Last week we passed the two-year anniversary of Evolving Personal Finance; our first post went up on November 21, 2011. (It was so interesting for me to re-read that post and see how much and how little has changed in terms of my vision for this blog!) I let the one-year anniversary pass without comment because it didn’t feel like that much of an accomplishment for me, but this year for whatever reason I am feeling like I’ve built something substantial here and the anniversary deserves mention!
As I’ve had my eye on this anniversary on my calendar, I realized that writing EPF and participating in the PF blogging community has truly enriched my life in a variety of ways. As a PF blogger, increasing riches (net worth) is definitely something I care about and have my eye on, and yet the vast majority of the benefit I have received from writing EPF has been non-monetary. I consider the great part of my current wealth to be non-monetary (relationships, health, and so forth), so it is natural for me to recognize the positive impact EPF has had on me aside from the bottom line.
Blogging Enriched Me Figuratively
Friends from the internet: I have so many relationships now that I wouldn’t have without EPF! There are a bunch of bloggers with whom I have reciprocal commenting relationships and I’ve also gotten to know many readers through their consistent comments here. I wouldn’t say that I’ve transitioned any of these relationships into friendships similar to those I have IRL like some bloggers do – I don’t typically chat with them in real time, for instance – but I still find great joy and value in them. I really appreciate how EPF has enabled me to “meet” people who are very different from me (and sometimes, literally meet them!). Almost everyone I interact with regularly IRL is either a grad student/postdoc or a member of my church, so that doesn’t make for much diversity (particularly in age – 20s to early 30s). The PF community online is so much more diverse that I’m gaining a lot of exposure to different walks of life and it’s very interesting.
Better friendships IRL: A small percentage of my IRL friends read EPF, but I love it so much when the ones that do comment or start a conversation with me after reading a post. Personal finance is really an intimate topic – how we use our money truly reveals what we value in life. My friends can get to know me better and probably around topics that won’t come up in everyday conversation, and if they let me I get to know them better, too! We definitely get into deeper conversations because of my putting this content “out there.”
Learning a ton: For a non-professional, I really think that I have a good grasp on personal finance and I have seen the diversity of approaches to budgeting, investing, debt reduction, etc. I wouldn’t have gained that knowledge without regularly reading so many PF blogs and doing research for my own posts.
Post archives: We now have 421 published posts, more than three-quarters of which are my weekday new-content posts. I finally have that feeling that I’ve built something substantial here that can entertain, inform, and stimulate a reader. I particularly love it when I hear from readers that they learned something new and helpful (or difficult to figure out) from one of my posts. The post that I have gotten the most positive feedback on is my one clarifying what earned income is for a graduate student for the purposes of contributing to an IRA. I love seeing search queries coming in that I know are leading readers to that post.
Connections to community: Through writing EPF and participating in the PF blogosphere, I have gained the confidence to sit on a personal finance committee at my university and to volunteer with the financial ministry at my church!
Helping people: I get so much satisfaction from helping people to do better with their personal finances, and I wouldn’t be doing any of it without EPF. I’ve now formally coached a handful of friends and clients referred to me through my church. I have also talked more informally about PF topics with people IRL and through email and comments, and I think that our conversations have been somewhat illuminating or practically useful for them. This isn’t always about vague topics like budgeting or saving but can get down to the nitty-gritty, like friends who have thanked me for alerting them to our health insurance’s (now-discontinued) wellness program and the friend who just yesterday shook my hand to thank me for my recommendation of our latest perfect-for-a-low-spender rewards credit card.
Blogging Enriched Me Literally
Accountability: I’d say that the biggest impact of writing EPF on our bottom line is from the accountability that the blog provides. Primarily this benefit comes from our monthly spending reports. I’d been transferring any budget leftovers to various savings accounts each month for some time, but when I started doing the spending reports it was like magic – nearly every single month we’ve had some budget leftovers, sometimes of quite a lot of money! The accountability from the blog is above and beyond the accountability Kyle and I receive from one other.
Blog income: We haven’t yet made a major effort to earn any income from the blog, but there has been a few dollars here and there. So far this year we’re not in the black but I expect to be soon, which is exciting! I know a lot more about generating income from blogging now, and it’s just a matter of choosing which avenues we want to pursue and building traffic.
Republic Wireless credits: Kyle heard about RW nearly two years ago from his tech-y type blogs and I signed up for their beta wave right away. I think we were the first personal finance blog to review Republic Wireless (at least, I don’t know of any earlier) – we actually put up the review the day before they announced their referral program. As such, we were able to alert people to the service early on and capture some of the search traffic, even though the bloggers RW recruited to review the service are much bigger than EPF. So far we’ve had 16 completed signups through our referral link, which gives us and the signer-upper a $20 account credit. Now that RW has released an up-to-date phone, the Moto X, I’m hoping to see another round of signups. I don’t count this as blog income because it’s not properly income, but it has been super nice not to pay for my phone service for the last 6 months!
Altered to new opportunities: I have received a lot of valuable tips from our commenters – the great part about baring your own financial habits and desires is that you are auto-crowdsourcing for the answers. I’ve also learned a ton from just keeping up in the PF blogosphere. The most lucrative aspect is probably learning about churning credit cards, which we don’t really do right now but might when our spending increases. The best one so far was the 45+% return on the minimum spend on the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard – No Annual Fee Card, which we signed up for twice – we expect to net at least $800 in statement credits on that deal between Kyle and me.
I am so grateful to all of you who read and comment on our posts. Thank you for enriching my life in the last two years. I’d love to hear from some of you lurkers if you are willing to jump in for one post – please comment, email me, or talk to me in person to say hi! And for those of you who are bloggers, thank you for your commitment to blogging as well, because I am learning so much from you!
How has your life been enriched, literally or figuratively, by writing or reading blogs? Do you consider some of your friends from the internet to be on par with your IRL friends?