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.
Oh, Alli, it took me decades to figure out that a rainy-day fund is the ultimate peace of mind. I still have to remember to budget for “fun money,” not just blow whatever’s left.
Google Mary Hunt’s Debt-Free Living – she uses something called a Freedom Fund that is basically a way to stockpile money for car repairs, home repairs, clothes, your annual AAA renewal – all that stuff that bites us. It has really helped me focus.
See you in Vegas!