New to BFS?

If you are new to Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (BFS), please click here. It'll give you a little background and a starting point for browsing BFS. See you in the comments soon!

As Seen On

Forbes

Yahoo
DailyFinance

Get Rich Slowly

House Logic

Check Out My eBooks!!!

How I Make Money Blogging Managing Your Monthly Nut

Categories

#Fincon14 – Another Great Year!!!

The Financial Blogger Conference (Fincon) is my absolute favorite get together of bloggers every year.  I have published a review of every Fincon since the first one in 2011.  This year’s conference, #Fincon14, was held in New Orleans and I had an incredible time!

Inspiring View of New Orleans

We were so lucky to get this view from the 30th floor of the New Orleans Marriott.

I was in charge of organizing and running the smaller, more intimate “camp” that occurs the Wednesday and Thursday before Fincon officially kicks off.  I’m playing with a new name for it like “Mincon” since it is like Fincon, but more one-on-one and way less people…we’ll see if the new name takes off…

My Mincon14

I had help of course.  Phil (PT Money) and his go-to help, Jessica, pick the Mincon location and get all of the physical stuff together when it’s ready.  Favado was kind enough to sponsor the entire thing.  My Mincon organizing help, Ashley Barnett and Todd Tressider, brainstormed with me and helped me to run the camp.  We came up with great contest ideas, worked out the details of the schedule, reached out to the veteran bloggers for panel help, and I was in charge of making sure everything ran smoothly and was mediated appropriately.

Fincon14 Rainy Day

From left to right – Todd Tressider, Ashley Barnett, Jackie Beck, and Marsha Hill. We were on our way to Deanie’s Seafood, yum!

Overall, Mincon14 was a huge success!  The mini-mastermind sessions were the most popular by far.  The participants gave great feedback overall, made some solid suggestions that we will be attempting to incorporate next year, and I met 50+ amazing people!  I tried my very best to remember all of the campers names since I was hoping to make each and every one of them feel extremely welcomed.

If you attended, thank you.  If you didn’t, don’t miss next year since it will be even better!

The main takeaways were that I need to either get an certified public accountant or hope like hell that my husband and I are indeed doing everything right when it comes to taxes.  I also learned that I’ve been slacking on my writing and will be editing more.  Lastly, I may need to stop censoring myself so much here on BFS since my personality may be one of the things that I am accidentally editing out.

Takeaways from #Fincon14

I didn’t attend many sessions at Fincon this year.  But I did make sure to take my branded items again, LOL:

Crystal at Fincon14

Yep, that’s me in the hotel lobby with my BFS tote bag that I’ve had since 2011. This was right after I flashed my sports bra for a free Hurricane. I love New Orleans…show a bra that covers more than a bikini top, get alcohol. Hell yeah!

My plan was to host the best Mincon ever, party hard at the karaoke night, and then spend the rest of the conference just hanging out with all of the other bloggers that I possibly could.  I stuck to that plan and can’t even speak properly right now, LOL.  In the end, it may have been my most networked Fincon yet, but I am most happy that I solidified some true friendships.  Here are some shout outs to some closer buddies that I hope they see:

  • Maria Nedeva – You rock.  A place is more fun when you are around and I enjoyed all of our time together and chats.  Only you could make getting a whole beer spilled on me worth it since I enjoyed our walk back to the hotel so thoroughly.  Thank you for making the OMG flight from the UK and I can’t wait to see you again next year.
  • Joe Taxpayer – I look forward to seeing you every year.  Your wife and daughter sound awesome!  My husband and I are following your real estate advice and will be making some low offers on great rental properties until one of them bites.  We’ll also put 20% down and revel in debt leverage.  :-D  Thank you so much for your wisdom every year.
  • Kylie Ofiu – You are a tough-as-steel Aussie and you deserve the happy that you’ve captured.  Hope you and yours have the best year ever – tell me all about it in 12 months!
  • Ashley Barnett – We’ve been friends but I enjoyed finally getting closer.  Thank you for being so helpful and just for being there for me in general.  You rock.
  • JD Roth – I hope it isn’t too presumptuous to claim you as an official friend now.  I enjoyed hanging out so much and hope your travels and plans for the next year are even better than your expectations!  Say “hi” to Kim for me!
  • KC Beavers – You just let me know when your New York estate is ready for mini-conventions and I’ll be there!  Thanks for hanging out!  Send me some of those awesome pictures you snapped!!!
  • Luke Landes – The Plutus Awards look like a bear of an event and you always handle it so very well.  More power to you and I will happily help out however I can every year.

Speaking of the Plutus Awards, Matt Giovanisci and Ashley Jacobs simply kicked butt with the rap that started it off!!!  Thank you for getting that stuck in my head all week!!!

Sponsors Are Awesome!!!

I’m not stupid.  I know that sponsors are why we get to enjoy Fincon every year.  I also met some hilarious representatives of several companies that should know that they are lucky to have the employees that they do:

  • Kristin Shaw at H&R Block – You may not think you are as extroverted as me, but you made a great impression.  Tell your hubby about my Megabus experience compared to his and see if he sticks his tongue out at you…
  • Chad Armstrong at Circle Back Lending – I wasn’t kidding, let me know when it’s ready to go in Texas!  Thanks for the backup chargers and for letting me crash your booth so often!
  • Matt Gause – Hope we connect as planned for getting Free Tax USA’s name out there even more!
  • Shane Tripcony at Best Prepaid Debit Cards – Thanks for reaching out in the hallway while I was recharging – I enjoyed the chat!

Thanks to everyone else too!!!  I know there were dozens and dozens of amazing sponsors that provided all sorts of fantastic swag including the Wi-Fi speaker that Ally was offering.  Thanks to Chase for meals and a nice, short but funny sponsor speech from Scott Halliwell at USAA!  I enjoyed everyone this year and the Expo Hall is one of my favorite parts of Fincon.  It couldn’t happen without all of you.

Readers, please share this post as much as humanly possible.  I’m sincerely thankful for my time at Fincon and the people that make it great.  If you were there and I missed you in this post, I am so sorry.  You were awesome too.  If you weren’t there, I would highly suggest buying your ticket for next year as soon as you can so I can meet you in 2015!!!  :-D

Attending #FinCon14?

I’m in a mastermind group with a handful of close blogging buddies that meets nearly every Monday.  We started our online group since we hung out physically at all of the Financial Blogger Conferences in the past.  But due to the increased costs to attend #FinCon14 if you are coming from the north like they are, and because of some life circumstances, only myself and Ashley from Money Talks Coaching will be able to make it this year.

Only Extroverted Some of the Time

I am a crazy extrovert…when I am around my people.  A couple of my blogging buddies laugh because they consider themselves introverts that adopt an extrovert like me to introduce them to everyone.  What they may not have realized is that being surrounded by friends leads to my confidence to be as extroverted as I am.  Without my little group of lounge lizards, I will have a tough time staying out of my own shell.

BUT, I am going to try to remember how I felt in 2011 for the first ever FinCon.  I was just super excited to be around ALL of the other personal finance bloggers and everyone was a potential close friend.  This year I will do my best to meet and bond with the awesome people that are attending.  I will make new or stronger friendships.  I will have a great time.  This is my mantra.

Are You Attending #FinCon14?

Wanna Be Friends?

All of that said, are you attending FinCon this year?  Please comment below and I will make a mental note to try to meet up with you for sure at some point.  The pre-conference camp on Wednesday and then Thursday morning is only about 55 people, but FinCon itself is for hundreds.  So you have to make notes to yourself to meet specific people if it’s really important to you…it’s easy to never cross paths or forget in a crowd.

Hope to see you there!!!

Ask Crystal Anything Days!

I only have two pet sitting jobs today (woot!), so I can actually be around a computer pretty frequently Wednesday and Thursday!  This seems like the perfect time to rip off give my blogging buddy, J Money, and all of you awesome people an opportunity to ask me anything at all!  J was totally open with Ask J Money Anything Day!, and the post became epic since he added and answered the questions to the post as they came in.

Got Questions?

Today is all about what you all want to know.  Nothing is off limits.  Just leave your question below in the comments and I will add it up here along with my answer!  It can be about anything at all – blogging, other online work, marriage, friendships, pet sitting, side hustles, sex, drugs, rock and roll (hehehe)…ANYTHING!  Ask away!!!

To get us started:

Q:  Can I ask more than 1 question?

Yes!

Q:  What stupid human trick can you do?

I can roll my tongue and pull it back to make the shape of a three leaf clover.  I can also imitate Gonzo and have a pretty creepy evil voice that I used to annoy my younger sisters way back when…

Your Turn!

Q:  For a million dollars, would you skip the next year of your life? Like, you go to sleep tonight and then wake up 1 year later and missed everything?

Yes, especially if it’s tax free.  My reasoning is that after that one year, my husband and I could live off of the interest of that million dollars and what we already have for the rest of our lives.  I’d be 32 years old, my baby niece or nephew would be around 6 months old, and I think all of our friends would still be our friends.

The interest we could make realistically and ultra safely on the $1 million would be around $40,000 or more a year (that’s just 4%).  That’s about $3300 a month.  We would also be bringing in $1800 a month on our rentals still.  We can live almost like we do now for $5100 a month.

Our current mortgage is $990 a month.  Our property taxes on both homes adds up to about $800 a month.  That would leave us $3310 a month to cover the rest of our bills and fun.  And that would be if we were making only 4% and never wanted to touch the original $1 million.  So yes, I would totally sleep for a year for it.  Overall, it would waste less of my life and lead to “pretirement” (great term, J Money!) earlier than working like I do now online and for pet sitting for the 60+ hours a week that has become my norm.

Q:  Have you considered running a kennel again?

I’ve thought about it in passing, but there is way less overhead associated with being a traveling pet sitter like I am right now.  It’s nice to know that if I don’t have any pets to take care of a certain day, it doesn’t cost me anything out of pocket at all.  If I ever have kids or want to drive less, I may consider opening Crystal’s Cozy Kennels.  But as of right now, I can make $1000-$2000 a month by putting in 4-5 hours some days and none on others.

Q:  When does it make sense to spend money on something just to keep in touch with the world around you? Do you think attending non-credit courses are a better idea, even if they are only a bit less expensive? Have you figured the tax, travel, and extra costs of hobby jobs and found the same thing. It is a bit too costly just to interact, probably should be some type of pay back for your troubles?

I highly value and prioritize my human connections.  So if I’m ever feeling out of touch with the world, which leads to me being depressed and hollow, I start volunteering nearly immediately to feel better.  That costs me gas, time, and sometimes straight cash…but it is totally worth it to get me involved again.  If I wanted to learn something, I’d pay to do it.

I honestly think money has two main purposes – to ensure that I don’t have to live on what the government chooses for me in my golden years AND to make sure my years until then are as full as possible.  With that in mind, I make sure we are always saving something for our future.  The rest of our money is used to make our present as full and pleasant for us as possible.  I did that when we were making less than $30,000 a year after college and now that we make more than $100,000 a year consistently.  I will always prioritize human connections along with my future.

All of that said, if you feel disconnected in a negative way (not in the “yay, I’m not part of that daily crazy routine” way), then I’d totally suggest spending what you are comfortable with on classes or whatever may make you feel better overall.  I’m not suggesting spending all willy-nilly, but budgeting some spending on human connection and personal development can be EXTREMELY important for mental health, which affects your physical health as well.  Think of it as protecting your brain without having a doctor or medicine involved.  :-)

Q:  What are the affiliate networks you would recommend to use besides CJ?

I stink at affiliate advertising, so I don’t know which networks kick the most butt.  I hope another reader may chime in here below.  But, I will ask around for you and update this when I have some more options.  I also can suggest becoming an affiliate for specific products, ebooks, etc. that you would like to support.  It is way easier to help promote something you believe in.  Smart Passive Income makes like $50,000 a MONTH with just Blu Host sales…he likes them and does videos and posts about how to use them.

Q:  How did you get your clients when you first started dog sitting? We’re thinking of doing this but don’t know how to get started.

I sold myself hard on Craigslist.  I also posted 2-3 ads on Craigslist for about 7 days straight (one each in several categories like pet services, community, etc.) and set my phone alarm to remind me to renew them every 3-5 days.

In those placements, I listed out my experience from personal pet sitting, my volunteer work with animal groups, and put emphasis on my dependability and professionalism.  I also priced myself slightly lower than my competition in the beginning month to grab my first jobs and earn my awesome references.  Now I charge more than most of my competition but am busier than ever because I’ve built a reputation for amazing customer service for my human and animal clients.  ;-)

I still create a new Craigslist post once or twice a week and renew my old ones or repost when they expire.

Q:  Do you think you’ll always be a landlord? Is there anything you dislike about the responsibility?

Yes for the foreseeable future.  The responsibility is like having a serious part-time job, but I enjoy being a very thoughtful and direct landlord.  We fix our homes’ problems super fast, charge rents that are on the low end of the norm, and in return, our main tenant so far returns the amazingness.  Our rent home is very well kept.  I hope she stays forever.

Landlord satisfaction is directly associated with your tenants.  If we had nightmare tenants, I’d sell my rent house instead of dealing with it long-term.  I know me.  When our current, awesome tenant decides to leave, I will be vetting all future tenants like an internet stalker…I need reciprocation of respect for my property in exchange for keeping things as handled and fair as possible.

Q:  If you could do one thing over in your life, would you and what is the one thing?

I would go back and be a better big sister.  I was a very self-involved teenager and young adult (which is normal but still one of my only regrets), so I blew off my little sisters when I went off to college.  They were 10 years old and 5 years old.  I am just now reconnecting with the older of the two, who is now 23 years old and is pregnant with my first niece or nephew:-)

Q:  What was your biggest financial mistake and what advice would you give others to help them avoid it?

My biggest financial mistake was investing in a “friend’s” business when my husband and I were around 23 years old.  We ended up wasting $15,000.  Ouch.  But we didn’t invest more than we could have afforded to lose, so yay for small blessings.  We still bought our first home with 20% down, so I’ve learned to stop beating myself up for it.

Q:  What sort of websites/facebook groups/etc and/or how/where (haha) do you look up what to charge for contracting? I am a site editor for a blogger, but I want to expand a bit so I don’t have all my eggs in one basket but am unsure what to say I charge when looking for new business. Enough so I don’t look cheap and know I do quality work, but not so much no one takes me on.

For my online ad job, I picked a rate that seemed high but would make my time worth it.  I’ve kept that rate forever (25%).  For my other online work, I asked around for the normal rates for a service, like commenting for hire, then I priced myself higher and offered extras like post promotion.  For pet sitting, I priced myself lower than the others I could find on Craigslist until I completed 2-3 jobs well, then I listed my references and raised my prices a little.  After 4 months and when my schedule was getting full, I raised them even more.  Now, 7 months after starting, I am one of the better paid pet sitters in the area.  Some guess and check won’t hurt.  :-)

Hey Regulars, What Have You Been Up To?!

The blogging community as a whole used to a hub of chatter, gossip, life updates, and online friendships.  It’s still alive and kicking, but it seems a lot quieter now than it was in 2009-2011.  How are all of you doing?  I know life is amazingly busy for a lot of us, but specifically, what’s been going on?  I miss chatting regularly with all of you!

My Summarized Life Update

Crystal and Mr. BFS Lovey Dovey

Okay, so it’s mushy, but I love it.

To help catch anyone up on my end, I started Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (BFS) when I was 27 years old in February 2010.  I’m now 31, still married to the same Mr. BFS, we now both work from home but still have our own side hustles too (reffing and pet sitting respectively), and we still live right outside of Houston, TX.  Our income has fluctuated from $5000 a month all the way up to $23,000 a month and back to $6000 just while you’ve known me.  We have lost two grandparents since I started blogging, but I’ve also gained a brother-in-law to be and I have a niece or nephew on the way.  We recently lost our two dogs that I wrote about a lot too, but I started a pet sitting business earlier this year to help fill in that pet blank and because I seem to prefer money over free time.

Priorities

We’ve also moved into a larger home in 2012 that we truly enjoy.  My main personal finance view point is still that it is very possible to live within your means while still enjoying life in the way you want the most.  I write a lot about how to have fun on a budget or how to save for expensive fun while also planning for your golden years.  My favorite saying is “You can have anything but you just can’t have everything”.  Life is about prioritization.  My husband and I are having to prioritize more now than ever since we do own two homes now (our last one is now our rental property), and there are a lot of expenses that are no longer flexible.

Our Rent House - Now All Ours

*Doing the happy dance, doing the happy dance!*

I’d label myself as a realistic optimist in general, although I have bad days too.  My long-time readers seem to think that I am a pure ball of energy and are the most supportive commenters ever.  I rarely show my bad days here since I’d like at least all of y’all to only see the best side of me.  Yay for writing! Speaking of which, I have published two eBooks (both in the left sidebar), “How I Make Money Blogging” and “Managing Your Monthly Nut”.  The blogging one is definitely the most popular, and I do not mind at all.  I definitely enjoyed writing that one more and that probably showed up in my work.

A Hot, Colored, Mess

And here we are after the festivities at a 5k color run! From left to right – Ivy, Isabelle, me, and Anne

My life centers around the people in it.  My husband and I are extremely thankful for our local support network and spend as much time with our closest friends as possible.  I write about our cheap fun like board gaming potlucks as well as our splurges like our annual summer vacations.  Honestly, you may have noticed that I write about pretty much everything.

Now You

So, what have you been up to recently?  How has life been treating you?  How would you describe yourself when it comes to your financial and life-in-general mindsets?

Live in New Orleans? Want to Help Me Out?

I have a favor to ask.  I am organizing the FinCon Camp that precedes The Financial Blogger Conference.  The main event is the karaoke night that happens the night before FinCon officially starts.  Does anyone reading live in New Orleans?  If so, I will need to enlist your help in a couple of ways…

#FinCon14

Karaoke Night Location

For anybody that attended last year, I fully admit that I got dang lucky with the basement of Joe Buck’s BBQ.  I was hoping for good and got AMAZING.  That means I have set a high bar for myself.

In short, I have to find a place that:

  • Can host 50-60 people comfortably.
  • Has catering with food and alcohol.
  • Also has a sound system and screen that we can hook into for our karaoke machine to use for sound and projecting the words.
  • Is within walking distance of The Marriot New Orleans – 555 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

I Need You

If you live around New Orleans, please let me know:

  • Do you know of any places that meet the criteria above?
  • If not, would you mind letting me borrow you?  If I can find a place or two that sounds good, would you mind being my eyes?

I don’t mind making a dozen calls like last time to track down a great place, but I would appreciate someone being able to see it before I book it this time.  Since I am even more in charge of the FinCon Camp this year than I was last year, I want to make sure to impress EVERYONE – the attendees and PT Money (the awesome founder of FinCon).

Any and all suggestions and help will be appreciated!  I’d owe you a drink in September in New Orleans too!  ;-)

The Official BFS 4 Year Blogoversary!!!

On February 20, 2010, I published the first post ever on Budgeting in the Fun Stuff.  I think about 5 people saw it, and they had all followed me from Free Money Finance.  It’s amazing what can happen in 4 years with one blog.  Happy 4 year blogoversary, BFS!!!

4th Blogoversary

4 Years of Stats

  • Total posts: 1535
  • Total comments:  21,615 (plus the first 2-3 months that I lost when transferring to WordPress)
  • Total page views: 851,106 (plus the first year that I wasn’t tracking this like I should)
  • Total spam comments received:  More than 750,000 (you guys suck!)
  • Categories I’ve Written the Most About:  Blogging (165), Entertainment (139), Budgeting (110)
  • Total Income from just BFS:  $71,200

Changes in My Work Life – February 2010 versus Current

  • I was making $2000 a month and hubby was making about $3000 a month.  Now we average $8000+ per month.
  • I worked in a cubicle 45 hours a week and commuted about 10 hours a week.  Now I work from my home for about 50-60 hours a week.
  • I rarely traveled for business or fun.  Now I travel every couple of months and can combine the two.
  • I had a 401k and a Roth IRA, and Mr. BFS was working towards a teacher’s pension.  Now we depend on our Roth IRA’s, some stock investments, and our paid off rent house.  My old 401k is still growing too, but I can’t contribute anymore.
  • I was ready to spend 30 years in the same position just to hit retirement at age 52.  Now I have no idea how long self-employment will last, but I am enjoying it while we have it.  At our current rate, we may be able to retire early at around age 45.  But retiring is no longer the end-all, be-all goal for us.  It’s amazing how much you can enjoy life while working if you don’t despise your work.
  • I felt that I was wasting a huge chunk of my life.  Now I feel like I found my calling and just need a new main goal so I don’t stagnate.

Honestly, I didn’t think about how long I would blog when I first started.  I had never stuck with any hobby for more than 3 or so months before this.  Now I can’t picture my life without blogging in it.  All of you have helped me find where I belong.

Thank You!

All About #FinCon14. Join Me in New Orleans!

I went to the first Financial Blogger Conference in 2011 because I was ADDICTED to blogging and was super excited to meet all of the bloggers that I knew online.  It was amazing.  I was worried that the experience couldn’t live up to the expectations in my head, but it was just as great as I was hoping and then some!!!  I’ve gone back every year and have never been let down.

Register for FinCon14!

What FinCon Is About…

FinCon is a 3-4 day blogger conference that concentrates on networking, learning sessions, and having fun. Do you love blogging and want to grow?  Want to look into online entrepreneurship?  Or want to meet your favorite bloggers?  If you said yes to any one of those, #FinCon14 is for you too.

To be more specific, FinCon itself starts on Thursday with everyone registering and grabbing their name badges.  Then you mill around meeting people.  There are sponsored meet and greets and tons of time to start networking.  The Plutus Awards happened last year on the first night, so there are awards and more time to make merry with everyone afterwards.  Friday and Saturday are packed with sessions to attend – you can choose from 2-3 every hour based on what topics interest you the most.  If you have to miss one that you wanted to see, you can catch it after FinCon with your virtual pass.

Between the learning sessions, any dinners with the big bloggers that you sign up for, and simply meeting and talking to other bloggers, you will be pumped to throw yourself into your blog/online business.  You’ll leave with a ton of things on your personal to-do list, and hopefully you’ll have made some great friends.

FinCon Camp

Another option is to get a ticket to #FinCon14 that includes the FinCon Camp (although there were only a couple of dozen of these passes left as I am writing this).  The camp happens the day before FinCon and is limited to 75 people.  It’s a full day of pure info and networking.  There are “skeleton sessions” that simply are small groups that decide to tackle a specific subject.  Then there are “tear-down sessions” that mean that bloggers will get an entire group to concentrate just on their site for a little bit.  At the end of the day, we all go to a karaoke party and get to eat, drink, sing, and joke around with each other for a few hours of pure fun.

I helped to organize the camp last year, and it was a true success.  Bloggers that didn’t go actually came up to me to congratulate me on the success since they heard about it from the bloggers that attended.  I’m helping to run it again this year too, so I may be biased…I think it is the event of FinCon.  :-D

The Cost of FinCon

All of this said, FinCon does cost money.  The FinCon Camp is Wednesday, September 17, 2014 and FinCon14 is from September 18-20, 2014. This year’s ticket prices range from $200-$500 right this second PLUS travel and room and board in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Altogether, you may be looking 5 nights (Tuesday through Saturday night) at the conference’s hotel, the Marriot, at $139 plus taxes/fees per night.  

In short, it will probably run an attendee $750-$1500 total depending on the ticket they buy, whether they get a roommate or not, travel expenses, and any meals that aren’t covered.

That said, it is totally worth it if you can maximize the experience.  If you make connections and pay attention, then the conference could pay for itself overall.

If you are interested, please click on any of the the banners or links here to register.  They are my FinCon affiliate links, and I am using what I make from them to help others.  Specifically, I am hoping to bring in enough to help a few less fortunate bloggers make it to FinCon and sponsor a giveaway here if possible. Thanks!!!

Register for FinCon14!