October 31, 2011, 5:00 am

October Net Worth Statement – Halloween & Its Horror Stories

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Assets and Net Worth


 

During my last net worth statement, I was completely ashamed of myself. How can I make so much money and spend it all? It’s one thing to reward yourself (I’m a big believer in behavioral psychology!) but you ain’t doing anything good if you finance your rewards through your credit card! So this is how I went on an austerity plan (feels like a Greek guy!).

 

My austerity plan has 1 objective: cut on dinning out!

We are tired, we want to celebrate or we simply have this obsessive image of a BBQ chicken with fries and sauce (my favorite is the combo double chicken legs! Hum…. So tasty!). I love to eat and I know I spend a lot of restaurants and ordering food when it’s Friday and we don’t feel like doing supper. Well for the past 6 weeks, we haven’t ordered anything and we didn’t go to the restaurant either!

 

The second important source of expenses in my household is my cost of transportation for work. I live 85 km away from my job (that’s a 1 hour drive on the highway for US readers 😉 ). While I really enjoy driving (after all, I did Montreal – Virginia Beach in one shot, no stops 😉 ), it cost me a ridiculously high amount to make this distance. There is gas, parking (yup, I don’t even have free parking!) and a higher cost for car maintenance. With the price of gasoline rising, it is now a $10,000 expense per year in my budget. The most disgusting part is that since I’m at a marginal tax rate of 42%, my last $17,241 earned on my notice of assessment goes to transportation… Even if this year I’ll reach a total income of about $150,000 (more on that later on), it is 11.5% of my total income going to transportation!!!! I can’t do anything about this right now, but I will in February. I can’t tell you more right now, but let just say that regardless of what is happening until then, in February, I’ll be working in the same city I live. So I’ll go from 10k to $500 per year for gasoline to go to work ;-D.

 

My Halloween Horror Story

I’ve delayed my net worth statement on purpose to get it on Halloween’s day because I have a horror story regarding my personal finance. I feel like living the sequel of an old horror movie of a story that happened 11 years ago (I would have preferred the tragic number “13” but it’s only 11 years…). For the very first time in 11 years; I wasn’t able to pay my credit card in full! I have municipal taxes and school taxes coming in November and I needed to leave a few more hundreds in my account. This is how I was able to pay only a part of my credit card statement. I could have taken the missing amount from my company’s account but I wanted to act different this time.

 

For a while, I’ve been taken resources right left and center to pay off my lifestyle. This time, I’ve decided to stop counting on the fact that I’ll be making more money later on and take the hit. I guess that if you really want to change your behaviors, it needs to hurt. Pain is probably the biggest motivation factor I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt the pain a few weeks ago when I paid partially my credit card.

 

The pain of paying interest.

The pain of feeling like a slumbag who’s not able to manage his budget properly.

The pain of publicly writing this article you are reading this morning.

 

But when it hurts, you do something about it. This is why I decided to take a deep breath and take out the stitch one shot!

 

But there is still a good news ;-D

My “austerity” plan actually worked though, my debts have decreased by $300 or so this month. This was the very first time since a while that I’ve actually decrease my debts instead of taking more money out of my line of credit. While $300 is not an incredibly high amount, it is definitely a good step in the right direction!

 

So my net worth has slightly declined (thx to the value of my 2 cars!) but my debts has slightly reduced as well. This is what the most important part is for me right now!

 

Assets:

ASSETSPREVIOUS
MONTH ($)
CURRENT
MONTH ($)
CHANGE (%)
CHECKING ACCOUNT $1,000 $1,000 0.0%
EMPLOYER STOCK
ACCOUNT
$2,395 $2,699 12.7%
RRSP ACCOUNT $30,441 $30,309 -0.4%
PENSION PLAN $20,218 $20,218 0.0%
HOME $345,640 $345,640 0.0%
COMPANY SHARES $98,000 $98,000 0.0%
MAZDA TRIBUTE $19,530 $19,096 -2.2%
MAZDA RX-8 $7,200 $6,800 -5.6%
TOTAL $524,424 $523,762 -0.1%

Liabilities:

DEBTSPREVIOUS
MONTH ($)
CURRENT
MONTH ($)
CHANGE (%)
CREDIT CARD $20,721 $22,342 7.8%
LINE OF CREDIT $19,912 $19,868 -0.2%
HELOC $264,309 $263,109 -0.5%
CAR LOAN $19,530 $19,096 -2.2%
Personal Loan $11,666 $11,458 -1.8%
RRSP loan $10,000 $10,000 N/A
TOTAL $346,138 $345,873 -0.1%

Total Net worth: $177,889 (-0.2%)

 

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October 28, 2011, 6:00 am

Epic Shiz of The Week

by: MD    Category: Financial Rambling

What’s the epic article of the week?  Side Hustle Series: I’m a Phone Sex Operator @ Budgets Are Sexy.

What’s so epic about this article?

I love the Side Hustle Series that J Money has going on his blog. This one caught my attention because it’s a gig that’s often talked about, but we rarely know anything about it. This is an inside look at the life of a Phone Sex Operator. There’s lots of juicy details in here that I bet you didn’t know about.

We never think of the details involved in being a PSO likely because we never think of the job. This inside look will change the way you view this industry.

The gem of this article.

My favorite part of this article happens to be:

You need 4 main skills to be successful as a PSO: listening, organizational, imaginative, and improvisational. You have to listen very carefully to your clients in order to follow their lead. For example, if he says that he loves pulling your “black” hair, you have to remember not to mention your “red” hair if you are a redhead.

You need to pay attention, no matter what your business is. Give the article a read. You might be on to a new side hustle.

Did you write anything epic this week?

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October 27, 2011, 6:00 am

Do The Best Discussions Happen in Public?

by: MD    Category: Alternative Income

Do the best discussions really happen in public? Are you missing out on anything by not going on Twitter or joining forums? Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea of where you can find the best chats taking place and the best opportunities for shooting the breeze with remarkable people.

Are the best discussions really on Twitter?

I don’t think so.

The best discussions happen in private when you ask highly tactical questions. The most valuable discussions go on when you get answers to your specific problems. The most valuable conversations occur when that light bulb goes off in your head and you think of some remarkable new idea. This doesn’t happen when you’re killing time on Twitter and you need to filter out all of the noise.

Now don’t get me wrong because I’m not saying not to read blog posts or to stay off Twitter. There’s lots of free information out there all around you. I just want you to think outside of the box and to get in on the private discussions.

How can you get in on this enlightening discussions? How can you be apart of unique discussions?

Attend conferences.

You can guess where I got this idea from. At FINCON11 in Chicago I engaged in some of the best discussions ever. Some of them were over dinner. Others were over drinks. Some happened just by hanging out in the lobby all day. Attending relevant conferences is the best way to help others and to learn the cool people that you’re bound to meet.

If you’re not attending conferences in your field, what’s your excuse? None. There’s absolutely no excuse for not attending conferences. You need to get your name out there, meet others, and keep your ears open. There’s only so much information you can pick up by sitting in your living room all of the time.

Go out for drinks.

Why’s there such a negative stigma surrounding going out to bars and getting wasted? I’ve had some amazing chats with successful entrepreneurs and business people over rounds of pitchers and plenty of laughs. We are all different people after a few drinks. We loosen up and drop our guards a bit. This is usually the best time to see how someone REALLY feels about something. I’ve had some amazing conversations with successful people that I look up to over drinks. This also gives you a chance to improve on your social skills.

Take successful people out for lunch.

Every single human being goes for lunch. If you don’t eat lunch then how do you have energy? Who doesn’t enjoy a free lunch?

The best couple of dollars that you could ever spend is on taking someone successful to lunch. Shoot over an email or get in touch through a mutual friend with someone that you want to meet. Offer them lunch and make it easy for them to show up (work around their schedule). Get out there and enjoy the lunch time chat. What’s holding you back?

Offer your help through email.

Everyone has an email address. Why not reach out to someone that you find interesting through email?

Due to the likelihood that most of us are totally busy these days I recommend that you take the time to leave comments on that person’s blog first. Then once you get a few conversations going you should try to offer your help in some way. This is likely the best way to get a response from a busy person… or you can spam their inbox with lame messages asking for links (am I the only one that gets so many of those?).

Get someone you respect on the phone.

This has surprisingly worked well for me. For some reason some of the top bloggers in the personal finance field were willing to get on the phone with me and actually share some amazing insights. I’m so grateful for this and I learned so much more from these private discussions than I ever could from reading blog posts. This might not always work for you but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

What are you waiting for? Are getting in on the best discussions going on around you?

Do you think that the best discussions happen in public? Where do you find the best engagement with others?

 

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October 26, 2011, 5:20 am

How To Generate $5,000 in Private Ads in Less Than an Hour a Week

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Make Money Online

 

geyserSo here we go again for the 3rd post of this series on how to create a media kit and sell to advertisers.

 

The first part was about knowing your site

The second part is about building your media kit

This part is about making money without working your ass off!

 

Who told you that you need to work to make money? Not me ;-). But if you don’t want to work, you had better be smart! If you look at my blog income reports, I’ve made $44,606.34 in 9 months this year for an average of $4,956.26 per month from private advertising (trust me, this average is going up with September’s income report that will be published next week!). So I’m making a little bit more than half of my online income from private advertising while not working more than 10 hours per week on my company. Therefore, I can’t spend much time on dealing with advertisers and following-up with ad renewals (I need to spend some time to write during these 10 hours, right?).

 

Since managing our advertisers is a very “personal” part of our business (we are talking about giving access to our paypal and company bank accounts), I want to keep control of it. I know that some of you might be exhausted just at the thought of the time required to manage your ads.  This is why I want to share my deepest secrets on how to manage so many ads in so little time ;-).

 

#1 Create Templates!

The first thing you need to do to save time is to build templates. The first one you need is to “answer email”. Each time I get an advertiser request, I copy/paste the very same answer:

“Hello NAME,

 

Thank you for your interest in advertising with us. We currently manage several high quality financial websites. Please find enclosed our media kit along with our rate sheet.

 

We can do special deals if you take more than 3 links.

Best regards,”

 

It’s quick, simple and it goes directly to the point. Once you have a great media kit built, you don’t need to say much. You need to “automate” your answer so you can save as much time as possible while keeping your potential advertisers interested.

 

The second template you need is an advertiser manager Excel spreadsheet. I have 2 templates per site:

 

Template #1

Advertiser TypeJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecTotalPercentage
Google Adsense$0#DIV/0!
Azoogle Ads$0#DIV/0!
Amazon$0#DIV/0!
QuestTrade$0#DIV/0!
Commission Junction$0#DIV/0!
Mint (in article)$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #1$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #2$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #3$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #4$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #5$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #6$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #7$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #8$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #9$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #10$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #11$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #12$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #13$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #14$0#DIV/0!
Private Link #15$0#DIV/0!
Ad Block$0#DIV/0!
Banner 125X125 #1$0#DIV/0!
Banner 125X125 #2$0#DIV/0!
Banner 125X125 #3$0#DIV/0!
Banner 125X125 #4$0#DIV/0!
Banner 125X125 #5$0#DIV/0!
Dedicated Page#1$0#DIV/0!
Rate Widget$0#DIV/0!
Adbean Widet$0#DIV/0!
Total$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0#DIV/0!
Martin
Craig
Net Profit$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0$0

The first template tells me how much I make each month for each ad. I can track all my sources of income and know exactly which one is going up or down and which one is the most important. This has 3 major advantages:

a)      I know where my money comes from and how I can optimize each site.

b)      This is high value information if you ever want to sell your site!

c)       I know how many private ads I’ve sold so far (I tend to limit my sites to a specific numbers of ads).

 

Template #2

SlotCodePriceFreqExp DateContactPaypalCombo
Friends of The Dividend Guy
Private Link #1
Private Link #2
Private Link #3
Private Link #4
Private Link #5
Private Link #6
Private Link #7
Private Link #8
Private Link #9
Private Link #10
Private Link #11
Private Link #12
Private Link #13
Private Link #14
Private Link #15
Investment links
Ad block
The Dividend Guy Sponsors
125X125 #1
125X125 #2
125X125 #3
125X125 #4
125X125 #5
Widgets
National Average Mortgage Rates
Adbean

My second template is used to follow-up on each ad. Once a month, I check out this sheet for each site and I know which ads are up for renewal for the month. This tells me how much the advertiser is paying me, what is the code used and also to know if I offered a package deal with other sites (the combo section). This helps me to requests more ads from the same client upon renewal.

 

This leads me to my 3rd template: my renewal follow-up email:

 

“Hey NAME,

 

There were two ads to renew on DATE on SITE.

 

Here are the two links:

Link 1:
Anchor:

URL: 

Link 2:
Anchor:

URL:

 

We would renew for the same terms and price, which is PRICE each link for a 6 month period.

 

Please let me know your intention as soon as possible.

 

We also have the following sites you might be interested in advertising on:

SITE

SITE

 

Thank you and hope you have a great day!”

 

As you can see, upon each renewal, I’m plugging 2-3 of my sites and offer a package deal. Most advertisers want to renew at a lower rate (since they have been good clients). I don’t do that unless they get more links from our network. It usually works pretty well and I’m able to fill the space of less occupied websites.

#2 Follow-up once a month

As just mentioned, I’m follow up on my renewals only once a month. This means that I’ll have to email some people 30 days in advance and others at the very last minute. I’m okay to let an ad expire on my site and contact the advertiser a few days after rather than exclusively prior to expiring. I do that in the name of efficiency.

 

If I have an “unpaid” ad on my site for a few days or even a week, it is still better than checking my ad manager weekly and spending 30 minutes to 1 hour per week to send email and check out my stats. I now spend about 1 hour per month sending all my email and I take off the expired links at that time. It usually pays off as some advertisers are real slackers ;-). It gives them the time to answer me back and they are happy since their link was still on. If they renew, I start the expiry date as the renewal date so they don’t get a free ride. If they don’t renew, well, they got at max 3 weeks of free links. It’s not a big issue for me but I save a lot of time managing it this way!

#3 Do them in bulk

This is one thing Adam Smith learned during the industrial age: doing the same specific task over and over again makes you way more productive. This is why I do all my ad follow-ups and ad requests in bulk. I can open my template, copy/paste and send them in one shot. I am way more efficient than if I send an email here and there.

#4 Label everything

I use several gmail accounts for my sites. Each of them has a specific utility. But I label everything. Therefore, it makes my life much easier when it’s time to manage any requests. It also helps me keeping my inbox clean as everything is filed if I need it. A clean inbox is a clear brain. It’s easier to think when you don’t have 56 emails in your mailbox!

Anything else you want to know?

This last part of this series was obviously more directed toward running one or more blogs than a regular business. However, you can use the template tip for anything that includes an email answer or reporting issues. I’m continuing this series with more hindsight specific to my online company in my newsletter (this is not a trick to get you signed up, it’s only that I don’t want to bore people that are not too much into building an online empire 😉 ). So if you have any questions, please let me know. So far, here’s what I want to cover in my newsletter:

–          How to manage Pricing

–          I’m giving a media kit and template for free

–          How you can make more money with multiple blogs with limited time

Anything else? I’m all ears!

 

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October 25, 2011, 5:00 am

How To Build a Media Kit And Make More Than Other Bloggers Or How To Sell Better

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Make Money Online

 

ideaFollowing up on yesterday’s post on how to build a Media Kit, I’m going a little bit deeper with you and will look at the details that any entrepreneur should look at before talking to any potential advertiser/client. Here again, I’m taking my online business as an example but you can definitely apply any of these tips to other businesses or side lines. In fact, you can also apply what you learn here to yourself and prepare to get a better salary raise at work! This is not a “how to build a media kit for blogs” article but more “how to build a promotional kit for anything… including how to sell yourself!”.

Get Proof

The very first thing you want to establish in your media kit is credibility. This can be quite easy to earn if you have some proof to show your advertisers. In the blogging world, here are some questions you can answer upfront in your media kit that will help you gain credibility:

How long have you been blogging?

What is your monthly traffic?

Are you on an up trend in terms of stats?

Are you part of any groups? (like the Yakezie, Seeking Alpha certified, etc.)

What are your RSS readers, twitter followers or Facebook fan stats?

Have you been mentioned on any important blogs, magazines, newspapers or major sites?

You can also put together some stats that will tell your advertisers that you have a good blog (Page Rank by Google or Alexa Rank by Alexa)

If you want to go a little bit deeper and look more professional, you can also add demographics. You can easily get free stats from Alexa, Quantcast and Google Analytics.

 

As you can see, the first page of your media kit should include your unique selling proposition and some facts to back it up. This increases your chances of having the best advertiser-blog fit. Mind you, sometimes you will get great offers from clients that don’t fit your audience. It’s up to you to accept them or not. Personally, I don’t do sponsored posts for this reason, however, I don’t mind having links or banners since they are in specific sections of my sites.

 

The same reasoning applies to any other type of business or if you want to market yourself and get a better job (your first page of your resume should include most of what has been discuss in the first page of a media kit!).

Position Yourself

Here’s the good news; if you have followed step #1, you are halfway done with positioning! You know what you have to offer and have facts to back up your sales pitch. Now it’s time to know what you want and don’t want.

 

You can play the Nascar blogger or you can be very selective with the type and number of ads. As you can see, I’m trying to slowly diminish the number of Ads on TFB (I’ve already taken off Adsense within posts and took off all ads above the fold). This is because I want my readers to:

a)      Read my articles without being distracted by an ad (and worse, clicking on it to leave my page!)

b)      Subscribe to my newsletter or RSS feed

I think it is more valuable to keep my readers for a while instead of making a quick buck off them. Mind you, I don’t manage all my sites this way. Some others are made so I can optimize short term money from them. These are all questions you need to ask yourself in order to position your site and yourself as an author or entrepreneur.

 

Does it mean that you endorse everything you publish on your blog? This is a well debated topic as there are ethical questions to ask yourself. In my opinion, if you publish private ads in your sidebar, your readers should be smart enough to know that these are not your products and not your companies. Therefore, they should know that this is advertising. However, whatever you write about, you should tell them if it’s paid or not. This is where I draw the ethical line on my sites.

 

Make Yourself Visible

You want to make money advertising? Well duh, let them know that you exist! As opposed to many other companies, marketing your blog can be pretty cheap. All you need is usually an advertising page along with a contact form. Make sure that both pages are visible and on the top of your site. This is usually where advertisers will look to contact the blogger.

Okay, now is the time for you to laugh at me! If you look at the TFB Advertising page, I can tell you that I see 2 big problems with it:

– It’s very bad (not much info, short and no incentive for advertisers to do business with me)

– It’s very old (I don’t do reviews any more, my PR is 4, my RSS and traffic stats are outdated… man I really need to update this!)

 

So what’s to learn from a page like this? When it’s been a while that you have been in business, you forget some important stuff. But since you have been there for a while, you still get clients anyways! Lol! I’ll update my page soon!

 

However, I don’t always do bad things 😉 Here’s my The Dividend Guy Blog Advertising page.  This one is very professional and includes packages that advertisers can pick without me talking to them (if they fill in the form, I get the money via Paypal and the link info at the same time). I usually get one request a day from this page. But because I charge a lot, most advertisers drop the ball as they want me to publish their ads for nothing… This is when we get to the last point…

Negotiation or The Art of Making Money!

If you don’t like negotiating, don’t get into business… or have someone do this part for you! However, there are some tricks to overcome time consuming negotiating and get to an agreement much faster: craft your unique selling proposition and have a solid media kit. I can see my ad management evolving into 3 stages over time:

 

Stage #1: Take everything – the Nascar approach

At first, all I wanted to do is make money out of my blog (I bet you are like me 😉 ). I accepted almost any type of advertising (sponsored posts, reviews, banners, links, etc) and at any price (basically anything I could get from the advertiser with a minimum of negotiation). This was great as I was making money but I was losing in quality and opportunities at the same time.

 

Stage #2: Negotiate every single deal

After a year or so, I realized that I could negotiate better deal with my advertisers by offering them long term deals (I give a rebate for 6 month or 12 month deals) or by offering ad space on more than one blog (the advantage of running a multiple blog business). However, I was negotiating every single deal, going back and forth a few times and trying to earn the most for my efforts every time. While I was making a lot more money than with the Nascar approach, I was spending a lot of time on my email.

 

Stage #3: Act like a businessman

Now, I don’t spend much time on negotiating or finding advertisers. I actually give them my rate sheet along with my media kit and tell them that if they want a rebate, they just have to take a long term deal or sign for more than 3 links. No negotiation if you only want 1 link on a monthly basis. This saves me a lot of time and I’m making even more money. Serious advertisers will recognize professionalism and appreciate the long history of my blogs. They know that I’ll be around next year to renew their commitment and that the quality of the blog will remain intact. If they think I’m too expensive, then I know it’s not the right client for me. This is true for any business: once you have positioned yourself, don’t bargain away your soul. If you are a Rolex, you can’t get Wal-Mart’s clients (or very few of them!).

 

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing with you my rate sheet and media kit through my newsletter. I’ll also discuss how to price your blog (with real $ you can make and not some “I ask $100 per month” BS). Anything else you want me to include in this future newsletter article?

 

 

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