State of the Blog – 2019 edition

I’ve been blogging for a little over three years now. The idea for the blog was born as a phd student as I was flying around the country desperately trying to get a job to provide for my 5 kids and justify the 7 years away from the workforce (2 years mba + 5 years phd). At the time, there were plenty of blogs out there documenting the benefits of having millions in the bank and living frugally (i.e. Mr Money Mustache, GoCurryCracker, MadFientist, etc). But I thought I could add something to the discussion. It’s one thing to blog about the easy life of millions of index funds in the bank. I thought it’d be novel to document the path to that point (not realizing that a trillion other bloggers were doing the same). At the time, I was a 35 year old college student making $30k/year with $250k in the bank.

A little over three years later, here’s my assessment on how this grand experiment is going. It’s been good on some dimensions, bad on some dimensions, but I’m having fun so I’ll stick around for a while.

The good of blogging:

  • I like having a place to put my thoughts into the ether.
    • For example, it’s nice to be able to share a link to my cell phone hacking post instead of re-explaining each time I think I could help someone.
    • The blog has somewhat tempered my inappropriate and in-your-face desire to discuss personal finance with people in real life. Given that I’ve written the contents of my brain onto an obscure corner of the internet, I feel like I’m doing my small part to pay it forward.
  • I’ve had fun internet interactions with some cool people. I’ve met a couple in real life at the Berkshire meeting.
  • It has disciplined me into learning more about taxes than I would have without the blog.
  • It functions as my monthly journal in which I reflect on what I learned/read/liked/did over the month.
    • I have a notoriously crappy memory. I only vaguely remember the last 15 years of my life. Writing stuff down seems to help preserve the memories.
  • Posting our spending on a monthly basis has disciplined me into 1.) tracking our finances in a regimented manner, and 2.) changed the way my brain operates. I understand how every single transaction flows through the balance sheet, income statement, and statement of cash flows. Want to learn accounting? Generate monthly financial statements. It’s truly empowering. Want some accountability with your spending? Publish it to random internet strangers.
  • It’s oftentimes hard to see the impact of my research (excluding token citations from other academics). It’s oftentimes hard to see the impact of teaching students who sometimes don’t want to be in your class. But it’s incredibly rewarding to write content that could occasionally help people in the real world.

The bad of blogging:

  • I think the annual net earnings of the blog are in the neighborhood of negative $100. If I’ve spent 50 hours on the blog this year, this amounts to negative $2/hr. I’m probably underselling the time spent on the blog.
    • I showed my 9-year-old son my Amazon affiliate revenue the other day. He laughed hysterically at how small it was. He couldn’t catch his breath.
  • It’s really hard to stay motivated. Most blogs languish in obscurity. It’s hard to differentiate yourself. There are 1,000,000,000 personal finance blogs, each of which tout the benefits of index funds and frugality. It’s hard to make a marginal impact.
  • It can be a timesuck.

Should you start a blog?

  • If you want to blog to make money, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll burn out long before you make a buck.
  • On the other hand, if you want to blog because you obsess about a subject to an unhealthy level and care to share your passion with the world, go for it. But be prepared to languish in obscurity for a decade before anyone other than your mother reads your blog. Only your love of the material will be sufficient to carry you through the years of obscurity – at which point your grandmother will also subscribe to your blog, increasing your blog readership by 100%!

Reservations with the blog:

  • I was approved as a credit card affiliate a few months back but found out afterwards that they didn’t offer the BoA suite as part of the affiliate program. I didn’t feel ethical pushing anything I don’t personally have in my wallet. Maybe I’ll reconsider?
  • It’s weird posting our finances since it’s taboo to talk about one’s personal financial situation. I hope breaching the taboo is worth the personal cost.

Blog Stats:

  • 224 WordPress / email subscribers
  • 248 Feedly subscribers
  • 8k pageviews/month as of late
    • Seems to be growing somewhat despite my anemic publishing schedule.
  • Posts/month: 2.167.
  • $49.90 2019 revenue (hosting + domain costs exceed this by around $100)


Monthly pageviews as of Dec 2019

 


Most popular posts. I’m 99.9% sure the dumb golf ball post was anomalous bot traffic.


Traffic sources. I refuse to use social media because it makes me dumber. My blog traffic surely suffers as a result. Most other bloggers promote themselves on Twitter. Twitter has never made much sense to me since it seems redundant to RSS feeds, though I acknowledge that I’m in the minority here for my deep love of RSS feeds.

 


Total 2019 affiliate income.

22 thoughts on “State of the Blog – 2019 edition”

  1. Glad to see you’re committed to the blog. I found it a few months ago and it’s one of my favorites to come up in Feedly. I’ve found great recommendations for movie, podcast, etc. I enjoyed the book too and I hope a full version get completed in 2020!

    Reply
  2. Four posts from the professor in one day, what a treat!
    I am also glad you are committing to the blog. One of the best out there for sure.
    I noticed your Net Worth came quite close to $1M this month. Nice work!

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    • Sorry for the excessive spam today. Mr Market has indeed been kind. Who knows what the future will bring, but I’m trying to keep in mind the 50-year long game with respect to investments. Over the near term I can tolerate a ton of volatility. This strategy has worked out well as of late, but could easily turn against me tomorrow with a 50% correction.

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  3. You’ve been a great motivator and guide to our families crawl to retirement and to our boys just starting out. Thank you.

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  4. I”m a big fan – you do a great job w/ this blog! You inspired me to re-do my spreadsheet tracker and I took a lot of ideas from yours. I’m hoping I’ll actually make 2020 the year that I write regularly on my wife’s blog. I’m also hoping to get my $100K taxable this year so I can jump your BofA credit card strategy. Depleted taxable in 2019 to pay off the mortgage.

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    • Thanks for the words of encouragement and congrats on paying off the mortgage early!

      The only thing keeping me from doing that is minimizing sequence of returns risk by better smoothing my stock purchases over time (BigERN has written extensively on the topic). That said, I’ve recently thought about violating that rule for piece of mind. If my mortgage rate were higher, it’d be a no brainer.

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      • Yes in hindsight (at least in 2019) I would have been better off investing, but I did this primarily because I went super aggressive w/ a 3 year ARM at a much lower rate than the 15/20/30 year fixed rate with the plan to have the money to pay it off by the end of the fixed 3 year term. Once I had the money to pay it off, it was just too exciting to kill that stupid thing and be done with lenders.

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        • To be clear, I’m not calling you out on the decision. Rather, I’m considering joining your ranks. I think life without a mortgage would be glorious.

          There are countless bogleheads threads on this topic. The overwhelming consensus is that nobody regrets paying off the mortgage.

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  5. +1 for abstaining from social media! I did it for about 8 months before it began consuming all my attention, so I cut it out entirely in December. Now blogging feels fun again and less like an obligatory thing that I need to promote via multiple social media platforms. And I also don’t like promoting credit cards I don’t personally use, that feels icky.

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    • I’m definitely not a saint in that regard (I am a consumer of Instagram), but I find twitter and facebook to be eternal timesucks of doom.

      To me, blogging is the ultimate platform to exchange ideas. Traditional social media platforms (other than 1990s forums like bogleheads) don’t have sufficient space to have a meaningful exchange of ideas. 144 characters simply isn’t sufficient.

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  6. I have been an avid daily personal finance blog reader since 2007 and have recommended this blog to many friends/coworkers since I found it after your gocurry guest post. I have ready everyone of your posts and would rank your site up there with any of the most popular PF blogs and look forward to your updates every month. Keep them coming!!!

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  7. FrugalProf: Yours is the content I read promptly, whenever you publish.
    You set a very high bar for transparency, educational content, personal story telling and lack of conflicts.
    And your humor!
    There are not enough like you.
    Thanks for contributing to the enrichment of a broader community.

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  8. FrugalProf –
    I read a few blogs regularly, and always look forward to your posts. I like the technical detail and well explained thought processes regarding savings, marginal rates, taxes, and of course Costco. In addition, I like hearing the stories of your kids and your teaching them about finances–It makes me feel like I’m not alone in trying to teach mine! Glad you’re continuing to post in this little corner of the internet and that I found it.

    All the best!

    M

    Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by! Ranting about Costco is indeed my favorite past time. I think I’ve been there 7 of the past 8 days or so (literally).

      My oldest is about to join the “comma club” hopefully around the time we join the “two comma club”. It’s really fun to see her (more so than other kids) grasp the concepts.

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  9. Hello Frugal Professor – thanks again for all the great content this past year. I found you after reading the guest post you did for Go Curry Cracker a while back. That guest post was excellent and is probably one of the few blog guest posts that I have read that actually led to me becoming an active subscriber of the guest poster’s blog – so thanks a lot. I enjoy the bloggers that are not afraid to really get specific with formulas and numbers that back up the concepts that really have practical use potential. For me, Go Curry Cracker, Mad Fientist, and Millionnaire Educator have been blogs for which I have implemented suggestions – and I put this blog right up there. So thanks again and keep up the good work.

    Reply

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