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Readers, What Are You Up To?

The holidays are around the corner.  I know that means most of you are probably not reading many blogs right now.  BUT, if you are seeing this, what are you up to in your life?  I want to know.  You all make my day just by reading my daily entries…it’s time for me to learn more about you.

Wanna Be Friends?

  • How is life?
  • How are your loved ones?
  • What’s your favorite hobby?
  • What plans do you have?
  • What goals are you trying to achieve?

Help a girl out – I want to know about you!

Are You on Nextdoor.com?

I wrote this review before I knew that they had a referral program.  So my referral code is in this, but the review was 100% unsolicited and all me.

I’m sucky at Facebook and Twitter.  I just don’t seem to have enough time to fit in yet two to ten more ways of communicating every day.  BUT, I did find Nextdoor.com a few months ago, and it is EXTREMELY USEFUL!

My Rundown of Nextdoor.com

Okay, so I was slightly hesitant entering my address into a social media site that I hadn’t heard of before that day, but it has been great!  It was easy and free to signup, and BOOM!  I was in a forum with other people in my neighborhood and the 7 neighborhoods immediately surrounding ours.  That meant that I could see what pets just went missing, what restaurants people are trying, and what sort of crime is being reported near me.  It’s also been great for services recommendations and yard sale announcements.

Nextdoor

Why I Love It

Overall, think about all of the stuff you get notified about every day through email, text, Facebook notifications, and Tweets.  I get more than 50 things like that every day.  I delete the majority of them.  But I scan through every daily Nextdoor.com summary email because I will actually learn something from nearly every one.

In the last 3 months, I have seen about 12 dogs-reunited-with-family stories, helped a few people find a house keeper and lawn guy, had delicious food from highly recommended mom and pop restaurants in the area, received free boys clothes for my soon-to-arrive nephew, was gifted a new sewing machine for my roommate, bought some coupons to help the area’s football team, and even have gotten a few pet sitting clients since they were looking for professional pet sitters in our area.  :-)

The most moving story so far was how supportive everyone was when I found that stray Shih Tsu.  I also was able to update them all on his adoption process and even helped a couple of pet owners get connected with Texas Litter Control, the not-for-profit vet in our area.

Doesn’t Nextdoor.com sound awesome?!

Have you used it?  Thinking about it now?  ;-)

 

#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!  ;-)