Ask me anything – The Answers
Photo by: goldberg
About 2 weeks ago, I gave my readers a chance to ask me any question they wanted. I ended up receiving more than nine different questions. I would really like to make this an ongoing series, so if you have a question you would like to ask, just leave a comment or contact me directly.
Here are the questions and my answers:
The company I work for has been sold and I will be out of a job in 3 weeks. I have set up an LLC so I can do similar work on a contract basis. I have I over 25 years of experience in this field, plus I have worked from home for a total of about 5 years.
I have contacts in several states and have been putting out feelers and getting some interest.
I’d is probably going to take 9-12 months to achieve a steady income.
I have a good emergency fund and a husband with a good income…..but we are going to struggle without my income
Do you have any advice for me?
To be honest Rose, it sounds like a great opportunity and honestly I think you’ve made a good decision. I am not sure which line of work you are in, but utilizing your 25 years of experience to work in a contract type role sounds like a very smart choice. Here are some things I would do:
- Try to utilize any contacts you had in your previous job to boost your contract/freelance work. Do you have contacts from the old job? Any clients you could call directly? If so, start making some calls.
- There are numerous staffing companies that focus on providing contract resources for companies. Find the ones in your area and give them a call. Provide your information to all of them to get into their databases. They’ll do the hunting for you in exchange for a percentage of your bill rate. While not the best way to go long term, this can be a great way to get in the door.
- Market yourself. Use sites like elance.com, monster.com, dice.com, and the many others to advertise your availability. Remember, it doesn’t matter how good you are, if people can’t find you, you won’t work. Consider setting up a website that promotes what you do and what you can provide. Maybe even start a blog on the site where you write articles on the topic and establish your knowledge in the topic area and to build credibility. Make sure you get some business cards printed up and hand them out to anyone you can.
- You state you are going to struggle without your income. Sounds like it’s time to cut back on your expenses for a while. I would really try to avoid touching the emergency fund as much as possible. Reduce your expenses to the bare minimum for a while until you can get your income back up.
Best wishes on your new venture Rose, and keep us posted on how things are going!
The next question is from Pete who blogs at Bible Money Matters who asks:
Since you’ve been blogging about money, what 1 or 2 tips you’ve come across have helped you the most in your financial life?
The #1 tip that has helped me the most is establishing and following a budget. Prior to doing that I had tons of money leaks and knew we were living on more than we earned, but had no idea where the money was going or how to control it. Establishing a budget solved these problems for us.
The second tip is related to the first and that’s do your finances together. My wife and I seldom talked about money in the past and when we did it generally wasn’t for a good reason. When we started budgeting, we started doing all of our finances together. This has made a HUGE difference in our marriage and our financial life. We hold each other accountable and work together to control our spending, get out of debt, and save.
Question number three comes from PT who writes over at Prime Time Money:
“It seems you have a lot going on. How do you balance career, blog, and family time?”
Excellent question and I am not always sure I do, but it’s something I work constantly to improve. The trick for me at least is to maintain a very rigid schedule. Here is my schedule during the week:
Monday – Friday:
5:00am – Awake, eat breakfast and write until 6:30am. As I type this, it’s 5:43am and I’m on my second cup of coffee.
6:30am – Shower and get dressed for work.
7:15am – Arrive at my full-time job and get to work. I work hard so I don’t have to work a bunch of overtime. I focus on getting more done in less time.
11:30 – 12:30pm – Eat lunch at my desk. While eating I read through the articles for the day in my blogroll. I also read and respond to various forums I am in.
4:00 – 5:30pm – Head home for the day. The time I leave is really dependent on what’s going on that day. It’s usually closer to 5:30, but it depends.
5:30 – 8:00pm – Spend time with my family, eating dinner, baths, playing with the kids, and bedtime.
8:00 – 10:00pm – Reading, sitting on the front porch with my wife, or working on Gather Little by Little while watching some TV. My wife has a few websites as well, so we’ll sometimes both work on our sites together (romantic huh?). Generally in the evening I spend time on StumbleUpon, Entrecard, or tweaking my theme and advertisements.
10:00 – Bedtime
Saturday – Sunday – Dedicated to my family. I spend very little time on my blogs and focus on my family. That is why I usually feature guest articles on Saturday and the quick Sunday lyrics post on Sunday. I’ll occasionally blog on the weekends, but family always comes first.
Now, that of course is the planned schedule. Honestly, most of the time it falls right in line with this but there are exceptions. My job can cause disruptions if I get paged on a weekend or in the middle of the night (as a manager I am on call 24×7). I also spend a little more time working on my blog if I have something important to do, like the Carnival of Personal Finance, a major layout change, etc.
The one thing about blogging is that it can be really addictive and extremely time consuming. The trick is finding a schedule for you that works, and focus spending time on the things that provide the most value. For me value goes in this order: Quality articles, email, building traffic, tweaking site look and feel and ad placement, everything else.
Great question PT, thanks for asking.
Next up is Kacie from Sense to Save who asks:
“I feel like we can learn a lot from children. Since you have several, I was wondering: What have your children taught you about being frugal/finances? Maybe how they perceive things, etc.?”
This was by far the toughest question asked. I really had to think on this one. My kids teach me a great deal of things everyday, but money just isn’t something that comes up often, at least from the perspective of them teaching me about it. Usually it’s the other way around.
I’m not confident this is the best lesson they’ve taught me, but after a few days thinking on it, this is the one that keeps coming up: “Wealth is relative”.
My kids have little to no money of their own. We give them an allowance and they do odd jobs around the house, but when they’ve saved and saved they may have at most a couple hundred dollars. Sure, that’s a great deal of money for a child, but in the real world, that won’t buy a whole lot. Our kids think my wife and I are rich though. Not because we are, but because we have more money than they do. This made me realize that wealth isn’t some specific number, but is really a number that is relative to how much money you have. If you only have $5, someone who has $100.0 could be considered wealthy. If you have $5,000 in the bank, someone with $20,000 could be considered wealthy.
We all like to think of the magical millionaire as the milestone for true wealth, but through my kids I’ve realized that wealth is really just relative to what you currently have. I am sure to some I would be considered wealthy: I have nice home, two cars, and feed and cloth 6-children. Do I feel wealthy? Nope, not at all. I wonder if the folks down on the south side of town making $500,000+ per year feel wealthy? I’ll bet they don’t either.
Kacie, thanks for the very thought provoking question. I need to think about what my kids teach me a little more. I’m guessing there is some great article material in those teachings!
Question number 5 is from Bobbi D.:
“I have practically no retirement and would like to know how to go about setting something up for that. My employer is small and does not offer anything at all. I know nothing about stocks either. Are IRA’s enough? I have a couple but nothing substantial. (I will be getting inheritance someday, but I hope it is not soon). I just know nothing about investing & especially who to trust. I belong to a credit union too.
Maybe you can get a question or 2 out of that long statement, lol. Thank you for whatever help you can give me.
Bobbi, I am not an investing or retirement account expert by any stretch. I have a 401k program I participate in, but that is the extent of my knowledge. Since your employer doesn’t offer a 401k program, I think IRAs are the right thing for you and should be the focus for your retirement funds. If you have additional cash beyond that, I would recommend investing in good performing mutual funds to supplement your IRA. I recommend Vanguard. I don’t recommend investing in individual stocks as you really have to know what you are doing. I prefer to invest in mutual funds where you let the experts manage the stock purchases for you. With that said though, I am not doing this yet…once I’m out of debt I will, but not right now.
DR from The Dough Roller, Patrick from Cash Money Life and Pinyo from Moolanomy frequently write about IRAs, retirement plans and investing. I would suggest reading through their sites to learn more. Also, JD from Get Rich Slowly has an eBook on IRAs, which from what I can tell it’s a great resource.
Hope this helps!
The next question is from Jim of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. A blogger I have a great deal of respect for and who has helped me a great deal:
How have your finances changed/improved since you started blogging about them and do you attribute the change in part to the blogging?
I’ve made a complete 180 to be honest. I would necessarily say it’s directly due to blogging though, but more due to the life changing event that occurred in our life towards the end of 2006. Those events caused me to recognize the problems and begin doing things to turn my finances around. I vowed to never let that type of financial monster look me directly in the eyes again.
As a result, we started budgeting, working to aggressively get out of debt, and I started Gather Little by Little to both share what I’ve learned with others, but to also hold be accountable and keep me on track.
I will say that blogging has caused me to do a far better job of turning things around than I would have otherwise. I’ve learned SO much from reading other blogs, researching for articles I’ve written, and from listening to my readers. I find it amazing the effect that over 1500 daily readers can have on your decision making. I find myself in stores thinking about buying something and saying to myself “What would your readers think?” My readers are my accountability partners.
So I do attribute part of the change to blogging, but not the initial change. Prior to early 2007, I had heard about blogs but never really honestly read one. Now I read more than 50 daily!
Since I’ve started Gather Little by Little, my wife and I have paid off more than $20,000 in debt, sold a camper and truck that we didn’t need nor could afford, and have consistently lived on less than we earn. It’s a wonderful feeling to see the net worth going up, and the debt going down each month.
Thanks for the question Jim.
Question number 7 is from David:
What is the meaning of life? You don’t have to answer that, but if you think you have a good answer I would love to hear it. You said ask you anything.
David, that’s an easy one: 42. If this means nothing to you, read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
That was the silly answer, now for the serious one…
David, that is a very deep question and really drives into the roots of your beliefs. To me, meaning = purpose which in turn asks “Why are we here?” I believe we are here to have a relationship with God and to love Him. I believe that God created us for that single reason, to have relationship with Him. God wants to know us, love us, and rejoice with us. Acts 17:28 says “For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, We are his offspring.” That is our main purpose, but to each of us is given one or more spiritual gifts that are the foundation of our individual purpose. You can learn what yours is by reading The Purpose Driven Life.
Mine is teaching and after struggling for a very long time, I believe I have finally found it here on Gather Little by Little and the other smaller blogs I run.
Question number 8 asks:
“My son is a Marine on the other side of the country. He is graduating from a course and is receiving top honors. As soon as I found out, I got a flight to go out there. The $650 is NOT already budgeted, but I have the cash in savings. Frankly, I’m going no matter what. Have you ever encountered “”life stuff”” like this, and what did you do?”
Absolutely and at least a few times a month. This is exactly why the majority of us personal finance bloggers advocate having an emergency fund. Emergency funds aren’t just for dire emergencies, but really for handling any necessary expenses that aren’t budgeted for. I also think you have your priorities in line as well, as you just can’t place a dollar figure on somethings.
Just a few examples from my life where this type of thing happened to me: My mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m not sure when her surgery will be, but I’ll be there regardless of the cost. Our Durango has developed a recent rattle that seems to be getting worse. I’ll have to take it in for service this week…not something I budgeted for.
Life happens, and you just need to have that emergency fund buffer to handle all of those unexpected expenses. Paidtwice from I’ve Paid For This Twice Already… has had quit a few of these over the past few months starting with her car needing an engine replacement, then her furnace going out, and recently problems with her home’s electrical system. Two steps forward one step back right?
Congratulations to your son. I’m sure you are very proud and you should be. Make sure you tell him thank you for his contribution to keeping America free and making the world a safer place to live in.
Finally, Celia asks:
“How much time do you spend researching and writing on a daily basis? How much income does blogging provide you with both when you first started and now that you have 1500 readers? How did you get started blogging? Do you plan to quit your job to blog full time? Will blogging allow you to do this? Will you post an article on how others can also do this? Thank you for reading all these questions. I hope you are able to answer all of them, but I understand if you feel they are too personal.”
Hi Celia! Great questions, let me take them one at a time:
How much time do you spend researching and writing on a daily basis?
It depends. Some articles require far more time and others far less. On average I spend anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours for each article. That includes research, writing, proofing, re-proofing, formatting and finding a picture. Most articles take about 90 minutes. This particular article thus far has taken me about 3-hours due to the detail of the questions and the variance in topics.
How much income does blogging provide you with both when you first started and now that you have 1500 readers?
Initially it didn’t provide me with any income. I didn’t even advertise for the first 3 months. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to make money blogging or not, so I just held off until I was comfortable. My first month I made a little over $200.00, mainly from private text link sales. The second month, just shy of $100.00. Fortunately my revenue have consistently gone up since then and while I don’t really feel comfortable sharing exact amounts, for the past 4 months I’ve earned in access of $1000.00. Half of that is reserved for taxes, and the remainder has gone primarily against our debt and emergency fund.
One comment on blog income. The number of readers doesn’t really drive income as regular subscribers don’t really click on advertisements too much. I also have reduced advertising for my regular readers. Search engine visitors are the primary revenue drivers and the dollar amounts from there are primarily driven by the amount of traffic received.
Do you plan to quit your job to blog full time?
I don’t have any specific plans to do that, but if my blogging income was to become high enough I would certainly consider it. Right now though, but my income is a very small percentage of my full time income, so it’s not even an option. Being able to work from home and work for myself is a dream I’ve had for a long time though, so I certainly hope things work out to where I could make that decision. Blogging could allow me to do that, but I’m still a ways off.
There is a very common myth on the internet that you just create a blog, throw up a few advertisements and the bucks start rolling in. This is SO not true. Blogging requires a great deal of hard work, time and technical knowledge. I’ve been blogging now for 11 months and I still learn something new every single day. If you just do the math, of averaging 2 hours a day working on my blog over 11 months that’s about 660 hours which works out to be about $9.00 per hour. Definitely not get rich quick numbers and to be honest, those numbers are conservative. On average I’ve probably spent more time than that on my blogging. I would guess the real per hour rate is far less than minimum wage.
Money is not the main reason I blog though, so the per hour rate isn’t that important. It’s a nice supplemental income for something I enjoy doing anyway.
Will you post an article on how others can also do this?
I’d me more than glad to. I’ll try to write this up and feature it in a future Saturday post. In the meantime though, DR from The Dough Roller is writing a series on starting a blog that is really well done and thorough. Blogthority is another blog I would recommend that is written my members of the M-Network and provides a great deal of information as well.
Thanks for all the of the great questions everyone. If you have a question you would like to ask, please contact me.