Welcome to State of the Blog for November 2016. In this month’s roundup, we discuss hitting some pretty awesome blogging milestones, a family vacation, and a number of post updates.
November whirled by for me. Little Bit has a 3-week track out starting around Veteran’s Day, so I’m a bit more distracted than usual. This year, we went to Orlando to visit the Mouse. I came back with a lot of happy memories and a head cold. I knocked out large chunks of Christmas shopping online Thanksgiving weekend.
Finally, I got to celebrate birthday #49.
One year away from birthday #50. For some reason, that bothers me a bunch. Surely, I can’t be that old?
Still, Jon gave me birthday Bojangles and a two-year subscription to one of my guilty pleasures, Entertainment Weekly. Plus, my in-laws threw me one of their standard family parties, complete with pound cake. As birthdays go, this was one of the better ones even if the age factor gives me pause.
So we hit two big markers this month. First, we earned our first revenue from the Amazon affiliate program. Yay. $1.12.
Second, our post on Dollar Store Holiday Purchases that Won’t Make You Fell Scroogish became our first post to hit over 1000 views this month. Evidently, Pinterest users really liked that one, because that’s where the vast majority of our clicks originated. Really odd, because the day we published it, I didn’t do anything with the post. I didn’t submit it to Pinterest, I didn’t promote it on Facebook, I barely tweeted it until the next day.
Instead, I spent the day of our biggest blog success riding rollercoasters, watching parades, and drinking butterbeer on Diagon Alley. Well, the Orlando version, anyway. I did do some promotion the next day, but mostly others did it for me.
Now I just need to come up with equally shareable content. No biggie, right?
I also made a major investment in my blogging by buying a bunch of blog classes that I have yet to take. Needless to say, I look forward to some Pinterest strategy and content generation classes, as well as graphic design, SEO, CSS, and more social media.
I’m still looking for collaborators for two Pinterest boards: Paying for College and Raising Financially Savvy Kids. If you’d like to be part of one or either, let me know.
A Visit to the Mouse and the Wizarding World
We bit the bullet. We went to see the Mouse (Magic Kingdom) and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Universal Studios) and it was awesome, but not cheap.
Though this wasn’t intended to be a budget vacation, we did a few things to save money. We drove and spent a couple of nights with Jon’s aunt and uncle. We ate meals before and after the Universal visit, and packed in snacks. (Unfortunately, we were less diligent at Disney, which was a mistake because we stayed twice as long.) We limited the souvenirs to a set amount, and picked up our nice, extremely convenient hotel via Groupon.
Our biggest savings came because we limited our park days to two, with a “Middle Aged Parent Recovery Day” scheduled in between our park days. One day for three of us at either park cost more than all three nights at our Disney Springs area hotel. We had offered Little Bit her choice of a second park, and she weighed her choices carefully for a couple of weeks before finally settling on Universal and Harry Potter.
There’s an age for seeing Disneyworld, and 6 is pretty optimum…Little Bit’s old enough to remember the vacation fondly while being young enough for the magic. She could go on Space Mountain and Escape from Gringotts with more excitement than fear, and was only too short for one ride (which I wanted to do, but she and her dad really didn’t anyway.) She hadn’t aged out of the character Meet’n’Greets, and mostly would go along with what her Dad and I decided.
That said, I’m really glad we have ONE kid. Tickets are expensive, even if you avoid most extras. Plus, navigating the huge crowd with Little Bit wasn’t easy, though she did a pretty good job of sticking with us.
That makes 3 vacations this year: 2 beach trips and our Florida jaunt. I don’t regret any of our travels, but next year should be much more moderate in terms of vacations. Camping, maybe?
I made some of the decision about keeping my RAI stock after the merger with BAT was announced, and sold all the RAI that sat in tax-advantaged accounts. Since selling the stock in my taxable account will mean reporting a sizable gain, I’m holding on to it at least until next year. That said, I took the dividends off reinvest mode for now. I may regret selling the stock, but I’ve pretty much decided to invest my money elsewhere.
My final total for Christmas gift cards and rewards? $25 from Ibotta, $75 from Swagbucks, $10 (and a free bag of coffee) from World Market Explorers, $15 in Kohl’s cash, and $262 in rewards from our Amazon Visa. (If you haven’t already joined Swagbucks or Ibotta, you can get $5 for joining either by using my referral links, They’re both great ways of earning gift cards for next Christmas! I can tell you almost $400 in rewards helps a bunch to augment my holiday budget!
We also cut our adult Christmas list down as my side of the family decided to only buy presents for the kids this year. I’ll still do some cookies and bread for everyone and our annual picture calendar for my dad and stepmom, but that decision should cut our gift buying down by $100-150.
You know that couponing class I discussed last month? Yeah, I’ve applied none of it, other than being able to tell a good BOGO from a minor deal that shouldn’t initiate any extra purchases.
Hints and Bargains
Mr Groovy tweeted me that Aldi was selling a dozen eggs for 49 cents. I said “Let’s make a quiche,” but Jon, the eggnog fiend, immediately started thinking about this nog recipe from Alton Brown instead. Mmm, boozy holiday goodness! He wins. We were due for an Aldi/Trader Joe’s trip anyway to pick up wine, pecans, and other holiday necessities anyway, but 49 cent eggs have sped up the timetable.
Disneyworld’s Main Street Starbucks was only about 20% more expensive than the one in our neighborhood. For park food, that made it a bargain (and cheaper than our hotel coffee shop.) Plus, if you go there, you can brag that you’ve been to the busiest Starbucks in the world (at least that’s what the baristas said.)
When you send your hubby for Nyquil and he brings home the Zzzquil knockoff, don’t take it.
How did November go for you?
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