Hello amigos, I am still alive! It is time for a much overdue post-summer update. Lots of big things happening. I started a new job, we finally opened bank accounts for the kids, we’ve earned hundreds of thousands of hotel points, and we had another baby.
Rethinking the blog
Remember that girl (or boy) you were so interested in in high school, but then one morning you woke up having lost all interest and just never bothered to call again?
Well that’s not quite happened with the blog, but I did have some higher priorities show up in my life. Between my new job taking a lot more of my energy and time and having a 33% increase in children, the past few months have been busy.
Unfortunately, that means making some behavioral adjustments and tradeoffs. Letting the blog go for so long was not easy! I do have some loyal readers and feel a sense of obligation to continue to deliver value for them, not to mention that I enjoy doing it and having that connection.
I’m not ready to let it all go just yet, but my posting schedule likely won’t be as regular as it was before until I figure out a better routine for my life.
I have been a long-time skeptic of blogs that share savings rates but that fail to share incomes. It is a little bit deceptive. When someone claims to have saved 84% in a month, they are likely not telling you that they each make $100K per month and have no kids. They also don’t specify 84% of what. Know what I mean?
Now I am facing a dilemma. I have always shared ALL my finances, but given my position and visibility in my new job, I can no longer share my income. But I can still share expenses, and maybe even my savings rate. And if you’re really smart, you’ll be able to put those together to back into that magical number.
In other words, the budgets won’t be quite as bare, so I may have to come up with a name change. We’ll see.
Selling the dream
My first job out of college was at a big accounting firm. I didn’t really know anything else, but looking back, I realize that it was rough on us.
No wonder I checked out every “do what you love” book from the library I could get my hands on. I loved the idea of being able to make money through doing I loved. It didn’t take me long, though, to discover that all (okay, 99%) of the authors writing the “do what you love” books made all their money from–you guessed it–telling others that they could make money by doing what they love! In other words, they sold the dream.
The truth is that one of the paths of least resistance to making money in blogging is to sell the dream of blogging, and I don’t see myself doing that. The reality is that most bloggers are not “successful.” You can be, sure, but it takes a certain type of person and a lot of work. This site brings in enough money to pay for itself, but I haven’t taken the time to really grow the earnings in a way that I feel good about.
I’m thinking about potentially combining Bare Budget Guy with my CPA site. That is a business I feel good about. I am able to add value to 100% of my clients because I’m not selling them something that may or may not waste their time. I’ve been featured and mentioned on some podcasts and am starting to develop an online niche. So I’m having fun exploring that.
Family. Finance. For Real.
I’ve gotten some good feedback over the past year and a half from people who appreciate my financial perspectives as someone with a growing family.
There are so many great finance blogs out there with amazing success stories, and the majority are written by people who are either single or don’t have kids. Or maybe they are older with kids.
But there is a big sense out there of “what about me??” from young families who have expressed to me their appreciation for the things I write about. Referring to other blogs, they say “that’s great and all that you are making tons of money online traveling the world, but I have kids!” Not to say kids are a show-stopper, there are plenty of successful people with kids, but it is harder.
So when I get around to it, I’d like to redesign and tailor my blog more to families. For whatever reason, our 4 year old daughter doesn’t ever say “really?” but rather says “for real?” So my new tag line will be “Family. Finance. For real.” Awesome right? It’s captures exactly what I want to focus on and where I think I might be able to help.
Opening bank accounts for the kids
Okay let’s get to the important stuff. No not babies, bank accounts! For some reason it made me really happy to be there with my kids and to watch them deposit their dollars for the first time. And they were all excited too. Just the fact that they now have accounts motivates them to save and to make the balance grow.
Summer credit card rewards
Even though a few years ago, we cashed in on the sign-up bonus for the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card, we were able to do it again this summer. With Chase cards, you can earn the sign-up bonuses for the same card every two years. I know this is not true for Amex cards as well as some others.
I was HAPPY to pay the $85 up front annual fee for the 80,000 bonus points. Between the 2 of us, that’s 160,000 points. That’s easily 2 weeks’ worth of nights that my family will definitely use on vacations or road trips.
On top of the sign-up bonus points, I’ve been travelling at least 25% of the time over the last 5 months. I always stay in Marriott hotels when possible in order to maximize my rewards. And now that I’m a platinum member, I get a 50% bonus on my hotel stay points.
I did not have similar luck with the Chase Sapphire Preferred card this time araound, which might be the best card out there for sign-up bonuses ($500 after spending $3K in 3 months). Despite my 827 credit score, I was denied for having opened too many cards in the last 12 months. So I’ll wait a few months and try again. I was, however, able to get the bonus for Amanda (another marriage perk!).
There is no higher calling
I turned 33 in May. I don’t know what happened when I was 32, but for the first time (and much to the delight of my patient wife), I finally started to feel like adult. I really started thinking about the future of my kids, the impact of my decisions, the brevity of life, and lots of other really heavy stuff I’d rather not worry about.
Not to mention that all of our “young” friends have been moving away leaving us no decision but to make friends all of the old-timers in the area. All of this goes along with my thoughts about refocusing the blog more on family.
There is an article I read a while back that really hit me. A senior executive at a high-power advertising firm was terminally ill with cancer and reflected on his career in this sobering article. I’ll never forget his line:
So was it worth it?
Well of course not. It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.
You can replace the word “advertising” with anything that distracts you from what is truly important.
Money & Memories
I am trying to figure out how to live my life to minimize regrets. Sometimes that involves spending more (rather than earning more) money. I am a huge fan of the “spend money on memories” theme that is so well articulated all over the financial blogosphere.
Last month, despite having to pay for some major house repairs and medical bills, we spent a few hundred dollars to go to a near-by amusement park for 2 days. And it was worth every penny. The idea of spending on memories obviously is not a pass to spend irresponsibly, but it does help tight wads like me feel better about making purchases that I otherwise wouldn’t even consider.
I can’t very well leave this out.
We had a baby GIRL!
And she is beautiful.
4 kids. 4 Kids!
Now I have to go set up another 529 Education Plan…