Monday, February 16, 2015

Starting a Blog Income Report and other news.

It is my goal to get back into the blogging swing of things and bring you lots of great new content about frugal living, home-making, cleaning, and the works.

But I'll be honest -- it's a struggle at the moment. As some of you may know, I'm currently working on a BBA in Accounting (getting some money-managing cred!) and I will graduate this December. HOWEVER, to graduate on time, I'm taking a pretty heavy course load. 18 credits this semester, 16 over the summer, and between 12-16 this fall (have to double check how many electives I have left.) And I'm still working 25 hours a week as your friendly neighborhood barista.

(Yes, in order to bring this blog post to you I am procrastinating on something else. Heh.)

In case you're curious, though, here's what I've got brewing (barista pun, get it?) for the future of Finely Ground....

Upcoming Projects
  • I'd like to compile great DIY cleaning secrets into an e-book -- including some that have already been posted here and some extras! This may involve printables of some of the more popular content, like that Spring Cleaning Checklist.
  • Actually, I've made a prototype printer friendly version of that one already, so hit me up if you want an advance copy!
  • Maybe a series on launching and monetizing a blog -- because at the moment mine's providing me with some mostly passive income, and who doesn't want passive income? What do you think? Something you'd be interesting in reading?
  • Cat Litter. So many choices. I'm currently running a trial of about 8 different brands of clumping (sift-able) litter, and soon I'll be able to give you all the dirt on what's the most budget-friendly, which wins odor control for small spaces, and which ones will end up tracked all over your house. Stay tuned! I only have about two weeks of trialing left.
  • I may need to discover the secrets of budget wedding event planning soon, too. ;) Shh!
  • But as for today.....Doing blog income reports is trendy right and I'm finding them so interesting to read. Just how DO regular people like you and me work their way up to earning $20,000/month off their blogs???! So I'm going to put a beginner's blogging spin on this idea, and show you what "starting small" looks like. And hopefully you'll be able to watch the income of this blog grow and learn from what works for me!
Show Me Da Money!

At the beginning of this year I got more serious about record-keeping. I made $579 on this blog last year -- yeah, small potatoes -- and I'd really like to see it grow. I'm taking a class in income tax accounting this semester, and it's helped and inspired me to be more organized about how I keep track of my freelance finances.

I created a spreadsheet of t-accounts and journal entries, and as I'm a cash-basis tax payer, I'm going to record here my cash-basis blog earnings and expenses with a few summaries about traffic and the performance of key projects.

Without further ado, here's what happened at Finely Ground during January 2015.

Traffic Stats

  • 34,525 page views
  • Social Sharing drove 44% of those page views, and Pinterest in particular was responsible for 75% of that traffic.
  • Most of the search terms that brought people to Finely Ground had to do with cleaning (not surprised!) but I noticed that my post on getting glasses without vision insurance is also  commonly searched! Awesome! That means this information is helping people.
  • Weirdest search query: "Accidentally inhaled Ajax." Yikes, dude. I hope you're okay.

Events

  • The Lush Decor Giveaway! It was actually the first giveaway I've hosted here, and I wanted to make sure it went well. I was pretty satisfied with its performance. During the week it was live it received over 1000 views and at least 370 unique entrants.
  • Connected to this event, I did my first foray into paying for advertising. I ran a facebook ad which drove a lot of engagement and new "likes" (120!) to Finely Ground's page but not a ton of clickthrough, a pinterest promoted pin which received a lot of impressions but not a lot of click-through, and submitted to various free and paid giveaway directories -- the one that sent the most traffic to my site was Giveaway Promote, so I'm going to tuck that one away as a future resource.
  • In prep for the giveaway, I cleaned up the sidebar here a little, and added a new section for "recent posts" -- I used to just have one for "popular posts." I've found it challenging to direct traffic to my newer posts, though. The older established and popular ones tend to continue to receive more views than anything new I post, so I need to figure out how to improve engagement and get those readers of my old posts to stick around longer.

Revenue

  •  $48.28 - Amazon Affiliate Program (the deposit of November's revenue.)

Expenses

  • $25.99 - Advertising Expenses
Most blogger income reports have lists of different revenue and expense sources about a mile long. Clearly, I need to work on diversifying!

Net Income: $22.29

Woot woot! Don't spend it all in one place, self.

Next month's report should be a little more interesting because some non-cash compensation will hit the books.

Random tax fact -- did you know if you barter services or receive free product, you're supposed to recognize income for its fair value??

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

GIVEAWAY: $200 Lush Decor Gift Card!! ends 1/21


Have you heard of Lush Decor? I hadn't, and was surprised to realize that I've seen their products before. You probably have, too, in stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Kohls, and Sears--however, their products are offered not only through other retailers, but through their own online store as well.

And how awesome is this: Lush Decor is going to give one of YOU, the readers of Finely Ground, a $200 giftcard to their store!

Daydream with me for a moment....What would you like to do with $200 at Lush Decor? Their offerings include bedding, shower curtains, window treatments. . .


Their styles range from opulent to whimsical, from simple and classic to feminine and fashion-forward.




Here are a few of my favorites:

Serena 3 piece Comforter Set
Lattice Throw

Darla Shower Curtain
Crinkle 3 piece Quilt



























So gorgeous! You want the gift card, right?? Gosh, me too! Here are the details:
  1. This sweepstakes will be open until 11:59PM (eastern time!) on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015. A winner will be randomly picked using the entries made through the Rafflecopter widget below. A maximum of 5 entries per person may be obtained through the Rafflecopter widget.
  2. Open to USA residents 18+ years old only.
  3. No purchase necessary to enter or win, and purchasing anything from Lush Decor will not improve your odds of winning. The odds will depend on total number of entrants.
  4. The prize will be ONE $200 giftcard code which must be used in a single transaction (no extra balance kept or change issued!)
  5. The winner will be notified via e-mail on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 and must respond within 48 hours or their prize will be forfeited and a new winner chosen (who also must respond within 48 hours of notification, etc.)
  6. You MUST enter through the Rafflecopter widget included in the post. Comments on this post will NOT be counted as entries. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!

DISCLAIMER: The giftcard code was supplied without any cost to me, and I was compensated for this post with a free item from Lush Decor, however any opinions expressed are authentic and my own.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Your Blog and Social Account Monetization -- Simplified!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of IZEA for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Saving money is all well and good. . .But if you're going to save some money, you've got to make some first, right? I think a big part of frugal living is making the most of all your opportunities both to save and earn. If you have a blog or social media account, why not make it earn its keep?
Izea-logo

One of the tools in my arsenal is IZEA. I think I started to hear buzz about it as I studied other lifestyle blogs and the ways in which their authors earned a little cash. I began working with IZEA's subsidiary (which is being closed, and all members transferred over to IZEA) Social Spark about a year ago, writing fun posts like this and participating in their advertising programs. Over the past year, though, they've greatly renovated their offerings and you can now monetize not only your blog (if you have one) but your twitter, facebook, or youtube accounts as well.

It's a very user-friendly process, and once you register, you can start placing bids on earning-opportunities within hours.

Take for instance this post:
1) I logged into my account to check out the latest companies seeking bids. Right now, for example, I've got five opportunities I could bid on if I wanted, ranging from blog posts for V8's new protein shake to StraightTalk Wireless' economical cell phone plans.
2) To place a bid on this sponsored post for IZEA, I simply clicked "place a bid," named a price within their stated range, and included a pitch of a sentence or two about why this post would do well on my blog.
3) Within a day or two I logged back in and found my bid had been approved! I could go ahead and write my content, submitting it to the advertiser for approval through IZEA's platform. (A bonus here is relative anonymity. The advertiser NEVER is hooked up with your personal e-mail address or pyament information.)

Assuming all goes as planned, the advertiser will approve my post and it will show up at Finely Ground soon. (If you're reading this, hey! It worked!) Within another few weeks, my advertising fee will be posted to my account where I can withdraw it through paypal.

A pro-tip for you:

- On the free membership plan with IZEA, you get 3 bids per month.

I've never found this restrictive, but I'm also extremely choosy about what I review or endorse on this blog. If you would like to bid on more opportunities per month (and chances are you'll get quite a lot of opportunities to choose from!) you can upgrade to their paid plan at $1 a month and unlimited bidding.

I'll be honest: IZEA isn't my BIGGEST source of revenue on this blog. . . .But it was the first I delved into, and with its simple interface and implementation I think it's great for beginners--especially with the new social media integration. What could be simpler than linking up your twitter account and getting paid to tweet?

And every little bit counts. At this time of year, especially, couldn't everybody use a little bit extra for gift-giving?

So whether you're a blogger trying to get your feet wet in monetization, or a casual tweeter who wouldn't mind earning some extra dollars on the side, why not sign up with IZEA?

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, October 10, 2014

10 Ways to Save Money on Pets

If you're trying to save money, pets can seem like an unnecessary expense. . .But they're so cute and cuddly! Having something warm and furry to snuggle, being woken up at two in the morning by sandpapery kisses, having someone who's always happy to see you even when you're grumpy. . . Surely these things are worth a little expense, right?

I adopted Rogue (pictured) this summer after providing a foster home for him for a year for a local rescue society. (He just wasn't getting adopted in a timely fashion. I don't know why. Look at that face!) Initially, I hadn't planned on adopting a pet at this time because of my college expenses. But in the grand scheme of things, I have to admit his monthly maintenance isn't breaking the bank.

Here are some things to consider when adopting a pet, and further, some tips to help the money-savvy pet owner save some dollars!

  • It's obvious, but it merits repeating. Consider your lifestyle and budget. Animals come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and lifespans--and have a variety of needs! Fish? Cheap and unlikely to stick around longer than a couple years. Dogs, on the other hand, can be very expensive to maintain and require a lot of attention. I feel like cats are middle-of-the-roaders. They may live for twenty years, but they're pretty good at entertaining themselves. For weekends out of town, you may not even need a pet sitter. And for much of their lives, if they're healthy indoor cats, your primary expenses will only be cat litter and food.
  • Consider fostering if you're not ready for the lifetime commitment that comes with pet ownership. Almost every town has a humane society--if you search for local animal shelters on the internet you may find a handful of other independent or more specialized ones as well. When fostering an animal, you provide love and home for it until it is adopted. The organization is responsible for vet expenses, and will often provide food and other equipment, too, if you need. 
  • Even if your housing or financial situation doesn't allow for pets, you can still cash in on some furry love by volunteering at a local shelter. SOMEbody has to clean the kennels and play with their inmates. :)
  • Adopting adult animals is usually a lot cheaper than adopting kittens or puppies. Frequently, they are already spayed or neutered;, Their personalities are already formed, too, so it's easier to judge how they'll fit into your family.
Once you've taken the plunge....

  • Many pet supplies can be found at thrift stores -- fish bowls, hamster wheels, water bowls. Maybe even pet beds, although I would probably launder one before bringing it too far into my home.
  • Make your own pet toys. Sad but true: Fluffy will probably think a wadded up piece of printer paper is WAY more exciting than the deluxe wind-up catnip-filled scurrying mouse toy you got him. Your old slipper may delight Fido more than the entire pet section of Walmart.
  • Coupon! It seems like pet food is always on sale somewhere. If you coupon for nothing else, you could still save a bundle by doing it for pet food. Walmart has a printable coupon link towards the bottom of their webpage which I recently discovered, and it seems to provide a lot of the same coupons that newspaper inserts do. Additionally, if you watch for new products by your favorite brands, there are often high-value coupons associated with them--some even tucked into the products themselves for your next purchase.
  • Free Samples. Signing up for free sample mailing lists can be the start of a lifetime of spam, it is true. However, I subscribe to Sweet Free Stuff and they seem to e-mail fairly responsibly. I get two a day from them. And they almost always contain free pet food samples of one kind or another. I will note that cats are often said to have finicky stomachs and switching their food a lot can distress them. Personally, I have only had cats with seemingly iron stomachs. :) But even if you're worried about yours, you can use free samples to merely "stretch" your regular food a little farther by stirring them in to the usual.  Plus, you might discover a great new product that your pet loves!
  • Another thing, free samples usually come with high value coupons. Double win!
  • Finally, keep your pet healthy! Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight, and paying attention their hydration and nutrition will help them--and you!--out over the long haul. It's also a good idea to think realistically, up-front, about how you will approach end of life care. Sad but true: our furry friends won't live forever. If you think about this in advance, it may help later when, emotionally, you may want to treat and treat and treat your pet's medical problems past what is merciful both to their comfort and your finances.

How do you save money on pet expenses?



Monday, September 8, 2014

How to Save Money on College Expenses

Here are some tips for going back to school without going broke!


  • Don't use your college bookstore if you can help it. In my experience, they all price-gouge like crazy. Whenever possible, I buy my textbooks through Amazon, usually at half the cost. Sometimes less, if there are loose-leaf versions available!
  • Consider e-texts. Something I've noticed since going back to school, is that with many classes migrating to online homework systems at the publisher's website, you may not even need to buy the textbook. If you purchase the online access code for the homework, you'll usually be able to access an online version of the textbook right there online. Even for classes that don't make use of the internet, many textbooks are available on Kindle now for a fraction of the cost.
  • Speaking of Kindle, what about just renting your textbook? Often, you can rent hard copies of textbooks even in your campus bookstore, but I've been wary of this because of the possibility of being price-gouged for any damage or wear that occurs to the book. If you rent an e-book, they're risk free! (Don't have an e-reader? You can download one to read e-books from your desktop or laptop computer. Bingo!)
  • Make money off your used textbooks. Personally, I don't do e-books -- I just need something with actual paper pages that I can flip back and forth. During my first college experience in 2007-08, I sold my used books on half.com. . .It was kind of labor intensive, and I had to pay to ship them to people, and if my asking price was too high I got stuck with them. . .Well, Amazon has been my solution to THIS problem, too. (I'm sorry if you're an Amazon hater, but it really has been crucial to my frugal college-going endeavors.) Check out their Trade-In Program! If you type in the ISBN for virtually any textbook you have, on the right-hand side of its Amazon listing you will see a trade-in quote right below the regular price/purchase buttons. If you elect to trade your books in for the quoted price, you will be able to print out a pre-paid shipping label, and Amazon will give you a virtual gift-card for the quoted trade-in amount after they have received your books and verified their condition. If you continue to purchase textbooks through Amazon -- hey, that's money towards next semester's books! Or maybe some Christmas shopping?
Okay, I'm done tooting the Amazon horn for now, but remember -- even if your tuition bill is the one giving you nightmares, textbooks are still a big deal, too! This semester, I spent about $700 on textbooks -- but if I had bought them through my campus bookstore it would have been more like $1200. That's not just pocket change!

Some other things to keep in mind. . .

  • Fill out the scholarship applications. Even if you don't think you're eligible for anything. Even if you don't feel like you have the time. Trust me, nobody feels like they have time to write scholarship essays. Know what that means? Most people don't. So if you do it, you automatically have an edge. -- And, hey, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. My college has a generic application that you fill out to apply to all of their university-wide scholarships. . . .I did that this semester, not expecting much -- but my efforts were rewarded with $1500 extra for this school year! And you know what? It only took me about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes for $1500 -- compare that to my $9.00/hr day job.
  • If you CAN pay your tuition in full, go for it! You'll save the interest payments on student loans, obviously. And even if your university offers a semester-long payment plan to stretch out the agony, those usually come with fees as well, so why not bite the bullet up front? If you're just a few hundred dollars short in cash on hand, would it make sense to put that amount on a credit card so you have a one-month reprieve to come up with the amount?
  • Exercise caution with your credit, though. Did you know if you regularly use more than about 20% of your available, it can take a toll on your credit score? It may be tempting to temporarily max out your cards, especially if you can justify it with cash back or points and know you can pay it off right away. . .But if your cards are often approaching their spending limits, you might want to think twice.

Last but not least,

  • Don't get so overwhelmed by the massive bills coming your way that you forget your regular budgeting! 
I made this last mistake. I've been back in school for a year now, and while I HAD been using Mint for my personal budgeting, I let it fall by the wayside. Partly because it was having trouble communicating with the bank I switched to when I moved up here, and partly because having $3000 go out the window in one lump sum every semester really messes up your monthly budgeting.

But I just got my Mint account back up to speed. Even if I don't feel like I can effectively "budget" when I'm showing a monthly deficit of thousands of dollars whenever tuition is due, it is at least INVALUABLE for tracking my spending and staying vigilant.

Yes, this frugal blogger has had a year of sloppy spending. Don't let it happen to you!

(If you're new to Mint, I wrote about it once before HERE. I'm thinking about writing another post on it, just because it's so awesome!)


Have you struggled with college student expenses? Share your stories here!