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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!

A Completely New Life 4 Years Later

How many of you have been reading BFS from the very beginning – way back in early 2010?  I was laying in bed last week and it dawned on me that not only has it been nearly 4 years, but I am living a completely different life!  Can you believe what can change in 4 years?!

Past vs Present – Changes

Here have been the largest changes:

  • In 2010, all of our grandparents that we grew up with were still with us.  That was both sets of my biological grandparents, my step-dad’s mom, and both sets of my husband’s grandparents.  We have since had to say goodbye to hubby’s maternal grandma and my step-dad’s mom.
  • I had just started blogging in early 2010…my world opened up a lot that year.
  • In early 2010, I was working in the same cubicle job that I had since mid-2005.  In early 2014, I have been self-employed for 2.5 years.
  • In 2010, we made about $80,000 before taxes with our main jobs.  Now we make about $125,000 a year before taxes with our online business.
  • In 2010, we had been living in our first house for almost 3 years.  Now that house is paid off, is used as our rental property, and we’ve been living in our forever home for more than a year.
  • In 2010, we were just making close friends after a long dry spell of being semi-hermits.  Now we have 10 close friends that we can really depend on and they can depend on us.  I also have 7 great online/blogging buddies that I can talk to online with regularly and see in person 1-2 times a year.
  • In 2010, we were used to taking one, solid vacation a year.  Now I travel significantly at least 4 times a year to visit friends in other states, make it to conventions, and for fun.
  • In 2010, we were positive that we wouldn’t ever want kids.  Now we are rethinking that.
  • In 2010, I was in between volunteer jobs (foster mom for Pugs and Meals on Wheels).  Now I am a “Big” in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
  • In 2010, I was nearing 180 pounds on the bathroom scale.  I lost 30 pounds in 2011 thanks to Weight Watchers and hover around 155-160 now consistently by edging up, hitting the program again, losing 5-10 pounds, and then taking a break.  It’s an odd cycle, but it has kept me in a way better range for nearly 3 years.
  • I cut off all of my hair in 2013 – went from having bobs to 12-15 inch ponytails to having something close to a pixie cut consistently for more than 6 months.  That probably only seems huge to me, but I love it and it feels like it changed me a lot, lol.

Past vs Present – Stayed the Same

Here is what has stayed the same:

  • I am still married to the same Mr. BFS – we’re going on to 9 years.  We’ve been together as a couple for more than 12 years now.  :-)
  • We have the same dogs - Miss Doxie is almost 16 years old and Mr. Pug is almost 12 years old.
  • We have four of the same close friends.
  • We drive the same cars – my 2005 Chevy Aveo and my husband’s 2007 Toyota Prius.  We are saving for a new-to-us car though since we think we only have a solid 1-2 years left with both of those.

My Take

Overall, I wake up in a different house, do a different job, hang with mostly different people, and have different hobbies.  But I have the same husband, watch tv with the same pets, drive the same car, and there are a few familiar faces in our group.  The last 4 years have had the happiest and saddest moments of my life.  And before 2010, I had never been truly self-motivated.  In 2010, I still thought that I could work the same job for a total of 30 years and retire modestly without going cubicle crazy.  Now the idea of commuting to a dead-end job every day makes me gag.

Yep, it is astounding what 4 years can do…

What’s changed for you since 2010?  Ever amazed by how fast it seems but how much can change at the same time?

Host Gator’s HUGE Cyber Monday Sale!

Do you know someone who is looking to start a new website, needs hosting or domain names?  Then they may want to CLICK HERE and take advantage of Host Gator’s Greatest Sale of the Year!!!  I’m one of their affiliates because I used their service for nearly two years and really appreciated them.  I only moved away to get private hosting with my own server since BFS got too big to share…

The Sale

The 60% OFF all new hosting packages and $4.50 domains will be running all day while they also have limited time “Lightning Sales” for 75% OFF all new hosting packages (starting at only $1.24/month) and $1.95 domains (Cool beans!).

Here are the “lightning sale” times for today (Central Time):

  • Monday 12AM – 1AM
  • Monday 10AM – 12AM
  • Monday 10PM – 11:59PM

Good luck!

Growing a Blog – Sorry, It Takes Time

A bunch of you have emailed me over the last 2-3 months asking how to grow your site as fast as humanly possible.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you a super fast solution – growing a site takes time.  But here is how I accelerated Budgeting in the Fun Stuff’s growth spurt and my suggestions for newbie bloggers…

To-Do List for Growing a Blog

1.  Guest Post!!!  If your guest posts kick butt, you will draw in readers.  Plus you’ll grow your reputation with other bloggers AND get more links out there to your site for the search engines to find.  Win-Win-Win!!!

2.  Comment.  You will get a ton of new readers from comments that you leave elsewhere if they are well thought out.  It shows that you want to be part of the community.

3. Post regularly. Blogs grow faster when there is material flowing. I’d suggest a minimum of three times a week for fast growth – I post daily at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff and used to post about once a week at How I Make Money Blogging. BFS grew way faster.

4. Submit to blog carnivals. Blog carnivals are basically just lists of good posts that are hosted on a different site each week or month depending on the carnival. You can find lists of carnivals that are available by using any search engine and a few minutes per submission.  I actually outsource the submission process since it’s like $20 a month and saves me a ton of time.  Just email me if you’d like me to connect you to my guy.

5. Join a forum. You can search for forums in your niche simply by typing your main keyword followed by “forum”. For example, you may enter “dog training forum” if your blog is about training your dog.  If you’ve ever attended or are planning to attend the Financial Blogger Conference, you should check out their new forum at http://forum.finconexpo.com/.

6. Don’t be in this for the money. It’s a downer to only make 40 cents in the first couple of months. Have fun with it. If you are having fun, your readers have more fun. I look at my blogs as a solid community and the money-making as a huge bonus. I blog full time, but I always keep in mind that having my own online community to hang out with is my primary motivation to do what I do.

7. Read the very first posts on the most successful blogs in your niche. I attacked the archives of a bunch of highly successful personal finance blogs before I started just so I’d have an idea of what helped them to succeed.

8. Start a subscriber list. Whether you want to build a following to eventually suggest products, make affiliate sales, or you just want to build the largest community possible, you will want a subscriber list. I waited nearly 18 months before asking for anybody interested in extra info about me to sign up for my newsletter. That is a full 18 months that I lost out on an additional method of securing long-term readers. First, you should start with a free list setup somewhere. For example, I currently use MailChimp. Then, as your list grows, you should look into paid options like Aweber so that you can better manage your subscribers.

9.  If your blog is very localized, you can search online for companies that may be able to get your name out to the locals directly.  For example, you could use a place like the Local Direct Network if you were in Australia to send out local marketing.  You can find something like that in pretty much any country.

Within four months of starting BFS, I had solid blog rankings, closed my first six-month ad deal for $450, and I’d scored my first-ever staff-writing gig. These tips absolutely worked for me.

Did I miss anything?