Have you heard those stories about bloggers who are working for themselves making money off their blog? Have you wondered how feasible or attainable making money off your blog really is for anyone? For those of you who have been blogging, or those who are even interested in blogging, let me be very clear here -- you, too, can make money off your blog!
I am so excited to tell you how you can earn affiliate income from blogging! Before this year, I had a vague knowledge about affiliate marketing. Then, I started digging deeper into learning more about what is affiliate marketing. The more research I did about creating a blog, the more I was interested in affiliate marketing. I continued to dig a little deeper, and found this course online called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. One of the very neat things about this course is that the person who created this course, Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, has been doing affiliate marketing for several years now and was able to quit her full-time day job to pursue her blogging business!
Michelle is currently making over $50,000 a month in affiliate marketing alone. Her success was not an overnight success, rather it took her time to build up this business. Now, she gets to travel full-time with her husband while working on her blog. That sounds amazing, doesn't it? Essentially, affiliate marketing is a marketing arrangement in which you receive a commission for traffic or sales generated from referrals. If you have started a blog then you should also start looking into affiliate marketing. It is actually semi-passive income, where you get the opportunity to also promote products that you love!
Michelle blogs over at Making Sense of Cents, and details frequently about budgeting, savings, and all things money related. The course that she created walks you through all of the details, the ins and outs, of truly what it takes to do affiliate marketing, like she does on her blog.
Here's what the course goes through:
Check the course out at this link!
This course is not free, and it definitely needs to work within your budget before you click on purchase. However, I have learned far more about my website and blogging from taking this course than I could have learned all on my own. I definitely feel there is a return on investment. Since I am new to the blogging scene and have just started my business this year, I have not made actual money from affiliate marketing yet. What I have seen is very specific growth in my page views on my blog, and visits to my website. I believe that if I continue to produce content, grow, and expand my blog I will start seeing the commissions coming in.
As always, I am here to answers your questions - so feel free to drop me a line. . . And, remember to stay within your budget!
Would you know the answer to the question: Do you live below your means?
Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast where they were talking about how it is culturally acceptable to spend, spend, spend! Buy that new widescreen/flat screen/3D Screen TV! Buy the newest car! Buy that new piece of electronics! Buy the latest and greatest fashion line! Living within this culture where we are conditioned to overspend beyond our means, will allow us to do just that with seemingly no repercussions. I truly believe it becomes very hard to live below your means when you are immersed in a society and culture where it is acceptable to live beyond your means.
As I see it, there are a few options available to you in order to start living below and within your means. Here are five ways you can choose today to start living below your means:
1. Stop spending money
First off, it is easier said than done, but just stop spending your money altogether. Stop going out to eat. Stop buying the latest and greatest car/electronic/clothing. Even if we stopped here, at this point, you could be on track for living below your means. With the pressure of this current culture, being status quo is seems to be no longer enough. Everyone wants to be the first person who, when it comes to their Instagram account, is posting about their greatest experiences, or the newest restaurant in town, or whatever new piece of electronics they recently got. It especially makes me nervous when people talk about always spending money. I always want to interject, and ask if they have a budget, or if they are saving for retirement. . .
2. Increase your income
If you have done everything you can to cut your spending, then the next step is to figure out a way increase your income! This may include asking for a raise from your employer. But, seriously, when was the last time you had a raise? I am sure you are a great employee that goes above and beyond. Build your case, and request the meeting with your boss. It could be as easy as that!
Increasing your income could also mean you are working a side hustle. Did you know that if you started a blog, you could eventually start making money off the blog? Increasing your income could also include going through your house and purging items that are no longer useful for you. Instead of donating those items to Goodwill use Facebook Marketplace to sell them; or, apps like Poshmark (download the app and use my code for a $5 credit: EDRINAJENETTE). Another option is to drive for Uber or Lyft on the weekends, instead of watching Netflix. These are just a few ideas and options available to you.
3. Create a budget
What it really comes down to, in my opinion, the true problem lies within not having a budget and sticking to it. When it comes to living below my means, my number one takeaway that ensures I am living within my means is my budget! So, simple, right? Well, come to find out, many people do not use a budget! Which is entirely unfortunate for them because this is the number one way to ensure you are living within your means! At the very core of creating a budget is the fact that you will need to start tracking every single transaction from your bank accounts and credit cards. Making sure you are comparing what you spend to the amount of income that you are bringing in for that time period (whether it be per pay period or per month). So that at the end of that time period you will be able to identify where the bulk of your spending is going, and perhaps even drill down into a potential spending problem. That is when you should really focus and hone in on what your next steps will be.
It is no longer enough to just have a conversation about a budget. You really need to put pen to paper and work through the numbers yourself. Heck, even let a professional do that for you! I remember when I was first going to college and I was writing down every expense that I had and all of my income to figure out how to make ends meet. I remember feeling like I did not have enough income to make a meaningful budget. This left me feeling a little defeated and I did not want to continue working on my budget. But I pressed on anyway, because that is what you have to do. You have to press on in order to meet your goals.
4. Make sacrifices
When all is said and done, living below your means will certainly take some sacrifices. For myself, I have made a point to not eat out all the time. I have made a point to stick to my grocery budget as much as possible during the month. But, also, there is zero shame in shopping at the Dollar Tree! Every month, I make a point to go to the Dollar Tree for my everyday items. This saves me SO much money. Lastly, I have made a point to stay in the apartment that I am living in. This third point is probably the hardest for me right now. I have been wanting to move into a two bedroom apartment so that I can have a dedicated office space, but it does not make sense to me financially right now. Rent these days is a little ridiculous and I cannot imagine myself paying as much as they are asking for a two-bedroom. I have given myself a limit as to what I feel is acceptable to spend on my housing each month, and everything that I have seen over the past year would mean that I would be living beyond my means!
These sacrifices that we make in order to live below our means may not be easy. The way my office space is currently sitting is in my living room, which pretty much cramps my living room space. For almost half the year, I have had my couch in front of a closet because if I had it any other way there would be no room to walk! But, it is these sacrifices that I deal with so that I can live below my means. These sacrifices are conscious decisions that I have to make every single day.
5. Enlist an accountability partner
If you already know that you are not the greatest when it comes to numbers, then find someone who knows the numbers and can help. It does not even have to be a professional. Perhaps you have a trusted friend that can offer insight with an outsider’s perspective. Enlist them to be your budget accountability partner. Offer to cook them dinner and have a budget check-in session together. I have known plenty people who are very smart and capable, but also want that extra set of eyes, or a perspective of an accounting professional that they do not have. I completely and entirely respect that in them, because whether or not we want to admit it we are all human and can also make mistakes. All that to say, I am certainly not perfect and am still on this journey alongside you.
So, together, we can make living below our means socially and culturally acceptable! Who’s with me?!
The decision to go to Cancun was for a few reasons, and selling points. First off, we needed a getaway and wanted to make sure the getaway was budget friendly. We decided to do an “All-Inclusive” vacation. We were saving up for a vacation, just unsure of where to go but we knew we wanted something that would fit into what we had already saved. We were looking at very specific price points. We looked through other vacations, like cruises (I love cruises!!) and a few other local vacation spots.
I like to do a search on all those discounted travel websites like Expedia and Groupon, and then I do some price comparisons and research with Airbnb. For the amount of money that we would spend, over the course of a week, it just made sense to do an all-inclusive trip with CheapCaribbean.com. We knew that if we did go with an all-inclusive resort we would have the opportunity to do a timeshare presentation, and if we declined signing up for a timeshare, we would get a *free* gift. Whatever that gift would be and however long it took us to get, we were up for it! The gift turned out to be a complimentary massage!
A note about all-inclusive resorts: mostly everything is included! Starting with the airfare, cost of the hotel, cost of the meals, and sometimes the alcohol. Yes, you read that right! Additionally, the resort we stayed at has amazing WiFi all over! Even when we were on the beach, the WiFi still worked great! Our resort stocked our mini-fridge on the daily! It had things like soda, water bottles, juice, and beer. We did not have to buy any water bottles while we were there! We also were able to order room service at our leisure at no additional charge!
Now, my only drawback with all-inclusive resorts is that the food is not specialty food. I enjoy eating delicious made-for-me meals (and I usually default to a vegetarian-ish type of eating), and all-inclusive resorts usually have buffets as their main dining experience. Thankfully, the resort we opted for did include a dinner at a Teppan Grill -- which was fabulous! There was also a couple other restaurants there and that had delicious dinners! A steak restaurant and Italian restaurant.
However, when it comes to the activities outside of the resort, those will cost a pretty penny! So, be very careful when scheduling your excursions because those will add up very quickly. Pro-tip: Schedule an excursion that goes to more than one place, to get the most bang for your buck!
Importance of Traveling
I know that there are some people out there that would love to go on a vacation, but feel like they are hindered by outside circumstances. Perhaps you feel the cost of the vacation is too much to bear. Perhaps you feel like your work will not let you take a full week vacation off, OR that no one at your workplace should be filling in for you. Perhaps you think it will be challenging to leave your home and pets for the week. My guess is that because of any one of these reasons you have talked yourself out of going on a vacation!
Believe me, the pets will be fine with a family member or close friend watching over your home. It does not hurt to ask, and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised when they do agree to watch over your home and pets. I would also like to mention how necessary it is for employers to allow you to take your vacation time that you have accrued throughout the year. It is in the best interest of the company as it is for yourself. Read this article if I still have not convinced you.
I've linked some of my favorite travel products, check them out on Amazon!
As you can see I am an advocate of taking vacations. There is nothing better than getting away with your loved ones to reset. You can even use it as a time to come together and set or create goals for the upcoming year or season. Here are a few health benefits that I have found to be true for myself when taking a vacation:
“Let’s Do the Numbers” (said in a very Kay Rissdal way)
Traveling may feel like it can be expensive, but if you save up and plan for it in time by setting small goals for yourself you will find that it is attainable. Since the All-Inclusive resort pretty much included anything we wanted at the hotel, we were very mindful about tipping our servers. (Please be mindful and tip!) So, here’s our detail breakdown of our costs.
So, given our total cost of the trip was about $1,565 each person, if you were to save up for this in one year (with 26 pay periods), that is only about $60 per paycheck! If you have other priorities right now, like paying off debt, that is great! Once you get to a point where you are in charge of your debt, start saving for that much-needed vacation of yours! I also wanted to point out that the highlighted items are frivolous spending. We spent it because we had brought cash with us for that very reason. But, you do not have to opt in to spending this money. In fact, if you take those items away you would only need to save about $50 per paycheck for a year.
Tips For Booking Your Travel
Left: Our itinerary // Right: At Tulum on one of the excursions
This post contains affiliate links. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. See full disclosure here.
Make talking about budgeting a part of your everyday life!
If you do not take anything away from this blog, it is just that! The other day I was thinking of ways that I could bring a fresh perspective in order to assist in personal budgeting and finances. But then, light-bulb! I realized that simply starting the conversation could do just that!
Find ways to incorporate it into your daily conversations.
It does not have to be with just your partner either. I find myself asking friends before we go out what their budget looks like for our outing. Or, we already have a predetermined amount of money we can spend on a typical basis (which is CHEAP). I want to be mindful and cautious about spending money, and I do believe my friends want to as well.
I was just on vacation, and in order to keep track of our spending (because we only brought a set amount of cash) we literally wrote down where every dollar was going. We did not want to be in a situation where we came back from vacation and then could not figure out where our dollars went! As it turns out, we spent wayyyyyy less than we had thought we would. So, I came back with actual CASH! *happy dance* (I plan to write up a blog post on going on a budget-friendly vacation at a later time, where I detail all of our spending! Stay tuned!)
I think we are afraid of talking about budgeting!
I think the reason people tend to shy away from talking about budgeting is out of fear. Maybe we are afraid of being honest with ourselves? Maybe we feel like talking about our budgets means sharing every little detail about what is included, like income. Income is a very touchy subject. I am here to tell you that is absolutely not true! We all have different goals and priorities. But, we do need to be mindful that what one person’s priority may be, is another person’s luxury.
I am not saying that you need to share every detail about your budget. I am, however, suggesting to try and incorporate it into your daily conversations. We could all become a little more vulnerable with each other and learn how to share sensitive information in a trustworthy and safe environment.
That is to say, you most certainly do not have to share what you are not comfortable with sharing. Think about the times you and some friends are discussing which restaurant or coffee shop to visit. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to say something like; “I am on a budget and would like to keep our meals under $XX dollar amount”? I think this is absolutely and perfectly acceptable!
The biggest area of concern for me is my fringe spending. These are things that are not on the necessary list, but the “nice to have” and the “don't really need” lists. For example, it would be nice to eat out at a restaurant a few nights each week, but that is not necessary when I know how to cook and have plenty of food at home. It would be very nice to get Starbucks coffee EVERY morning, but that is very far from necessary!
What I have been doing recently is tracking my spending very carefully. Once you become accustomed to talking more about your budget and drilling down into what you spend your money on, it starts to become a little bit easier to stop spending money and focus on financial goals.
To be entirely and completely honest, starting a business is not easy, and it is not cheap. So, my goal for myself is to drill down on what are my actual expenses essential to my life so that the overage of dollars can be transferred into my business accounts. This way I can do more things like advertising and marketing, which tend to have very volatile spending. Initially, I would like to see my spending down by 5% overall in the variable spending category. As I get a handle on spending less money, I do plan to continue to share this with you all.
I will go ahead and share with you what my spending has looked like in my variable category over the past few months in percentages. Hopefully, you will be able to see how it takes a lot of discipline to not only just stick to your budget but to fine-tune it each month these are very very important factors in your Financial Health.
A few things to note about the chart below. This is what the total percentage of spending in these particular categories for these months look like. This is NOT what I have allocated for my budget, that would have to be stated in a different type of chart and frankly, I did not want to muddy the waters too much! You will not see items like Rent, Utilities, Car, because these are taken into consideration under my “Fixed Expenses” category.
As you can see, May has the highest spending in the dining out line item. When I think back to May, I was really busy and did not have a lot of time for Meal Planning. Take a look at the Groceries line, which is very low for May. In June, I spent a lot of money on Household items. Partially because I needed more items to replenish what I had, and there are a few summer items included in that spending number as well. When I throw my categories into a chart like this it helps visualize where I am spending my money! Then, identify areas of concern and continue to address them moving forward.
I would also say that I have been trying my very best to put more dollars as much as I can into savings, stocks, and IRA. Now this is probably my area of weakness because I do not consider myself to have a huge amount of savings, and I would like to build it up as much as I can. But, it is challenging because I feel the push and pull out of do I put my money into savings or into my business. And since I have been more mindful about my spending and budgeting over the past few years I have seen my credit score dramatically increase. So that is also another measurement that I use to encourage and to challenge myself. Well, that is also a blog for a different day!
Now, you can see that talking about your budget actually really tells the story of your life, your priorities, and what has been getting in the way. It can be challenging, but there should be no need to be frightened about talking about your budget. Obviously, I do not have it all figured out at this moment, because there are many variables at play. But, at least you are able to tell what my goals are and how I plan to get there.
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Written By: Evan Siggson
Evan Siggson is a pastor in Southern California for the past 14 years.
Let’s begin with not assuming a presupposition that the concept of charitable giving is important. Asking oneself “wouldn’t my life and relationships be happier with more money” is a fair question. In fact, it is a question that I often wrestle with myself. At times there have been purchases I have wanted to make, and in those moments it can be hard to justify giving money away. Despite my often internal wavering I have concluded charitable giving is a key to one’s personal health. Simply watching a TV show, browsing on social media, or even driving on a freeway one is inundated with commercials. These commercials all share the same narrative; buy our product and you’ll be happier, they say. While many products have brought me great happiness, more often than not the buzz wears off fairly quick. Giving money to charity declares we are not merely consumers. When we accept our identity as consumers we end up in credit card debt with products which no longer bring us joy. Some report that approximately 70% of lottery winners end up more broke and unhappy than they were before winning the lottery. Giving money regularly to charity declares one is content. It declares I can live on less and still have joy. It says no to commercials.
Giving to charity for personal health reasons does not take into consideration the reality that there are charities doing incredible important acts of love. The key is finding which ones align with one’s mission and values. I offer the following broad suggestions on what to look for in a charity.
Overhead ratio is important, but it is not everything.
If an organization claims to build wells around the world, yet 95% of their budget is devoted to staff, a US office, and marketing that is unhealthy budgeting. However, the reality is that it costs money to properly staff and lead efforts in charity. Different organizations have various needs so it is impossible to simply create a universal benchmark. For example, as a pastor my goal is that our overhead is around 50% of our total budget. To some that number might sound catastrophic. They might not consider that the salaries and training of our staff are also efforts to better serve our community. I would suggest that hiring a competent and educated adult for $60k can be more responsible than hiring an uneducated incompetent adult for $35k. Currently our church is on the verge of leading a city-wide food bank. This effort requires many of human hours along with proper training. In my opinion it would be a shame to penalize our organization due to overhead costs considering the overhead is being aimed to feed our neighborhood and community. In fact, low overhead might suggest the organization cares very little about the quality of their service.
How much does the CEO make?
This might be an important detail to seek to glean an accurate picture of where the overhead is designated. For example, Gail McGovern the CEO of Red Cross reportedly makes an annual salary over $1 million dollars compared to the $126k William Roberts the CEO of Salvation Army earns. While organizational efficiency is important, I personally would struggle donating to an organization which pays their CEO at a level of affluence. I am more comfortable with a large overhead which is being devoted to a fairly compensated and trained team rather than one person becoming rich. If the charity refuses to share their CEO, pastor, or leader’s salary; consider not sharing your hard earned money.
Does the charity have a clear vision which their budget is accomplishing?
A friend of mine asked me to give him advice on how to save money for a down payment for a home. (I first asked if he was open to leaving California!). We went through his online banking and discovered he spent approximately 40% of his budget on restaurants, fast food, and coffee houses. It was painful, but I told him his stated vision was saving for a house, but his actual vision was eating out. The numbers always reveal our priorities. Compare the budget with the organization’s stated vision. If a church expresses a vision to care about teenagers their budget should reflect that. If a charity is declaring the empowerment of single moms, evaluate how the money is spent. The numbers will share an organization’s priorities. As with the leader’s salary, if the organization hides their budget consider hiding your donation.
Another option . . .
Perhaps consider making a designated donation to a charity rather than feeding their annual operating budget. Determine an amount you would like to give spread out over a year. Ask a pastor, CEO, leader, if they have any dreams or projects that they would like to accomplish but need funding. This year our church was able to pass out $2,200 dollars in gift cards as prizes to a local school. We rewarded the kids and families who reached the school attendance benchmarks we set with the school’s principal. This was made possible by the generous donation of one individual. When making a designated donation it is illegal for the organization to use the funds for anything other than the expressed purpose. Keep in mind under some scenarios a designated donation might result with limited tax benefits.
I would love to invite you to live on less.
Serve a greater purpose.
Find a charity you can be proud of.
Partner with them.
Photo credit by Katie Horning, follow her @gallivant.go.delight on Instagram
My thoughts on numbers, spreadsheets, money, spending, forecasting, budgeting, and everything in between. Read on!
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