State of the Blog: September 2016

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

So, despite getting two awesome guest posts this month from Michael on salary negotiation and Amy on parent school loans, I did not make my three post a week goal. Um. Yeah. Sorry about that, folks.

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. 

State of the Blog September 2016

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.

Library Sale

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.

Ongoing Projects

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!

(If you haven’t signed up for  Swagbucks or Ibotta, they are both pretty awesome ways of getting paid for things you do anyway.)

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?

This post includes affiliate links.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *< and Vickie’s Kitchen and Garden. *

28 thoughts on “State of the Blog: September 2016

    • It’s funny that I almost didn’t put the blog focus in, but by far that’s been the thing that most have responded to. I’ve joked that we should just call ourselves a “Middle Aged Money Blog” and go with it. It suits us as well as any.

  1. Hi Emily, I am the same way over on my blog, no clear niche or focus. Just more general PF / FIRE and the journey my family is taking to get there. That’s who we are and how we fit in, and we hope through our story telling and journey we can help others along the way.
    The Green Swan recently posted…The Green Swan: Six Months in FlightMy Profile

    • JW, that’s funny, because I see you squarely among the FI bloggers. (I see Jon @ Be Net Worthy there too.) It seems like a definite niche to me, even though it covers a lot of territory.

      (Maybe niche identification is one of those things others see more clearly than we see ourselves.)

      Anyway, congrats on 6 months. Keep up the good work.

  2. I’ve been using Honey for awhile. I love the fact that I forget that it’s there and just pops up when/if I’m doing some online shopping. Happy birthday to your Aunt. 100 years old. Wow!

    I’m with you on the fact that your blog doesn’t fit into a niche. I tend to write about whatever is going on in the family or if a news story or some other article caught my attention and sparks an idea.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Debt Free – Year TwoMy Profile

    • I’d never been to 100th birthday party. 270 people! It was amazing.

      It is nice to be able to write on whatever catches my fancy…or Jon’s.

  3. You guys have been busy! I haven’t been up and running as long as you guys, just a couple of months so far, but I’m running into the same issue of what do I want to be when I grow up? So far, I’m a general mix of personal finance and financial independence related articles along with anything else that may cross my mind, like is Donald Trump really worth $10Billion? That post had to be written! 🙂

    As you said, having a house, kids, a job, a little life experience, etc… give you a lot to write about!
    Jon @ Be Net Worthy recently posted…The Best Retirement Account You Didn’t Know You HadMy Profile

    • Jon, I saw you (and JW for that matter) in the FI sphere, but that may be just the articles I read on your site. Which are terrific. Yeah, you write some other stuff (and I can’t wait to read your Trump post.) I don’t know, maybe I just need to come by more often 🙂

  4. I tried the three posts per week schedule with an old political blog that I used to have. I planned to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I found that I could not necessarily keep up with that schedule while keeping the quality of the content high, so I would skip days every once in a while. I found that once I skipped it became easier to justify skipping again and then I started struggling with even keeping up with two posts per week. That’s why when I started the current blog I decided to post every Tuesday and Thursday for a year and then reevaluate and decide if I need to change at the one year mark. It sort of took the decision out of my hands.

    I also recently thought about my place in the PF/FIRE blogosphere. I looked at the PLUTUS award categories and thought “I don’t really fit under any of these umbrellas.” Like you, I’ve decided that I’m okay with it. Ultimately we do what we do because we enjoy it and because we want to bring value to other people. Whether that fits neatly into a box is beside the point.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Defeating Decision Fatigue in a World of ChoicesMy Profile

    • We started out with 5, dropped to 3, dropped to 2, went back to 3, and I think I’m going to settle at 2. 3 is just hard, and it’s easy to skip and hard to get ahead and to keep quality up, do the marketing, and make improvements.

      Plutus and FinCon definitely have me thinking about our place. Some of this is because we don’t fit squarely in the categories for Plutus (unless, like I said in another category, you see us as Middle Aged Money focus. Which would be fair.) Some of this is because I know that FinCon included coaching sessions, and I wondered what the coaching would entail for us had we gone. And some of this is because of the #FeministFinCon discussion.

  5. Not to jump on the comments bandwagon here, but I too have wondered about my blog’s focus. Either there’s a lot of “unfocused” blogs out there, or it’s just a common worry! I may still end up rebranding and refocusing, but I’ve wrestled with it for a year and still haven’t pulled the trigger.

    Sounds like your family had some lovely frugal vacation time. Vacations don’t have to be fancy faraway destinations to give us time to relax and make some family memories. Suzanne and I didn’t really get away this year, but we’ll be attending a friend’s wedding in Cape May, NJ soon and are planning to make a weekend out of it.
    Gary @ Super Saving Tips recently posted…Report Card: Our Annual Expenses Year to YearMy Profile

    • It probably is a common worry, and I think it’s kind of seasonal because of FinCon and the Plutus awards. There seem a lot of great money blogs that don’t really seem to fit the Plutus categories but aren’t really “general” either.

      I’ve heard Cape May is lovely.It seems a terrific place to spend a weekend, so I hope you and Suzanne have a terrific time.

  6. I think some bloggers enter the arena with a specific focus, and many with a specific goal to make money which shapes their focus. I enjoy the variety of topics on your blog. I also think FinCon and the Plutus Awards can make your head spin. You feel like you should be jumping on the bandwagon (whatever that is; I’m not sure anyone else really knows either).

    I got excited for a minute wanting to ask if your aunt was interested in selling off acreage. Then I read further and realized she’s in eastern NC.
    Mrs Groovy recently posted…I Hope Pfau, Kitces, and Collins Know What the Hell They’re Talking AboutMy Profile

    • Thanks Mrs. G. My aunt is in the boondocks of Eastern NC. Not many amenities at all, but only a half hour from downtown Wilmington. The land used to be my great-grandfather Braak’s dairy farm. Since my aunt and two of her kids live adjoining the land (with 2 of her siblings and my brother and I owning adjoining plots) i don’t think anyone will be selling any time soon. There’s some uncertainty as my generation gets older though as several of my cousins have chosen not to have or can’t have children.

  7. You’re doing great!

    I’m with you on the under promising and over delivering when it comes to blog posts. I tried to post every day for a while and it was impossible. Now I am for 3 a week and get happy if I do 4 or more.

    Great job on the gift cards in preparation for Christmas!
    Hannah | Eat, Drink, and Save Money recently posted…Frugal FriYAY week in reviewMy Profile

    • Thanks Hannah! I did 5 posts a week when I first started, but that was back when I thought all I had to do was write. But polishing the posts a bit, getting my images ready, connecting on FB/Twitter, and reading/commenting on other blogs are all part of the process too, and there’s no way I could even vaguely consider doing more than 3 now. I’m hoping dropping back to 2 will allow me to do things like replace old images and take some development classes to get better.

      The gift cards are nice, especially since we already have Amazon points. I generally pick up stocking stuffers from Target, so the gift cards should cover that nicely.

  8. Congrats on being able to define what you can and can’t do with your blog. It sounds like you have made tremendous progress so far and it’s clear that we the readers are responding. Keep up the good work.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Is Gold A Good Investment?My Profile

  9. I’ve only been blogging for a few months, but like you I’ve been wondering about my focus… I’ve not answered my question yet! It’s good to see your honesty 🙂

    From a reader’s perspective, I find it better to read fewer quality posts, rather than stuff churned out to fill gaps, so I’ve tried to adopt this an publish one to two posts per week, always with the intention of helping people.

    Awesome to see how your stats are coming along, the quality content must be working!
    Sarah @tortoisehappy.com recently posted…Money Saving Christmas Tips- Ideas to help you save this ChristmasMy Profile

  10. I’m another one who has trouble with focus, and with having things to write about. My best performing posts have to do with Kickfurther but there is about so much you can say about that topic.
    RAnn recently posted…Quarterly Portfolio ReviewMy Profile

    • Our best performing articles seem to be on small things: our “10 years of marriage post”and the one about plastic bags. The Kickfurther thing is interesting for me. If you didn’t write about it, I’d know nothing about it other than the name!

    • I’ve bookscouted before (Used to work in used book stores as a buyer) but we were definitely in a “Get in and get out” mode with 2 6 year olds in tow. Scouting is fun, though. I keep waiting to run across a copy of Margin of Safety. (Published 1991, currently selling for at least $991 with an Amazon SR of 221,905) It’s like the golden unicorn of books.

  11. My 2 cents – I think that keeping your blog focus open is a good thing – I actually like it that way. You need to have your core principles and values set in stone, which I think you obviously do. Other than that, keeping the content open, gives you a lot of flexibility to share what is going on in your life and some fun stuff as well.

    September was a good month – Started saving with Digit – something I wish I had started sooner. I am a disciplined saver – however, Digit seems to find the crumbs, I like it. I used TopCashback to buy ~$6 dryer sheets from Walmart – it is supposed to be 100% free – the cashback is expected to arrive in 14 weeks. Got the opportunity to write a guest post here – thank you, Emily!

    I have no idea and have never dealt with land before. Keep us posted on what you decide to do going forward.

    I am going look into Honey – looks like a cool thing to use and save some money.

    • Agricultural land is a lot different than renting houses. Much less to do, but lower amounts too. If we go the timber route, I’ll do a story for sure.
      Thanks for your kind words, Michael. Glad you had a terrific month.

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