We’re on the last day of September 2016, and I think we can safely put this month to bed. In our monthly roundup of blog post and life updates, we cover some blog changes, vacation, and rental issues.
The Actual Blog Stuff
Three posts a week has been hard, even with refreshing some older content and getting help from unexpected quarters. Add on to that the fact that I’ve taken the newsletter off of autopilot and it just doesn’t look sustainable long term. I want our quality to be consistent and consistently improving. We have a much better chance of doing that two days a week than three.
So, going forward, we’ll move back to a Monday/Thursday schedule. I’d rather underpromise and get a little ahead or deliver the occasional bonus article than miss our target like we did this week.
I’ve been trying to think about where we are positioned within the financial blog space. We do some investing posts, some frugality, and some family oriented posts. Jon does his DIY articles. We’ve been going a year, and haven’t developed a real focus.
I’ve decided I’m okay with that. I think the ability to write about a bunch of different kinds of articles keeps us engaged. I admire a lot of blogs that fit more neatly into a single category, but that’s not us. We’re middle aged parents, investors, frugal-ish, and thinking about a hundred different things a day.
And our blog reflects that.
On other fronts, we continue to feel good about what’s going on with increases in blog traffic, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. (You can also follow us on Google+ or StumbleUpon.) Earlier this summer we still had days where we might get 10 page views or less. Now it’s rare not to see more views than that by 9 am. So thanks for staying with us and helping us grow!
Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted…
Before Little Bit tracked back in to school, we did our first Groupon: Two nights (midweek) down on the Redneck Riviera. Also known as Myrtle Beach, SC, home of every tacky tourist shop known to man.
I have a real weakness for tacky tourist shops. I don’t want to buy anything, but I love looking in them. So many ridiculous mugs, shot glasses, and t-shirts. However, Little Bit does like to buy things in them, so if she has some allowance saved up (and she did) we don’t get out without a purchase or two.
Mostly, though, we all enjoyed the hotel pools and beach walks, one fantastic dinner out at Chesapeake House (how could I have never gone there?), and the obligatory mini golf session. Since we eschewed the more expensive attractions and used the nearby grocery store for most of our meals, it was a relatively inexpensive vacation.
We also went to Wilmington for 2 of the 4 weekends. We drove down for the day to attend my great aunt’s 100th birthday. The other trip down was a weekend at my aunt’s house. We spent a fun weekend of family visits, board games, and dodging mosquitoes.
We spent a lot of time in the car, and a bit more on gas, eating out and entertainment than usual. On the other hand, we were out of town on 3 separate trips for 6 days total and spent less than $600 on gas, food, lodging, gifts, and entertainment.
But also Takin’ Care of Business
We also got some food for thought. My aunt and uncle are trying to figure out what to do with their farm land rental when the current tenant retires.
He’s the same tenant my brother and I have.
One thing about the rental business: you can’t have much of a business if you don’t have anyone renting from you. While we aren’t looking at an immediate vacancy or a lot of ongoing expenses, the rent does cover the property tax.
My brother and I will need to figure out what to do with our bit of farmland. While farmland covers a quarter of the land, the rest is wooded. We’ve talked about developing a timber plan. We’ll need to give that more of a priority now that we know the rental situation is likely to change over the next couple of years.
One of the things we did during the visit to my aunt’s house was take a trip to the local library sale. We spent $20 and picked up 10 kids books, 2 mysteries a rock hunting guide and a giant reference book.
Library sales can be a great way to pick up some cheap reading material but there are a few hints:
- Check the prices. $1 for kids paperbacks is a deal. $2 for kids hardbacks is a deal. $2 for mass market paperback fiction might be a deal in certain categories, but seemed kinda pricy to me.
- Library sales are chaotic and crowded. If you go with others, have a plan for finding each other because you will drift away as you look.
- Don’t go for anything specific. Shopping a sale isn’t like shopping a bookstore or well, browsing the library. Go to find something to catch your eye or to look for whole categories of books.
- Bring your own bags. There may be some available, but there may not be either. Jon likes to bring boxes and a dolly.
- If you really want cheap books, go the last day. On the last day of a library sale, the library often sells boxes of books for $5 or similar.
My price book progress continues. Let’s just say I was far more aware when our regular grocery store raised milk gallon prices over the $3 threshold last week than I would have been before I started tracking prices. I almost told Jon to cut back his milk habit! I noticed a weird pattern where the store would run a special on milk, then raise the price. This has happened 3 times, so I’m now wary of cheap milk.
While my smartphone still gives me fits, I’ve decided to wait until later in the year to upgrade. When I do, I’ll take a good look at the used options. I doubt I’ll pull the trigger until the holidays, and this will probably be the Christmas gifts Jon and i give each other this year.
I’ve been ramping up Swagbucks and Ibotta as we get closer to the holidays. I’m trying to hold off on cashing in any points until mid-November. I’ve found that Swagbucks gift cards can take a few days to get processed. Ibotta, on the other hand, takes about 5 minutes. Either way, I expect to have about $75 worth of gift cards to use for Christmas shopping by Black Friday. Woohoo!
Taking pictures of Little Bit’s schoolwork continues to be a great way of cutting down on the amount of loose paper around the house.
Hints and Bargains
We went into Dollar Tree again, and I continue my set of experiments. I noted that Dollar Tree has some awesome Halloween decor. I don’t regularly buy decor items from Dollar Tree…most of them seem kind of cheap and gaudy. For Halloween, though, cheap and gaudy totally works. Glow in the dark skeletons, witch brooms, and gummy boogers all seem like pretty awesome Halloween items to me.
One thing we tackled in our ongoing decluttering project was Little Bit’s closet. We have an older house with a serious lack of closet space. Our daughter has a closet, but it’s small. She has a ton of clothes, and couldn’t reach any of them. So we picked up a hanging closet rack at Walmart for $10. It didn’t quite double her closet space, but close. She can also reach the lower rack, which makes our mornings much easier. Adding a rack was an easy and cheap way of extending our closet space.
I started using the Honey extension on my Chrome browser, which applies coupon codes automatically to online purchases. It saved me $5 this month on ink at Office Depot, and a few more on our Groupon. It’s a super easy convenient way to get discounts while shopping online.
How did your month go? Find any great bargains? Discover any impending challenges? Have a good idea of what to do with 20 acres of woods in Eastern NC?
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