How Cyber Monday Can Grow a Blog

It was around this time last year that I got serious about turning this blog from something entirely personal to something more helpful to the general public. I would say that it was this exact weekend that I implemented a number of changes and additions that eventually led me to publishing TWO courses this past year (How to Create a Budgeting Tool That Works and Mastering a Budget). While there are other cyber Monday deals out there that you can spend your hard-earned dollars on, here are a few that actually gives back in terms of profit, making it more like an investment rather than a purchase.

Teachable – the platform I used to create both my online courses

If there’s anything I know, it is that you have valuable skills, experiences, and expertise in something. Every one of us, including you, has something to share with the world — something that others would love to learn.

And while creating an online course is one of the fastest ways to leverage on your time and increase your earning ceiling — it’s also one of the best ways to help more people.

When you create an online course, you’re able to change your student’s lives.

So my question for you is: who’s going to be grateful for you this year when you create your course and share your knowledge with the world?

Yes, you can earn a side-income from your course. Maybe even a full-time income from your course eventually. But there are so many other benefits to creating your course and sharing what you know with the world.

A surprising number of people have found that having their own online course becomes an amazing creative outlet. You get to share your passions and knowledge with the world!

And best of all, you get to do it on your own terms. You get to be your own boss, and you can pursue your biggest, craziest ideas without anyone saying that you can’t. When was the last time you had that kind of creative freedom?

On top of that, you’ll find it’s a real joy to interact with your students. 

Whether you have a course on parenting, or building a vegetable garden…watercolor painting…or even playing the guitar… (yes, these are all real courses on Teachable). 

You’ll find yourself losing track of time. You’ll be fully immersed in the course creation process, and you’ll get to talk all about a subject you love. (With people who love to listen!) 

You don’t need to be a big recognized expert to make a big impact on the world. 

We’ve seen it time after time. Newbie course creators will start off filled with self doubt, but then they take the plunge and share something.

They have zero expectations at first. But all of a sudden, one person enrolls…then ten more…and eventually hundreds, or even thousands.

These course creators are thrilled beyond belief. They never thought “lil’ old them” could be in demand like that.

The bottom line is this: You have hidden talents that the world needs you to share. 

You deserve to feel great about doing work you love. 

You can be the one who helps other people reach their goals. 

I 100% believe this.

That’s why I want you to take advantage of Teachable’s best deal of the year.

Not only do you have a chance to get annual access to Teachable for just $299 (saving $169), but in a couple of months, when you put in the effort, you’ll be able to ask yourself, “Who’s grateful for me?” And there will be a whole bunch of students excited to raise their hands. (And hey, you can be earning a pretty nice side-income as well.)

So if the idea of creating an online course excites you—if you’ve even thought about it for a second—you gotta check this deal out.

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ConvertKit –the platform I use to build an email following

It helps to have an email following. Subscribers are people who have a genuine interest in hearing what you have to say. They are a great group of people to connect to and if you are hoping to teach a particular topic to an audience, there is no better collection than your squad of subscribers.

My followers are amazing, supportive, interactive, and optimistic. They ask a lot of questions about budgeting, paying down student debt, and living a simple lifestyle. It is very gratifying to be able to help this community, and it is because of them that I continue to write.

Having an email following is also useful if you want to reach out to people en masse, or if you have something to share with like-minded folks. Convert Kit has an easy way of organizing people by category, so that those interested in simple living will not get emails about budgeting.

I would highly recommend Convert Kit to any online writer who wants to build a community.

There is a 30 day free trial for Convert Kit for those who are unsure about Convert Kit, but one thing is definite: do not wait to create an email following! It is something that I wish I did early on. It has brought me closer to my readers and has made my writing more meaningful, both to me and others.

After a year of trying it out, I have finally switched from a month-to-month subscription to an annual subscription today, thus saving me $86.

PicMonkey – the site I use to create banners for the blog and Pinterest

PicMonkey is an easy-to-use website for creatives using visual aids to accompany their work. It is especially useful for Pinterest if you want visually captivating banners. Most people who go to Pinterest are in search of something in particular. The ability to catch their attention and redirect them to what they are searching for is key.

Many bloggers underestimate Pinterest as a social media platform, but it is actually the most useful platform to bloggers. Imagery makes it easy to catch the attention of users who are searching for something, and the linking can redirect them to a specific blog post or page.

Off course, PicMonkey has other uses. I specifically use it to create banners for my website, or to create imagery that promotes my courses.

I will even use PicMonkey for personal things, such as invitations to parties or holiday cards. It’s as easy as Paint, but with more functions.

You can try PicMonkey for FREE for 7 days, and then decide if it’s useful to you.

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – the course I took that taught me how to monetize a blog

All of this, I learned from a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing written on Teachable by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. I have spoken extensively about how this course helped me monetize my blog, so if you are looking to invest in a course about blogging, I think this is it!

Off course, the final Cyber Monday deal that I’ve got to offer is one that is my own.

Get 75% OFF my course Mastering a Budget by doing the following:

  1. Subscribe to TheDebtist below

2. Follow TheDebtist on Instagram.

 

All subscribers and followers will receive a discount code in their inbox tomorrow that will give them 75% OFF of the course. This is my way of saying Thank You to all my followers. I couldn’t be here without you.

Also, I would like to open the conversation up to those who wish to see something different or new in 2020. Reach out to me below, or just say “Hi!”

The Importance of Fun Money in Financial Sustainability

We all know that I talk a lot about sustainability, harboring borderline ad nauseam (debatable). Most oft, it refers to an environmental topic, but once in a blue moon, it will refer to something finance related. This is because tackling a student loan of $550K+ has taught me a thing or two about how to set yourself up for success with paying down debt, one of which is that the looming debt seems to most an insurmountable task that very easily deters a person from pursuing a tackling of said giant. And if you were as crazed as I about financial freedom and you did pursue freedom from debt, I would postulate bet my money on the fact that we are looking at a journey long-term. In other words, opportunities abound for insecurities to start kicking in, and there are many forks in the road that either lead you back to where you started from (in our case, on a 25 year loan forgiveness plan) or to a dead end. So we must talk sustainability if we are to expect a level of success. More importantly, we must talk sustainability if we are ever going to c r u s h this game (which we are!)

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Finding Financial Sustainability

Saving every dollar towards achieving a goal can be a grueling task. Most inquiries from outsiders center around how we survive the suffering. Surely, we must be starving ourselves of LIFE in an effort to be free?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Firstly, if you think that’s the case, then you don’t know us at all. I think both of us are averse towards doing anything we don’t feel is right. Read also as anything we don’t want to do. And while that seems bratty at best, it’s actually the perfect recipe towards a happy life.

Secondly, I agree. Anyone who is bogged down by the stresses of meeting payment requirements may have difficulty enjoying “the finer things”, but who gets to define “the finer things”? Only you. So while society spends their hard-earned bucks on Rolexes and Teslas, your idea of a finer thing could be a cup of coffee, a morning of solace, a day outdoors, yeah?

And lastly, even when it comes to purchasing stuff, we have the ability to, but with mindfulness. We don’t have a tendency to purchase things right when we see them anyway, and scoff at that on-demand-pull that gets most people to do some regretful spending. What we do have is a category in our budgeting tool (this link will take you to my course on how to set up your own budgeting tool). We have to thank our CFP (who is no longer doing CFP work but who have been invaluable in sending us on our way to a healthy, financially fit life – see The Value of Having a CFP) for teaching us about the importance of having a category for spending on OURSELVES.

Yes! I am talking about a category dedicated towards FUN money.

Sustainability comes from a variety of inspirations and motivations. Just when the going gets rough, one can find the push they need in a community, in the re-evaluation of perspective, in a reminder of the reason WHY we started in the first place. Sustainability can also be found in a bribe – a reward persay … but a calculated reward. This is what fun money is.

How to Set Aside Fun Money

Fun money is literally a category in our budgeting tool. It sits under the “Wants” grouping, and gets allocated a monthly amount. Nothing large by any means. We are talking $50 a month. If we want something more than $50, then we have to save for a few months.

We have our own separate categories for fun money, and we can spend our fun money however we want. Fun money is spent towards things we want but we both don’t benefit from. So, for example, if I want to buy a book about bread, then that will come out of my fun money fund. Or if he wants to buy a video game to play with his guy friends, then that will come out of his fun money account.

There isn’t anything extravagant about the fun money bucket. Because the amount is so small per month (less than 1% of our entire income), there is no guilt associated with it. Because we each have our own category, there is no blame when one spends their fun money. And because we already planned for the spending ahead of time, there is no buyer’s remorse. In fact, the opposite is true. It starts the habit of serious consideration prior to purchasing, because you realize how long it took to build up your fun money fund, and makes you assess whether there are better methods of spending. In fact, I think fun money is a great way to teach kids about appropriate spending habits, especially if the percentage set aside towards fun money is small compared to what they actually receive from birthdays, holidays, and rewarded chore duties.

How Fun Money Helps With Sustainability

So you can buy a few items. Whoop-dee-doo. How does that help with paying down a massive student debt?!

The psychology of working essentially for free and putting all your hard-earned dollars towards a debt that allowed you to work in the first place is difficult to describe. The taxation on the mind, as well as the emotional roller coaster that one experiences, cannot be stressed. Some days, you wonder what it is exactly that you’ve done. You start to question whether it was all worth it. Eventually, you’ll come around. But the hoops you have to go through to continue on this journey … it’s comical how emo the whole thing is. Like I said, the insecurities roll in like a fog. You don’t realize their coming, but they sneak up on you. It is during these times that you may need a little boost of confidence. Moral support does the trick, but there are days when I feel like no one else TRULY understands. Because how could they? We all travel different paths, and no two are exactly alike. An activity helps as well, but only momentarily, as it steals the mind and takes it elsewhere. The insecurity doesn’t fade, however, and soon you are left where you started. Unless the activity spans a long period of time, all you can do is wait.

However, the human mind responds very well to a reward system. In fact, it responds so well, that many people are obsessed with rewarding themselves, so much so that they suffer from excess consumption. No need to go down that rabbit hole now (AGAIN). Reward systems are involved in positive reinforcement, or in bribing people to do what one wants them to do. So really, I guess I’m bribing myself. Or at least, I am psychologically tricking the mind into resetting to a more positive thinking space.

The human mind doesn’t respond to starvation. Nothing lives after that. But the reward system, the mind understands. Fun money allows me to give myself calculated rewards. Things that I have already budgeted for, the purchasing of which is controlled. I don’t need much, as we already know, but occasionally, I need a push. I need breathing room. I need a break. And then, I can keep going.

Fun money makes this work sustainable. Less scary, somehow. More manageable. It makes me less of an anomaly, and more human. Hopefully, it makes me more relatable, and shows people that this isn’t me performing some heroic. It’s something that’s achievable for others too. I hope it gets them to start on their own journeys, knowing that sustainability is possible, and that fun money doesn’t make you less dedicated, nor does it make you less successful. If anything, I will dare to say that it’ll feed your fire, and make you succeed where others only dare dream.

Pictured: My most recent purchase, supporting Two Days Off, an ethical clothing line by Gina Stovall based in Los Angeles, CA.

Personal Finance First Step: Mastering the Budget

If you are embarking on a personal finance journey, then let’s get you started on the right footing. Step one begins with mastering a budget. Some may scoff at me and say that I know nothing about becoming rich and getting to financial freedom. They laugh and say that I must not realize that reaching financial freedom lies in increasing income, rather than decreasing spending. But I know something that they don’t know.

You can increase your income, and never be financially free. It’s just a quick fix attempt, and usually, quick fixes do not work. In order to really tackle your personal finance, you need to start with the basics. You can’t just jump ahead to making a ton of money, because without mastering a budget, you’ll likely never see that extra money you make. If you’re like most Americans, you’ll spend it before it even gets to your bank account.

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Now I’m not naive enough to believe that mastering your budget is all it takes. I agree that there are limitations to mastering a budget. One can only cut their spending so much. On the flip side, one can increase their income exponentially…indefinitely, perhaps.

I, myself, am well aware of the need to increase income. I worked three jobs while going to undergrad to increase my income, but I also graduated in three years in order to cut spending. I was one of the few students who worked during dental school, just to make a little extra money. And even now, am a side-hustler of sorts. I work in dentistry, write on my own blog, write for other blogs, walk dogs via Rover, work the midnight shifts as a bread baker with Rye Goods, and bake my own bread to sell (currently I am applying for a license to open my own “bakery”). But before all of this, I mastered my budget.

Here’s the thing. I know many people who are high income earners. I define high income earners as people who make six digit incomes or more. Most of them are also swimming in debt. This debt includes car loans, mortgage loans, student loans, and even consumer debt. Unfortunately, lifestyle creep is real, and unless you’re well-versed in staving off advertisements who are convincing you to spend more as you earn more, you will likely be one of the top targets (and victims) of lifestyle inflation.

There’s a statistic swimming around that 80% of Americans do not have $2,000 set aside in an emergency fund. Eighty percent! The part that gets me is the fact that $2,000 won’t even cover most true emergencies. Medical bills are way more than $2,000. If something happens to your home, or someone loses a job, $2,000 won’t last most people one month in Southern California. While it’s hard to confirm the statistic, for they do have a tendency to appear out of nowhere and start floating around, I can confirm that many patients that I meet don’t have the income to jump into an emergency dental procedure right away. Yet many of them are working their tails off (I can’t tell you how many nightguards I’ve diagnosed to help with stressful grinding habits), and earning decent pay, and still, they have to “save up” to treat a tooth in pain. And trust me, you wouldn’t put off treating a tooth that really hurts, unless you absolutely have to. It’s a feeling one never forgets.

People are working longer hours and making more money, but are saving less and less. We’ve been raised to be consumers. It’s not an anti-consumerist society, I can tell you that. But we haven’t been taught how to be SMART consumers. I was never taught how to ration out my earnings. I was never taught to pay myself first. I was told that good credit is GOOD. Wrong. Good credit is bad, and bad credit is worse. People without credit history probably are the best with handling their money. (This does not mean they are the richest. Just that they are really good at handling money).

All of this to say, you can try to get rich by working your butt off. You can spend all the hours of your day for forty years of your life trying to make enough money, and then some. But you can’t be successful if you don’t know how to manage it. You can try to take the short cut, the quick way to success. But that’s what most Americans are doing, and eighty percent of them don’t have $2,000 set aside for emergencies.

If you were to take my advice, I’d say start mastering your budget. If that’s something you’ve wanted to do in 2019 but haven’t had the chance, check out my free course How to Create a Budgeting Tool, and get started today!

Why You Need A Budget

I always tell people how having a budget helped turn our life around. For some people, just the mention of the “B” word makes them cringe. There are many negative implications attached to budgeting, but I am here to tell you that they are not true. Many people believe having a budget is limiting, as if it will tell you what you can and can’t do. I completely disagree. I think having a budget is freeing, because it allows you to finally tell your money where to go. When you have a budget that works, you will have your money working for you, instead of the other way around.

You will never know how you are doing financially without measuring it in a factual manner. Likewise, you cannot improve if you don’t know what you need to improve upon. Numbers don’t lie, and your budget will be the best reflection of how well you do with controlling your spending. The first question I ask people who tell me they have difficulty saving money is, “how much are you spending each month on _____?” If they can’t give me a definitive number, then therein lies their problem. I liken it to people who say they can’t lose weight. If they don’t know how many calories their taking in and how many calories they’re burning per day, then how do they expect to have any grasp on the things they can improve on in order to see results. A budget is necessary in order to track progress. People will usually try to ball park their spending, but it never works. Why? Because we always underestimate how much we spend. It’s human nature. It’s difficult to understand what’s keeping us from financial freedom if we do not know what we are doing with our money.

Budgeting will teach you more about yourself, what you value, and what you want in your life.

There are many reasons why you may want to master your budget. Here are some ideas.

  • To free up your time. You may feel as if work is taking up all of your time. You may want to cut down on work or change jobs completely but you can’t do so because there are bills that need to be paid. A lifestyle needs to be supported. Getting your budget in order may be just want you need to decrease your spending, thus allowing you to take that part-time job or cutting down on your work hours. Some people even want to become so financially savvy that they can pursue complete financial independence and retire early!
  • To relieve stress. Having a shortage of money can be very stressful. However, if you budget correctly, you should never run into that situation. Mastering your budget gives you more flexibility and allows you to be better positioned to deal with unexpected expenses.
  • To have more freedom. The more financially secure you feel, the more freedom you will have when making life decisions such as changing jobs, quitting work, traveling the world, starting a business, starting a family, and more. When money is tight, these things may seem very risky. But when you have a grasp on your budget, you can predict how much freedom you have in pursuing your passions. For example, if your dream is to time off and travel the world in 2020, you can definitely make that dream happen but planning ahead and using your budgeting skills to prepare yourself for that.
  • To support yourself and your loved ones better. For me, this was MY “why”. I was graduating from dental school with over half a million dollars in student debt, and was also about to get married. I knew what a burden I was choosing to bring into our marriage. He didn’t mind it, but I did. I was propelled forward with this drive to release us from this student debt, so that we can be free to pursue the lives we want to lead without being tied to working in certain fields to support large loan payments. It isn’t fair that the person I most love would be affected by debt because of the career I chose to pursue. So I embarked on a journey to get our finances in tip top shape, and we have mastered our budget so well that what people once told us would be impossible to do is being done! They said we wouldn’t be able to pay off our debt in under ten years considering the salary we would be making. Well, we are on track for eight years, and it all started with mastering our budget!

So, do you have a budget? What’s stopping you? If you want to kickstart your budget and start telling your money where to go, check out my FREE course, How to Create A Budgeting Tool That Works, and start achieving your life goals sooner. I hope it helps you with your financial journey as much as it’s helped us.