This is a guest article from Holly and Greg, who as founders of the blog Club Thrifty took home the Sixth Annual Plutus Award for best Frugality-Focused Personal Finance Blog in 2014.
Bringing the Awesome Sauce at Club Thrifty
Hello Plutus Awards! We are Holly and Greg from Club Thrifty, and we are absolutely STOKED to be here. Winning last year’s Plutus Award for “Best Frugality-Focused Personal Finance Blog” was unbelievably exhilarating, utterly humbling, and completely unexpected. It is an amazing feeling to be honored by your peers after putting your heart and soul into your work each day. Thanks again to everybody who voted for us! You’re the bestestest evah! Thanks as well to Luke and his team for putting on such an inspiring event.
FYI, we’re bringing our buddy Kanye along with us this year. Voters, consider yourself warned.
Our Life With Debt
Back in 2011, we found ourselves swimming in debt. We had a mortgage. We had student loan debt. And, even though we’d (almost) always driven used cars, we still had those blasted car payments to make. What’s worse, we were making plenty of money, yet we never seemed to be able to save a single penny. We thought we were living very frugally, but we really didn’t have any idea WTH was going on? So, we decided to take a closer look at our finances.
What we found shocked us!
We were eating our income to death by spending more than a thousand dollars a month on food and restaurants! YIKERS!
From that moment forward, we vowed to cut our spending and live below our means. “Inventing” our own style of budgeting, we created a specific purpose for each and every dollar we expect to earn in a month. We “spent” every last dollar in one of our predetermined categories, rarely straying from the intended path. We’d later find out that we — in fact — had not invented this budgeting method at all, but that we had stumbled upon what is known as “Zero-Sum Budgeting.” This was the first of many positive discoveries that would change our life.
The Birth of Club Thrifty
About this same time, both of us started to read some personal finance blogs. While catching some rays in Orange Beach, Alabama, we started brainstorming ideas for side hustles. It dawned on us that we could start our own blog about saving money and help other people in our same position. And thus, Club Thrifty was born!
The early months of the blog saw terrible blog designs, few visitors, and blog posts that we’d rather not go back and revisit. We started off with a lot of excitement, but as the months dragged on, we became frustrated. Every day, we struggled tirelessly on our new baby — both before and after our day jobs. Yet, we just couldn’t seem to gain any traction. There were several times where one of us wanted to quit, but the other pulled us along to keep going. Slowly but surely, we began to build a community around our blog. After almost three years, here we are!
What is Success?
Earl Nightingale says that, “Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.”
Looking back, I think that we finally realized that we had something special when we started hearing from our readers. Those first few emails asking for budgeting and mortgage advice really lit a fire under us to keep going. Now, we receive emails asking questions about everything from travel hacking to freelance writing. So, it has become apparent that what we are doing truly is helping and inspiring people. However, I’m not sure that we feel all that successful. Perhaps, that is one thing that continues to motivate us to bring keep bringing the awesome sauce each and every day.
Financially, we’ve had more success than we ever dreamed was possible.
To get the word out, Holly wrote several articles for Get Rich Slowly for free. They loved the posts and asked her to join as a staff writer. That exposure helped her turn freelancing into a full time gig. She’s now a staff writer for The Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly, US News and World Report Travel, and Frugal Travel Guy.
Once we started making a little bit of money, it inspired us to work even harder. That hard work had a snowball effect until Holly was able to quit her day job just a year after the site launched. It was then that things really took off — to the point where Greg is leaving his day job in March. But, it didn’t happen by accident. It came through countless hours of dedication and hard work. We believe that anybody who wants to succeed can do so. We are proof that you really can do it… but you really have to want it and go after it!
Now, we make about 60% or so of our money through freelance work with the other 40% through blogging and various other side gigs. To make that money online, we throw a lot of things at the wall, see what sticks. We keep what works, get rid of what doesn’t and move on to our next set of ideas, repeating the testing process over again.
You have to be thinking about what will provide value to others, your readers, clients etc. once you find a way to provide value, you then find a way to monetize it. Only through constantly generating and testing your ideas, and finding ways to provide real value, will you learn what works for you and what doesn’t.
We don’t believe there is only one way to making money online.
Keys to Blogging Success
So, by this point we’ve got you all fired up to blog your butt off, right?!? I saaaaiiiiid… AM I RIGHT?!?
Sweet. Well, motivation is a great thing to have, but it doesn’t get you far without any direction. Never fear peeps. We’ve got your back. BEHOLD: Club Thrifty’s “5 Keys to Blogging Success!”
Just start. In everything, there has to be a beginning. You’ve got to start somewhere. Quit waiting around for the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect post. Fake it until you make it if you have to. Something that is 90% perfect and published is far better than something that is 100% perfect and still in your head. Just get out there and do it!
Find Your Awesome Sauce. Whatever you do, be yourself. There is only one J. Money. There is only one J.D. Roth. There is only one Donna Freedman. You can never be them, so don’t try. Discover your own voice and your audience will find it… because there is only one you.
Practice and patience. There are really only two ways to improve your writing. First, read as much as you possibly can. Read blogs. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read, read, read. Second, you need to show up at the page every day and just write.
Write as much and as often as you can. It can be brilliant. It can be drivel. Just write. While it may feel discouraging when nobody is reading your early stuff, just remember that they are not there to see your mistakes either. It is a great time to experiment and find your voice. You can’t start a fire without first adding the fuel. Keep adding the fuel to your blog each and every day by writing, reading, and networking. When it is ready, it will ignite.
Write for readers, not robots. Real people can tell the difference. Enough said.
Never stop hustling. If you really want to succeed, you’ve got to be willing to hustle. You have to put the hours in — before and after your day job if necessary. Remember, there is always going to be somebody who is a better writer than you, who is more knowledgeable, who is funnier, who has a better design… yadda, yadda, yadda. The best way to close that gap is through hard work. Hustle! Nobody owes you anything. Nobody is going to give you anything. Get out there. Work for it. Earn it!
Starting Club Thrifty was the best thing that we ever did. It’s changed our lives in countless ways. And, though the content has evolved to being more than just about frugality, we still hold true to our basic founding principle: “Stop spending. Start living.” Thanks for allowing us to share our story, and we invite you to check us out at Club Thrifty. We can’t wait to see all of you at the 2015 Plutus Awards!
Thanks to Holly and Greg for sharing this look at their fantastic website and community, Club Thrifty! If you’re interested in learning a little more about how this couple earns money online, read Holly’s recent article.