December 2018 | Month Four – Blogging During the Holidays

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Blogging during the holidays proved much more challenging than anticipated.

Since we started Empty Nestin’ in September 2018, this is the first time that I have had a concern about our commitment to being able to take on the blogging world full-time.  Going into December, I was fully aware that our December was going to be busy with family and holiday fun.

Long hours went into writing articles for future scheduling to ensure we continued our weekly schedule of posting every Monday and Thursday.

The point of frustration that I couldn’t anticipate was the emotional impact that the lack of involvement and continued nurturing of our site had on me.

Prior posts from our blogging series:

Blogging During the Holidays While Following Your Dreams

As I look back, I feel that there were many missed opportunities and I could have found more time to dedicate to our dream; our dream of using Empty Nestin’ to turn our dream of early retirement into reality.

The idea of being able to replace our income with a blog seems a bit far-fetched at times, but I think it is the fact that it feels a bit unattainable is why it is so desirable.

I have never been one to sit back and wait because I believe that if I want something bad enough, I will find a way to obtain it.



The Secret

You become what you think about most. But you also attract what you think about most. John Assaraf

Just over a year ago I spoke to my biological dad for the first time.  I remember our first conversation through frosted glass.

It was surreal.

My heart pounded, my hands trembled, and my eyes gleamed as I listened to the story.  I could almost feel my world stop as my biological dad told me about the events that lead to me being put up for adoption.

I could hear his pain as he chronologically relived the moments that lead to losing his first love and his daughter 42 years prior.

As we spoke, he mentioned to me that he thought of me often and hoped this day would come.  He also told me that me finding him may be attributed to The Secret.

I had never heard of The Secret, and so I had to look into it a bit more and see what this old hippy was talking about.

I watched a few clips on YouTube and thought this is some hokie stuff then told Rob about this crazy idea of being able to imagine something into existence.

He laughed at me and told me that I am one of those that live The Secret.  I decide a place that I want to be, and then I work my ass off to get to that point.

I am not sure if this is 100% true or not, but I do know that the breaks from managing our blog during the holiday season left me feeling disconnected from our dream.



2018 Came and Went

When I was a child, my mom used always to tell me that as you grow older, time goes by quicker.  I feel like 2018 is a perfect example of that statement as I am not sure what happened!  Time flew!

Now is the time to look back and celebrate in the year and plan for the upcoming year!

2018 Accomplishments

Although the events below are interwoven in our life and have played upon one another to achieve success, I am breaking them down into two subheadings:  Life and Financial.

Life

  • We Survived Our Youngest Moving Out:  Our life was turned upside down and inside out when our baby moved out.  The moment that we dreaded for 18 years came to pass.  It was an abrupt shift in our world that we had to navigate through quickly.
  • Starting A Blog: In September 2018 we decided that a blog would serve as an accountability tool with the potential of helping others on their journey to financial freedom.  It was in this awe-ha moment that we allowed ourselves to dream of building a blog that could potentially replace our income and allow us the freedom to explore life.
  • Stopped Smoking: This is one that Rob and I never thought would happen.  We were dedicated smokers that finally decided it was time for a change.  In February we will be able to celebrate our one year anniversary of a smoke-free life.
  • Relationship Building:  Although Rob and I set some pretty ambitious financial goals, we focused heavily on living life.  Travel was a big part of our focus for 2018.   We let go of our materialist wants and focused on spending money in areas of our life that promote living.
  • Holidays Without Our Daughter:  This was a bit harder then I was expecting.  Our daughter has spent the past five years serving our country.  This was the first year in which we were not able to have our daughter home for any of the holidays due to being deployed.  It was heartwrenching, yet we found comfort in knowing how lucky we have been over the years.
    What to Expect When Your Child Joins the U.S. Military

Financial

  • We Paid Off All of Our Consumer Debt: Watching our son leave and seeing him pursue his dreams was so inspirational that we took that inspiration and decided that we needed to make some serious changes and start acting responsibly.
    Pay Off Debt Fast | 11 Things We Did to Pay Off $50,000 6 Months
  • Building Our Emergency Fund: Before paying off our debt, the idea of an emergency fund was just that:  an idea.  We had a savings account, but we transferred money out of our savings as quickly as we added money.  In 2018 we saved $25,000 in an emergency fund that would cover eight months worth of monthly expenses.
  • Sinking Fund:  We created a Sinking Fund savings account in which we deposit money into every pay period to pay for our annual expenses.
    The Easiest Way to Budget Your Money | 8 Bank Accounts
  • Health Savings Account (HSA):  2018 was the first year that we fully funded our HSA account.  We were able to max out our contribution and set aside $6,900 worth of tax-free money for future medical expenses.




2019 Goals

Life

  • Continue to Focus on a Minimalistic Life:  Prioritizing life is sometimes tricky.  Time is often spent on things rather than experiences.  For 2019 we will continue our focus on reducing things and focusing on our now and our future.
  • Worklife Balance:  This one continues to be a struggle for us.  In 2018 I sold 56 hours of vacation back to my company.  Rob will sell a chunk of time back to his company in February 2019.  Selling time is an ongoing problem that Rob and I continue to struggle with.  We hope that we will take all of the awarded time off that our companies allocate to us in 2019 rather than selling it back.
  • Travel:  Continue to focus on uniting with those that mean the most to us by budgeting travel.  When you are getting to know the dad that you never had the opportunity to know who lives in another state, this is an important investment.
  • Blog:  In 2019 we will blog like hell.  We will continue to focus on improved writing, seek out opportunities that improve the lives of our readers and work on skills that promote visitors to our site.

Financial

  • HSA:  We will continue to fund our HSA in 2019 fully.
  • Employee Stock Purchase Plan:  Rob’s employer offers a stock purchase plan that matches 15% up to the first $1,800 invested from March to April.  Historically this stock is a good one to own, especially in a down market.  It is generally low risk with a modest dividend payout.  2019 we will purchase $3,600 worth of stock with a company matching contribution of $540.
    Retirement Saving | Plan For Retirement Before Your Employer
  • Roth IRA:  In 2019 we will fully fund our Roth IRA accounts for the first time.  To date, our only retirement savings plan has been our 401k.   Per the advice of our financial planner, we need to make some investments in our future that are tax-free.  Our Roth IRA will be that vehicle.
  • Emergency Fund:  Our goal for 2019 is to take our emergency fund from eight months of expenses to twelve months of expenses.



Blogging for December 2018

We were able to maintain our goal of posting every Monday and Thursday during December.  Considering the holiday festivities, a two-week visit from my biological dad, and Rob’s dad getting married, being able to stick to the schedule was a bit challenging.

As mentioned above, I missed the involvement with the blog.  I can feel a disconnect in my writing after taking a break.

Here are our December 2018 Posts…

Traffic Updates

In December we saw another uptick in visitors.  We saw twice as many visitors and twice as many pageviews this month over last.  Our views in one month are similar to our first three months blogging.

It has been very rewarding to see all of the hard work starting to pay off.

Although Pinterest is still driving most of our traffic, we have started to see some organic referrals.  Our most popular posts this month are:

  1. 43 Free Budget Printables | Get Organized & Pay Off Debt in 2019
  2. Pay Off Debt Fast | 11 Things We Did to Pay Off $50,000 6 Months
  3. How to Pay Off Debt Without Any Money | Paycheck to Paycheck
  4. Dave Ramsey Budget Quotes | Best 17 Inspirational Sayings
  5. The Easiest Way to Budget Your Money | 8 Bank Accounts
  6. Budgeting for Beginners: 9 Useful Tips for Creating a Budget
  7. Setting Successful Goals | 9 Tips For Setting Goals You Can Achieve
  8. 5 Pros & Cons of Married Couples Having Separate Bank Accounts
  9. Top 50 Inspirational Money Quotes With Pictures for Sharing
  10. The Best Quotes About Parenting Successful Kids with Pictures

Total Investments

Investments for December was limited to our $29 monthly subscription to ConvertKit and $21.68 for McAfee antivirus software on Rob’s laptop.

Hopefully, I will have some time this month to research alternatives for the ConvertKit software so that we can control our monthly expenses.   It is crazy how all of these little costs can add up over the past few months.

Although the costs are adding up, the traffic to our site is growing.  The continued growth is enough evidence at this point that the investments to date are money well spent.

INVESTMENT TOTAL SINCE 8/29/18
Advertising $103.88
Education $294.00
Equipment $231.66
Hosting $178.20
Graphics & Design $188.35
Total $996.09




ConvertKit

Our email subscribers have increased at a drastic rate.  From a total of 160 subscribers in November to a total  490 at the end of December, the interestest in our 43 Free Budget Printables | Get Organized & Pay Off Debt in 2019 has been pretty impressive.

One of my goals for December was to try to find a more economical product to manage our email.  Unfortunately, time got away from me, and I did not have enough time to investigate and learn a new product.

Although ConvertKit offers a more economical option by paying annually, we elected to pay monthly so that we can review other products possibility.

Tailwind

Our increase in activity from Pinterest has fizzled a bit since our huge growth November 2018.  Pinterest continues to be our top referrer according to Google.  With that being said, we are still utilizing the Tailwind tool to post for us automatically.

We currently use tailwind to post 161 pins a week…

  • Monday:  26
  • Tuesday:  15
  • Wednesday:  21
  • Thursday:  22
  • Friday:  19
  • Saturday:  29
  • Sunday:  29
  • Total:  161

Pinterest

Our number of followers increased this month by 240 followers (36%).  Finding new followers is something that I quit seeking back in October.  For January, I will not follow back followers and see if there is any difference in the interest.

When reviewing our Pinterest analytics, the numbers look a little scary initially, but then the reminder that we are only four months into this blogging business reminds me that we have no year over year comparisons.

Goal Setting

We are still working towards our goal of meeting 10,000 pageviews by our six-month anniversary.

If we continue to see the same growth that we experienced this month, I expect that we will hit that goal in January 2019.

In reviewing a few other blogs that are successful, we are going to pay more attention to the sessions number.  Our goal will be to reach 25,000 sessions in a month as our research indicates that is the point in which additional advertising opportunities may open up to us.

We hope that we can reach this goal of 25,000 sessions by June 2019.

To accomplish this, we will continue to focus on…

  • Upholding our publishing schedule of every Monday and Thursday
  • Building our email list
  • Explore opportunities to grow our audience through educational opportunities
  • Improving our Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Users: Users are the unique Visitors on your site. So an individual accessing from a particular device will be tracked in analytics as a User

PageViews: While a user visits your site, the number of pages they click on within the site are recorded as PageViews

Sessions: Sessions in an analytics is a 30 minute (by default) timespan assigned for a user. All activities done by a user in this time slot is considered one session.

agileana.com

Wishing you all the best of 2019!  Let us know what you expect from your 2019 in the comments below!

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