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The Financial Vacuum (Or, How I Almost Had to Cancel My BlogWorld Trip)

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It’s hard for me to admit when I’ve made a bone-headed mistake. For me, that means my life is hard several times every day, but recently I’ve made a bone-headed mistake to top all bone-headed mistakes.

Actually, it was a mistake I’ve been making over the course of several months. I call the mistake Allison’s Financial Vacuum or, more appropriately perhaps, how I almost had to cancel my BlogWorld trip.

Let me start at the beginning.

Back when I started blogging in oh..2005? 2006? (I can’t even remember at this point)…I did it for clients as a way to make money as a freelance writer. I’m still doing that today here at BlogWorld and also at a few other client-owned blogs, but I run my own sites as well. As purely a client-paid blogger back in the dark ages, as I like to call them, I made some horrible decisions by taking jobs that didn’t pay well. I was treated like crap, scammed out of money, and given bad blogging advice. I was also just graduating from college, so my “living in the real world” expenses were adding up pretty quickly. Point is, I didn’t have much money, and my bank account was dwindling every day.

I figured it out. I got through it. I’m by no means rich, but the amount of debt I’ve paid off in the last three years is pretty impressive. I’ve always made pretty smart financial decisions, which I attribute to the fact that my parents had to pinch pennies when raising me. Seriously, my mom is the queen of coupon clipping and mail-in-rebates, and I bow down to her for that.

But I digress. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve made some smart financial decisions that have allowed me to stay on top of bills and pay off some of my massive debt. Part of that has to do with the fact that I run my own blogs now, as well as the fact that I no longer take crappy blogging jobs where I’m paid next to nothing.

Back in June, BlogWorld was approaching and I began to save for this trip. I wanted to be able to actually enjoy Vegas, since I’ve never been there, so I planed to spend about a week and a half in town, part of which would be at the expo. I did some restaurant and show research and even gave myself a goal of saving up enough money for some guided tours and gambling, even though neither of those are really my thing, so to speak.

Then, the Financial Vacuum happened.

Like many most all people, I found myself with unexpected bills that could not be avoided, which I talked about on my writing blog. It was like my bank account was a spaceship and someone opened the door – all my hard-earned cash for BlogWorld got sucked away into the void. I went from being super excited about the event and my mini-vacation to feeling sick to my stomach. I’m going to have to cancel. My roommate can attest to the fact that I was pacing around my house with tears in my eyes, not just because I was sad to miss the event but because I was embarrassed at my financial situation. I didn’t want to have to explain to Rick, Dave, and everyone else who makes BlogWorld happen that I was apparently too stupid to manage my finances. I didn’t want to have to cancel the interviews I’d set up, because those people were counting on me. I felt like a total failure. I still do, at least a little.

Everyone has financial bumps in the road. I understand that. The mistake I made was not in having unexpected bills arise. That’s not really a mistake; that’s just a fact of life. No, the mistake I made was in not putting away part of my blogging money every money in an emergency fund.

I have to wonder, what would have happened had I not been saving up for BlogWorld? That money would have been frittered away over the months, spent on things like an extra glass of wine while out at dinner or a new video game release that I had to have, even though I barely have time to play. It would have gone to that pair of jeans I wear once or twice a year, that fondue pot that would be super cool to pull out at the occasional dinner part, and that new set of bedsheets with a higher thread count than the just-fine bedsheets I already own.

For the first time in a long time, I was no longer having trouble paying bills…but I wasn’t putting any of my blogging money into a savings account. I’d pay my bills for the month, then pretty much drain my bank account on entertainment and the like. Yes, I could save up for BlogWorld by cutting back on some of my spending, but I should have also been saving up for a rainy day. I wasn’t. Are you?

Every month, we should all be putting away a little money that doesn’t get touched. That way, when life happens and you need the money, you don’t have to dip into other funds, like my BlogWorld fund. Or, heaven forbid, you don’t get caught with your pants down, unable to pay your bills at all because you don’t have any kind of special fund your were using to pay for something in the future.

So what’s going to happen to me? Well, I’m going to make it to BlogWorld. Some amazing people, the BlogWorld crew included, have stepped up to help cover some of the costs. I’m still worried about paying bills when I get home. This isn’t a short-term money vacuum. But, I will make it to Vegas, though just for the event, not for any kind of vacation. I foresee some sleepless nights of worry in my future, but it could be worse. It could be much worse.

More importantly, though, is that this situation has been a wake up call. I need to be more frugal. It’s possible – back in the dark ages, I got by on much less money every month, and I was fine. Just because I make more money now doesn’t mean that I have to spend it.

It’s a hard lesson for any blogger to learn. It certainly was/is a hard mistake to make. As bloggers, though, we’re not financially stable. The most popular blog in the world today could fall out of favor tomorrow. You can’t take for granted that you’ll always be able to make money with your blog, even if you make six figures. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. If you blog suddenly has to shut down tomorrow, would you have enough emergency money to survive for a few months?

I hope that something good has come of my mistake in that I’ve inspired you to be more diligent about savings. If you’ve scrimping and saving just to make ends meet right now, I get it. I’ve been there. I am there. You don’t have to save much at first. Even a few dollars is a start. Six-figure bloggers out there, though? This is for you too. All all need to be smart when it comes to financial planning. Otherwise, all the monetization work in the world won’t save you.

One Large Cup: How I Learned to Stop Losing Blogging Pennies

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Every day, bloggers are losing money – and they don’t care. Why? Because we’re conditioned to brush off small sums, never realizing how they add up.

My first semester of college, I had an 8 a.m. class three times per week. Those of you who know me are giggling right now, possibly even to the point where you’ve snorted milk out of your noses. I’m not a morning person, and by “not a morning person,” I mean that I would rather stick my arm in a wood chipper a la Fargo than have to conform to a sleeping schedule that requires me to be awake at that hour. I’m a night owl, and always will be.

Needless to say, there were a lot of mornings where I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and shuffled to class in my slippers. God bless the ability to wear your pajamas to class in college without looking out of place. Those who know me are giggling again, because you know how much it bothered me to look slumpy in public, and the mental image of me walking through campus in sweatpants and a hoodie is terrifying. In a contest of sleep versus fashion, though…well, sleep always wins for me.

I’m getting off-topic. Blame the lack of coffee in my system right now. Actually, that’s the point of my story: Coffee. On my way to class, I passed this little college-run coffee shop, and I would always stop to purchase a cup to help me stay alert during lectures. At my college, we got a swipe card with $100 that could be spent at non-cafeteria campus eating establishments as part of our overall meal plan, so I didn’t even have to carry cash. Swipe and go. I would usually grab a cup on my way back to class too, so I wouldn’t be tempted to go back to bed for a nap.

At least, until about half way through the semester. The particular coffee I got every morning was $2 a cup, and my $100 ran out well before finals week. $12 times a week seems like a small sum now, but as a broke college student, that’s money that can easily go to better places.

And then, I saw the light. The coffee lady convinced my to buy one of the college’s thermoses they sold for $10. It was about twice the size of my normal cup of coffee, but could be refilled for the same price – $2. That cut my costs in half, since I no longer needed to stop on my way home from class. Sure, there was an upfront investment, but I went from spending $180 a semester on coffee to spending $90 a semester. One $10 large cup of coffee saved me nine times as much over just three months. Continue Reading

Twitter Stepping Towards Commercial Accounts

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Looks like all that talking might actually be leading to some doing. That’s right, Twitter has finally taken its very first steps out of the world of the free, and into the world of the paid…kind of.  Twitter has unveiled a new thing called Twitter 101, which is basically a series of web sites and downloadable material that all aims to help businesses really investigate how they can use the service to their advantage, and even shows some companies that have done so very successfully.

Whether or not this will translate into an actual business plan and way for Twitter to make some serious income, remains to be seen, but it’s good that they are at least taking their first baby steps towards monetizing something that many have claimed will be impossible to do so.  When asked, Anamitra Banerji, manager of commercial products at Twitter, had this to say about what Twitter 101 might mean to the company and its future:

“yes, many companies are on Twitter, but many have questions about how and why to use it, and many are still not on Twitter. It’s a lot easier to ask people for money if they understand how it could be useful to them without paying anything…Twitter 101 is the first step toward doing that…If you intrinsically see some value in Twitter, you will want to pay more to get more…”

Pay more to get more.  I guess we’ll see if anyone will be willing to pay when it comes to something they can already get for free.  We all know Twitter is great as a broadcasting tool, great at building networks and updating in real-time your friends, customers and potential clients…whether or not it’ll be a great way to actually make money for themselves?  That’s another story.

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