This past year was one of transition at Get Rich Slowly.

In January, I was shocked by the sudden death of one of my best friends. This loss forced me to re-examine my life priorities. For years, I’d made money my focus, and now I realized there were more important things to worry about, including my relationships and my health.

As a result, I spent six months working behind the scenes to make big changes around here. Most of these aren’t apparent (or relevant) to you, but they’re important to me. Making these changes lets me focus on what’s really important in life while also setting me up for good things in the future.

The most visible change was bringing on April and Baker as staff writers. With each of them contributing an article a week (and guest writers contributing a third), I’ve been able to find time to get other things done.

One of these “other things” is writing my first book. Your Money: The Missing Manual is scheduled to hit bookstores in March. It’s nearly finished now, though, and I’m proud of what I’ve put together. I’ve taken some of the best bits from Get Rich Slowly, and then wrapped it in tons of brand-new stuff. It may never be a best seller, and it most certainly will never make me rich (slowly or otherwise), but it’s got some damn good info, and I hope it’ll help a lot of people.

My goal for 2010 is for Get Rich Slowly to continue to be an excellent place for readers to share their journeys as they learn about personal finance. As part of this, there’ll be a new weekly “reader stories” feature (which starts this Sunday!), and the GRS forums will get a makeover.

The best of 2009
Today, however, I’d like to share some of the best articles from the past twelve months. I looked at the top 25 most-visited stories that I wrote for Get Rich Slowly in 2009. From these, I picked my ten favorite, which I’ve listed below in no particular order.

  • 7 tips for starting your own vegetable garden: “It might seem crazy to start thinking about a vegetable garden in January. It’s cold outside! But believe it or not, now is the perfect time to begin preparing for a successful autumn harvest.”
  • How to build confidence and destroy fear: “To say ‘no’ is to live in fear. My goal is to continually improve myself, to become better than I am today. One way to do that is to do the things that scare me, to take them on as challenges, and to learn from them — even if I fail.”
  • The secrets of financial freedom: An interview with the millionaire next door: “John’s story was popular with Get Rich Slowly readers, and many of you asked me to interview him. I had to wait for him to return from New Zealand, but earlier this month, the opportunity finally presented itself. John agreed to sit down for a chat.”
  • Negotiating your salary: How to make $1,000 a minute: “Those few minutes in an interview during which you ask for what you’re worth can make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Maybe hundreds of thousands. You can literally earn $1,000 a minute if you do this right.”
  • Good-bye, Microsoft Money! 16 powerful personal finance programs: “As of today, Microsoft Money is no longer available for purchase. Microsoft has essentially conceded that there’s no demand for the product…Here are 16 powerful personal finance programs to take the place of Microsoft Money.”
  • How I cut my television bill in half: “None of these is going to satisfy those who truly enjoy television. If you must see your show right now, or if you’re a fan of live sports, you may have to fork over the dough for a deluxe cable package. I’m content to wait. It saves me money, and it lets me watch shows on my terms.”
  • How to stop buying clothes you never wear (by staff writer April Dykman): “These are the best tips I picked up while going through the process [of cleaning my closets], gleaned from fashion gurus, designers, and style bloggers. These tips are applicable to women and men, whether you’re a high-power attorney or a stay-at-home parent.”
  • CD (certificate of deposit) rates at online banks: “[Like savings accounts], CD rates have also fallen, but remain high in some corners. For those hoping to eke the best return from their cash reserves, CDs could be a great choice. To make the savings die-hards happy, I did some research on current CD rates from popular online banks. Here’s what I found.”
  • The lazy way to investment success: “While researching investment strategies for my retirement savings, I’ve been reading a lot of books. There are hundreds of authors offering thousands of tips for turning a small pile of gold into a big pile of gold. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whose advice to heed.”
  • The razor’s edge: Lessons in true wealth: “Our friends have a profound effect on our personal finance habits. Some friends can lead us to spending and to debt. Others offer insight into the virtues of thrift. For me, my friend Sparky has been the latter. Through his example, I learned that frugality can help me achieve my goals.” From my perspective, this is the single most important post at GRS in the past year. You may not realize it, but this changed everything.

Though I enjoy sharing my experiences with money, I also love being able to bring you the voices of other writers. I learn a lot from the guest authors at Get Rich Slowly, and I hope you do, too. Here are my five favorite guest posts from 2009. Each is a gem.

  • Why I drive a 13-year-old car (by GRS reader Joel Berry): “I recently had a talk with a friend about why I haven’t purchased a new car. He can’t understand why I still drive a 1995 Geo Prizm. I can afford to buy a new car, but I choose not to. The fact is, driving an older car saves me money! To prove my point, I ran some numbers. I was surprised by how much money I’ve saved by driving this car for so long.”
  • Five steps to six figures in seven years (by FMF of Free Money Finance): “How can you get into the six-figure club? There are many roads to this golden path (lottery, inheritance, take over a family business, etc.), but many, if not all, of these are out of your control. As such, I’m going to focus on what I consider to be the method that will give the most people the greatest chance of earning $100k or more — by developing a career and growing it over time.”
  • 5 credit-card company tricks — and how to thwart them (by Justin McHenry, president of Index Credit Cards): “Credit cards ain’t for fools. If you’re going to carry one, then take responsibility for understanding what you’re getting into, and fight fire with fire when your card company decides to play rough.”
  • How to buy a mattress (by a mattress salesman named Justin): “If a store is willing to negotiate mattress prices, then they are overpriced, so make sure you get them down a considerable amount. Mattress manufactures contractually set minimum prices that they allow retailers to sell their mattresses at, so they either have to price them at that minimum or overprice them and negotiate.”
  • The psychology of passive barriers: Why your friends don’t save money, eat healthier, or clean their garage (by Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You to Be Rich): “Getting people to change their behavior is extraordinarily hard — even if it will save them thousands of dollars or save their lives…None of us are perfect. That’s why understanding barriers is so important to changing your own behavior.”

And, of course, I just finished a 14-part series that explored my personal financial philosophy. These are the ideas behind every post at Get Rich Slowly:

If you’re looking for more money-saving goodness, check out the greatest hits from the first three years of this site:

Which are your favorite Get Rich Slowly stories from the past year? (Or of all time?) Your feedback will help me improve this site.

Happy new year, everybody!