Amazon HQ2 – Coming to a City Near You, But is It Worth It?

Amazon HQ2 – Coming to a City Near You, But is This is a Good Thing?

Here in Denver, there has been a lot of hype about the RFP that Amazon released to find the best city for their second headquarters or Amazon HQ2. In fact, The New York Times has already picked Denver as the best choice for the new Amazon HQ2.

This only fueled the flames for some intense conversation around the city.

There are a lot of people that want it because of the 50,000 jobs it would bring to the area and amazing economic growth.

Then there are people that are saying, “No” to the new headquarters because it would make housing prices just go that much higher. They say that Amazon has already been a burden on Seattle and its housing market, infrastructure, and so on.

As always, I’m on the fence with what the new Amazon second headquarters could do for Denver and its job market, economy, housing market, and so on.

So let’s take a dive into the facts to find out what a mega-prospect like Amazon HQ2 could do for a city.

Backstory

Back in September, Amazon announced that it will be taking bids from cities to host its new second headquarters. Amazon laid out a set of guidelines that the city has to meet in an 8-page request for proposal (RFP). Below are some of the major guidelines they laid out.

  1. Either existing building sites with opportunity for expansion or a greenfield site of 100 acres
  2. Area where job growth is strong
  3. Labor pool (skilled tech labor) is large and growing
  4. Quality of life is high
  5. Workers can easily get around and out of town
  6. There is space and a willingness to pay to play

Really, Denver meets all of these qualifications. There is plenty of land for development, the tech industry is booming here, quality life is one of the highest in the country, we have a fairly good mass transit system, and we have so much space to play in the mountains.

The only thing that gets me is Denver far enough from Seattle? If I were Amazon, I would be wanting something on the East coast to make travel to Europe easier and cheap.

Then again, Denver International Airport (DIA), is one of the busiest airports in the world with direct flights to Europe and Asia. With Denver being centrally located in the country, it would allow for Amazon’s employees at the second headquarters to get to either continent easily.

Jobs

Amazon says they will create 50,000 new jobs for the headquarters. This has really been scaring people in the Denver metro area because the area is growing fast enough.

People need to calm down and breathe a little bit here.

Amazon is not going to just dump 50,000 new people into the city within one month. The new headquarters will be developed in many phases.

The first three phases planned take the new headquarters up to 3,000,000 square feet. From there it will grow out the campus organically in many more phases to around 8 million square feet by 2027.

Using a ratio of 160 square feet per employee (8,000,000/50,000) that means the first three phases could hire 18,750 people. Each phase would on average hire 6,250 people.

We saw double that moving into Denver last year, and that is only Denver, not the metro area.

Hopefully, Denver can plan transportation system upgrades along with these phases. Though this might be too much forward thinking to ask for from a government agency.

Economic Growth

Amazon claims that it will invest $5 billion into the new second headquarters. This is an astonishing number!

Amazon claims, “its investments in Seattle between 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy – every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall.”

There is no doubt that the Amazon HQ2 would bring a significant economic boost to the city with new high tech jobs, construction jobs, more real estate investment/development, and so on.

But at what cost does this development come with? We will take a look at the answer later on when we look at Amazon’s and Seattle’s relationship.

via GIPHY

Housing Market

Denver’s housing market is gaining value at a ridiculous pace. It is finally starting to slow down so young couples have a chance to purchase a home. A lot of people are worried that if Amazon brings their second headquarters here, it would just spark that value growth again.

I do not blame them. If we take a look at the median house listing prices on Zillow for Seattle proper they were $351,000 back in October 2011. Six years later, they are now $699,000 or a 99% increase!

In Denver proper, we are not far off from Seattle’s growth. Since October 2011 we have already seen an 83% growth in median house listing prices as well. The question is if Amazon comes to town, could we see our median listing prices basically double again? I do not want to live in a city where the median house listing is over $600,000.

Since I already own a home, I am for more growth. In the past year, our house has already gained nearly $40,000 in value!

The issue is, would I ever be able to move somewhere else in the city with prices so high? Even though our house value could double, I might never get to see that money because we could not afford to move somewhere else; unless we move out of state which I do not want to do.

Infrastructure

Like most cities, Denver has congestion issues on the roads. This has only become worse with the extreme growth the metro area has seen.

It is common sense if you have more people, the more wear and tear there will be on the roads.

Luckily Denver has been very aggressive at implementing a light rail system over the past decade or so. Plus, the area just made news by being one of the finalists for Ellon Musk’s Hyperloop project.

Though all of this effort might be a little too late.

According to Inrix Inc., Denver ranks 21st out of 240 in the U.S. for the amount of time drivers spend stuck in traffic. Which is right in line with Denver metro area’s population as the 19th most populated in the nation.

Even with this being said, because of Denver’s continued growth, it does need to invest more in its transportation system whether it be wider roads, light rail, or train to keep up.

via GIPHY

Seattle

Denver needs to remember not to be blinded by the dollar signs that the Amazon HQ2 will bring to the area.

We need to listen to Seattle’s warning as there are many side effects that will come along with the new headquarters.

According to one Seattle blogger, he warns us of horrible traffic and higher living costs. Others claim of constant construction, which we already have in Denver, so it will probably just get worse?

Rent is already high in Denver. Based on what has happened in Seattle, if Amazon came to Denver this trend would not slow down. It probably would just get worse.

These are all things Denver, or any other city, need to start tackling even before they get the good news that the mega-prospect is coming to town. When a company like Amazon comes to town, the city needs to ramp up its speed of work to keep up with the speed at which Amazon moves.

Conclusion

I believe that having the Amazon HQ2 in Denver would be an amazing boost to Denver’s already booming economy. It will ensure continued growth for years to come.

I also believe that Amazon will do amazing things to help the Denver community because of the resources the company has. It really could become a leader in investing back into the Denver area and its charitable organizations.

On the flipside, Denver needs to come up with a stronger plan to speed up its infrastructure development so it can absorb the increase in traffic that is sure to come.

Also, Denver can hopefully continue to help those younger couples trying to buy their first homes. Currently, there are grants to help out but they are fairly selective. Maybe making these grants cover a larger group to help more people that will struggle to find affordable homes.

Overall, what it comes down to, are we, as Denverites, willing to deal with these negative side effects to host such a large company?

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has a net worth of over $78.2 billion and is known as one of the greatest investors of all time. So when he speaks, people take notes. Here are some of the top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the internet can’t get enough of.

Warren Buffett Quotes Infographic

Top 22 Warren Buffett Quotes the Internet Can’t Get Enough Of

Here are some of the top Warren Buffet quotes found on every list of Warren Buffet quotes around the internet. These quotes range in wisdom on investing to regular life. I try to live by these quotes on my own investment portfolio.

Warren Buffett Quotes

1. Rule #1: Never lose money. Rule #2: Never forget rule #1

One of my favorite Warren Buffet Quotes. The fastest way to grow your money is to never lose it in the first place. This applies from saving on your groceries to focusing on less risky stocks of well established companies.

2. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently

Think about the Wells Fargo or Equifax scandals. It takes years to build enough trust for someone to have brand loyalty. Warren Buffet quotes it takes 20 years, but it takes 5 minutes or less to destroy all that goodwill you’ve built. People are quick to revolt if you’ve done anything to betray their trust.

It is infinitely harder to build trust than destroy it.

3. Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.

Multiple studies show that diversification in the stock market will help protect you against market falls. Or it could be summarized in the old proverb “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Unless you have insider information that a stock is going do really well, maintain a diversified portfolio to protect you. No one knows what they’re doing all the time.

4. If you aren’t willing to own a stock for ten years, don’t even think about owning it for ten minutes. Put together a portfolio of companies whose aggregate earnings march upward over the years, and so also will the portfolio’s market value.

Unless you’re a day trader (I will never be), you should only be investing in the stock market with the intention to hold those stocks for a long time. You can do really well as a beginner if you’re buying stocks and not planning on selling till you retire. Those are where you get the best returns. Warren Buffett is infamously known for rarely selling stocks.

5. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.

When you buy a stock, you should think of it as owning a piece of that company. You should be looking at wonderful companies that have a competitive advantage in the industry. Those are the companies that will do well over the long run. You may find a wonderful price on a mediocre company, but really what are you getting? A mediocre company that will likely be edged out of the market by a better company.

Many of the famous Warren Buffett quotes are about investing in strong companies with a competitive advantage and strong brand loyalty rather than cheap companies where you think you can make a quick buck. Warren Buffett is never into buying a company for a quick buck.

6. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.

During the 2008 financial crisis when investors were all exiting the market, Warren Buffett invested in a few large companies even though their stock prices were falling. Those deals made Warren Buffett over $10 billion dollars when the market stabilized and it’s continuing to show dividends. When the market goes upside down during world events, politics, market forecasts, those are the times when everyone else is fearful, that Warren Buffet sees an advantage when the markets crash.

Think about it this way, the New York Stock Exchange has been around since 1817, it has always recovered. Chances are, minus a world apocalypse, that the market will always bounce back. Those who capitalize on those downturns are usually rewarded.

7. The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

One of my favorite Warren Buffett quotes because it has so many applications. You will see many opportunities in your life and you may want to jump on everyone, but it’s ok to be selective and say no. You’ll burn yourself out if you say “yes” to everything. This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

This also applies to going out on a Saturday night with friends drinking. It’s ok to say “no” to save a few dollars or have a night to yourself to finish your article on Warren Buffett quotes. =)

8. Develop and build the habits you admire in others.

Remember all those times that your parents wanted you to hang out with those “good kids”. The habits of the people you surround yourself with rub off you on, consciously or unconsciously. When you find people like Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who is one of the greatest investors of all time. You should find out what makes him so successful and learn those traits to improve yourself.

9. Passive investing will make you more money than active trading

Oh my goodness, fees are the WORST! Active trading requires more work and more fees, so more of your money will be paid to your broker. Yet studies have shown over and over that passive investing where you set your money and forget it are far more successful for growing wealth. I don’t plan to ever touch my stocks currently making dividends.

10. There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.

Great quote, people always imagine things are more difficult than they really are. When I first considered starting investing, I thought there were so many hurdles and financial experts I would have to pay. Yet, when I finally decided I wanted to start investing in the stock market, I just downloaded the Robinhood App and started investing. It took 10 minutes to sign up and buy my first stock when I worried about investing in the stock market for over 5 years. Things are often more simple than you think they are.

11. Tell me who your heroes are and I’ll tell you who you’ll turn out to be.

This is similar to the Warren Buffett quote “Develop and build the habits you admire in others”. If you want to be an entrepreneur, start joining local meetups of entrepreneurs. You learn SO MUCH MORE when you surround yourself with the people you want to be like. You can learn A LOT in a book, but you’ll learn even more by surrounding yourself with people you admire.

12. We have long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune-tellers look good.

No one can predict the stock market, no one. Not even Warren Buffett. Anyone who says they know exactly how the market works is trying to sell you something. You can lump stock forecasters being as accurate as the carnival fortune-tellers. You know the ones with 3 teeth, crystal ball and you’re going to die in 2083.

13. When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.

If you invest in an outstanding company, even if the stock price goes up, why would you ever sell it? No matter when you sell it, outstanding companies will continually do better and better. Don’t sell until you absolutely have to, otherwise, you’ll just be losing money in the long run. Many of Warren Buffett Quotes are like this, they are all very Anti-Day Trader.

14. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist. Investing is not a game where the guy with the 160 IQ beats the guy with 130 IQ.

If you follow the basic principals of Warren Buffett and buy outstanding companies with strong competitive advantages like Apple (AAPL). You don’t have to be a genius. Just buy and hold forever, you literally don’t have to do anything until you sell.

Many Warren Buffett quotes are similar to this because he stresses that anyone can invest in the stock market. The simplest way is just to invest in index funds that follow the market. Set it and forget it. The market sees an average increase of 7% per year and that’s WAY better than a savings account.

15. I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them. Because sooner or later, one will.

Look for companies to invest in that are so strong that they can weather any storm because soon enough they will have to. Think about Apple (AAPL), as long as they keep pushing out iPhones it doesn’t matter who runs the company, they’ll continue to do well. People were worried when Steve Jobs passed because they didn’t know the future of the company, but Tim Cook stepped in and maintained the same Apple legacy. As long as Tim Cook sticks to the secret Apple recipe, they’ll be in good shape.

16. Buy into a company because you want to own it, not because you want the stock to go up.

If you see a company that you think is going to do well or heard will do well, don’t buy it unless you’re willing to hold it for awhile. If something goes wrong and the stock dives, you’re stuck with a company you don’t believe in and will likely sell at a lower price to get rid of it, ruining the reason you bought it in the first place.

17. Wall Street is the only place that people ride to work in a Rolls Royce to get advice from those who take the subway.

This is just a funny Warren Buffet quote.

18. Charlie and I have not learned how to solve difficult business problems. What we have learned is to avoid them.

I’m sure Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger have learned how to solve difficult business problems, but the best way to navigate murky waters is to avoid them all together. The more problems your business can avoid, the better shape you’ll be. You can avoid a lot of problems from being proactive instead of reactive.

19. Long ago, Ben Graham taught me that “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

Ben Graham, Warren Buffett’s mentor had this popular quote. I always think about it simply. Price is what you buy a stock for and Value is what you sell that same stock for.

20. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.

If you can’t tell, Warren Buffett believes in surrounding yourself with the right people. He credits much of his success from surrounding himself with smart, good people.

21. If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.

When you analyze a stock based on its historical performance, it’s called technical analysis. Yet past performance does not necessarily mean future performance. Just because you know what the stock has done in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to follow that same trend.

22. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.

It’s ok to mess up, focus on learning from those mistakes for the next time. It just sounds cooler when Warren Buffett quotes it. Or you can take this as no matter how many mistakes you’ve made in the past, you always have a chance to do more good. It’s one of those life quotes that can go many ways.

How to Start a Blog – When You Know Nothing About Blogging

How To Start A Blog Header Image

How To Start A Blog

Two of my friends want to learn How to Start a Blog. Justin wants to start a cooking blog and Emma is going to start a travel blog. Since I’ve created over a dozen websites/blogs, I wrote them a guide on How to Start A Blog When You Know Nothing About Blogging. They’ve never set up a blog before, so this is a complete guide (tons of screenshots) for setting up your first blog.

No matter if you want to set up a Finance, Fashion, Travel, Cooking or Photography blog. This guide will set you up with your own unique blog in 20 minutes.

Why Do People Start Blogs?

Both Justin and Emma want to learn how to start a blog so that they can do what they love, write! They want to write about topics they’re passionate about and knowledgeable on. Their goal is to make enough money with their blog, so eventually, they can quit their job and work from home blogging. It’s entirely possible and super easy.

Other popular reasons people start blogging are:

  • Make Money from blogging Anywhere – Many people make a great side income or full income from writing about what they love and know. Plus you can do it anywhere, at home, in a coffee shop or in an RV traveling the United States.
  • Self-Publish Writing – If you have a story you want to tell, but don’t have the resources to find publishers and print hundreds of books. Try starting a blog and share your story immediately. You can start to build an audience and become an expert in your field with a website.
  • Promote a Business – If your business isn’t online, it doesn’t exist. This is how people find if a company is open, what it does and how it affects the community. A blog is a simple and FAST way to get your business online and start reaching customers.

Save time, don’t use third-party blogging websites.

Save yourself so many future headaches when learning how to start a blog by NOT using a third party blogging site. Some people start blogging on these because they think it’s easier than setting up your own blog, but it’s not.

If you use a third party website like Blogger, you won’t have a custom domain (like WalletSquirrel.com, it’ll be something like www.blogger.walletsquirrel) which comes off odd, then you’ll pay tons for add-ons to get the look and feel you want and you’ll never have complete control over your own blog.

One of the biggest reasons to start your own blog is so you can later make money off of it. You just can’t easily monetize if you use a third-party website. Click here to start your own blog on WordPress.

WordPress is the most popular Blogging Platform, use it!

Most blogs use WordPress, in fact, 25% of the websites on the internet are run by WordPress. That’s the ENTIRE internet. Every website I’ve ever built runs on WordPress because it’s SUPER easy and convenient. If you learn the easiest way to start a blog, start your blog on WordPress.

Easy Steps on How To Start A Blog

Here is the basic overview on how to start a blog. It’s really simple to set up a blog in 20 minutes.

  1. Figure out what your blog is about
  2. Decide on a domain name
  3. Choose a web host (I use Bluehost because it’s one of the best, and cheap)
  4. Click 1-button install for WordPress
  5. Start writing for your blog & customize

Easy Step 1 – Figure out what you want to blog about

Whether you’re creating a finance, fashion, cooking, travel, photography or business blog. You want to have a solid idea of what you’re going to write about.

If you’re like Justin wanting to create a cooking blog, it helps if you niche down to a Gluten-Free Cooking Blog or Farm-To-Table Cooking Blog. If you don’t niche down, your blog will likely get lost in the sea of other cooking blogs. When you niche down to a specific cooking blog, your blog will stand out more and be recognized as THAT Gluten-Free Blog or whatever you want to write about.

Also when you’re thinking about “How to Start a Blog”, think about how your blog could grow and make money in the future. If you want to create a Gluten-Free Cooking Blog, start thinking about how you could incorporate affiliate links into your favorite recipe books and cooking tools or where advertisements may go in a sidebar.

The better you can visualize and plan what your blog may become, the easier it will be to come up with a name and direction for your new blog.

Easy Step 2 – Decide on a Domain Name

Domain names are what people will type into their website browser to find your website. It’s your online address.

Not going to lie, when I started Wallet Squirrel I had over 100 domain name ideas. I would daily write new domain name ideas on my phone like “MillennialRetirement.com” and search GoDaddy.com to see if they were available. It wasn’t….

I always use GoDaddy to see if a domain name is available because it has a nice and clean search option to find available domains. So think about different domain ideas that relate to your website and use GoDaddy to see if they’re available. A good domain can really help your website. However, don’t buy a domain through GoDaddy. When you sign up for web hosting through Bluehost later, you’ll get a free domain name.

I always chose a (.com) domain because those are the most trusted domain extensions. If I chose “MillennialRetirement.net” it would only sound cheesy and made up to me. People might be hesitant to click on it because most websites are (com). You could take a risk choosing a different extension like (.net) or (.co), but I wouldn’t.

Get creative and find a unique (.com) domain that’s:

  • short
  • easy to remember
  • easy to type
  • reflects what you want to write about

Before I settled on WalletSquirrel.com I went through TONS of different domain name possibilities. Here are a few.

Potential Website Names When I Started this Website (Wallet Squirrel)

  1. Dividend Student (.com)
  2. Millennial Dividends (.com)
  3. Get Dividends Monthly (.com)
  4. All Dividend Revenue (.com)
  5. The Dividend Experiment (.com)
  6. Perpetual Dividends (.com)
  7. Dividends Wanted (.com)
  8. Invest The Hustle (.com)
  9. Dividend Army (.com)
  10. Div Push (.com)
  11. Dividend Entrepreneur (.com)
  12. Div Effect (.com)
  13. Dividend Pursuit (.com)
  14. Test Earn Invest (.com)
  15. Dividend Invested (.com)
  16. Dividend Theory (.com)
  17. Div Rule (.com)
  18. Think Dividend (.com)
  19. Dividend Passive Income (.com)
  20. Wallet Squirrel (.com)

You may get the idea that I was pretty focused on Dividends. However, like I mentioned in Step One, think about the future of your site. I considered expanding beyond dividends and the stock market, so I went with Wallet Squirrel with the tag line “Save your nuts”. It was relatable to finance with the word “Wallet” but fun with “Squirrel” and the tag line “Save your nuts” is pretty memorable. This way I would have some flexibility on how I wanted to grow Wallet Squirrel.

When you’re planning how to start a blog, think about how your website may grow. I usually think of my websites like TV seasons. Where do I want my website to be in season 4? Does my domain name idea still make sense?

Easy Step 3 – Choose a Web Host (Important)

This is the virtual cloud that will host your blog. Think of it digital real estate that will house your blog on the internet. Your web host will affect how fast your site is, how much you pay and how good their tech support is.

 

I personally use Bluehost for all my websites (including Wallet Squirrel) because it’s the best price for how fast Bluehost runs my websites (Google ranks faster websites higher) and their tech support is amazing. I just shoot them a text on their website if I have a question and they solve any issue in minutes, it’s the best. You can even just chat with them before you sign up on how to start a blog.

For reading this post, you can use my referral code to get a great discount on hosting and start at $3.95 per month. Plus you’ll get a free website domain (your internet address), which normally costs $12.

 

Other reasons to use Bluehost for your first blog

  • WordPress through Bluehost is free!
  • There is a 1-click button to automatically set up WordPress on Bluehost (EASY & FAST)
  • Bluehost is faster than most web hosts, which will better your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Hosting your own website on Bluehost looks more professional than a third party site like Blogger
  • Their Tech Support works with tons of new bloggers like you, and you can text them rather than calling (I love that!)
  • 30-Day Money Back Guarantee. No risk if you don’t like it.

Fill Out Some Info

Select the plan you like (you can upgrade/downgrade anytime) and fill out the general account and billing Info. This is what the General account information will ask you.

It’s really not that intrusive. You don’t have to fill out a social security number or anything too personal. Once you fill out the “account info” you scroll down for the package you want. The “package information” or hosting options seems really intimidating to someone who’s never signed up before, but only because you’ve never done it before. Here are the options.

Here is what I choose for my websites.

  • Account Plan – If you’re just starting off, keep it cheap and choose only 12 months. If you really like blogging, you won’t mind paying for a new plan in 12 months. If you don’t like it, you didn’t spend that much money and you always have your 30-day money back guarantee.
  • Domain Privacy Protection – The internet has a database for which websites are owned by who. Domain Privacy allows you to keep your name off that list so you don’t get bugged by salespeople who found your email as the owner of your new website. I usually order this.

Everything else is not really needed. I’d consider adding additional services only once you get more familiar with your website and find a need. There is no need to pay for things before you realize if you need them or not.

You’re Signed up!

That’s it! Once you sign up, you’ll get a confirmation email that will take you to your Bluehost menu. You can start right away, no 3-5 business day set up time.

Easy Step 4 – One Button Install For WordPress

So you planned what you want to write about, you picked a domain and signed up with Bluehost to host your new blog. Now you just need to install WordPress. This part is easy. The menu on Bluehost is called their cPanel. This is the main menu that you’ll be directed to once you click their confirmation email.

Select the “Install WordPress” button. It’s a one-click install button. Once you do that, you’re in the process of installing WordPress, you’ll just need to:

  1. Select your domain name, from the options to install WordPress on
  2. Select Advanced Options and choose a username and password. Remember that websites sometimes get attacked. So choose a username and password that’s long. The longer the password, the harder it is to break.
  3. Select “Install Now”.

At this point, you have a WordPress blog!

Easy Step 5 – Design and Start Writing for Your Blog

From now on, all you have to do is go to your new domain “yourwebsitename.com/admin”. To sign into your WordPress Blog. You no longer have to deal with Bluehost at all. Everything you do from here on out is all on your new WordPress blog.

Once you log into your new WordPress Blog, Your Admin Menu will look like this.

How To Start A Blog - WordPress Admin Panel

This is close to what every WordPress Blog looks like, the main options for every WordPress blog are:

  • Posts – These are where you write you daily, weekly, monthly articles for your blog. These are your cooking articles or travel adventures. This is the “blog” portion of the blog.
  • Media – Every image/video you upload to your blog, all those media files live here. You can add images within your actual posts and pages, but all your media content can be viewed here.
  • Pages – These are the “About Me“, “Contact Us“, “Ways to Make Money” pages. These are usually static pages that aren’t your daily, weekly, monthly posts.

Customize the look of your blog

If you want to want to change the look of your blog, you can change the theme under “Appearance”. Themes are like costumes for your blog. Different themes will change the colors, fonts, and style of blog. I personally use the Enfold theme, bought from Themeforest. It’s very user-friendly (plug and play) with tons of documentation.

*Bonus* – Make money with your blog

Don’t come off cheezy placing ads everywhere, instead install a plugin like Viglink for affiliate marketing. Now, anytime you reference a blender (my personal blender) on Amazon, Viglink will automatically track clicks on that link and you’ll receive a commission if someone buys. Viglink is partnered with over 2,000 online merchants (including Amazon), chances are your favorite websites are included. So once you learn how to start a blog, your blog can start making a little money.

Done, You have a blog!

I ran through this (while talking) with Justin and Emma to set up their blog in under 20 minutes. They took it from there and immediately started writing and designing. Again, I set up their blog through Bluehost, which made it a lot easier. You could probably set up a blog on your own (not talking) even faster.

Let me know if you have any questions on how to start a blog! I’d love to help or share more of my experiences!

*Disclosure – I host all my websites on Bluehost and we receive a commission if you sign up using our referral links.

CoSchedule Review: The Social Media Calendar I chose over Buffer & MeetEdgar

If you recall from my June Income Report, my July goal is to build a social media calendar to help grow our Social Media audiences. Currently, Social Media produces only 17% of our traffic, so I wanted to tap into that potential. A social media calendar would regularly/consistently stay in contact with those audiences. So I compared 3 different social media tools for this CoSchedule Review to do just that, manage Wallet Squirrel’s social media.

Obviously, from the title, I choose CoSchedule for Wallet Squirrel, but anyone wanting to dramatically improve their Social Media game should look this over.

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The Three Different Social Media Tools I Tested:

MeetEdgar – This tool allows you to automate your social media messages. You can write a Tweet/Facebook Post/LinkedIn Message and have it automatically repost every month, 3 months or year so that you’re never running out of content. While this is a great tool, the interface was a bit clunky for me in the 14-day trial and for the price of $45 per month, I wanted a bit more than just a backlog of messages automatically posting.

Buffer – This allows you to set up a queue of social media messages on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn where you can write messages beforehand, and Buffer will publish them based on timeslots you decide. Think of writing one message then selecting all the different social media platforms you want to send it out to. This eliminates going into each social media account and copy/ pasting your message each time. You can also schedule retweets so you don’t have a bunch of messages going out at once.

I actually use Buffer at work and love it. The biggest downfall is that once you send a message, you can’t automatically reschedule it to be sent again. Since Tweeting only hits 10% of your audience at a time. You’d manually have to add the same tweet over and over and over. It’s just a giant waste of time.

CoSchedule – This is really a combination of the two. CoSchedule allows you to see a full calendar of messages going out and automatically ReQueue them to go out again if they’re popular. I’ve done the 14-day trial and now I’m a paid subscriber. I’m a bit of a fan. Let me dive a bit more into CoSchedule.

I chose CoSchedule, but what is it?

Because CoSchedule loves demonstration videos, here is a brief CoSchedule Review Video of their software.

To me, CoSchedule is a visual calendar that you can see when your different social media posts are going out. You can schedule a post in advance and automatically repost (they call it ReQueuing) popular content so your audience doesn’t miss great content. Here is a screenshot of what Wallet Squirrel’s calendar looks like after using it for two weeks during the CoSchedule Review.

CoSchedule Review Social Media Calendar

How I use CoSchedule for my Social Media Calendar

Not going to lie, it’s a bit intimidating at first, as is any software. It integrates into a number of social media platforms and WordPress, it took a bit to get my head around it. However starting off, I primary use it for my social media accounts.

How I Setup Social Media Campaigns

This is a term I’ve heard as a buzz word, but I never really knew what it meant until this CoSchedule Review. I’ve come to learn that a social media campaign is a series of social media messages posted at different times, with all the same purpose. Like the 1,000 tweets you read when Lady Gaga launches a new album. Those set of tweets, collectively are a social media campaign.

For me personally, I use their social media campaign to promote new blog content. I click their campaign button and I set up a template for my new Income Reports. To describe the screenshot below, I add the URL of the post I want to promote and it automatically inserts that hyperlink into a series of messages scheduled to go out that day, the next day, a week later and a month later. All the times are completely customizable. Each message has a default basic message like “check this out”, but I tweak these each time. This is one of my favorite features because it provides a carpet bombing of social media messages for new content over an entire month, created in seconds.

CoSchedule Review Social Media Campaign

How I Automatically Repost Popular Content

CoSchedule has a popular feature called “ReQueue” which creates a cache of messages that will automatically be published if you have a gap in your social media calendar. Let’s say I want to post 3 tweets each day. If I don’t have a social media posts going out on Friday. CoSchedule can pull an old social media post from my library of social media messages to fill that gap.

Oh my goodness it’s so nice to automatically repost evergreen content

For example last Sunday while writing this CoSchedule Review, I filled my ReQueue library with fun social media messages promoting old content. That way, I will always have at least 3 tweets going out a day. You can even set categories for your ReQueue library such as “Evergreen Content”, “Promotional Content” like a referral link to Bluehost website services or any categories you can think of. Here are the categories I’ve created so far.

CoSchedule Review ReQueue Categories Screenshot

Quick CoSchedule Review Pros/Cons

Pros

  • The software allows you to create an entire social media campaign, aka numerous social media messages on different platforms, in seconds
  • CoSchedule allows you to automatically “ReQueue” popular content so that it never disappears in the social media abyss. It automatically posts old content whenever you have gaps in your social media calendar.
  • It has the pros of both Buffer and MeetEdgar.
  • The really clean design makes looking over your calendar very easy.

Cons

  • It’s pretty pricey, it says $39 per month for their solo blogger plan, but it doesn’t include the ReQueue feature which everyone wants. I especially wanted. If you want ReQueue, you need to pay another $30. So in reality, it cost $79 per month. WTF! This is one of the most expenseive social media calendars I’ve found.
  • The Social Media Analytics isn’t included in the base $79 per month I’m currently paying. If you want analytics, you need to pay more. Yuk, at least Buffer had at least basic analytics in their $10 per month plan.

Why I chose CoSchedule over Buffer and MeetEdgar

As a current user of Buffer, it is great but there are days that I don’t have time to post a new message to social media and my Buffer queue ran out. I needed something with Buffer’s queue feature, but also automatically posted content like MeetEdgar. I considered getting both of these since combined they’re cheaper than CoSchedule, but I prefer to use one piece software that incorporates the best of both.

Plus there are other benefits of CoSchedule that I haven’t touched on during this CoSchedule Review. Mainly because these features are singularly what I wanted the software for. It’s currently a must if I want to grow our Wallet Squirrel social media presence. Not just rapid firing social media messages, but creating conversations and dialogue while reminding our audience of older content. Those combined features won me over.

Conclusion

I’m willing to try CoSchedule out for a couple months to see how this goes, use my referral code for 14 DAYS FREE if you’re interested in trying it too. So far I’ve been impressed with the power this software provides during my CoSchedule Review. Plus their blog has so many great tips on social media you don’t need to pay for. In 6 months I’ll do an ROI “Return on Investment” Analysis to follow up on my progress.

So far, I’d honestly recommend it to any blogger who can afford to spend a ridiculous $79 per month (save 50% if you write a review). It’s a great tool to visualize a social media calendar that’s smart enough to fill in the gaps. Like a Social Media Manager would. Follow us on Wallet Squirrel’s Facebook and Twitter page to see it in action.

Are there any other tools you use I didn’t mention?

*Disclaimer I wasn’t paid for this review, but CoSchedule does offer a 50% discount if you write a review. Since I love saving money, we did this review but maintained our honest opinion and user experience.

How We Reached 500 Twitter Followers and Lessons Learned

Growing Twitter followers organically is NOT easy. It is a hard, grueling process, where we just reached 500 Twitter Followers but we could have done it so much easier and faster. Here is how we reached 500 twitter followers and lessons learned for the next 500.

First, 500 Followers isn’t THAT impressive

I’m not saying reaching 500 twitter followers is the best you can ever do. It’s just a nice milestone I would like to highlight as I tweak my Twitter strategy. Some of the top Twitter stars have MILLIONS of followers on Twitter.

For example, some of the top Twitter Influencers like Katy Perry has some 99.5 million, Justin Bieber at 96 million and Barack Obama closes in on third at 89 million (source).

Obviously, I am not an ex-president or pop singer, so I’ll stay within the Personal Finance world. Which among them, most Personal Finance Bloggers I’ve seen on average have around 1,500 Twitter Followers. Wallet Squirrel is 1/3 way there!

What I learned getting to 500 Twitter Followers

I am still fairly new to Twitter, so I did a lot of research to understand what Twitter was about and how people are gaining mass followings. Here are the top 20 things I learned from research and experience.

1. Get a Schedule Tool like Buffer or HootSuite to schedule tweets when you’re not around. Tweeting consistently will tell your audience that you’re engaged and visible. I use Buffer and love it.

2. Start following other people in your niche, or who you’re interested in. People feel obligated to follow you if you follow them. Following someone is providing value to them, and people typically want return that value to you. However if you’re following someone Katy Perry, she’ll likely not follow you back. I’m still waiting on Taylor Swift…

3. Regularly Retweet others content. For the same reason as above, people typically feel appreciative when you Retweet their content and will likely follow you since you have similar tastes.

4. ALWAYS add photos in your tweets, it’s regularly proven that tweets with photos are engaged by more readers than plain text. People like photos, use a gif and get even more engagement. I personally don’t always use gifs, I’ve learned photos work just as well. I just make sure to use some type of graphic.

5. Use the Hashtags! That’s the point of Twitter, people can follow certain keywords and your tweet may be among them. Twitter shows you the popular keywords if you want to hop on a current event, otherwise sometimes making up funny hashtags reaches a more engaged audience.

6. Sometimes just ask for a Retweet, it seems silly but people who enjoy your content are happy to help you out if you ask.

7. Don’t use a logo as your profile image. Twitter is a conversation platform, people engage more with people’s faces as profile photos rather than faceless logos. I just updated my Twitter Profile Pic.

8. Promote your Twitter account on your other social media platforms and blog. While Wallet Squirrel’s Twitter is 500 Followers, Facebook actually brings in the most traffic for us monthly. So we can ask our Facebook users to follow us on Twitter every once in awhile.

9. Reference people/companies from your blog posts in your Tweets. We get way more engagement when we specifically reference people in our Tweets. Usually when I comment on other people’s blogs, I’ll send out a Tweet referencing them saying nice article. I did this in “What I Learned from Commenting on 30 Blogs in a Week“.

10. Use Follow Buttons on your website so people can share your content. So far NO ONE has done this through our page buttons, but maybe in the future. I’m on the fence about this one, but maybe when we get more traffic.

11. Tweet Inspirational Quotes from Warren Buffett or your favorite philosophers. It seems silly, but sometimes it hits someone right when they’re feeling down. I need to do this more.

12. Pin your best tweets to the top of your Twitter Profile. When new users look at your Twitter Profile, they’re going to look at your top tweets to see what kind of personal tone you use. Pin your best tweets up top to give the best impression. I’m going to try to pin my monthly Income Reports up top.

13. Ask your email list to follow you on Twitter. This can be a simple “PS please follow me on Twitter so I can have more follower than my mother” comment.

14. Tweet the same content multiple times. Each Tweet last 15 seconds on average and then disappears forever. What if your perfect audience wasn’t reading at that time? Retweet messages that you think are beneficial. Some of the top Twitter influences do this all the time.

15. Always reply to tweets that reference your or direct messages. If someone takes the time to mention you then you should give them some kind of thank you or recognition. It’s polite and really well received in the community. I try to thank everyone publically who retweets my tweets.

16. Always thank users for Retweeting your content. I mentioned it above, but it deserves its own line item.

17. Don’t send a massive amount of tweets in a short period. If your tweets are filling up people’s entire screens over and over, they’ll get aggravated and unfollow you. You should constantly be tweeting but spread them out.

18. Don’t stop Tweeting. People who regularly tweet are considered to be more engaged and get more followers than those who tweet once every two weeks.

19. Tweet snippets of your articles. Instead of tweeting “5 Ways Millennials Waste Money”, you should break it into 5 different tweets each sharing 1 of the reasons. Giving value in your tweets is better than taglines any day.

20. Be a real person. Don’t spam your Twitter account with “READ THIS” and all of your stuff to read/sell. Remember that you’re talking to real people. Use words and tones as if you were talking to a group of your friends. People WILL notice.

My Short Failed Twitter Experiment

In February I told myself that I would tweet 16 tweets a day for a month to see what would happen. In February I had previously sent 111 tweets, had 338 Twitter Followers and was following only 29 people.

I did 2 weeks of it until I was exhausted. I only sent out my own tweets and it was all promotions garbage. I hated every second of it. So I cut back to 5ish tweets a day and started a mixture of retweets, some promotional content and new content. I told myself I would do this until I got to 500 Twitter Followers and reevaluate if Twitter is worth it.

It took 4 months, ugh. Growing Twitter Followers is hella hard.

Today I’m at 513 Twitter Followers (151% increase) having sent 646 Tweets (581% increase) and now following 184 Twitter Followers (634% increase). Calculating the math to it, it seems like the increase in people who I follow had a significant impact, related to lesson #2.

Conclusion

While I originally went into this experiment hating Twitter, I’ll admit it’s grown on me. It’s an effective communication tool for short concise messages. I can’t knock that.

During the last 4 months of focusing on Twitter, I’ve learned a lot. So I’m daring myself to get to 1,000 followers in the next 4 months. Think it’s possible?

Lol Not with my current stats. I’ll have to up my game and stick to these 20 lessons learned. Any additional suggestions?

Website Performance – Decrease Your Page Load Time Now

Website Performance – Decrease Your Page Load Time Now

When I joined Wallet Squirrel a few months ago, I came in with several goals to complete for the website. My first goal was to improve the SEO with a formalized SEO Strategy, read about our Ultimate SEO Guide for 2017. Secondly, I wanted to increase the value of the website by creating a ton more excellent content on top of Andrew’s. Lastly, I wanted to improve the overall website performance by decreasing our page load time.

After a lot of work, this last goal has been completed! In this article I, Adam, will talk through what Andrew and I have been working on to increase Wallet Squirrel’s overall website performance.

A Special Thanks To Ross!

Firstly, I want to thank Ross over at Paid Insights, who gave us some great advice on helping us speed up Wallet Squirrel. Though I did not use every plugin he recommended, he did point me in the right direction. For this advice we are very grateful for.

If you have not checked out his site, please do. He is an expert in paid search campaigns. Whether you are looking to get started on your first or 50th campaign I would look into his services. Plus, he has an awesome podcast so you can learn more about the PPC (Pay Per Click) and AdWords world.

New Hosting

We used to host Wallet Squirrel on iPage but were tired of the poor performance of their servers. The lack of website performance and slow page load times helped us make the decision to move over to Bluehost. The new hosting service provided a great package that took care of several items on our list.

Bluehost is our choice for website hosting. You should check them out too!

Firstly, they offered high performance servers that would help improve our overall page load time. Improving those load times, improves user experience. With the short attention spans of our society, your website needs to load quickly. If the page load time is high then you are most likely to lose visitors not willing to deal with the poor website performance.

Secondly, the Bluehost package we chose, the Pro Package, came with a SSL certificate. Now, the SSL certificate does not help out with the overall website performance. What it does do, is increase the our SEO rankings with Google.

Thirdly, we were also able to get a dedicated IP address. This is another item that does not decrease the page load time of Wallet Squirrel. But Google does look fondly on dedicated IP addresses. I am not fully sure why but it is nice to have that helping us out with rankings as well.

Compressing Images

Even with high performance servers having poorly compressed images will slow down the page load time of any website. We had about 3,500 images that were bogging down the website performance of Wallet Squirrel.

Use TinyPNG for compressing your images.

To compress all of these images required an awesome plugin and we found one thanks to Ross. He pointed us in the direction of TinyPNG. The plugin was able to compress the images by 62.8% taking them from an initial size of 415.91 MB to just 154.92 MB. After the compression our server response time went from 4 seconds to an extremely fast .21 of a second.

If you are looking for a good image compression plugin for WordPress, I highly recommend TinyPNG. The interface is clean and simple. The compression process does take some time but performs amazingly well in the background letting you work on other tasks.

Caching

Caching allows the website’s page load time to decrease significantly. This is because caching temporary stores the content on a user’s computer. This allows the page to load a lot faster the next time someone visits the website.

W3 Total Cache is a lot more robust versus WP Super Cache.

Right now we are WP Super Cache. This is a very basic and easy cache plugin for WordPress. I am in the process of testing out a new plugin called W3 Total Cache. This plugin is a lot more complicated but handles a lot more responsibility. When using it, I felt like the website performance increased dramatically. I had to disable it because the caching is a lot more firm compared to WP Super Cache. I should be able to get it working with some more testing.

Cache Control Header

Cache control helps with telling the user’s browser to load previous content or not. Because websites are getting more and more complex, telling the user’s browser this information is crucial. With more JavaScript and CSS on websites it takes more and more time for the user’s computer to retrieve and download all of this information each time. If this information is stored on the user’s computer then the website can load that much quicker.

With the Cache Control plugin you can control the expiration dates as to when certain aspects of the site redownload on a user’s computer. Some items on the site you will want to have a shorter expiration date and others to have a long expiration date.

Cache Control helps you decide when your site refreshes its content for your viewers.

For example, take the three little number counters on Wallet Squirrel’s home page. Each one of those takes some JavaScript to load on the backend. If they had to be retrieved and downloaded each time, it would add on some significant time to load the webpage. Because they are only updated once a month, we can increase their cache expiration date compared to the blog page that updates twice a week.

Hopefully this makes sense. If not let me know in the comments and I can answer those questions.

Minify

Typically a lot of WordPress themes will have tons of CSS and JavaScript code running on the backend. This code can take a lot of resources and time to load a page. Using a minify plugin will reduce this code allowing page load times to decrease.

We are using Fast Velocity Minify to improve our website performance. This plugin is working swimmingly but will be replaced once I get W3 Total Cache working properly. W3 Total Cache does support minifying as well. Being able to move to one plugin that handles multiple tasks should improve website performance as well.

Minifying your code is crucial for a fast web page load.

Website Speed Testing

We use two websites to help grade the website performance of Wallet Squirrel. The first one is Google’s website speed tester. I like using this site the most because you are getting a speed grade by the company that is ranking your website in its search results. My thought is, if you can impress them, you should rank high in their results.

Secondly, we use Page Speed Grader. This site was recommended by Bluehost and has been very beneficial so far. This is because it ranks a lot of the same items Google looks at but it looks at other important items as well.

I used both of these website speed testing to figure out what we needed to work on to improve the website. I recommend you to use these tools to get a blueprint as to where you need to improve your own site.

Conclusion

Overall, this process has increased our speed grades with Google and Page Speed Grader significantly. Our score has jumped up nearly 30 points according to Google. And just over 20 points on Page Speed Grader. I am very pleased with the results after some serious work on the backend of our website.

Have questions?

Feel free to contact us and we might be able to help you out.

Oh, We’re Getting Faster

As Adam mentioned in Monday’s article, we are revamping and drastically improving Wallet Squirrel. =)

In the last 3 months we have about doubled in traffic so we’re committing more resources to Wallet Squirrel and that means upgrading to Bluehost. Specifically we upgraded to the Pro Plan. Yay for growing!

Why Bluehost? Well because ONE it was highly recommended by many of my blogger friends and TWO because it’s MUCH faster. We were SO slow! This is a much needed and happy upgrade.

How does switching over to Bluehost work?

  1. On Friday, Bluehost started copying our WordPress files from iPage.
  2. By Friday evening, everything was copied over.
  3. Then I had iPage switch the DNS over to Bluehost. This is how the internet knows which server to use when someone visits WalletSquirrel.com. It takes 24-48 hours to switch.
  4. By Sunday night everything was switched over!

So actually, we are NOW completely switched over on Bluehost, however we’re using this time to fine tune things like removing useless plugins, optimizing our site by image compression plugins and working with Bluehost to do everything we can to increase speed.

Can you tell if it’s faster?

8 Extremely Flexible Part Time Jobs For Us Grown Ups

8 Extremely Flexible Part Time Jobs For Us Grown Ups

Whether it was in high school or in college most of us have had one or two flexible part time jobs to earn some extra cash. For me, my first job, was detasseling in the corn fields of Iowa. Then I moved onto being a life guard at the local water park for a couple summers.

The issue with most of these part time jobs is they do not work out for us grownups to make some extra money to pay off debt. I wanted to pull in some easy to access part time job that will work alongside your 9 to 5 full time job.

My goal for this list is to tell you several flexible part time jobs that are easy on your schedule and simple to jump right into.

Love to Interact With People? Work in Retail

This might sound like a job for only those younger people but it is not. Sure there are a lot of teenagers and college students working in retail but there are plenty of grown adults as well. Personally, I have worked a lot of years in retail and it is a pretty good place to be for a part time gig.

Back in college I worked at a major department store where I actually met my wife. Later on, after college, I worked at a landscape materials company where I helped sell rock and design yards. The latest experience was because I was in transition between careers. I worked at a major sporting goods retailer here in Denver. This gave me the time to work on my master’s degree while providing for my family.

Working in retail is one of eight great flexible part time jobs for anyone who is looking to earn more money.

Working in retail is one of eight great flexible part time jobs for anyone who is looking to earn more money.

Overall, I have just about seven years of retail experience. I found that the hours and time off needed were extremely flexible. The money is decent for what the job is. Working twenty hours a week might allow you to bring in an extra $800 a month.

Love Walking and Dogs? Try Dog Walking

There are several apps out there that are basically the Uber for dog walking. You can pay someone to walk your dog OR you can get paid by some who will pay you! If you are like my wife and I, we enjoy going for a walk almost every day after work. So why not get paid for that walk? Hop on one of these apps, Wag! or Rover , to see if one of your neighbors needs help walking their dogs.

Bonus Points! Both of these apps are not just for dog walking. They allow you to pet sit as well!

Can you Write? Do Some Freelance Writing

This is one that I do not have any personal experience with. My wife has been looking for some flexible part time jobs for this coming summer. As an English teacher, I plan on recommending freelance writing to her. It will be great because freelance writing is easy to engage into once school is out and disengage once school is back in session. For me, I will hopefully get a good article out of her experience 🙂

Freelance writing is one of eight great flexible part time jobs for anyone who is looking to earn more money.

Freelance writing is one of eight great flexible part time jobs for anyone who is looking to earn more money.

Michelle from Making Sense of Cents  recommends starting out slowly with one gig at a time. A slow start will ensure that you can focus on that article to make sure it is the highest quality. The higher the quality articles you write, the more likely people will hire you for more. It helps to find a niche you enjoy writing about. If you are having fun writing then it is likely that your writing will be even better.

So how do you find these gigs? Michelle recommends checking out the ProBlogger job boards to find freelance gigs.

Have a Computer? Fill Out Some Surveys

Look you are not going to get rich by completing surveys, take a look at Andrew’s review of surveying, No more survey apps, they just don’t pay well. You can make some decent money for your savings account every month though. Using Michelle from Making Sense of Cents as an example again, she made around an extra $100 a month from surveys. I do not think this is bad since all you have to do is sit back on the couch with your computer to fill these out.

Some of the more popular services are Swagbucks, Pinecone Research, American Consumer Opinion, InboxDollars, and Harris Poll Online.

Use Swagbucks to earn some extra money.

Use Swagbucks to earn some extra money.

Can you Drive? Drive for Uber or Lyft

Uber and Lyft are the newish hip ways to catch a ride around your city. I really love these services as they provide a very easy and simple way to hale a ride. With a couple clicks on your phone and someone is on their way to pick you up.

These services have also became a great way to earn extra money with your own vehicle. With extreme elasticity on setting your own hours this is one of those flexible part time jobs that can fit anyone’s needs. Since you set your own hours, you can make as little or as much as you would like being an Uber or Lyft driver.

Uber or Lyft are great ways to earn extra money on your own time.

Uber or Lyft are great ways to earn extra money on your own time.

I once took a ride from an Uber driver who use to drive a cab. She said that she loves working for the service. It provides her with a lot more flexibility. In turn, this allowed her to spend more time with her kids, while making more money than she used to. I thought that was such an awesome statement for Uber.

Personally, I have never tried Lyft. Have you? If so, tell me about it in the comments section below. I’m curious to hear about your thoughts.

Have a Pulse? Donate Plasma

This was my part time job back in college. Donating Plasma was one of my favorite flexible part time jobs I have ever had. The hours were super flexible, the pay was great for what was entailed, and it was very easy. I donated plasma for over three years while in college. It provided just about $300 extra dollars for me a month while conforming to my crazy academic schedule as a landscape architecture student.

If you are interested in donating plasma check out my detailed write up, How to Earn More Money – Donating Plasma.

Are you Crafty? Sell on Etsy

Etsy is one of those flexible part time jobs that is easy to jump into but does take some time to get established. I have sold a few photographs on Esty but never put the time into really establishing my shop (that is what they call your personal page). I have read that this can take a little while but can be totally worth the effort that you put forward.

Etsy allows you to sell your own crafts as a part time gig.

Etsy allows you to sell your own crafts as a part time gig.

Similar to Uber or Lyft, you put time into Etsy whenever you can outside of your 9 to 5 job. The more you put into your shop, the more likely it will succeed. In the near future I will be revisiting my Esty Shop trying to revive it and see what I can get out of it. It looks like I have some work to do as they reset my shop since I have last logged in. Stay tuned!

Good With a Camera? Sell Your Photography

I absolutely love photography. Sadly, since moving to Colorado in 2011 my life has become WAY too busy to be able to put time into the craft. One way I have found to make a little money off of my photographs that are just sitting within an external hard drive is through stock photography.

Back in 2013 I decided to upload some random photos that I liked. Some were my favorite photographs of all time and some were just good. It turned out one of my random ‘just good’ photos that I took of the St. Louis Arch was really loved by people. This photograph has gone on to make me around $1,000! I only host this photograph on iStockPhoto and ShutterStock.

I have used stock photography to make true passive income for the past four years.

I have used stock photography to make true passive income for the past four years.

Stock photography is truly a passive income. I have not touched that photo on either service in that past four years. So fun!

Conclusion

All in all these flexible part-time jobs are very easy to get started with. They all are very conforming to any grownup’s schedule. Anyone can get signed up for any of these eight positions right now. I recommend trying one that might interest you the most. This will ensure that you enjoy making this extra money.

If you are looking for some extra cash to help pay off debt then I recommend you try out any of these eight flexible part-time jobs.

We have come up with a bigger list on Ways to Earn More Money. Most of these are not flexible part time jobs. Rather this list has other experiences on how to make more money such as selling something on Craigslist.

What I Learned from Commenting on 30 Blogs in a week

I regularly comment on other blogs. I wanted to share why I do this, why others should do this and what I learned after commenting on 30 blogs in a week.

I’ll admit, I originally wanted to comment on 100 blogs in a week, but not only was that impossible with a full work schedule, I don’t know that many good blogs. Suggestions?

So Why Do I Comment On Other Blogs?

When I first started blogging. I searched specifically for personal finance blogs because that’s the niche I’m in. I wanted to learn what they were doing, what made their blogs “special” and better than mine?

I later expanded to travel and lifestyle blogs.

Blogs usually are the personal journeys, a combination of lessons learned and personal achievements that transcend their niches of “Finance”, “Fashion”, “lifestyle”, etc. When I find a story that resonates with me, I usually comment a similar struggle or congratulate them on their win. As a blogger, I know these words of encouragement help as much as an extra 1,000 page views.

Andrew-Commenting-On-Blogs

When Do I Comment On Other Blogs?

Personally, I like to start after the end of each month. Many of the blogs I follow release Monthly Income Reports (here’s my March Income Report). These usually summarize their highlights on the month as well as their income from investments. It’s really cool to see their investments grow!

Wallet Squirrel is no exception. Our Income Reports continue to be our most popular post for commenting. I think most finance bloggers would agree with this.

The only exception is when bloggers publish a new post, there seems to always be a mad rush to be the first one to comment. I see this on popular blogs like Mr. Money Mustache. Some people set alerts for new blog posts because when they’re the first to comment, they’re higher up on the page for more backlink views. We’ll get to that in a sec.

What Blogs Do I Comment On?

I have a list of about 80 blogs (let me know if you want to be added in the comments below) that I keep in an excel sheet. It’s nice because all the blog names hyperlinked, so 1-click sends me to straight to their site. I also include their Twitter handle because it’s appreciated to send a tweet after every comment, if it’s a good article.

Personally, I track each time I comment on each blog so I’m not leaving duplicate comments or ruining relationships with other bloggers because I haven’t been to their site in 4 months. I try to visit my top 30 blogs every month.

You’ll notice I also added Moz’s “Domain Authority” and SimilarWeb’s “6 Month Visitor Count” but this is more for me to track how these sites are growing and compare to Wallet Squirrel. You’ll see I don’t only comment on popular sites, I focus on the ones I enjoy!

WS Blog Comment Excel List

My Excel List for Blogs I Follow

What Makes A Good Comment?

Honestly, I don’t know what makes a good comment. Usually they’re supportive, grammatically legible and entertaining. If you disagree with something, be respectful. There have been a couple times I learned from a mistake through comments pointing it out. I’m incredibly thankful someone took the time to point it out.

My favorite is when Adam wrote his Ask for Raise article “A lawyer could state that if they when a particular number of cases.” our friend Trist pointed this out “did you mean win?” (not in the comments). After 10 minutes of laughing, we appreciated the comment.

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In my personal experience, bloggers love comments regardless of grammar. It’s a great way to show support without giving them money.

Where Did I Leave Comments Last Week?

This list is made up of some of my favorite blogs and a few blogs I’ve been wanting to check out for awhile. I’m glad I did. I hope my comments helped, they were genuine thoughtful comments totaling over 2,558 words or an average of 85 words per blog in a week.

Here are the 30 blogs I commented on this last week. All very awesome.

What I Learned After Commenting On 30 Blogs In A Week?

  1. It’s important to look over an entire blog. I saw on one blog that they were featured on Rockstar Finance through their sidebar. I ended up reaching out to Rockstar Finance and they added me to their membership directory! Plus I’m currently working with them to feature a Wallet Squirrel Article. I didn’t even know about Rockstar Finance before finding it on a new blog I now follow.
  2. Don’t comment only to create backlinks/traffic to your site, it not effective. I used to think this was a great way to create tons of traffic back to my website. It’s not. After commenting through the week on 30 blogs, I only received 30 new visitors from those backlinks. Commenting is great if you’re genuine, but if you’re only trying to create backlinks and traffic back to your site, there are better ways to do it.
  3. Always subscribe to be notified of follow-up comments by email. Bloggers like myself leave REALLY good responses to good questions. We sometimes write paragraphs in a response to a good comment because we’re appreciative you read our article and left a good comment. Don’t miss out on a great follow up comment by not subscribing to follow up comments.
  4. Read the whole article! Bloggers (and me) hate it when people leave comments that ask questions clearly answered in the article. It just shows you didn’t read the article and you’re only there to create backlinks.

Am I leaving any blogs out, any I should add?

Cost Benefit Analysis Example – Pay Off My Car or Invest?

Here is an example of a Cost Benefit Analysis I did regarding what I should do with my upcoming tax refund. I pay a ridiculous amount in student loans and to the government annually. So I can usually expect a sizable chunk back. Now I face the question of using my tax refund to either pay off my car or use it to invest.

Why Student Loans vs Car Loan?

I have $64,450 in Student Loans (5% interest) and a $10,132 Car Loan (2% interest). So you think I’d be paying WAY more on my student loans per month. Actually since it’s spread out over twenty years, I actually only play $487.06 in student loans a month. My car loan is $340 per month because it’s over five years (I’m on my third year now).

So if I pay off my car loan, that will free up an extra $340 a month I can use to invest, but is it worth it? To figure out if I should pay off my car or invest my tax refund, I’m doing a cost-benefit analysis!

Cost Benefit Analysis Definition

A cost benefit analysis is a financial model to compare two or more different “what if decisions” usually centered around how much it would cost. This is just like the pro/con list you’re used to making, but you’re analyzing the detailed cost factors of both decisions.

Cost Benefit Analysis Infographic

Cost Benefit Analysis Example Infographic

How to do a Cost Benefit Analysis? See my example

Question: I want to compare if I should use my tax refund combined with 3/4 of my stock portfolio to pay off my car loan or should I invest my tax refund. Which would be a wiser investment?

Math: So I pulled all the info on my car loan and stock portfolio below. Using the Pay Off Date of my car loan as the end date, I can calculate two options. In both options I would continue to invest $120 per month in my stock portfolio.

  • Tax Refund
  • Tax Refund = $3,200

    Extra Money = $500

  • Car Loan
  • Amount Left – $10,132

    Monthly Payment – $340

    Pay Off Date – October 2nd, 2019

    Interest Rate – 2.89%

  • Stock Portfolio
  • Stock Portfolio – $8,548

    Historical Stock Market Interest – 7%

 

Option 1 – Pay Off Car – If I pay off my car loan, that that would free up my car payment of $340 per month. So if I pay off my car loan in April, 2017 that would free up 29 payments of $340, adding to a total of $460 per month into my stock portfolio with my regular $120 monthly contributions ($340 + $120).

If I invested that $460 monthly, with compound interest onto the remaining $2,116 in my portfolio (tax refund + stock portfolio – car loan) , it’d equal $16,500 by October, 2019.

I even went so far as factoring in my new insurance rate because it would be lower with me owning the car. I actually called my Esurance agent and asked what my new insurance rate would be if I fully owned my car vs having a car loan. You should do this, it’s super helpful! The new insurance rate would be $336 per six months vs the current $588 per six months. So this would save around $500 a year.

I’d also recommend talking to your bank holding your car loan and asking them if there are any penalties for paying off your car early? Remember they make money off the interest and if you pay early, they are missing out on a few extra bucks. Luckily the credit union where my car loan was under had no penalties for paying off early. Again, it’s super helpful to find out all these little factors before you make a decision, these all factor into the cost benefit analysis.

Option 2 – Invest My Tax Refund – If I continued to invest instead of paying off my car loan. I’d dump that $3,400 tax refund (plus $500 extra) into my investment portfolio for a total of $11,748. Then add $120 per month for 29 months till October, 2019. With compounding interest, I’d have $17,489 by October, 2019. That’s about $1,000 more than if I paid off my car.

Plus it could be even more since I used 7% stock market interest and last year it was more like 13%, but I wanted to use historic returns because past performance doesn’t mean future performance. 😉

There’s more to it

So if I continue to invest in my portfolio instead of paying off my car loan, I’ll have a little over $989 more by October 2nd, 2019. but that’s only the numbers.

There is a certain amount of freedom to having an additional $340 a month. If I have an unexpected expense, that’s $340 extra I have to cover it if needed. I’m not going to lie, it would be nice to have that extra cash each month. It’d solve a lot of nightmares in the middle of the night of not having enough money.

On the other hand, if I don’t have the extra money each month, I can’t waste it. See it’s a dilemma! At least I NOW know how much I’d have with both options because I did the Cost Benefit Analysis!

Cost Benefit Analysis Template

Here is the excel sheet I used to calculate my cost benefit analysis. It’s pretty simple, but you can see the formula I used for “Future Value” to calculate the final amounts. It was really cool tinkering with the different values to see how the two options compared. Try it for yourself by downloading the excel sheet I used.

My Excel Template

I inputted in all the variables which you see above. Then broke down the new principal of my stock portfolio in each of the options. In Option 1 (Pay Off Car) it was $2,216 and Option 2 (Invest) the principal was $11,748. Then added the new monthly payments of both Options. Lastly I used the formula “Future Value” to break down both Options after 30 months.

Future Value Formula

The formula “Future Value” in excel was new to me, so let me break it down.

Cost Benefit Analysis Template

Cost Benefit Analysis Template

=FV (rate, nper, pmt, pv, type)
*note that the future value formula is in years, I had to adjust since I was using monthly deposits

Rate – The Interest Period (mine was 7%)
Nper – The total number of payment periods (months divided by 12 for number of years)
Pmt – The payment made each period (my monthly contributions times 12 for a year)
PV – The present value (my starting portfolio amount)
Type – When payments are due. 0=end of period, 1=1 beginning of period (most people I saw use 0)

How can you Apply this to your life?

When I first had the dilemma what to do with my efile tax return, my friend suggested a cost benefit analysis to analyze both options. While this was a good idea for my tax return, it’s a valuable tool for weighing pros and cons of any financial decision.

You can use this for compare cars when you’re buying new vs used, figuring out car loan costs. Or you figure out if you can buy a new house vs continuing renting. It’s a really a great tool to use!

What am I going to do?

Well that’s a good freaking question. What am I going to do? I need to do something because I have received my tax return and have $3,200 sitting in my savings account only earning 1% interest.

You’ve heard both options with the pros and cons of each. I have a logical decision which is to invest the cash right away in my stock portfolio to make more money or a financially freeing decision which would free up an extra $340 in month income. You’ll have to find what I’m going do in an upcoming post!

What would you do?