This guest post from Jackie is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Jackie writes about learning to love your financial life at MoneyCrush.

Seven years ago I was divorced, unemployed, in debt with a negative net worth, and struggling to build a small business. I made $4,621 that year from a combination of business income and unemployment compensation. (And no, there aren’t any zeros missing from that total.)

Today, I’m married, employed in a full time job that I enjoy, debt-free-but-the-house with a positive net worth, and running a (different) small business that’s starting to take off. I made approximately $56,000 last year.

What changed?

Well, you might think it was outside factors, like these:

  • The economy improved — and then tanked again.
  • I received a small inheritance when my mom died.
  • I got married.
  • I eventually got a temporary job doing something I’d never done before, after not getting past the interview stage for job after job.

Those are all important, but what really changed was something much simpler — something that anyone can do or get help doing:

I started paying attention to my finances, and then I did something about what I saw.

In other words, I finally had enough.

After a desperate plea of “Isn’t there anything I can do where you work?” to everyone I knew, I got a temporary “one or two day” contract position that later turned into a full time job.

Suddenly, I was flush in comparison to my recent past. I read Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin’s Your Money or Your Life, which left a huge impression. I immediately began tracking my spending, and from that moment on I began to focus on my finances like never before.

I paid off a student loan that had languished in deferment and forbearance for years. I built an emergency fund, and began contributing to my 401(k). I got a better job, and upped my retirement contributions. Each step along the way has been an improvement, and things have snowballed in a positive way from there.

Of course, I didn’t do this in a vacuum. Having a husband and son who are willing to listen and who urge me on as I work to get my business going has been critical. Reading ideas from books and bloggers made a big difference too, as did joining and participating in several groups.

It’s not enough to read or write about personal finance though. It takes paying attention and then taking action — continued action on one goal after another, despite setbacks or struggles. If I can do it, you can do it.

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After more than a decade of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are. Henceforth, unduly nasty comments on readers stories will be removed or edited.

This article is about Reader Stories