2018 Year in Review
By all accounts, 2018 was probably my most significant year of growth as a person. The year was a wild ride full of many ups, a few downs, and I am thrilled to capture it all at a 50,000-foot view.
It always amazes me looking back 365 days how much changes, and how different my reality is from what I perceive going into a new year.
There were some significant milestones that I was able to accomplish:
- Published my third book, Docker for PHP Developers
- Paid off our only credit card 100%
- Launched a new retail makeup store at work
- Went to my first Laracon US
- Our son’s service dog Timber finished certifications
- Published my first video course
- Paid off my second car
My family picks a theme for each year, and for the past two years, our theme has been getting 100% out of debt. We made a TON of progress this year, and I am hoping that I can edge out a complete victory in 2019, although we might not finish until 2020.
I wish I could say that my wife and I stayed out of debt when we were younger, however, at the same time, we’re not horrible with finances. Just normal.
Our debt including two car loans, a credit card, and a student loan totaled about $94,000 (the student loan is about 50% of that) when we started getting serious about paying it off back in 2017.
It finally hit us in 2017 how difficult it would be to get ahead in our retirement and thrive without shedding every last dollar of our debt. We had some other needs like buying a service dog for our son, and I was hell-bent on not going into debt to do those things.
Our goal is to be completely debt free by the end of 2020, and we are on pace if not perhaps a little ahead.
Our most significant change this year was rolling up our sleeves and attacking our debt by working extra jobs. While 2018 was super prosperous for us financially, we treated our income with extra care, worked hard, and held off on buying new furniture and things we wanted with the extra income we earned.
Total debt paid off this year: $25,716.33
It started with paying off our only credit card in February and immediately closing the account.
We’re a cash-only family from here on out.
Here’s a sticker chart we’re using for motivation and tracking our debt paid. As you can see, we finished our second car (the top line) in October this year, and the first car is about $4,000 away from being paid off:
I didn’t realize what a good feeling it would be to finish paying off two significant debts in less than a year. On paper, it’s two fewer payments we have going out each month, but I can’t put into words how much freer we feel, in addition to the motivation paying our car off gave us in paying off the rest of our debts.
I can already tell that a debt-free life is going to be amazing! In some ways, having less debt had given us some substantial financial wins when we needed extra money in a pinch.
One of those needs came up this year, when we decided to buy and train a service animal for my oldest son. He has sensory processing disorder (SPD) and other needs similar to the needs autistic children face. We decided that a service animal might be something that helps him cope with these issues and anchor him when he feels “out of his space.”
We adopted this beauty Timber early in 2018:
She is an English Black Labrador Retriever and has the world’s best temperament. She picked up on basic skills and obedience super quickly and since has become fully certified in the state of Arizona as a service dog with full public access.
While I cannot judge how much the service aspect is helping my son yet, I can say that she is a steady, calming part of our family. There’s something specific about her that feels right for our family, and we’re grateful to have her as a companion for my son and our family.
Our middle son Masen has Dyslexia, so my wife started looking into diagnosing his issues and getting him the help he needs. She was able to find some excellent programs to help him with reading and comprehension and my wife ended up enrolling herself in some courses to qualify for teaching the programs to children with Dyslexia.
We paid cash for her classes, which felt terrific (see no debt above)! My wife finished her courses in August and started working for a company teaching two students (a fifth grader and a third grader) four times a week.
Not only did we take early steps to get my son the help he needs, but I am also so thrilled that at the same time my wife found something she’s passionate about! She has a knack for helping children with learning disabilities learn to read and better comprehend words.
I don’t like to mix my online presence with work, so I typically don’t mention much about work here (although I generally am happy talking about it offline if you want to know).
It’s just my style to keep it separate and so far has served me well.
I work for a makeup company that uses a direct sales model, and I am the lead developer on the platform that serves our retail customers and wholesale customers that sell our makeup through a replicated website we provide.
Early on in February, we launched a new retail store that I’d been working on since October 2017, and the launch went exceptionally well. We hardly had any hiccups migrating from the old platform, and working with Laravel every day has made it my dream job.
Our current platform is Laravel, Docker, and MySQL (with some PaaS stuff mixed in) and it is scaling exceptionally well. We had our biggest Black Friday of all time on the new Laravel platform, and the site performed amazingly through the busiest traffic we’ve had. Our customer base is growing steadily, and we’re super happy with Laravel as our platform!
The company has always had issues scaling during Black Friday, so they were super happy that our application stayed up the entire weekend without problems.
Laravel News has been a big part of my life this year. It was my first full year writing for Eric, and it has helped me tremendously. As I mentioned, I am working extra jobs to get out of debt, and Laravel News has been an integral part of that process.
Eric has also given me tons of encouragement along the way, and he is quite literally a part of how I was able to pay off extra debt this year.
As a writer for Laravel News, I am primarily responsible for getting out news around Laravel and other parts of the ecosystem. While sometimes I write tutorials and tips, I also cover news like Laravel releases and other releases around the ecosystem.
I can safely say that our traffic and readership growth was tremendous in 2018. Seeing our growth has grounded me in the fact that slow and steady posts are the best way to grow traffic, and that social media is secondary bursts in growth that die out quickly.
To date, I have about 290 posts published since starting at Laravel News, and I plan to continue this streak in 2019! We are also working on some other content ideas for next year! Stay tuned!
In January 2018 I published my third book, Docker for PHP Developers, which means I’ve averaged one new book each year for the last three years!
My launch went better than I’d expected, and you can see the high points in sales I had this year were January (my book launch), September (my video course), and Black Friday:
Selling courses is very top-heavy, where you make most of the money on launch, and then make a decent chunk on Black Friday too.
Next year I plan on spending more time building up to the launch and creating more anticipation by finding and solving some real challenges that people are facing.
I don’t think I necessarily did a bad job finding out pain points and creating a course around it, but I think I could have communicated it better and spent more time being transparent about my ideas while building the course.
I had always planned on my Docker course being both a book and video companion, but I am glad I decided to launch my book ahead of the video course. The early adopters were huge motivators in continuing to create the video side of my course, and I learned a bunch from the initial soft launch of my book.
My video course ended up at a little under 8 hours of videos, which is about double what I was hoping for or expecting. While I think I could condense it, I am pretty happy with the pace and the content I’ve covered.
I am going to add new videos and fix some much-needed updates in the book in 2019, but overall, I am hoping to keep maintaining what I have and keep the course relevant in the coming years.
The Docker for PHP Developers video launch was financially my best launch ever, and with the help of Eric and Laravel News, it picked up a lot of momentum at launch. In total, I made a little above half of my financial goal for my course this year, but I am still super thrilled with the results!
While my courses didn’t replace my income to the point where I could do it full time, I am thrilled how much the extra effort helped me pay off additional debt this year!
I learned a ton about making courses that’ll help me have a solid lineup next year! I am playing around with a few course ideas already, but this time I am going to spend more time discovering pain points and doing research before setting out to create my next course.
I was able to attend my first Laracon US this year, after a few failed attempts at going in 2016 and 2017. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I got to meet so many awesome people. The venue and event were superb, and I learned a ton from the speakers. I especially liked the soft topics, perhaps because I’m a sucker for self-help learning :)
I feel like I didn’t get to spend a ton of time chatting with people, but at the same time, I got to interact with a bunch of Laravel News readers as well as some people that bought my course.
All my products are digital, so it was the first time I’d talked with people about it in person. One of my big takeaways from Laracon was that I want to do a better job of connecting with readers in 2019.
My family’s theme next year is finishing our debt 100%, so 2019 will be another year focused on getting out of debt as fast as possible. I can’t wait to get started, and after paying off a few debts entirely this year, I am beginning to realize how much momentum we’ve gained this year.
I plan on writing some posts next year on the ideas and techniques I’ve used to get myself out of debt. I see living a debt-free life as one of the most potent methods for career growth, and I don’t think we talk about it enough as developers.
Another effort we’re making at home is to get more organized. I expect that improving our organization will help us with our financial goals and improve our home atmosphere overall.
I’ve wanted to share a technique I’ve been working on to develop Laravel applications using similar approaches you’d find in Rails with UJS, Turbolinks, and Stimulus. I am still exploring my likes/dislikes with this style, and I am not even sure at this point if it would be a financially viable course.
I think the approach has merit (hello, Basecamp), but I am not quite sure if it’s a fit Laravel developers will be interested in trying. I plan on exploring it further and seeing where it leads.
There are so many intangibles that happened in 2019 that didn’t fit in this post, but so many people are responsible for helping me achieve my goals in 2018! Thank you, everyone, that has shared my courses, encouraged me and helped me be the best I know how to be this year.
Thank you, and see you all next year!