These 7 Inspirational Stories Will Keep You Motivated All 2017 Long

The Goetz family feeling so happy to win a much deserved vacation during Purple Friday! Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Each year, I set New Year’s resolutions.

Sometimes small ones (stop biting my nails, run three times a week) and sometimes big ones (finish my graduate degree on time, secure a full-time job).

But it’s always easier conquering these resolutions with some real-life inspiration to slap me in the face with reality and say, “Yes, it’s possible.”

One year, my workout inspiration was Blake Lively set as my phone’s background… #goals. (But I’m convinced she’s not “real life.”)

7 Inspirational Stories to Get You Motivated in 2017

This year, though, I tapped into our Penny Hoarder archives to find the most inspiring stories of 2016 to catapult myself — and you — into this new year.

1. Two Years Ago, She was Homeless. Now She’s About to Graduate From College

Sadie Rivera relaxes on her bed. Tampa, FL Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder
Sadie Rivera relaxes on her bed in Tampa, Florida. Samantha Dunscombe/The Penny Hoarder

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, take notes from Sadie Riveria.

At one point, she was, too. In fact, she was homeless, sleeping where she could — from a Motel 6 to friends’ couches… even the beach. Soon, however, she managed to pull herself out by working 80-hour weeks between three jobs.

Even more impressive? Riveria will receive her associate degree this coming May and has plans to move to Oregon to pursue her bachelor’s degree.

2. This Single Mom Has 3 Kids and Multiple Jobs. Here’s Her Exact Budget

Two of Pietrzak's daughters playing on a slide. Image from Meagan Pietrzak.
Two of Pietrzak’s daughters playing on a slide. Image courtesy of Meagan Pietrzak.

If 2016 brought a slew of unexpected bad news, you might find inspiration from Maegan Pietrzak, someone who thought she had it all — but lost it in an instant.

After her husband abruptly departed from the picture-perfect family, Pietrzak was forced to rebuild with her daughters.

“Failing as a mother is not an option,” she told us. “You do whatever you have to do to make it work.”

She shared her exact budget with us, as well as all the ways she saves money.

3. I Run a Successful Freelance Business… and I Also Have a Mental Illness

Penny Hoarder contributor Kelly Gurnett at work in her home office. Photo courtesy Kelly Gurnett Credit: Photo courtesy Kelly Gurnett
Penny Hoarder contributor Kelly Gurnett at work in her home office. Photo courtesy Kelly Gurnett Credit: Photo courtesy Kelly Gurnett

If you live with a mental health condition, don’t count yourself out.

One of our contributors, Kelly Gurnett, owns a freelance business — and also has bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety.

And she works from home. For herself.

Gurnett shared her honest, inspiring tips for success and how you too can meet your goals.

4. This Custodian Just Graduated From the College He’s Cleaned for 8 Years

Michael Vaudreuil at graduation. Image from CBS Boston.

If you’re in college and complain about homework, reconsider.

In 2007, Michael Vaudreuil’s plastering business went under, and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. He took a custodian job at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, where employees can take tuition-free classes.

This past May, eight years later and at 54 years old, Vaudreuil graduated with a mechanical engineering degree.

5. Paying Off $60K of Debt in a Year — with 2 Babies? How This Couple Did It

Cort and Katelyn Pincock pose at Salt Lake Comic Con in 2016. Photo courtesy Katelyn Pincock
Cort and Katelyn Pincock pose at Salt Lake Comic Con in 2016. Photo courtesy Katelyn Pincock

If you’re drowning in debt, it’s possible to escape. This family of four did.

Cort and Katelyn Pincock were suffocating from student loans, credit card debt, medical bills and more. In September 2015, they finally set a goal to be debt-free within a year. And they met this lofty goal in 2016.


The Pincocks opened up and shared their story with us. They prove that hard work and determination can — and will — pay off.

6. How This Woman Turned Her Baking Skills into a Starbucks Staple

Megpies owner,
Megpies founder Meghan Ritchie with partner Paul Jones. Image courtesy of Megpies.

If you have an idea you’re hesitant to execute, take a note from Meghan Ritchie, founder of Megpies pastries.

You might have seen these sweet, Pop Tart-like treats in a Starbucks near you, but they weren’t always so famous. Back in 2007, Ritchie started selling doughnuts on her front stoop; it was just another side gig.

It wasn’t a sugar-coated path, but Ritchie made it work. The lesson? Just go for it.

7. Here’s Who Won The Penny Hoarder’s Purple Friday Giveaway

Zondra and Denise won a spa day during the Purple Friday giveaway. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder
Zondra and Denise won a spa day during the Purple Friday giveaway. Denise requested a spa day for her and all her moms who work so hard. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

If you just want to read some feel-good stories, Purple Friday’s where it’s at.

This Penny Hoarder-sponsored contest encouraged folks to spend time this holiday season, instead of money.

We received more than 11,000 entries — and combed through all of them to determine our 50 winners. And although our goal was to give back, we couldn’t help but feel a little self-indulgent when sharing the stories of our winners.

Some of our favorites include a father of two girls who lost hearing in both ears due to cancer; we bought him a pair of hearing aids.

Then there was the young woman who had never been on a fancy date with her boyfriend. She surprised him with a night out in Atlanta — on us.

One of my favorites was a West Virginia woman who asked for a hot gift — a furnace.

“I would love to feel the warmth coming from the vents again and everyone taking off their coats to enjoy their time with me,” she wrote in her entry.

For the new year, I’ve tucked these stories into my back pocket, and when I’m upset or feeling down on my luck, I resolve to pull these out, re-reading them for valuable insight and inspiration.

Your Turn: What story did you find most inspiring in 2016? Be sure to share it in the comments!

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.