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How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

How the $88,000 debt payoff journey helped me to transform

Today’s post is contributed by Amy Nickson, a passionate writer on finance. Amy is a professional blogger who has started her own blog and also works as a contributor for the Oak View Law Group. Please share your opinions by commenting below.

The debt payoff journey was the turning point of my life. Once I was a reckless spender; the debt payoff journey helped me to become a financially responsible person.

Read my story to know my debt journey

The year 2011 wash ruthless; my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer, which took her life after 6 months of struggling. In addition to this, I started getting creditors’ calls that made me realize about my high credit card debt, which was a double shock for me.

Being a single mom, my mother earned our bread, showered love and compassion on me and treated me as a most delicate possession.

She never wanted me to see hurt or sad. She had given me a credit card and told me to use for convenience. I started living a lavish life (planning trips, visiting Starbucks, partying, shopping, and hanging around with friends) with my boyfriend.

My boyfriend wanted me to buy a good car. I soon took out an auto loan to buy a costly car without giving it a second thought.

After college, I started working and earning. But, most of the money went out on leading extravagant lifestyle. As a result, I fell into costly credit card debts.

How I paid $51000 credit card debts that I mostly incurred during my college days

I had no clue where to start; what to do with $88,000 debts including $51,000 credit card debt and $37000 student loan debt, and a car loan.

I was not in a normal state of mind; my mom wasn’t there to support me, not even my boyfriend who influenced me to live a lavish life.

The settlement story

A few weeks later, I called John, my friend and a financial advisor.

After knowing all the issues, he advised me to settle the debts, especially the highest interest rate debt. A few months later, I got rid of the higher interest credit card debt ($16000).

The cost of the debt settlement was too high for me. I decided to pay the rest of the credit card debts on my own.

How debt snowball method worked as a savior

I contacted John for the second time to know how to pay off the debts on my own. He explained me the debt snowball method and suggested me to consider a side hustle to save quite a bit so that I can make some extra debt payments.

As per the guidance, I started paying some extra to the smallest amount of debt while paying the minimum to the rest of the debts. Since I had to manage the living cost on my own, I thought this could be the easiest way for me to get out of debt. Following the same method (debt snowball), I paid off the $35000 credit card debts within 3.5 years.

How I started freelance blogging

I had interest in writing projects. So, I tried to search online to find out blogging related freelance jobs. Soon, I started getting small to big projects. Freelance jobs are well paying. For instance, Wallet Squirrel makes $35 per article on Seeking Alpha.

Honestly, the side income helped me quite a bit to make extra payments on my credit card debts.

After paying off the debts on my own and earning extra, I felt a sense of accomplishment and started working on the other debts enthusiastically.

How I paid $37000 student loan debt

The student loan debt payoff journey was relatively smooth, because the credit card debt journey had taught me to live a frugal lifestyle. I started following the extreme money-saving strategies to pay off my student loan. I paid a little extra than the minimum payments. I followed the same until I paid off the entire loan. After 3 years, I was also free from my student loan.

Financial lessons I learned from my debt-ridden past

To be very honest, the intense financial situation helped me to become financially disciplined. I have learned to live life staying within my means. Since I grew up in a lavish way, I never realized the importance of living a disciplined financial life.

However, thankfully, the bad time helped me to learn how to set aside money and advantages of living a debt free life.

Here are some useful tips that will help you to avoid debts and get rid of them fast:

1. Budgeting is the key to avoid

I realized that without following a budget, it is impossible to keep finance in order. I had no idea how to manage monthly bills along with those credit card payments.

John told me to follow a budget where I include debt payments as the main expenses including other necessary expenses like grocery, utility, transport, etc.

By doing so, I noticed an improvement in my money managing skills. Dealing with bills became easier. And trust me, you never experience financial difficulties if you honestly follow a budget.

2. Cut down junk expenses to set aside money

I truly felt restless and unprotected when the situation needed to save every dollar. But, you have to set aside money if you want to get rid of debts.

To do so, you need to cut down unnecessary expenses like eating out, partying, clubbing, subscribing to unwanted things, etc.

I did the same and was able to save some extra dollar so that I could make extra debt payments.

3. Live within your means

Living a lavish life leads to debts. If you spend more than you earn, you will soon fall into debts.

After college, I started earning but I went overindulged and used to spend more than I earned. Most of the time, I used credit cards randomly, which was enough to accumulate huge credit card debts. Extravagant lifestyle only welcomes debt; so, you need to live within your means.

How can you do so?

  • Eat homemade food as much as possible. Try a PBJ.
  • Carry a water bottle and lunch from home.
  • Skip expensive morning latte from Starbucks. You can make your own coffee that tastes same as Starbucks at home.
  • Plan short trips instead of long and expensive gateways.
  • Practice home exercise and yoga instead of paying a big amount for a gym.
  • Shop grocery when you need and also reduce wasting food.

4. Make your credit card bill payments on time

You should deal with your credit cards responsibly. You shouldn’t buy an item, using a credit card, that you can’t afford; because making credit card bill payment within the stipulated time is very important.

If you avoid paying credit card bills on time, you will shorty fall into costly credit card debts.

5. Save money as much as possible

I took out an auto loan and bought an expensive car, which was a fatal mistake. To pay off the auto loan, I sold the car. Later, I bought a small car with cash. It took quite a bit of time to save money for the car, but buying a car with cash is actually a win-win deal.

6. Consider a side hustle

You should boost your income to get rid of debts fast. Earning some extra, like these extra ways to make money, will allow you to make extra debt payments. You can also be able to save a certain amount, which is a good way to avoid falling into further debts. I started part-time blogging to earn some extra. I had a full-time job, but the income was not upto the mark; the extra income helped me to pay off the credit card debt fast.

7. Get rid of junks to get out of debts

You should remove all the junks. Try to remove junk expenses and junk goods. By doing so, you can easily save money that you can use for debt payments.

8. Choose the right debt payoff strategy

I have mentioned earlier that I couldn’t continue with the debt settlement program due to its high cost. I didn’t have a well-paid job; so, I gave up. But enrolling in a debt settlement program helped me to pay off the highest interest debt fast.

Though a settlement program is a good debt repayment option, it is a costly one. It will also impact your credit score since you are not paying the total debt.

On the other hand, DIY debt repayment options are also effective. You can choose either debt snowball or debt avalanche to get rid of the debt on your own. You don’t need to pay money to a third party debt relief company.

Lastly, I should agree that living a debt free life is amazing. At least you can sleep peacefully without worrying about creditors’ calls. The debt payoff journey made me more mature and complete. Thank you for reading my debt payoff journey patiently.

How I Started An Amazon Affiliate Website To Start Making Money

How I Started an Amazon Affiliate Website to Start Making MoneyHow I started an Amazon Affiliate Website to start making money

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

Recently I’ve committed to building an epic Amazon Affiliate Website in a new competition we’re calling the Epic Niche Site Battle. A contest over a year to see who can build a better niche website. The competition started January 1st, 2018 and this is the entire outline of how I plan to create an awesome Amazon Affiliate Website under $300.

Step 1 – Find a Niche

What do I want my website to do or sell? Do I want to be an entertainment website where people go to be happy and find cool stuff, or do I want to be an authority website where people visit to learn words of wisdom from someone who knows more than them? Or do I want to create another blog that shares silly stories?

There are a lot of choices here, but I wanted to do an entertainment website. I like being fun and frankly if it’s going to be another website to manage. I NEED this to be fun!

Specifically, I chose to niche down to a fun, witty and entertaining website on Holidays. I like holidays because people spend money (or at least expected to spend money) during these times of the year. So I’m going to create an entertainment website based on the traditional things people buy for the holidays. Cool right!

Cost – $0 to think of cool niche ideas.

Step 2 – Find a Clever Domain Name

This part takes time, give yourself plenty of time, like 3 months to come up with a clever domain name for your website. Usually, you want your website/business name or purpose to be reflected in the domain name. You want this to be memorable, easy to type, shorter is better and capable of building a brand around.

I spent 3 months thinking about a domain name. Yes, the Epic Niche Site Battle started 10 days ago, but I could still think of my website beforehand. To think about my holiday website, I came up with over 237 different domain names, slowly fine-tuning them, and emphasizing keywords that made sense to my brand. Those 237 domain names were just the ones that were available when I researched them on GoDaddy.com, there were hundreds more I tried that were unavailable. I went a little insane finding the right domain name.

This is how I felt…..

Eventually, I find a domain name that I absolutely loved! This is personally important to me because if I don’t like it, I won’t be motivated to work on it every week. If you’re not passionate about something, you WILL quit halfway through when the going gets tough. I don’t plan to quit.

Cost – $12 Domain Name + $12 Domain Privacy
*Always buy domain privacy, otherwise you’ll get calls/emails daily from companies trying to sell your new website different services. It’s like telemarketers on steroids.

Step 3 – Create A Fun Logo

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’m a graphic kind of guy and I NEED an awesome logo to rally behind. Honestly, I started to think about how the website logo will look when researching domain names. I wanted to create more than just a name in a silly font, I want to create a whole brand.

Once I had my domain name chosen, I started to research different creative logos on websites like Logopond.com and in Google Search Images. I typed in my keywords and compared what other company logos looked like. I started from there and fine-tuned until I had something that looked different, creative, but familiar.

I had about 5 pages of tiny thumbnail logos sketched out.

I needed and created something that looked professional. I used Adobe Illustrator to create it myself, but you could hire a freelance graphic designer off Upwork.com of Fiverr.com. It just depends how much money you want to spend. I personally hate spending money, so the more I can do myself, the better.

Cost – $0 if you do it yourself, I did.

Step 4 – Claim Your Social Platforms

Right before I create a website, I go through and start claiming all my social media platforms for the new company name. Chances are that if your domain name is unique enough, it should be available. If not, at least a similar enough name should be.

I’m currently going through and claiming a Gmail account for my new company (people trust Gmail), along with a Facebook Page, Pinterest Page, Instagram, and Twitter Profile. I’m doing this now so I at least have all of these claimed in the digital world.

I will use the graphic I created for my logo, as the profile photo for the new social media accounts. =P

You may not need/use all of these in the beginning, but having them for safekeeping is a nice reassurance moving forward.

Cost – $0 for the basic accounts.

Step 5 – Set Up Your Initial Website

I personally use WordPress for all my websites. It’s frankly easy to use, flexible and I like the simplicity. This new website will also be on WordPress. Most websites are.

Setting up a website is easier than you think. I personally use Bluehost (you can use whoever you want) to set up all my websites because they have a 1-click button that sets up a WordPress website for you, if that’s scary, here is a detailed post on how to start a blog written for some friends. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. We’re happy to help!

Full disclosure, I use Bluehost for all my websites. I’m a big fan. If you want to learn more or use Bluehost, I would LOVE if you used my Bluehost Affiliate Code to check it out. It really means a lot to us!

Cost – $202.32 for 2 years of Bluehost hosting.

*You can absolutely do only 1 year, but there is a better discount the longer you go. I also paid for the Site Backup Pro (in case I accidentally delete something) and SiteLock Security (in case my website gets hacked). Overall $202.32 for two years is pretty awesome! If your website hasn’t made that back in 2 years, we should chat.

Step 6 – Find The Right WordPress Theme

So I went to the same place I buy all my WordPress themes (Themeforest) and searched their hundreds of demo WordPress Themes to find the right one that made sense for my Amazon Affiliate Website. This is the style and look your website will have. I needed a clean looking blog (it’s great for SEO) and I needed a warm looking homepage. I found something flexible and looked professional after a couple hours searching.

I’m a big fan of websites that look professional. If your website looks like it was made by a 5th grader, it will be instantly judged and people will feel uncomfortable. Take the time to give your website a nice look upfront and it will pay dividends for the success of your website. WordPress themes are a great way to give your Amazon Affiliate Website a professional look for a cheap price tag.

All you do with your WordPress Theme is hit “Upload Theme” once you create your WordPress website. It’ll then give you the look and feel of what you saw in the demo theme from Themeforest.

Cost – $60 for a WordPress theme from Themeforest.

Step 7 – Add these WordPress Plugins to Improve your site

There is an infinite number of plugins you can add to your site, but the more you do, the slower your site can run and Google hates slow sites, read Adam’s experience here with decreasing website load times. Here are 6 free plug-ins I add to all of my WordPress Amazon Affiliate Websites to keep them fast, looking good and efficient.

  • Akismet Anti-Spam – Frankly getting spammy comments suck and make your website look crappy. Akismet is one of the most popular plugins to protect your Amazon Affiliate Website from spam. Or turn comments completely off to eliminate spam if you don’t want a comment section.
  • Compress JPEG & PNG Images – This is a plugin we use to automatically reduce the file size of our images. Having smaller file sizes keep your website load times quicker since the web pages don’t have as much to download.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – This helps Google bookmark your website. The plugin does everything automatically. It basically creates a roadmap for Google’s crawl bots to quickly index your site.
  • WP Fastest Cache – Cache plugins help your website load faster and this is one of the best. We’ve tried a couple different cache plugins, but keep coming back to this one.
  • Yoast SEO – One of the most popular free SEO plugins. This will tell you how well your page/post is optimized to be search friendly. I live by this plugin!
  • Viglink – This is an affiliate marketing plugin that’s associated with my Viglink Account (Here’s my experience with Viglink). If anyone clicks on a product on my website, Viglink will track this and I get a commission if they buy something. You can use Amazon Associates for your Affiliate Marketing, but I like Viglink because it has partnerships with 2,000 different stores including Amazon. Viglink is how I plan to make money with my new Amazon Affiliate Website. Here is my personal affiliate link if you want to learn more about Viglink and how it works.

Cost – $0 for all of these plugins.

Step 8 – Create Your Initial Pages

I want my website to be easily manageable, so I’m going to initially set up my Amazon Affiliate Website to be pretty simple. I’m having essentially 3 pages.

These pages are:

  • Homepage where I’ll sell products
  • Blog to write engaging SEO posts
  • About Me/Contact Page

I thought about separating the About Me and Contact Page, but they essentially are the same thing, I’ll have a contact form on my About Me page. In my head, the website is more manageable with 3 different pages (plus future blog posts).

I’m currently setting up these 3 pages and loading the homepage with products to sell for the upcoming holiday. Once these 3 pages are done, you’re website is almost done.

Cost – $0, just takes time.

Step 9 – Write AWESOME Blog Posts (4-5 for Launch)

In most cases, your website will be found by SEO or Search Engine Optimization blog posts. You’ll likely market your website in other ways, but most times blogs are found on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Here is Wallet Squirrel’s SEO strategy.

This is where the hard work comes! Every one of my blog posts must follow the 5 rules I discovered during my research on 50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples Making Money in a Niche. There were the 5 important variables when investigating blog posts on these successful Amazon Affiliate Websites.

  1. Use Specific Keywords – The more specific the keyword is, the better it’ll likely rank in Google
  2. Review Posts are Popular – Before someone buys something, they want to know what others think of it. So if I have an opportunity to review something for a post, people may use my review post to click through to the product they’re thinking of buying.
  3. Content Is King – Most successful blog posts that rank well have between 1,500 – 3,000 words.
  4. Mix High & Low Priced Items – Don’t have a blog post with affiliate links to all high priced or all low priced products. Keep a diversity of price ranges and don’t overwhelm the reader with products to buy. Provide honest reviews and recommendations.
  5. Get People to the Amazon Store as Quick as Possible – The goal of an Amazon Affiliate Website is to get people to the store as quick as possible. Amazon does a great job at convincing people to buy their stuff, let them do the work and collect your affiliate commissions.

Lastly, always do your research and NEVER suggest/promote products you dislike or don’t agree with just for money. People will ALWAYS see through that.

I’m trying to create 4-5 awesome blog posts for my initial launch. Don’t worry about publishing these all at once. This just gives Google more time to crawl these pages and bookmark them for future Google Searches. After that, I’ll create a new post weekly or bi-weekly. Honestly whatever feels better with my time constraints. Either way, quality blog posts are better with Amazon Affiliate Websites.

Cost – $0 unless you pay someone else to write articles for you, but I write all my articles myself.

Step 10 – Launch Your Amazon Affiliate Website & Market It

After I finish my 3 website pages and 4-5 blog posts. I’ll be ready to launch my website!

This involves more than making it visible to the world. You need to get people to the website. Here are some ideas on how to promote your website and increase web traffic.

  • If you have an Email List, email them on the new website!
  • Create a social media campaign on your social media accounts about the launch. Add lots of hashtags if you don’t have a large following. Also, share with your friends and family, they’ll be likely to share because most people want you to succeed.
  • Post to Facebook Groups asking them for feedback on your new website. Maybe they’ll have ideas on how to make it better. You may even get a few new followers.
  • Submit the URL of your new Amazon Affiliate Website to different News Aggregators like StumbleUpon.com.
  • Try syndicating some of your blog posts to syndication sites, especially if they’re good posts. This may help you tap new audiences.
  • Create an infographic and share with different graphics platforms like Slideshare, Flikr, and other bloggers.
  • Reach out to Bloggers and/or News outlets if your new website or blog posts match their content.
  • Reach out to companies you mention in your blog posts.

Cost – $0 You don’t have to spend anything on marketing the website if you don’t want to. Find free ways to promote your website before resorting to paying for a press release or PR companies. Don’t ever try to pay for links to your website, Google may penalize you for this.

Step 11 – Repeat Writing New Blog Posts and Marketing

Remember the old shampoo commercials of rinse and repeat? That’s how Amazon Affiliate Websites work. Your goal is to attract as many visitors as possible, help them, and send them onward to Amazon to buy a product.

The more you write new content and market your website, the more visitors you’ll bring in and the more products you’ll sell.

Total Cost to Start an Amazon Affiliate Website – $274.32

Conclusion

I just laid out my entire Amazon Affiliate Website template for you to copy. If you follow this outline and track my progress, you’ll find some success for your new website.

I’m currently in Step 8, setting up my Amazon Affiliate Website now. It’s going really well! I should be at Step 9 or Step 10 by the end of January, having only spent $274.32 total. That should easily be made back in the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track and post my progress!

Leave me a comment on how your website is doing and I’ll continue to leave updates on how the Epic Niche Site Battle is going!

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Happy Holidays from Wallet Squirrel – A Look Back at 2017

Fun fact. Did you know there are a total of 29 holidays celebrated between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve?

So on that note, we at Wallet Squirrel, would like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannuka, or any other holiday you might be celebrating!

Andrew and I personally would like to thank every single one of you for an awesome 2017!

Because of you, in 2017 we saw a tremendous amount of growth of interest in our journey to becoming financial guru’s, investing ninjas, and financially free. You all have decided to join us on this journey as we all learn together from our personal experiences.

Today, I would like to take a look back at our more popular and well-liked posts of 2017. Let the reminiscing commence!

Side Hustling

We, like everyone else, love to find new ways to earn more money and to see how others are making money. This is why we started searching around the globe for new awesome ways to earn more money outside of our 9 to 5 jobs.

How Andrew made $1.88 Selling Stock Photography in 10 Days – Both Andrew and I wrote several articles about stock photography throughout the year. His about how he made $1.88 within 10 Days of being accepted performed the best. I still own the title for making the most money off of one photograph though, $1,000 and counting.

Earn Money While Working Out With the Achievement App – Achievement is a fun application that syncs up with all of your activities, including your tweets. You earn more points the more you walk, workout, sleep, tweet healthy thoughts, and so on. Let the point earning begin!

How to Sell Something on Craigslist and Make Money – Andrew was able to sell some old stuff on Craigslist. He walks us through the whole process from posting his items to meeting up with the buyer. Pretty cool!

I believe he sold his old guitar. Now that he has a girlfriend, I guess he doesn’t need to walk the streets of Denver serenading women anymore.

Investing

3 Reasons Why Monthly Dividends are Better – Andrew talks about why he believes that monthly dividends are better than other dividend stocks. He walks you through why you should think they are awesome too and how to find those stocks that hand out monthly dividends.

Come learn how you can learn extra money on top of the normal gains of investing.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Example to either Pay Off My Car or Invest? – Andrew was not sure if he should pay off his car or invest the extra money he had. Enter the cost-benefit analysis. He walks through his thought process and how to properly perform a cost-benefit analysis. Check out the article to

see what he ended up doing.

Latest Stock Purchases – Andrew informs us throughout the year about the latest stock purchases he makes. This is intended to help inform us all about new stocks that might interest you. This is one example of those articles.

You can look at his entire portfolio in the investments page.

Personal Finance

How to Pay Off Your Car Loan Faster – Paying off our car early freed up $405 a month! This money has been great so we can be more aggressive at paying off our student loans. This article walks through the different ways we were able to apply to pay off $7,000 in only three months.

How and What to Teach Your Kids About Money – A lot of us have young kids. One question I had was, “How should we go about teaching them about money?” So I did some research and this is what I found out.

9 Bad Spending Habits that are Killing Your Budget – We all have bad spending habits that we need to drop ASAP. For me, I had a lot! Luckily, I have a loving and patient wife that has helped me break most of these bad spending habits.

What are your bad spending habits?

Blogging

How to Start a Blog – I could not believe blogging was still so hot! I thought I was caught in an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Barney was only focused on his own blog. Well, the blogging world is still massive and still hot! It is time for you to start your very own blog!

50 Amazon Affiliate Website Examples – The money that can be made off of affiliate marketing is amazing! This article provides 50 examples to get the ideas flowing in your mind.

Are you planning on starting an affiliate niche website in 2018? Andrew is doing one!

An SEO Strategy – What Works and What Does Not – We saw a 1,500% in traffic growth during 2017. This growth mainly comes from our SEO strategy (also our Marketing Strategy). This is the perfect next step after you start your very own blog!

A New Year

I love the end of a year as it is a great time to look back on the goals you succeeded at and failed. This is the time of the year to prepare how you will concur the upcoming year.

For me personally, I do not succeed at every goal on my list. I am alright with that as long as I learn from my mistakes to make the next year the best year yet!

Next week I will dive more into this concept.

 

Cheers!

Adam

Income Report – October, 2017

Wahoo, I get both Halloween this week as well as writing my October Income Report. This income report shows a full transparency of everything I made this month from all the side-hustles on Wallet Squirrel. Everything we make, we invest to show that you can create an entire retirement portfolio from just extra ways to earn money.

What We Accomplished in October

Andrew wrote some sweet articles

  • The Perfect Blog Post Image Size to help you share your blog post on social media. We never had a consistent image size for Wallet Squirrel posts, so this article helped create some consistency for a future post. If you see our homepage or social media posts, you’ll see it turned out well.
  • After hearing about a new stock on Motley Fool, I did some research and checked out Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) to see what they did and analyze their stock for future consideration in my portfolio.
  • Does anyone else get anxious about tipping and judging people based on how well they serve you? I wrote “I Hate Tipping, It Ruins my Budget and Anxiety” because I totally do. I now pay wait staff 20% regardless of the service so I don’t feel like a dick for under-tipping or over tip and break my wallet.

Adam also wrote some great articles

  • He checked out our favorite income bloggers on the web and created the September Income Report Round Up of how much our favorite bloggers made in the month of September
  • Adam frustrated with bad spending habits wrote: “9 Bad Spending Habits that are Killing Your Budget“. I’ll admit I used to be victim to some of these, what about you?
  • Since Amazon is looking for new cities around the US to host their new Amazon headquarters, Adam took a look at Denver as a possibility and how that would affect our cities economy and housing market.

Any favorites?

Income Report – October 2017

We had such a great month last month, so I knew we couldn’t keep it up, but I was still surprised we did so well. We brought in $171.10 in October which is WAY better than our old average of $60 and it wasn’t from any one source. It was a combination of all our different revenue streams that continue to grow. That’s REALLY exciting.

These are all great income sources, but nothing really sticks out as the major money maker. Since all of these are balancing out, maybe it’s time for me to start looking into creating another affiliate marketing website and track its progress on Wallet Squirrel. What do you think?

Here are the sources of income for October.

$50 – Paid link, someone paid me to add a link to an old article. It worked well.
$45.00 – Bluehost Affiliate Income
$21.30 – Robinhood App Affiliate Program
$16.90 – Seeking Alpha Articles
$11.48 – Cashback Credit Card
$10.00 – Dividends
$4.45 – Stock Photography
$4.27 – Wallet Squirrel AdSense
$3.75 – Lending Club
$1.91 – Wallet Squirrel Affiliate Marketing
$1.39 – Interest Checking/Savings Account

Where does that $171.10 go?

A majority of that $171.10 goes toward building a $10 million dollar retirement portfolio of dividend stocks. A few of those dollars are spent to pay for our website services and website goals. Since most of it goes to my retirement portfolio though, I used it to buy more stocks, specifically more positions in Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Realty Income (O).  Wahoo!

Let’s Talk Goals

Did I meet last month’s (October) goals? – Kinda

I was supposed to set up a Pinterest Process, but I think I just created a process on CoSchedule for my Pinterest Boards along with joined a few other boards on Pinterest and Facebook Pinterest Groups. Yes that’s apparently a thing and they are SUPER friendly, try it!

November Goals

It’s a secret, I will share later this month!!!! =)

1 Easy Way to Monetize A Blog Instantly with Affiliate Marketing

1 Easy Way to Monetize A Blog Instantly with Affiliate Marketing

I get it, you have a website or starting a new website and you’re asking yourself How to Monetize a Blog? I did the same thing 5 years ago when I started my first affiliate website. Since then I’ve come a long way monetizing websites with affiliate marketing. While the designs and websites have changed, I’ve always monetized my blogs the same way.

*If you’re not familiar with Affiliate Marketing keep reading, if you know all about it, skip to “1 Easy Way to Monetize Your Blog”.

Most Bloggers Monetize A Blog With Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate Marketing is the idea that when a visitor is on your website and clicks an outbound link to Amazon or Toys R’ Us from your website and buys something, you receive a commission of that sale.

Most bloggers do this because they are then earning a commission off products they already have or heavily recommend. Amazon encourages this because they are receiving customers they wouldn’t have gotten without your website. Everyone wins.

What does an Affiliate Marketing Link look like?

It’s super simple, Affiliate Marketing links just look like regular hyperlinks. Here are some examples:

  1. If you’re writing about gym equipment, how about a Pull Up Bar?
  2. Maybe you really love writing about Harry Potter decorations?
  3. Or you write about upcoming events like Mother’s Day and mention flowers?

All of these are affiliate marketing links. If you clicked through them and bought any of those items. I would make a commission and it’s simple to set up. Here’s how to do it for your site.

1 Easy Way to Monetize Your Blog

It’s super easy to start monetizing your blog and it can be set up in minutes! The easiest way to start affiliate marketing is to partner with an affiliate marketing company.

Secret: 1 Easy Way to Monetize your blog is to sign up with an Affiliate Marketing company that turns every outbound link on your website into an affiliate marketing link automatically that you can earn a commission on.

There a lot of different affiliate marketing companies out there, but I’m sharing my personal experience with Viglink which has made monetizing my blogs insanely easy. I’ve used them the last 5 years. They have a great WordPress plugin that turns every outbound link into an affiliate link. Plus they partner with over 2,000 merchants, so nearly every online store (Amazon, Target, Etsy, Finish Line, etc.) will pay you a commission through the Viglink network.

Here’s How To Start

I use Viglink for Affiliate Marketing, here’s how.

Step 1 – Sign up with Viglink
Go to Viglink and fill out their forms.

Step 2 – Install the Viglink Plugin on your WordPress Blog
Do a search for the “Viglink Plugin”, activate the plugin and insert your account code from your Viglink account.

Step 3 – Add links on your website and get paid
Now any regular link going to any of Viglink’s partner merchants (2,000+ of them) on your website are an affiliate link automatically. Just check into your Viglink Account to see how many times people click on your links and if those clicks turned into sales, paying you a commission.

It’s that easy, you can monetize any blog in 5 minutes.

How much can you make affiliate marketing?

Most companies will pay you a percentage of the sale made. Each company within an affiliate marketing company is different. For example within Viglink, Amazon will pay 1% – 4.5% commission depending on the product category. Yet also in Viglink, 1-800 Flowers will pay an 8% commission. Usually the larger the company, the smaller the commission.

You’ll make more money the higher priced items you have on your site. For example, a 4% commission on an $11,312 Outdoor Inflatable Movie Screen is a lot different from a $30 Stainless Steel Kitchen Set. FYI 4% of that inflatable movie screen would be a $452.28 commission for you.

It’s a balancing act of having high priced items that could give you a higher commission vs lower priced items which the average person is more likely to buy.

Using an Affiliate Marketing Company vs the Vendor directly?

I think if you worked with Amazon directly through their Amazon Associates program, you may make a slightly better commission on each sale. However, you would be limited to only making money with Amazon.

Working with an affiliate marketing company like Viglink, you can sell Amazon products and products from 2,000+ other companies (here are the companies). You may lose a bit of the commission for the ease of dealing with only one platform. In my experience where I link to products all over the web, it’s worth it.

There are other Affiliate Marketing Companies too

I talk about Viglink just because I use them and like them. There are other companies that offer affiliate marketing like Clickbank, Skimlinks, LinkBridge and more. I’m just going off personal experience.

Affiliate Marketing is preferred over Website Ads

I always prefer Affiliate Marketing over Website Ads because ads are hugely distracting. Website Ads blink, flash and sometimes don’t even relate to the content your reading.

Affiliate Marketing simply creates a hyperlink in the content you’ve already written. It’s not any more obtrusive than any other link you create on your blog versus ads like on the right side bar, over on the right there. =)

Personally: I use Google AdSense for Ads in addition to Affiliate Marketing, but if I had to choose one, I’d stick with Affiliate Marketing. Most of my Google Adsense revenue is in cents from views of the ads, I rarely see people click on the ads. However, I see a lot more people click on my Affiliate Links and those lead to sales which pay a lot more.

Start Monetizing Your Blog Today

You don’t have to use Viglink, but you should at least be signed up with some affiliate marketing company from Day 1 of your blog to start monetizing it. It’s a non-obtrusive way to monetize your blog, earning extra money on products you’re already recommending.

Let me know if you have any questions about monetizing your blog this way!

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

How To Start A Blog

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE BELOW FOR MORE INFO.

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.

How to Sell Stuff on Ebay – Tips and Tricks to Selling on Ebay

How to Sell Stuff on Ebay – Tips and Tricks to Selling on Ebay

Over the last couple of months I have been trying to get rid of items the pose as distractions from my goals. You might have read about it in my Self Improvement – Get Rid of Your Distractions Right Now series. Here I talk about selling items that distract me from my ultimate goals. These items include an extra TV my wife and I do not need, a Xbox One, couple extra laptops, some games, and my old Nikon camera. As you might recall in my latest article on getting rid of distractions I had sold only one item for $100. Well, over the last couple of weeks I have been able to sell a two more items to warrant an article to be written on how to sell stuff on Ebay. Overall, I have made just over $500 from these items which will go directly to help pay our car loan off.

Let’s Get Started

Let’s get the basics out of the way so we can learn how to sell stuff on Ebay. To get started you will want to make sure you have an Ebay account. If you do not, sign up for a new account. If you do, head over there now to sign in.

You will also want to hunt around your home to find some items to sell on Ebay. This can be anything from a football to a fancy golf club set. I recommend only selling items on Ebay that will be easy to ship. For example, I will not be selling that extra 42 inch TV on Ebay. That would be too difficult to package and get to the buyer in one piece. Unless I saved the original box, but who does that? Instead I will sell the TV locally on Craigslist. For any help on selling your stuff on Craigslist check out Andrew’s How to Sell Something on Craigslist and Make Money article.

Price Comparison

Before I decide to post I like to explore Ebay, searching for similar items to see what they are selling for. As you are posting, Ebay will help out with pricing but I like to do the beforehand research for my data points. The more you know about your competition the better you can price or add incentives to make the sale happen.

I search for similiar keywords for what I am selling. Not only do I try to compare apples to apples. I also try to compare similar products that are different such as brand new, older/newer models, and so on. I usually make some mental notes on what the trends are but write down some notes if it helps you. During this search I am looking for several different items.

  1. What is the trending price?
  2. What are people offering for shipping?
  3. Where is there a gap for me to make my item more marketable?

When I am selling something on Ebay, I am not looking to make the most money by squeezing every dollar out of the buyer. I am looking to selling my item quick and get some extra money. This might cost me $10 to $20 on either the products cost or in shipping but it is worth it to me to sell quicker.

Taking Photos

I am pretty picky with this tip on how to sell stuff on Ebay, but you know I love taking photos. Taking good photos of your product is crucial to know “how to sell stuff on Ebay”. Photos of the items you’re selling helps the buyer gain trust in you. If they do not trust you, they will not buy from you.

Here is what I do. Grab the item I am selling and put it in a well lit room, I want the buyer to be able to see everything about the product. I hate the Ebay images taken of a black item in a dark room. I cannot inspect any details to see if it has any dents or scratches. Okay, rant over.

When putting my item in the bright room I do not just place it anywhere. I put it on a large, flat area that is clean and clutter free. Potential buyers do not need to be focusing on my dirty underwear in the corner of the photo. From here, I grab my phone. That is right, you do not need a big fancy camera to take these photos. Camera phones can work really well. I then snap some shots of every angle of my product. If it has any dents or marks, I make sure to be upfront of those in the photos. This also helps gain more trust from the buyer. If you’re upfront about the dents, they’ll believe you’re upfront with them about everything about the item.

Overall, taking photos is not that tough and they do not have to be super fancy, as you can see in my example below. Worry about composition, lighting, and allowing the photo to inform your potential buyer because a photograph really does speak a million words. This is why you should be thorough with them.

Even though these photos are rough they still tell the story of the condition for the Xbox One.

Even though these photos are rough they still tell the story of the condition for the Xbox One.

Writing Your Description

Not only should you be thorough with your photos but you should also write an excellent description. This allows you to explain the product, what comes with it, and what is wrong with it. Do not skimp on the details. Just like with the photos, the more you share the more the potential buyer will trust you.

Personally, I like to make the descriptions as personal as possible. This makes it sound like the buyer is dealing with a real person rather than someone just trying to make an extra buck off of them. In the description, I like to tell a story about an experience with the product that gives more details about it. With my camera, I was able to share where it has been and provide some images it has captured at those destinations.

Shipping

Shipping is the most annoying part of how to sell stuff on Ebay for me. I really do not like it at all but Ebay has made it a lot easier over the years. You can select whether the buyer pays for the shipping or if you will include it within the selling price. I have done both. If I feel like the product is in a competitive market then I will throw in the shipping to be more appealing to a potential buyer.

Lately, based on my price comparison research, I decided to have the buyer pay for shipping. With Ebay’s interface, it’ll walk me through how to properly price the shipping costs. I usually just go with the recommended pricing which has worked out well for me.

Shipping made easy so you can sell your stuff on Ebay.

Shipping made easy so you can sell your stuff on Ebay.

After the Sale

Here is when I want to communicate promptly with the buyer. This does not have to be much, but a quick thank you and status update on when I will get the item shipped out. I have noticed that I get higher reviews when I communicate with the buyer quickly. Of course, with higher reviews the more trust you gain from other potential buyers.

I also make sure that I ship the item very quickly. Ebay gives us three business days but I try to get it shipped the next day. The buyer will be more satisfied with their experience. You can either go through Ebay to print the shipping label or go to a shipping center yourself. I recommend using Ebay’s service if you have a printer. This will save you money and time by not waiting in line at your local post office.

Now Go Sell Your Stuff on Ebay!

Ebay is the classic eCommerce site for anyone to sell a product. Because it has become so big over the years it can be a little intimidating to post an item on the site. That is why it is best to take these tips to learn how to sell stuff on Ebay. Hopefully, these tips make your experience a bit easier and less intimidating.

For other side hustle ideas check out our list of different Ways to Earn More Money. Andrew and I are always looking for new ways to earn extra income. This list consists of many different side hustles that we have tried ourselves.