Wow, y'all - March 30 was my blog launch and I’m happy to report I’m still here. I’ve learned a lot in the last 3 months, including that I’m way better at Tweeting than publishing posts (I launched my Twitter a couple of months before the blog officially launched, for those of you who didn’t know). The hardest thing about blogging for me is having more topics I want to cover than time in the day, and frankly the motivation, after a long day at work is more difficult than I imagined! But I’ve kept on keepin’ on, and that’s the only thing that matters right?
The most important thing I’ve learned is that the Personal Finance blogging community is fire (or...FIRE...hahahaha I am so punny…): super supportive, always happy to share posts, encourage each other, and build each other's confidence. It’s a great group of people, and I’m happy to be part of it. Readers who aren’t personal finance bloggers, you guys are wonderful too! Basically the entire PF community rocks. But you guys didn’t come here to read nice things about yourselves...right? I assume you want status reports.
Sooo 3 months in,…what is up? What’s the 411? What has everyone (and by everyone, I mean me!) been up to?
Writing about finance on a regular basis has helped me look at my own finances with a more critical eye. I’m still not doing everything perfectly, but I’ve made a few improvements in spending and I’m planning to get things even more in order in the coming months. Here are the highlights:
· Traveled to Hawaii using only points to visit one of my best friends from college!
This was one of my favorite parts of the past 3 months. I got to visit a friend, see Hawaii for the first time (!!!), solidify my Platinum status with American Airlines through 2019 without spending a dime, and test out their new Premium Economy (Platinum status challenge, purchasing tickets with points, and Premium economy posts are coming soon!).
Hawaii definitely lives up to the hype. If you haven’t been, there are lots of ways to get there inexpensively and I highly recommend it.
· Refinanced my student loans!
This is a big one. I originally refinanced last fall with a variable rate of 4.54%. Since October, my rate has increased to 5.23%. Of course I refinanced with a variable rate right as the Fed decided it was time to raise interest rates (which, it is time to raise rates….but it still sucks for my bottom line!). I also had one smaller Navient loan at a fixed 5.16%.
Anyway, I ended up refinancing at a fixed rate with SoFi for 5.25%, and I rolled the smaller Navient loan into the larger refinanced loan. Despite losing .09 in interest, it makes my payment lower (because the larger loan is on a longer repayment schedule) and I only have one autopay withdrawal. The single withdrawal makes it much easier to budget my money because it is coming out less piecemeal each pay period. I’m working on a refinance post that breaks down my process and why I chose SoFi (it’s really in drafts, I promise).
· Almost $40,000 in my investment accounts!
I am SO proud of this number! This year is the first year I’ll totally max out my 401k. I was on track last year, but switched jobs in the fall and wasn’t eligible at the new firm until this year. The goal is to have $50,000 by the end of 2018, which is reasonable unless the stock market keeps acting like it did this week. Most of this money is tied up in 401ks, but some of it is in a brokerage account.
They say the first $100k is the hardest, so I’m doing my best to get there as fast as I can! Easy goal would be 2020, harder goal would be end of 2019. While my student loan balances aren’t decreasing as quickly as they could be at the moment, reducing my tax burden (and thus increasing my current take-home pay: boom, more money to more savings goals overall!) and digging out of my net worth hole from both ends is the best choice for me.
· Poshmark sales have been hit or miss.
My sales have been hit or miss on here since I began selling in 2015 or 2016. May of this year was successful - $70 of sales and 7 items gone! [see my post] But I didn’t make any sales in June. I also have pictures of at least 20 items I haven’t yet listed. Selling side hustles are honestly pretty exhausting to me, especially when it involves listing, promotion and shipping. I just keep looking at my lifetime sales stats [($600) – link] and my dwindling extra clothing pile and telling myself it’s worth it. Reselling is truly the best way to get rid of old/extra clothes if you’re trying to be environmentally and socially conscious.
· Reducing Energy Usage & other Fixed Spending
I canceled Netflix in April - That’s only $11/month, but I was in a phase of bingeing shows I could access through my cable, so it seemed unnecessary. This may not be permanent, as I find myself missing The West Wing and a couple of other shows, but for now, I’m saving a little bit and watching at least slightly less TV than I was
I’ve been making more of an effort to keep lights off and the air up while I’m not home - My apartment gets minimal natural light during the day (which sucks) but at least it keeps the power bills low, right? J This past month, I noticed a marked difference over last month. That was partially due to my travel, but my efforts have helped too.
I haven’t been using my maid service as much - This one sucks, because I absolutely love coming home to a spotless apartment I didn’t clean myself, but a couple of other costs have increased, so I’m going to try once a month for awhile or as-needed for awhile and save myself the $70 every two weeks drill. I did call in one of my free cleanings this week that my apartment complex gave me from the flooding that happened earlier in the year. No complaints on that!
Spending less at Starbucks - I’ve come to the realization that I don’t even enjoy Starbucks coffee all that much. I’ve been snacking a lot more (or eating their protein boxes as healthier lunch alternatives when I don’t have time to pack one), so my spending may not be significantly lower than last year, but it’s on food moreso than coffee and costs less than lunches other places. Now once it is Gingerbread Latte time, no one can stop me. I love that stuff.
Packing fruits & snacks – This one has been hard, but I’m making a major effort to prep fruit on Sundays so that I have easy-access healthy snacks available for the week. This is one area I want to solidify as a habit over the summer.
Financial Goals for 2018 Q3:
· $50,000 in investments
This is pretty self-explanatory, and shouldn't be a problem given my scheduled 401k contributions, employer match, and taxable investment account contributions.
· Reduce my car insurance costs
I saved money last year by switching to Geico (it really only took like 15 minutes!), but my second 6-month premium was much higher than my first one. I’m hoping my premium decreases this time, but if not, I’m going to price some other companies to see if I can save.
· Decide if I’m going to move or stay in my current apartment
If I stay in the same apartment, I’d like to keep my rent close to what it is now. That’s easier said than done, but last year I skated with only a $10 increase. I love my apartment, but I don’t get any natural light for most of the day, and it’s really starting to affect my mood. However, I’m picky about features of my apartment, my complex, and location, and I’m really not sure there’s going to be a better option. Fingers crossed something I like opens up in my current complex!
My stated goals for Q3 are pretty broad, but given how specific my blogging goals are for the next quarter, I think putting some of my personal financial goals on autopilot is the right move.
As I mentioned above, I have been blown away by the support from everyone over the past 3 months! The personal finance community is exceptional. No one would be reading what I’m writing if it weren’t for y’alls shares and promotions!
The most exciting thing for me is seeing people comment that they learned something or got something out of my posts. That’s my ultimate goal more than anything else: to be a valuable voice in the personal finance space. I’ve written several things that I’m proud of, and I can’t wait for my writing to improve over time, as I hear it does for those who keep at this.
My very first “real” post after my intros landed me my first feature in CampFIRE Finance’s Around the CampFIRE! This was super exciting because it made me feel like people wanted to read what I wrote!
· Featured in Rockstar Finance’s Noteworthy Posts E-mail
I didn’t even know my post was selected for this until I noticed a spike in one post’s readership. Twitter jumped to my rescue to help me realize what had happened. This was so cool! It’s so fun to have content aggregators picking up my stuff. I don’t think that will ever get old.
· Syndicated Post for The Financial Diet
OH. My. Gosh. This was my Dream Blogger Accomplishment when I started writing. I really just wanted any respectable finance site to think my content was both useful and well-written enough to circulate to its readership. But I’ve followed TFD since its inception and it holds a particularly fond place in my heart. When Chelsea Fagan called for people to pitch their Managing Editor, Holly Trantham on financial mistakes, I was RIGHT THERE with my epically expensive financial mistakes post. They actually ended up choosing a different post for syndication, but it was beyond exciting to receive validation of my content in this specific way. I actually found some of my favorite bloggers from TFD, so this felt like a full-circle moment.
Looks like I have to level up my goals now that I’ve accomplished this.
Aside: I would like to be clear that I have always felt capable of writing things that other sites might want to feature, publish or syndicate. I think it’s important for bloggers (well, everyone, really) and women especially to own positive qualities in themselves without being arrogant. So while I recognize I have a lot of work to do with content, the site, promotion, and that I can always improve, I don’t want my excitement (which honestly will never wane - it is SO EXCITING every time someone so much as retweets or comments on a post) to be mistaken for shock/surprise that “someone, anyone would ever think my little ole blog was worth republishing.” I believe in my blog if I put in the work, and I hope anyone who reads my blog even once will feel like they read something valuable they can use in their own lives!
· Blog Traffic Since Launch on March 30
Let’s discuss. I’m not entirely sure how I have had more unique visitors than visits, because #math (anyone?), but these numbers blew me away! No idea what is “normal,” but to think that more than 1000 people in only 3 months have been to Champagne & Capital Gains and hopefully gotten something out of it...that’s beyond anything I imagined in such a short time.
Overall, I feel good about where C&CG is and where it is going. That said, I certainly need to ramp things up, especially since I intend for this to be a source of income eventually. Which brings me to...
Blogging Goals for 2018 Q3/Blog Q2:
For the next 3 months I have a lot of things I want to accomplish with the blog. Keep me accountable you guys!
· Post at least 1x/week
This has been difficult for me, but I know posting every other week isn’t a reasonable way to build a blog. I’d like to be at 2x/week, but if I set that as my *gOaL*, I know for a fact I’ll be overwhelmed and probably give up from stressing out.
· Hit 20 posts, 1500 Twitter followers (I’m close to 1400 right now!!) and 500 Instagram followers (close to 450!) so that I can do my GIVEAWAY!!!
What would you like me to give away? Post in comments :)
· Do some long term planning for my newsletter and future posts
I have so many ideas, and I just don’t know where to start. Probably with not binge-watching ER after work. But Carter is so pretty...anyway, this is important to me because the only things bloggers truly own are their sites and their mailing lists. If all social media went away, I want to have built something that can withstand that.
· Rockstar Finance Feature
· LEARN PINTEREST
Pinterest is a beast I haven’t even touched yet, but I know I need to. I don’t even want to think about working on affiliate marketing or AdSense-type things until I actually get my promotion game ready to go.
So that’s about it for the first quarter of Champagne & Capital Gains!
The next big milestone is 6 months, which is apparently one that a lot of bloggers don’t reach. I’M COMIN FOR YA, SIX MONTHS. YOU BETTA BE READY.
What big things have you guys accomplished in the past few months, either financially or in some other area of your life? What are you hoping to accomplish this quarter? Anything you want to see me cover on the blog? Share in the comments!