State of the Blog: January 2017 and No-Spend January Wrap Up

Welcome to our State of the Blog report for January 2017. In our monthly wrap up, we’ll talk blog fatigue, a giveaway jar dilemma, and the to-do list. We’ll even wrap up our No-Spend January Challenge.

January came in with a bang (and an ice storm). After that, Little Bit suffered an ear infection, and she and Jon both caught a bit of a cold. My seasonal job picked up a bit more than I bargained for. As we move into February, everyone in the house feels impatient for spring, better health, and better weather.

Which isn’t to say January was bad, but I think we’re all ready to move on. We’re tired. Little Bit never takes naps, and she’s napping daily. Jon and I are drained. I think we’re ready for a spring renewal…or at least a little Super Bowl party.

Blog Stuff

In December, I struggled with my blogging whys. In January, I struggled with just blogging.

I feel like I really struggled with content over the last month, and part of this has to do with the No-Spend January Challenge. The last time we did a No-Spend January Challenge, I wrote 7 articles. (Okay, I wrote 6 and Jon wrote one.) I had fun, and the words flowed easily. This time, we didn’t have nearly as much to say. Other things took up our time and attention, and our low spending didn’t seem that far from the norm. On the other hand, I didn’t seem to have much energy for anything else, either.

I struggled to keep up with reading other blogs and making comments. Pinterest got put on the back burner. I tweeted only sporadically. I have way more props to those who manage to do all the good blogger tasks, plus work full-time careers, plus raise families. I struggled as my schedule tightened and…some things got dropped.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Our Sling TV review earlier this week did really well. That surprised me, but our search traffic went way up. We never get hits from search! I guess a lot of people want to know if Sling is too good to be true. I hope our experience helps them.

Where My Mind Is

Part of my content struggle is probably caused by current events. I haven’t made myself turn away (though Linda at Brooklyn Bread has a great list of alternatives.) I’m not certain I want to yet. My mind wanders away from money topics and towards thoughts of justice, civility, unity, and good citizenship.

I don’t think this is the space for those thoughts, though occasionally I just babble anyway. For the moment, I listen, read, think, and pray a little. 

I’ll leave it at this thought: Money is not a zero-sum game, and neither are most things. I can do better, you can do better, we can all grow together and we all grow best together when we work together. A winner-take-all, zero-sum mentality shuts out so many better possibilities.

Look for common interests and bridges to understanding. That’s where we find opportunities to grow together Listen, read, and think.

And, if it’s in your wheelhouse, maybe pray a little, too.

No-Spend January Challenge Wrap-Up

If you haven’t been following along, we wrapped up weeks one, two and three in other posts.

We finally cooked one of the turkeys! Yay! We took it over to Jon’s parents to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday and then split the leftovers. We still have the ham and another turkey, but it’s not like the three of us could have eaten all that meat anyway.

Little Bit’s illness means she won’t eat anything. Not even a cupcake at a birthday party for one of her classmates. Jon and I have to beg her to take a nibble, so I did a little extra spending to try to tempt her to eat a bit. Last week I picked up some pop tarts and her favorite cereal so I could send her off to school having eaten SOMETHING. On Sunday, I even stopped after church and got us each a McDouble. That at least tempted her into eating half. She’s still eating lightly, but at least I’m no longer worried she’s going to faint from hunger.

We also ended up with $12 worth of cough medicine, some cough drops, extra kleenex, etc. And 3 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. With all that and our pre ice-storm trip, our grocery bill ended up a disappointing $245, about half what it usually runs but about $100 higher than I wanted. We spent about $25 on a lunch out and the Mickey D’s run, and about the same on entertainment (Jon forgot to cancel my 6-month Sirius XM anniversary subscription, plus an ice cream cone and one planned roller skating party.)

That feels like a lot of spending for a no-spend month. It’s about the same as last time, though. I may not have learned much, but $300 seems about as low as we comfortably get that discretionary spending down for a month and absorb all the unexpected things life throws at us.

State of the Blog: January 2017 and No-Spend Month Wrap Up

Working the To-Do List

I started the year with a to-do list, and I haven’t changed it much yet.

Live Healthier

  • Exercise moderately at least 4 times.-
  • Delay sweets til the weekend.

Increase Financial Health

  • Kick off No-Spend Challenge.

Blog Improvement

  • Write 2 articles.
  • Write newsletter.
  • Progress through at least some part of a blogging class a week

Do Good Things

  • Figure out volunteer availability in relation to office commitments.

How it Went

I hit the exercise goal, pretty much left the sweets til the weekend, and didn’t forget the newsletter. I wrote…not quite 2 articles each week. (two this week, though!) and we made it through the no-spend challenge…okay. The class…well, I got through the class the first week and did a Pinterest seminar a different week. Hitting 50%, but that’s more continuing ed than I finished most months last year.

Where I really dropped the ball was my volunteer commitment. My current commitment is for mornings, and all my school mornings became work mornings. I need to figure something else to do for a while, so I may just put more time in at church.

Now that my No-Spend month is over, I need to figure the next Financial Health move too…getting our tax returns finished. I don’t need to finish it this week, but I need to get started.

Little Bit’s Giveaway Jar

We designed Little Bit’s allowance to include money to give away, preferably around Christmas time. In 2015, the giveaway jar worked well, and she gave to her school’s Backpack Buddies program for food-insecure kids.

This year, she wanted to wait until her school’s Jump Rope for Heart drive to benefit the American Heart Association.

I’m cool with the American Heart Association. Almost 80% of their funds go to program expenses, and heart disease is a killer.

What I have reservations about is that Little Bit gets rewards for the donations she brings in. The giveaway jar should not be traded for rewards.

It’s not that simple either. Little Bit says she not only wants to use all of her giveaway money, she also wants to donate her accumulated spending money…over $30. That’s 6 weeks of saving for her.

She does have an option to forego the rewards completely but she also will be asking others to contribute. She wants the rewards, and they are driving her to do more fundraising. So I’m torn, and not sure what to do, other than let her support the cause she’s adopted. 

Wrapping Up January 2017

January is over, and I was ready for it to be.

February holds more promise. Work seems like it will ratchet down for a bit after a week or so. At least, I’ll get to go in an hour later than I do this week and get back to my regular wake-up time. 

Little Bit gets out for her late winter track out in the middle of the month. We won’t vacation at all, but I think it will help her to kick back and relax for a couple of weeks.

We’ll watch the Super Bowl, eat some pancakes for Mardi Gras and find some R&R, even if it’s just in our family room.

Thanks for coming by. You can follow us on  TwitterFacebookGoogle+ and StumbleUpon. Also feel free to let us know if you have a topic you’d like us to cover. or just want to say hi!

How did your January go? What’s your best advice for fighting a bad case of the blahs? And what would you do about the giveaway jar dilemma?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich and I Am the Future Me*

28 thoughts on “State of the Blog: January 2017 and No-Spend January Wrap Up

  1. It’s certainly a balance running a blog by yourself and working full time, family, etc. I try and carve out time, but sometimes feel the pressure to stay on track.

    All three of our kids participated in Jump Rope for Heart over the years. A cause that is near and dear, my dad passed away of heart disease. Maybe you could take some of the reward she earns and donate them?

    We had a productive January. Lot’s going on. I’d say just focus on the positive. There were a lot of good things that were accomplished for you guys this month.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Net Worth Update: January 2017My Profile

    • Thanks, Brian. Yeah, there are good things going on (even the giveaway jar is a good dilemma to have as these things go.) And…went to the store yesterday for our first “post challenge” grocery trip and came in under $100, despite buying quite a few wants. Yeah, that felt good.

  2. I consider your no spend month a huge win, Emily! I spent more than you did…but much less than I normally do. I had leaks I didn’t realize I had, so, even though our month didn’t flow much differently, I did learn quite a bit about our spending habits.

    There comes a point where we have to economize our list of to-dos. Sounds to me like you’re there. Sometimes, something just has to be set aside when life happens!

    Like you, I’ve cut back on my blogging chores – and will actually cut back further soon. There will be fewer posts moving forward (possibly only one post on some weeks). But my goal is to make sure those are high quality posts. We’ve had more life happen lately than I would like and, though I love blogging with all my heart, I have to scale back for now.

    Thanks for sharing your month! Here’s to a great February! 🙂
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…Debt Free Story: How I Paid Off My Student Loans And Escaped The Golden HandcuffsMy Profile

    • It’s good to notice those leaks, Amanda. And yeah, saying “we’re not going to spend” helps identify them pretty quick.
      I think some of the blahs have to do with having to get up early all this week (and next). I am not good at adjusting my sleep schedule.

      I was amazed that you could pull off so many good posts in January. (There’s no way I could do that right now). Quality is important, and I don’t want mine to decline, but I also try really hard to stick to my schedule.

  3. I hear you on the blogging struggle. I don’t work, don’t have young kids, and I still struggle with it sometimes. I hear you on the blahs as well. The current situation in this country is inducing a lot of stress (not helped by my habit of watching cable news shows) and that seems to make everything more difficult. I’m glad you’re sticking to your “to do” list. I’ve got to get mine better organized. As for the giveaway jar, I have to say that Brian’s suggestion about donating some of the rewards sounds good to me. With my own heart struggles, the American Heart Association is one of the organizations we give to, and I’m hoping to participate in their local fundraising walk again this year.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…How Will You Pay Off Your Biggest Debt? Your Home MortgageMy Profile

    • Glad Little Bit and you share a cause, Gary. We’ll see about the donating (the kids mostly get little stuffed toys, and I think it’s a prestige thing amongst 1st graders rather than something she truly wants.)

      I have been mostly avoiding TV news and reading Facebook feed articles and the Washington Post. That may make my stress worse since my feed is full of politics these days, even more that it was during the election.

  4. What a great post. I love your honesty! It’s so crazy that you manage to do it all. My wife and I have no kids but even then we feel like there is no time left. What has helped us is purposely making time for each other, friends and family. Although I’m a loner, we both realize the need to recharge. I think that’s the only way to stay motivated and get rid of apathy.


    • Welcome, Javi. No one can do it all, and it’s unrealistic to think we can and unrealistic to be hyper-productive all the time (at least over the long term.) Sometimes I listen to the “hustle more” messages and feel guilty, and sometimes I just want to groan “Give me a break!” Prioritization and letting go of the low priorities that suck up our time is key to staying sane.

  5. I think you’re still doing awesome Emily! As much as I like blogging, it takes a back seat when I’m busy – and I am OK with that. I’ve decided to try to do one post a week – and one share post a week. But I missed my own post last week because I just couldn’t do it. I think it becomes pretty obvious when people “force” posts. Just hang in there and be authentic – you’re doing great!
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…We’ve Had The Same Tenant for 22 Years and Haven’t Raised the RentMy Profile

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Vicki. I know we all get overwhelmed at times and have to let things go. I try really hard to put up a couple of good posts a week, and I wish I could write a few extras to pull out when a good post doesn’t flow so well.

  6. Taxes are next on my list as well.

    This month has definitely been harder to struggle through on all fronts due to the state of the world for me.

    I’m coping in a few ways: letting myself take a little more time because I’m slowed down by worrying. I won’t stress myself out over worrying about worrying! I’m taking some time to send happy things like pictures and funny videos to friends to bring some positivity to the world. I’m being as active as I can in fighting for our rights, without forcing myself beyond my limits since my health will take a dive. I’m also spending some enforced time being productive (at work, on the blog) to prevent myself from being a pile of goopy worry.

    I also have a small group of friends who are equally worried and we lean on each other now and again when it feels like everything is terrible. That helps too.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…Slow goals are long term goalsMy Profile

    • I’m glad you’ve found your own ways to cope, Revanche.

      I’ve been invited to join a physical group (as opposed to just the online ones) and I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to do something and feel the need to get out of my comfort zone on certain issues and with more action. On the other, I already feel stressed and overwhelmed by everything. So I’m torn between the two impulses, and not sure whether the active group will give me a channel for some of the anxiety and add support, or just add to the sense of obligation and stress. For the moment, I work to be kind and civil as much and as often as possible.

      Good luck on the taxes!

  7. I’m finding some comfort in your thoughts about how tough January has been. I have dragged myself through this month. Typical winter blues? I don’t know. But spring will come. I think it’s lovely that your daughter wants to give so of her money to a good cause. If she does, she will either feel empowered to continue to give or else she’ll learn the lesson that it is always good to keep some money in savings while also budgeting to give. Both are fine outcomes.
    I hope that your February is better, Emily. (I hope that mine is too : )
    Fruclassity (Ruth) recently posted…Frugal Amy: Staying on The Right Side of The Frugal/Cheap DivideMy Profile

    • Thanks Ruth. I think you are right about the donation…either way she learns something valuable and supports a good cause. Good luck getting out of the winter funk!

  8. Falling sick in winter is no fun. Hope your kiddo is doing well now.

    I have been very busy with a lot of projects I am working on and blogging consistently was a challenge in January. My goal is to write at least one post a week and I was able to write only three posts in January. I hope to do better this month.
    Michael recently posted…Know Your Net WorthMy Profile

    • She’s mostly better, thanks for asking. She has a bit of a cough still but it doesn’t seem to affect her as much and the naps have stopped.

      Good luck on a better February, Michael.

    • I realized yesterday (when I was off) that some of my funk is just due to lack of sleep….earlier work schedule than I’m used to (getting up before 6 instead of 6:30) and little Bit’s illness had me kinda run down. It’s amazing what a bit more sleep can do. Hope the short month goes well for you, Latoya!

  9. For me when I get a case of the blahs I normally force myself to just show up. Whether that’s exercise or writing or whatever it is, I feel like half the battle is just to start doing it. After a couple of minutes I start to get into a groove and then things start flowing. So for me the biggest battle is just getting started.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Week 1 of the 28 Day Network ChallengeMy Profile

    • Getting started is tough, and reaching for topics has become an issue as well. I spend some time staring at a blank page, that’s for sure.

    • I think it was from State of the World/State of the Union, I think, I don’t know. It was a bit tongue in cheek at first, making fun of self. I still like it. thanks for coming by.

    • I thought about that. I think, since she’s determined to give all of her spending money too, I’ll let it go. She’s contributing $72 in total. That’s a pretty good donation.

  10. Oh Emily, I am right there with you. It is impossible to live in a vacuum. Blogging is so personal, so how can you keep plugging along dispensing your wisdom when you feel confused and worried and the world seems to be plunging into chaos around you? I only have even more respect for you for acknowledging that. I have had a hard time focusing on anything other than the state of our country as well- you are not alone. Kudos for reaching those exercise goals- that is a big win. And bravo to your little one for already working to make the world better- her generation will begin to set things straight, I have no doubt. And thank you for the shout out, my dear!

    • You are welcome, Linda. I may turn to that post more as we go through the year…I think we’re all going to need periodic breaks, and we’re all going to have to pace ourselves. Good luck and godspeed.

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