Oh, hi.

You look adorable. Every single one of you. Did you do something to your hair? Is that a new shirt?

What a great looking bunch!

I’d like to thank all the little people who helped me get to where I was today. Wait, no, wrong acceptance speech. Let’s try this again.

Stage One: Young Grasshopper

It was with some trepidation that I joined the Yakezie challenge almost exactly one year ago. I’d been writing several times a week, and I was starting to find my voice. Some of the nice voices inside my computer (which, by the way, is how crazy starts) were telling me to join the challenge at Yakezie. As some of you probably know, that entire sentence could have been in Mandarin for all I understood. So, the voices sent links.

And the voices inside my computer were some of the nicest voices I’d ever heard. If I’m going crazy, it sure is pleasant. It took me a long time to realize that they were, in fact, linked to real, live, breathing people who I was happy to consider my friends. But that took a long time. At first, they were just little cute pictures with nicely worded pieces of advice.

One of the first things Sam ever typed to me was something along the lines of, “Wow, I’ve never seen a blog with two different captchas, you might want to consider changing that so that people can actually comment on your posts,” and I was sort of starstruck. You remember how girls used to swoon at Beatles concerts? Me neither, but I’ve seen the pictures, and I have to be honest, it was a little like that when the cool kids started commenting.

Stage Two: Gaining Traction

One of the best parts about starting at ground zero is that you learn so much, so quickly. After joining the challenge, I started talking to other bloggers. I started to understand what PR means, what Google juice means (FYI, it’s not in the cold beverage aisle) and which other numbers I could focus on.

I hit my stride with posting, too. I paid off the last bit of my “evil” credit card debt with a tax refund, and that gave me the confidence to start to tell others about how to get out of (and into!) serious amounts of credit card debt.

The best thing I did during the traction-gaining phase was attending #FinCon12. I went into it thinking I didn’t belong, that I’d be found out for a fraud, that people wouldn’t be as nice in person as they were on the computer, and I left with an entirely different perspective.

Pro tip, though? Don’t tell someone who’s writing you admire that she writes like she has lighter hair. You just end up looking like a doofus. Also, she won’t forget it.

I made connections with some seriously nice people at FinCon, and those relationships turned “friendly robots living in my computer” to “friends I can call/text/email/tweet/gchat” and for me, that has made all the difference.

Stage Three: Yakezie!

Now, I’m no longer a challenger. With this post, I’m a member of this friendly, intelligent, witty, and like I mentioned above, exceedingly good looking bunch. I’m still developing my tone, and I don’t know why some of my posts strike a chord more than others.*

It’s been an eventful year for me financially, which makes for good content. When I started, I still had some pesky credit card debt. Since then, I’ve saved half my income, maxed out my IRA contribution, paid off my student loan, and, by golly, I am darn near total debt freedom. I know I have Yakezie to thank for at least some of that success.

What is Yakezie (Yah-Ke-Zee)? one might ask. And if you asked me, aloud, I’d pay close attention to your pronunciation because I’m still not sure how to say it. But then I would tell you:

Let me put it to you this way. You know the Breakfast Club? (If not, then I’d make them watch the movie and come back so I could finish the analogy.) Imagine them, only cooler, if that’s possible. Talking about personal finance. And blogging. And community. And purpose. And instead of sitting on desks in detention, they’re eloquently writing about personal finance blogging. Because they like to. Some of the members of this cool club have even made a little (or a lot!) money off their passion. But ultimately, it’s a group of people who are trying to help people take control of their finances and live their lives better.

And I honestly couldn’t be happier to be a part of the crowd.

So, if you’re considering taking on the challenge, just jump on in! The water’s fine!

*Fun fact: of the 300-something posts on Frugal Portland, the one that gets read the most is the one where I try to see if it makes sense to date without pants. So, while many of my posts center around frugality, and some even talk about things to do in my fair city, I still don’t know what my audience wants. Or, maybe I do. Maybe they want me to talk more about dating.