Hey everyone! I’m at FinCon, so I have a special How My Blog Changed My Life for you. My friend Eric, who I met at the local personal finance blogger meet-up here in Portland, is “kind of a big deal” at FinCon. He runs the Ignite event at FinCon, which happens to be tonight. So whether you are at FinCon or not, meet Eric! He’s a blogging veteran and is so inspiring because he’s turned blogging into many lucrative side hustles.

Find out how Eric’s blog has changed his life…

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1. What was the inspiration for starting your blog?

I started my first blogs in 2006. I found it to be a fun way to connect and share information and thoughts online. Through those sites, I learned all about how blogs work and got a brief insight into how some blogs grow and make a little money. When I was working in a bank in 2007, I found that what I was learning as a bank manager might be useful to lots of people out there, and decided to share it with a new blog. I saw great sites I enjoyed like Poorer Than You and Fabulously Broke and thought to myself, if these girls can do finance blogs, so can I! So I started Narrow Bridge Finance on October 7, 2008. Six years later, I’m still here!

2. What has been the most challenging part of having a blog?

The most challenging part of having a blog is the hard work and many hours required to maintain the site, keep it fresh and up-to-date, and bring new and useful content to my readers every week. The blog has about 900 live posts representing countless hours of writing, a design that took even more time and a bit of money, and products like a book that I created as part of the business.

3. In what ways, direct or indirect, has your life changed because of your blog?

In one way, I got to meet Melanie and write this post! But meeting Melanie is just a small slice of the friendships and opportunities that have come from my site (no offense Melanie, your part is pretty sweet). My blog has led to some of my closest friends around the world that I would never have met otherwise, great experiences and conferences like FinCon (the conference for finance bloggers and the media) and World Domination Summit.

The biggest impact, though, has been the income directly from the blog and from related services that I have begun to offer. I now make about 20% of my income online from Narrow Bridge Finance and my freelance writing, web design, and social media consulting business Narrow Bridge Media.

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4. What have you learned from blogging?

Blogging has taught me so much that I can hardly scratch the surface here, but I’ll do my best. On the most basic level, the blog has dramatically improved my writing, website design, WordPress development, graphic design, and business and project management skills. Beyond that, I have learned about topics as diverse as project outsourcing to workers abroad, online marketing, monetization, networking, building a brand, and kicking ass on the internet.
Being successful online takes a huge amount of work, a wide skill set, and business acumen. I didn’t have all of those when I started with this whole blogging thing, but I can confidently say that I have improved at all of those, along with personal finance, the topic of my blog, as I’ve gone along.

5. What advice would you give to new bloggers who are thinking of starting a blog?

My biggest advice to new bloggers is to seriously consider the effort it takes to maintain a blog before you start and, when you do, treat your blog professionally. A blog is your personal online presence and the work it takes to blog makes it a big part of your life. If you really want to succeed, you can’t do it without really trying. Look at what you like and what works well and what it takes for them to succeed. If you think you’re up to it, follow their lead and see where it can take you. You might be surprised where you end up!
Thank you so much Eric for sharing your insights!
September 17, 2014

Accomplishing big, larger-than-life goals often comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. Oftentimes if something is too easy, the stakes aren’t big enough. It takes drastic change to really shake things up and reach those unthinkable goals.

Losing weight is one of the biggest examples of a big goal that requires a huge sacrifice. It requires changing your eating habits, pushing your body even harder and making long-term, consistent change.

Read more at VOSA.com

September 15, 2014

I’ll never forget the day. I was ten years old and my mom and I were on a mother-daughter trip to Disneyland. Growing up in Southern California, Disneyland was practically my backyard, so it was fun to play around in the happiest place on earth.

Halfway through the day, after taking a ride with Indiana Jones, my mom looked down at her wedding ring.

The diamond was gone.

The prongs looked so lonely, and the space where the diamond used to be was glaring back at us.

My mom’s eyes started to well up. Her diamond was gone and her wedding ring wasn’t the same.

We were in Disneyland, a massive place and the diamond could be anywhere. Optimistically, my mom went to the Lost and Found to see if anyone had brought anything back.

Nothing.

The happiest place on earth soon turned into a not-so-happy place. I think we hung around a little while longer, but it was hard to have fun after that.

After all, it was my mom’s wedding ring. The ring she was given, after she decided to leave Michigan behind to be with my dad in California.

That memory has stuck with me now for two decades. Losing something as important and valuable as your wedding ring is devastating.

Luckily, there are ways to help protect your jewelry from a variety of possible factors.

Have you ever considered jewelry insurance? I didn’t either, until recently, but it’s something I am interested in. I have a vintage ring that my faux mother-in-law has given me as a gift, as a symbol of our love and family. I get compliments on it all the time and I feel naked without it.

Jewelry insurance is just another way to protect your assets. Your jewelry has a huge emotional and financial value, so why wouldn’t you want to protect that? Jewelry insurance can save you from a lot of headache in case something happens.

For example, Perfect Circle® Jewelry Insurance by Jewelers Mutual covers:

In case something happens, you are insured and they will take care of you. They are also the gold standard when it comes to jewelry insurance, as they have been around over a century, since 1913!

In personal finance, we talk a lot about protecting our assets and investing in our future – – if you have an engagement ring, family heirloom, etc. take steps to learn more about what jewelry insurance can offer and start protecting your jewelry.

This post is provided in partnership with Perfect Circle® Jewelry Insurance by Jewelers Mutual to help educate people about protecting their investments. They will have a booth at FinCon, so be sure to stop by and say “Hello!”

 

I am quickly approaching 30 and I am now in the age range where it is expected of me to have kids. For the record, I have never wanted kids. I have known this since I was 7-years old, when I had a panicked thought that as a woman I had to have kids.

I grew up and realized I didn’t have to do anything. Kids are a choice, not a requirement.

So for many years, I have told people that I don’t want kids, and I got the requisite, “Oh, just wait ‘til you’re 30! You’ll change your mind.” I am practically there and I have to say that in my life I have never wavered once — not even a bit.

I have already disappointed my family and my partner’s family (of course, this is a choice we agree on) — all of which is exacerbated by the fact that my partner and I are both only children. It’s the end of the line and the onus is on me. But guilt is not a reason to have a kid.

Being of an age where most people want kids, and me continuing to realize that I (still) don’t, I am starting to look into permanent options to remain childfree. It’s kind of scary and awesome, but it sure does make my decision final, which seems to make other people uncomfortable.

I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about me and assumptions around being childfree. Here are 4 common misconceptions about being childfree by choice:

I hate children

This is absolutely, completely not true. I have worked in education for most of my adult life, working as an afterschool program manager, and teaching artist. I love working with children for many reasons. They are so malleable and have fantastic energy. Teaching theater to elementary school students has been one of my favorite jobs — young kids don’t have an ego about them, they are curious, inquisitive and passionate. I have often said, I’ve learned far more from working with kids than I have from teaching them. I don’t want kids of my own, because I feel like I have many of them all over the country. I think this assumption is unfair and just shows how difficult it is for some people to comprehend that a woman could willingly not want to have kids, yet still like them. Because there must be something wrong, right?

I’m immature

People often think that I’m just “immature” and I’ll “grow out of it” “when I’m ready.” Not wanting to have kids has nothing to do with maturity and everything to do with knowing myself really really well. As we know plenty of people of all maturity and experience levels have kids.

I had a bad childhood

Nope. Sorry to put the kibosh on this one, but I didn’t have a terrible, traumatic childhood that made me swear off having kids forever. My parents were normal, loving, and kind. I was a pretty normal kid — I played outside (do kids still do that anymore?), watched TV, and had a wild imagination as an only child. Nothing about my childhood has affected my decision and I think it’s unfair to assume that people have to be severely hurt or traumatized to not want kids.

I must be a lonely, raging single feminist who hates men

Lonely? Nope. Raging? Only sometimes. Feminist? Check. By the way, being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men, in case you are following the INSANE women against feminism movement. I am in a happy, committed relationship and we both knew before we were together that we didn’t want kids. Because if one person wanted kids and the other didn’t, wouldn’t that be a deal breaker (it should be!)?

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. There is no reward or adulation for not having kids. No one says, “Great job! You can’t afford them anyways, you are making the right decision!”

Nobody says, “Thanks for not bringing an unwanted child into the world.”

Why? Because we are judged. It is an unconventional choice and many people can’t handle it. Just because I don’t want kids, doesn’t make me disapprove of your decision to have them.

I don’t judge any of my friends for having or wanting kids, so I ask for the same respect.

September 10, 2014

Hello friends! I have another fantastic dear debt letter! I can’t believe it’s been a little over a year since I launched the dear debt letter project! I’m so thankful for everyone who has participated. As you probably know, I focus a lot on the emotions related to debt — so having an outlet to empower myself and others, by writing breakup letters to debt has been such a fantastic opportunity. I have learned so much from your letters — you are my inspiration and why I keep going.

Today, we have a letter from Kassandra, who has made it to the other side. More about her: Kassandra Dasent is a self-employed wife and step-mom striving to live life beyond what money can buy.  In addition to working as a freelance writer and business consultant, Kassandra blogs at More Than Just Money about a variety of topics and personal experiences that all intersect with money.

Dear Debt,

It’s been close to two years since we’ve last spoken to each other but don’t get any ideas on rekindling our relationship. I gotta admit, you and I go way back. We met when I was in college and you made sure to stay super-glue close to me no matter what was going on in my life.

If I had a wedding to go to and couldn’t buy the dress in cash, you hooked me up and made sure I looked fly. If I wanted to see Paris twice in one year, you never failed to deliver the tickets. When I had leased a new car, you stepped up a time or two to make sure we didn’t lose the ride. You were the ultimate sugar daddy!

But after a decade of our crazy ways, I noticed that you couldn’t give me what I wanted anymore. It first started with you spending less time with me because your credit limits were maxed out. Our relationship deteriorated when I got divorced. I resented you because I barely had any money left over from my paycheques after settling up with you. Then you totally screwed me over on a bad business deal. You know you had to go after all that!

It really hurt because I thought we were like Bonnie & Clyde – ride or die – but I saw how cold and heartless you really were. You not only took my money but you stole my self worth. You’re damn right I deleted your voicemails asking for me to take you back and I also ripped up your tempting letters promising me that the good old days were just around the corner.

I was too busy cleaning up the colossal mess you and I made together by working my tail off, selling the furniture (that one must have cut you like a knife) and learning what it meant to live with less and be happier for it – ALL WITHOUT YOU! If you really want to know how I feel about you now, listen to John Legend’s “Used to Love U”.

More and more people are getting the real 411 about you Debt. I’ll do you a solid and tell you that there’s an entire army of bloggers, including me, that are dedicating their time to teaching others on how to get rid of you for good. In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to congregate together yearly at this event called FinCon where they offer tools and strategies to help people kick your ass to the curb.

If I were you Debt, I’d be scared…very scared.

It’s been all kinds of real.

Kassandra

 

If you are interested in writing a dear debt letter, please get in touch with me! Anonymity respected.

 

 

September 8, 2014

I just got back from a delightful weekend camping on the coast! Well, it was more like glamping. We did stay in a yurt. We went hiking, made a bonfire on the beach, took a nap on the beach, had s’mores and just relaxed. It was the first time in recent memory that I did not use my computer for 48 hours. Now that I seem to spend many of my waking hours in front of the glare of a screen (not complaining, it’s just straining at times) it was nice to detox a bit. I had very limited cell reception too, so I didn’t really think of email that much.

It was so nice to just reconnect with nature and friends and be in a new environment — on a pretty frugal budget, too.

Here are some photos from this weekend.

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And the best part of rejuvenating after 2 days? I’m excited and eager to get back to work! I’m realizing that FinCon is next week! I fly out on Tuesday for camp. That is so soon. I must admit my grasp of time/days/date is now completely off now that I’m freelance. I never seem to know what time or day it is.

So I’m going to be hustling this week to make sure I can get some projects done before FinCon. Does anyone else work while they are there? I figure not?

I’m also feeling more legit. I got my business cards. My title? Wordsmith & Idea Maker. I think it works quite well.

So, let’s get back to the whole reason that I started this blog.

TO OBLITERATE MY DEBT

As I mentioned in my freelance update, I am getting used to the different pay schedule. As such, my student loan payments are off.

If I were to evaluate my numbers based purely on last month, I would have to say I put a pathetic $300 to debt. But then a few days later, after my PayPal payments went through, I threw another $400 to my debt.

So I’ve paid off $700 in a week and hope to do more, but I want to get my emergency fund up to $5,000. It is currently at $3,600 after I put another $300 towards it last month.

I also put $100 to retirement, $20 to travel fund, and I put 30% of income to taxes (ouch!).

So when you look at the complete picture, it’s not too shabby. I’m still getting used to it, though. I’m so used to paying off insane amounts of debt at the expense of everything else. I was doing the same thing with my time, too. Working myself too hard at all hours. I am not used to this balance stuff, but I’m getting better.

The Numbers

The number on top is my undergrad loan, the one on the bottom is my grad loan. So close to getting that pesky grad loan under $30k!

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And the total is: Screen shot 2014-09-08 at 12.40.43 AM

Le sigh. And I just keep plugging away. If you are new here, I’ve accumulated a total of $81,000 in debt (58k grad loans, 23k undergrad) and I started this blog when I had roughly 58k. It feels so slow and drawn out. In my fantasy, I will triple my income and pay off this nasty beast sooner rather than later. But these things take time and effort. Baby steps. One foot in front of the other.

Paying off debt is like learning how to walk all over again.

In other news, I was interviewed by Schools.com last month. It was quite hilarious, because I often get easily excited and can talk really fast and say stupid things — so my comment likening paying off debt to having a mental breakdown was pretty funny.

Oh yes, I guess I did say that.

Also, here’s a roundup of work around the web:

How I Quit My Job and Became an Accidental Entrepreneur at Careful Cents

Beware of Credit Card Creep at FeeX

The King Moves Abroad at Retire By 40

Lastly, a million hugs to people who took my survey and to those who voted for me for Best Debt Blog! I will be taking your feedback into consideration as I grow this site and you guys gave me the warm and fuzzies!

How was your weekend?

 

 

 

Ever since I discovered that someone found my blog by searching “I want to kill myself because of debt,” I’ve been really touched and hurt by this. I wrote the post, Please Seek Help as a note to people, figuring more people would find it.

Sure enough, the search terms about suicide and debt have increased — and are starting to appear weekly. Every time I look at my search terms and see this, my heart sinks and my eyes start to well up.

I know your pain.

Maybe not in the same way, but I know.

You feel isolated.

Hopeless.

Like it won’t get better, ever.

Nothing will make it right.

You feel the world would be better off without you (which isn’t true).

You beat yourself up again and again about being in debt because of the mistakes you’ve made or the bad luck you’ve had.

But I promise you, killing yourself is not the answer.

You are not a loan. YOU are not ALONE. OK?

I want to jump through my computer and give you a hug. Shake you and say your life is worth so much more. I understand what it’s like to want to no longer exist and just wash away without a peep. To self-medicate with everything that is bad for you, just to feel better, even for a minute. That was pretty much my whole life from age 15-22. Seven years of pain and trouble.

For a brief while before I started this blog, I also felt similarly desperate about my debt. I couldn’t find a full-time job and everything I worked for seemed to be for nothing. I was left with nothing but debt. I felt like I was drowning. I worked hard, but for what? I was diving deeper into a depression and was driving everyone crazy with my constant cries for help. But then I started this blog, as a way to get it out, talk to someone, anyone, about my debt. And I found my community. Things have changed so much since then until now, and I’m happy.

And you deserve to be happy too. Debt can be life-sucking and soul-crushing, but it’s not worth your life.

Your life is priceless. Don’t think your debt is worth more than you. Your debt doesn’t make you a bad person or a stupid person.

Killing yourself over debt simply isn’t worth it. Believe me. And you’re not going to make anyone else’s life easier either — quite the contrary. Please don’t think you’re doing your family a favor.

If you are reading this and have experienced these thoughts, please seek help. Feel free to reach out to me and we can chat. I’d be happy too. And if that is too much, please seek help from a professional.

Debt sucks, but you can beat it. It does not define your self-worth. It’s part of who you are, but not what you are.

You are worth so much more and this is only temporary. Don’t make a permanent decision on a temporary feeling.

You are lovely, beautiful, and courageous.

 

August was my first full month of being full-time freelance. It has been a wild month full of highs, lows, and uncertainty.

But this is what I signed up for, right?

And I love it! I didn’t realize how utterly exhausted I was until the transition. For the first two weeks, I took a nap. Every. Day. After working more than 80 hours a week for the past six months (and really I’ve been pushing myself for years, since graduate school), I was just simply exhausted.

It felt both oddly exhilarating and worrisome to freely take a nap in the middle of the day. I’ve now recovered and no longer take naps. I feel rested and happier than I’ve been in a very long time. I am now getting around 7-8 hours of sleep every night, compared to 4-6 hours before.

I have had some challenges, though.

Being a Night Owl

I have always known I am a night owl. It’s like as soon as 10pm hits, I’m ready to work! When I was juggling my full-time job and freelance work, being a night owl was helpful…until I still couldn’t get all the work done and was routinely waking up at 5 or 6am to get stuff done before work too. Now that I’m on my own, my inner night owl has taken over. I’m often working until midnight or even 3am. Then I sleep until 8-10am. Somehow it really works. So while I do my best work at night, during the day I’m often doing easier stuff like answering emails, responding to comments, etc. Easy stuff that doesn’t require much of my brain. I’m feeling really guilty not doing “important” work (although I’d still regard that as important – but it’s unpaid, nonetheless) during the day. But I still meet my deadlines. I get things done. It’s just at night, most of the time. Somehow I really enjoy working when I know most people aren’t, but I need to let go of the guilt of not being productive every waking hour.

Payment Schedule

Most of my freelance work pays me once a month. That’s a stark difference from twice a month. Luckily, I do have some event work and other gigs that pay me sporadically, but I swear I felt like I waited 3 weeks to get paid for anything. I was stalking the mailman, hungry for my check. I’ve come to realize I need to get used to this, which is why I’m going to continue to prioritize my emergency fund, to get me through those moments of paranoia. I know the money is coming, but I just have to wait.

Divorcing Myself from the Employee Mentality

For so long I’ve been in the employee mentality; I’m good at being told what to do; I behave; I collaborate; I play nice, sometimes too nice. But I’m the boss now. And that’s still hard for me to accept sometimes. I’ve been slowly pushing my boundaries and asking for what I want and need in several low-risk situations…and it’s worked out well. I realize I need to be more assertive and ask for what I want. No one is going to just give it to me. Action always beats inaction. I’m also realizing that what I think is a big deal in my head, really is nothing to other people. In short, these are my issues, not other people’s – to get what I want I need to get out of my own way and ask for what I want and need. No one is a mind reader, so be upfront.

So how did I do financially?

On one hand, I made more than I did at my old job…

But it was actually less, after you consider taxes…

And it’s definitely less than what I was making with my full-time job and side hustles combined.

But I’m happier than ever, rested, and I’m hustling. I have faith I will continue to grow and make more money.

For my first month out, I’m pretty happy with the outcome. But I have room to grow, too, so if you need a writer, editor, virtual assistant, social media manager or side hustle coach, get in touch!

While I won’t be sharing totals, you can see percentages of my income and where it came from:

63% of my income came from writing, editing, and virtual assisting.

35% of my income came from brand ambassador and event work. I work as a brand ambassador a lot and also have a very part-time job working for a local congregation in town as an event assistant. I always get free food and wine, too.

2% sales. I was able to sell some old stuff I didn’t need.

So as you can see, while I am making the majority of money online, it isn’t all of it. I like it that way too because I believe wholeheartedly in diversifying your income. The event work also helps me get away from the computer and gets me interacting with people face-to-face.

Some days I don’t leave the house, or I don’t leave until much later, and I’m so surprised by the sun and all the sensory experiences of being outdoors. Such a difference from the near fluorescent luminance of my laptop and the dark aura of my closet-turned-office.

So there you have it folks. My first full month in review. I can still hardly believe I quit, but I feel in my heart it was the right decision. And I’m excited for the continued adventure (especially at FinCon in 2 weeks! I’m going to FinCon camp, baby! Come see me at karaoke?).

p.s. If you haven’t filled out my survey, I’d greatly appreciate if you could spare 3 minutes for 3 questions. I genuinely want to make a better experience for you.

August 29, 2014

Hello debt fighters, frugal friends, and money makers!

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. As I continue to grow Dear Debt, I think it’s really important to hear from you, the readers. If you’re really digging something, I’d like to know. Conversely, if something I’m doing just isn’t working, I’d like to know that as well.

You can take this simple, anonymous 3 question survey.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HS2P6YH

If you’d rather not take the survey, feel free to comment, or drop me a line at deardebt{at}gmail.com.

Also, I wanted to share this awesome giveaway from my buddy Brent at VOSA. He’s giving away 10 copies of the popular budgeting software, YNAB (You Need a Budget). Enter here.

Lastly, for my American readers, what will you be up to for Labor Day weekend? I’ll actually be laboring for most of the weekend, but will take most of Monday off. I’m saving some time to go camping next week with some friends. Can you believe I haven’t gone camping in over 10 years? I’m such an urbanite. I’m actually scared about going without technology for two whole days, but I know it will be rejuvenating and fun!

I wish you all a safe, healthy, fun weekend!

August 28, 2014

Hello! We have an amazing dear debt letter from Kirsten at Indebted Mom. She really did a great job capturing the essence of how draining this relationship can be and the difficult choices we have to make because of debt.

Kirsten blogs at Indebtedmom.com, discussing her faith and family’s large student loan burden, which has cost her an opportunity at being a stay-at-home mom. Kirsten is an actual rocket scientist who actually doesn’t know a lot of things people think rocket scientists should know. She loves lists, coffee, and NASCAR, but not necessarily in that order.

Dear Debt,

We need to talk. This letter will have to do because you are only ever around when it’s convenient for you.

The thing is, I am just not ready for a relationship. I never was. But I didn’t know it at the time. Let’s face it; you are pretty needy and your demands exhaust me mentally and physically and emotionally. I wish I’d known what a drain you’d be on my life when I signed up for you and when I married you. We’d probably still have started this relationship, but I would have ended it much, much sooner. 20 years… I didn’t even know what I wanted in 20 days back when we started this thing. How was I supposed to know that I wanted kids? That the career that you paid for – it wasn’t going to mean anything to me when my children came?

I don’t have time for anything serious, you know? I have these two precious girls and they need me. And I need more time with them. But you make me leave them, five days a week, in the hands of strangers. You make me lose moments that I’ll never get back. You cost me hugs and kisses and cuddles. Those are the things I want to have time for – those are really serious, wonderful things. All you are is a drain.

I need to find myself again – concentrate on my life. A relationship with you doesn’t help me get to where I know I need to be – home with those sweet girls. A relationship with you doesn’t help me serve others. It doesn’t help me be the best wife and mother. All it makes me is an overworked, stressed-out version of the best me.

I think it’s best if we just don’t see each other anymore. Too bad you’re a stalker.

The next time I write you, you won’t have any power over me. No claims in my life. We will be 100% through. I don’t want you around me or my family. And I want you especially to stay far away from my girls.

Sincerely,

Kirsten