, surgery, and avoiding people who are bullies are my goals. I won’t be operating on myself.


Linda January 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I’ve been setting aside the coins I pick up for quite some time. At the end of the year I give it to charity.
2006 $10.86
2007 $4.92
2009 $6.39
2010 $3.78
2011 $8.70


Carla January 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm

With my husband, we have resolved to do two pretty big things: to adapt compact-like behaviours – doing the compact full-on feels intimidating – which is very compatible with how we’ve been managing. So we’re resolving to first ask ourselves these questions when we identify a need, or a want for that matter: do we really need it? can we use something else for that purpose? can we get it for free? can we borrow it first to try it out? can we buy it used? if we must buy new, then wait for a sale and buy the best price-per-use we can afford. And, second, now that we have no debt (yey!), to build up a reserve fund and a travel fund. Our reserve fund is already 20% of the way there.


Chris January 2, 2012 at 2:28 am

“It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get. ” (Annie Dillard: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek p. 22)


Marianne January 2, 2012 at 3:08 am

2011’s resolution was to organize all my paper photos, scan them, and store them on an online photo site. My husband lost many of his childhood photos in a fire when he was a teenager, and i want to know no matter what happens to my camera, laptop, or photo album, my photos are protected. i have a groupon to mixbook to make a scrapbook of my favorites.
this years is to use my wii more. i’ve had it for a year and only used it a half dozen times and i really want to focus on the yoga program to feel stronger and more relaxed.


D. Savage January 2, 2012 at 6:54 am

Katy, Love this post!
We did the found money savings thing several years ago. We ended up with 14.97, or there about. Not a big deal, but found money is FREE money. We still pick up change when we find it.
I did write some goals, not resolutions,down for the new year. I feel a need to answer to myself. They are: Lose 10 lbs. Practice the banjo every day; save more money; and garden better. After each goal, i added ways to help accomplish each one. For example, under lose 10 lbs. i wrote “walk every day; cut back on cola.( Is my type A personality shining through?)
Thanks for this post!
Happy 2012!


Lisa Under the Redwoods January 2, 2012 at 6:57 am

I usually don’t make New Years resolutions, but this year I have decided to do the “light” version of the compact. I am only going to buy new items every other month. In the odd months, I will participate in the compact. In the even months I will allow myself to purchase items new, but no stocking up for the odd months is allowed.

I have done this before and I found that once I went through a cycle or two of not buying, I would go through my “can buy new months” without purchasing anything.


Madeline January 2, 2012 at 10:20 am

I have decided to simplify my life and my new year’s goals.
1. De clutter all areas of my home by the end of the year.
2. Focus on my health above all else. Exercise more. Eat better.
3. Don’t worry .Be Happy.

That’s it.


Nicole @ Three 31 January 2, 2012 at 11:30 am

Katy, I’m really excited about beginning 2012 and the 52 Letters, 52 Weeks project – you can read my post here, I wish you the best in your coin challenge, that sounds like a scavenger hunt …. FUN!!!!!

Happy 2012,


Ellie January 3, 2012 at 8:18 am

I’m going to continue to try to mostly do things that I’ve been trying to do for some years now – which is the way I work best. Any sort of absolute (“from now on, I will ONLY do this” or “I will NEVER do that”) tends to backfire for me, as I don’t deal well with “100% absolute resolution-as-of-today” type thinking.

Things I’ll continue to work on in 2012:
– Continuing to avoid buying anything I don’t need or won’t really enjoy, and try to acquire free or buy second hand as much as is reasonable. Since I don’t get excited about malls and shopping, this isn’t that hard.
– Composting!! I haven’t been composting (due to inconvenience of cramped apartment living), but now that I have more room I can’t wait to start. This will definitely happen this year, as I love gardening-type stuff. Also, I’m going to grow even more food this summer than last – because it’s fun and tasty!
– Keep up my “do the best you can” exercise schedule, which seems to work for me. I usually manage to get in some exercise at least every other day, even if it’s just a brisk walk in the park or around the neighborhood. That’s not bad.
– Try and get through more of the unpacked boxes from the move that we still have sitting in the attic. A lot of the stuff may be get-rid-of-able, but I still have to sort through it. I’ve been taking my time, figuring as long as I get through a box or two every few months, I’ll be done eventually. I can already see the progress from a year ago, however lackadaisical my approach.

And one new idea:
– I’m totally stealing Kate’s idea from above, and I’m going to try more often to use the “nice stuff”! I inherited a bunch of nice china, linen table clothes, and real silver that were just too pretty to get rid of, and which had some sentimental value too. Even if I don’t use them every day, I am TOTALLY going to start using them for the days on the weekend when we take the time to make a “nicer than usual” dinner, and when we have friends and family over, even if it’s not a “fancy” event.


karen January 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

My resolution is to try and let go of the “all or nothing” mentality that always causes me to fail in my new year’s resolutions!


Susan January 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Just today my 4-year-old spotted two “dollars” in the grocery store parking lot. Dollars?! I had to walk back to find them. Turned out to be 2 pennies. All the same to him! Good reminder that found money is fun even when it’s a small amount.


Penny January 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Love it! I’ve been saving all of the money I’ve found on the ground since I was unemployed a few years ago. Now, employed and I’m still going! About to start on my second jar! It’s fun when you find the BILLs too!

I recommend looking for money at….

Target (always find loose change there, always!)
The Bars on Weekend or Party-esk Nights (people infused with alcohol tend to be more careless with larger bills!)
The Grocery Store/Coffee Shops/Mall Food Stands (anywhere near cash registers)
Gumball/Pop Machines (I guess people either don’t notice or are too lazy to pick up what they drop??)

And so much more!! I’ve saved up a few hundred dollars and have YET to figure out what I want to do with it. Interested to hear what you decided to do with it – maybe it will give me a few ideas! 🙂

Have fun!
Penny (@HomelessPennies)


busy little bee January 3, 2012 at 5:13 pm

My new year’s resolution is to take my thrifty-ness to the next level. I started reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette today. I hope to get some new ideas from that.


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