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The Reason Why You Should Focus on Earning More

focus on earning moreWhen money feels tight, the first thought is to cut back on expenses. In fact, a lot of money saving articles and advice would mirror the sentiment. Do you need to save some money? Go look through your spending and see where you can cut back.

It’s good advice. A lot of people still don’t track their spending or have a set budget in place. There is usually always some department to cut back in. Food, eating out, shopping, and excessive subscriptions are the popular categories to look at.

I’m sure I could cut out my Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, but I’ve kinda got some killer playlists going on and need to finish watching that British show Lovesick.  Yeah, I use the $18 a month I would save by cutting them, but it gives me some entertainment.

With this said, you’re primary focus shouldn’t be on spending less.

Despite what negative comments on money articles would lead you to believe, your $11 a month Netflix subscription isn’t the reason you can’t get ahead with your finances.

Your focus should be on earning more.

Yes, I know, you’ve probably heard the words “side hustle” uttered several times. It’s become a buzzword nowadays. However, despite the trendiness it holds, at the end of the day, it is a very helpful thing to have.

This isn’t to say spending less and frugality aren’t helpful. They are. Frugality is a muscle you can develop over time in order to limit the amount of monetary baggage you carry. It helps you learn to value what’s important and what you can really afford.

It’s a necessary habit to have throughout life. But…it shouldn’t be your main focus.

Why? Well, because the world is an expensive place. Rents are going up constantly, house prices are bananas (and not the fun Gwen Stefani kind), and wage stagnation is alive and well. It’s a lot to take in and realize, but when you’re earning a tiny paycheck and putting half of it towards your closet size apartment, cutting back won’t give you the substantial gains you probably need.

A focus on earning more isn’t just for those earning a low income, it’s for everyone. The best thing you can do to hit your financial goals is to earn more.

Frugality Has a Limit

There are two ways to cut back. The first involves cutting out the nice-to-haves. The second way involves cutting out every non-essential thing and only focusing on the bare necessities (a.k.a. the joyless budget). Frugality articles tend to focus on the first way. Internet commenters and keyboard warriors seem to focus on the second.

Either way, there comes a point when you can’t cut back anymore.

Freeing up $100 a month extra in your monthly spending can be great, but what if you have a gigantic student loan payment to make every month. How would you be able to meet that and save for your other goals like travel, retirement, wedding, or a home down payment?

Being frugal is helpful in making you mindful of your spending, but it won’t help a lot if you’re looking to work towards several savings goals and grow your wealth.

Earning More Gives You Options

If you’ve ever played any sort of video game, you would know that you get several lives for your character. So if some disastrous event happens and you get depleted, you can use another one of your lives.

Too bad life isn’t like that. Although having a side hustle can get you semi close to that feeling.

Earning more money could provide a sense of financial relief that cutting back probably would never be able to provide.

According to a 2017 study by Bankrate, 57% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. For young millennials ages 18-24, 67% have less than $1,000 in savings.

The statistics are bad but not surprising. Saving money is hard. It can be done, but what happens if you have several financial goals to hit and don’t make enough to contribute to all of them?

If you were to lose your job, have your car break down, or have an unexpected expense pop up, a few different things could play out. You could use your big emergency fund to help tide you over or you have a panic attack., scrambling to figure out how to cover your expenses.

Ideally, a big emergency fund would be great. You would have the recommended three to six months of expenses in it. Handling unexpected expenses would be okay.

The problem is fully funded emergency funds take awhile to build. I’m talking months or years to get them to full capacity.

A side hustle can give you an additional income stream to use for when you don’t have a fully funded emergency fund or enough income from your main job to reach your goals.

It Teaches You Valuable Skills

Probably the best thing that comes from having a side hustle is the skills you learn from doing it. I’ve learned more about selling, pitching myself, and being confident in my skill set with freelancing that I have ever gotten from any traditional job I’ve worked.

The two things I’m doing right now, blogging and freelance writing, have allowed me to learn a lot. Content marketing, and how to approach it at different angles, has been a skill I’ve grown from doing freelance writing. Putting together graphics for posts and Pinterest has taught me more about graphic design (although I’m still very bad at it, haha).

Changing things around on my site and WordPress theme has made me better at understanding WordPress as a content management system.

Simply put, you can learn a lot from having a side hustle. A focus on earning more, rather than cutting out everything from your spending, can have a greater benefit than the obvious one of earning more.

Earning that first bit of money, outside of a traditional job, gives you an awesome feeling.

Bottom line

Frugality has its place but overall, the earning more side of the equation can yield some pretty good benefits.

You’re able to test out entrepreneurship in a low-risk setting, diversify your income, and learn more about how to position yourself as someone with value to bring.


What do you focus on more? Cutting back or earning more? What benefits do you think a side hustle provides?

Why You Should Speak Up About Your Money Struggles

speak up about your money strugglesLong before I started this blog, I was an avid reader of personal finance blogs. It had started back when I was in university  looking for a way to read about other people’s thoughts on money.

Up until that point, the only time I ever had money conversations was when it was centered on being broke and feeling super stressed about it. When I clicked through to the world of personal finance, new conversations opened up.

There were discussions about financial health, savings strategies, debt, career, and making extra income. It opened up my mind to learn more about navigating my financial life and ways to improve it.

Talking about money in day to day life was hard. Reading blogs and hearing people’s stories made it easier. I revised my budget. I went through different savings strategies after reading several posts. I tried out new tools and my financial life started to improve. It was at a glacier’s pace, but slow and steady progress nonetheless.

Eventually, it led to me creating my own personal finance blog. I was ready to set out on the mission of demystifying personal finance and blogging about paying off my student loan debt.

In a way, it was cathartic. I got to write about my inner motivations, my hatred towards my debt, and finding my way towards financial confidence.

Writing each post was fun, but I did start to get a nagging feeling. Whenever I was going through a period of struggling with money, I would shy away from talking about it. In place of any updates on my own money journey, I would usually just not write, as evident by a blogging hiatus and sometimes in-frequent content.

It’s hard to write about money when you’re broke or struggling

It’s hard because you feel like you’re constantly behind. You’re not putting thousands towards investments like the early retirement crowd. Debt still plagues you. You don’t have some high-paying job that allows you to take the ultra-common advice of “cut expenses and spend less”.

People like to ask the question “what’s next?” a lot. In some ways, growth is seen as trying and doing new things. The routine isn’t very fun.

When you’re just staying afloat with debt behind you and a low savings rate, there isn’t much to say.

Restlessness and stress are common among a lot of millennials. We constantly see others going on vacations and living it up. We have money struggles because we’re making low wages and stuck with $37,000 of student loan debt on our backs. Living like a real, bonafide adult (like our parents were able to do in their time) isn’t possible.

Massive saving rates, fully stocked emergency funds, and having the ability to travel don’t feel applicable to us. For most, we’re just trying to get through the day.

Experiencing money struggles is stressful and awkward, but it’s something you shouldn’t  hide away. Here’s why you should speak up about your money struggles.

Growth Comes From Discomfort

Discomfort can be a terrible thing. It keeps you anxious. You’re always in an “on” mode and never able to rest. Fear lingers as your back aches from carrying your burdens.

Your burdens could be a number of things. Maybe it’s a heaping pile of debt. You could be underemployment and hate it. Whatever it is, come to terms with it.

Don’t bury your head in the sand. Yeah, you may not be maxing out your retirement accounts or jaunting around the world, but when you get clear on your situation, you can start to make progress.

The path of personal growth is rarely a linear and comfortable route.

If you don’t speak up and say something, then nothing will change. Words are powerful. They allow you to get brutally honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

From there, you can start to make a plan to move forward. Maybe it’s throwing an extra $30 a month at your debt, doing a few Craigslist gigs for extra money, or reading up on ways to better yourself and your finances.

You’re reading this blog right now, so I know you’re committed to learning about how to get out of your money struggles.

Everyone Has Their Ups And Downs

I’m sure there’s someone you look up to a lot. There are people in real life who seem to have it all together. Someone on social media looks like they’re living it up and doing great.

While it looks like people have it together, everyone has their money struggles they’re going through.

Back when I started reading blogs, there was this one blogger who I loved. Their site was full of great blog posts, they traveled several places, got to work with well-known brands, and posted income reports. They even ditched their full-time job for a life of solopreneurship.

It truly looked like they were doing great.

As time went on, changes happened. This person struggled with their business, trying to find the right business model, and dealing with fluctuating income from month to month.

Then one day I read a post by the blogger where they had made the decision to quit solopreneurship and go back to working a 9 to 5 job.

Everyone has their struggles, no matter what the surface level looks like. People can have more empathy than you may think.

Connecting with others who are going through similar money struggles, either presently or in the past, can be helpful. Plus, a little accountability can be good.

When You Speak Up, You Can Make More

Speaking up and asking around can yield results and opportunities you may not have even expected. It could be doing compiling your work accomplishments and using it to ask for a raise, negotiate your salary for a job offer, or seeking out cheaper alternatives for expenses.

Let people know the ways you’re looking to improve.

How have you gotten through money struggles?

How to Build a Mini Emergency Fund While on a Small Income

how to build a mini emergency fund on a small income

Being financially prepared for when an emergency strikes is important. Life happens. Things break. The last thing you want to be doing is having to put an unexpected expense on a credit card with 20% interest.

Emergency funds are essential. They give you peace of mind when something pops up. They keep you from that crippling situation of feeling stuck and without options.

Now, there are two big things to know when it comes to emergency funds. They’re really hard to build and people often underestimate how much they need in one.

For the longest time, I couldn’t really master the concept of emergency funds. I understood the essential nature of them but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to properly build one.

It seems pretty self-explanatory at first sight. You save money out of each paycheck, put it in your savings account and BOOM! A nice little cash fund you can use as your for rainy days (or more like raging storms).

Although I never felt successful in my efforts towards building and maintaining one. Back in college, I would routinely skim a little off the top whenever I was feeling a late night supermarket run. As I worked first post-grad job, I would use the account as a catch-all for vacations, emergencies, and any other savings goals. Whenever an actual emergency happened and I used the money from the fund, I would get unmotivated since my savings were set back.

It was a beautiful mess. Beautiful in the sense that my emergency fund account had an assortment of ~wonderful~ nicknames I changed whenever the mood struck (cash by senseless, dollars in vogue, etc). Mess in the sense that I didn’t have a consistent savings habit that helped my emergency fund stay strong, no matter how much I was making.

Let’s face it. When you’re in your twenties, building an emergency fund can be especially hard. You have to deal with several savings goals like student loan repayment, car payment, house downpayment, weddings (yours or attending friends) and the generally high cost of living that comes with living in a major city.

Saving the recommended 3-6 months of expenses is freaking hard. However, I’ve learned that having a small and growing emergency fund is better than no emergency fund. Given that I’ve had an emergency fund throughout several periods of my life (broke college student making minimum wage, recent grad making entry level, and working professional making $1200 a month) I’ve learned some things about how to build an emergency fund while on a small income.

Negotiate Your Bills

Auto insurance is such a pain. When I would look at my statement every six months, it would give me aches with how much I was paying. If I had paid attention to the latest television infomercial, I would have immediately canceled my plan and gone for one of those seemingly sketchy places that advertise for “low low low” auto insurance costs.

I like my auto insurance (USAA), so instead of choosing between a sketchy place or continuing to pay what I was paying, I called them up. I chatted with the customer service team about how I was thinking about leaving. After not too much time, I was able to get a lower rate! My record of not having any recent accidents or traffic violations probably helped, but it never hurts to call and ask.

There are four bills off the top of my head that you could negotiate: auto insurance, internet/cable bill, cell phone bill, and student loans.

Internet providers are infamous for raising your rates after a one-year period. Call up and ask about promotional offers. Check out lower cost cell phone providers like Cricket Wireless or Republic Wireless.

I pay $40 a month for my Cricket Wireless service, which uses AT&T’s network, for unlimited talk/text and 5GB of data.

If you have a lot of private student loans, consider the option of refinancing. Check out LendEDU for refinancing options.

Track Your Spending

You may think you’re “good with money” because you don’t do common money trappings like subscribing to cable or eating out a lot. Bar hopping isn’t your kind of thing and you’re loyal to your Keurig coffee maker, so buying lattes all the time isn’t even a thought.

Status level: responsible. Right?

Well, not completely. If you’re not tracking your spending, you can never get a full picture of your financial situation. Tracking your spending helps you uncover money leaks, unnecessary fees you may be paying, and areas to trim.

There are a few ways to do this.

Notebook

Mint

Personal Capital

A notebook is pretty self-explanatory. You write down your purchases and at the end of the month, tally it up. Mint is a free money management platform that lets you track your cash flow and expenses.

Personal Capital is a free money management platform, similar to Mint, but with a lot more features. Some describe it as “Mint on steroids”. With it, you’re able to not only track your income and spending but also your investment accounts and net worth. There is a financial planning tool within the service as well.

You can sign up for a free Personal Capital account. Seeing the visualizations of your cash flow and investments can really help you stay motivated towards your goals.

Once you start tracking your spending, you could see areas where $5 here or $10 there goes. It may seem small, but small progress is better than no progress.

Create a Separate Savings Account

Having your savings account parked right alongside your checking account at the same bank isn’t the option when building a mini emergency fund on a small income.

Several months ago I opened an online savings account with Ally Bank. My savings account earns an interest rate of 1.25% APY. This is 125x the interest rate that my old savings account was at a traditional brick and mortar big bank.

Ally Bank even has a calculator where you can see how much more money your savings account earns in interest being at Ally versus other traditional banks. You won’t get rich off of a 1.25% APY but it’s sure as heck a lot better than the 0.01% your savings account is probably earning right now.

Aside from the interest rate, having your savings account at a different bank keeps you from being tempted to dip into your savings during non-emergencies. When you can’t see the money constantly, you’re less tempted to spend it.

Look for Additional Income Streams

When you’re building an emergency fund while on a small income, there comes a point when you can’t cut back anymore. You have to grow the gap between your income and expenses by looking for ways to make extra money.

You could look into different side hustles and part-time jobs. Part-time jobs could include things like waiting tables, working at a grocery store, Amazon Flex, and other jobs where you have to be at a place at a set time and for a set number of hours.

A side hustle is different than a part-time job. Usually, it has some flexibility to it. There are short-tail side hustles and long-tail side hustles. Short-tail ones allow you to get up and running and start earning relatively quickly, these could include driving for a rideshare service like Lyft, babysitting, or doing deliveries.

Babysitting (Use Care.com and ask around in your area)

Dog walking/pet sitting (Rover, DogVacay)

Delivery (Postmates, DoorDash)

Rideshare driving (Lyft)

Waiting tables

Taking Surveys

Short tail side hustles are great for being able to help you build up an emergency fund quickly while on a small income. However, if you’re truly looking to expand your income streams, it’s worth looking into long-tail side hustles.

Blogging

Freelance Writing

Graphic Design

Web Design/Development

Virtual Assistant

 

Think beyond just what’s in front of you when you’re looking for ways to make extra money or grow your side hustle. The best book I found for getting into a problem-solving income potential mindset was Chris Guillebeau’s side hustle book about going from a side hustle idea to making money in 27 days.

What if instead of just driving for Lyft, you created a website centered around educating rideshare drivers on things and providing them with helpful information. Harry from The Rideshare Guy did just that.

Let’s say you do dog walking via Rover for a side hustle. What if you studied the best practices, learned what dog owners are seeking most, and improve your client list by implementing the things you learn. You could consider developing your own dog walking business.

Meal Plan

Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to cut down your food spending. A lot of people spend more than they need to when it comes to their monthly food budget.

Meal planning is often thought of as tedious and time-consuming. While it isn’t the simplest thing to do, it is far less complicated than people make it out to be. Sites like The Minimalist Baker and Budget Bytes provide a lot of healthy, simple, and budget-friendly meals you can try.

$5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service you can look into If you’re looking for simple, weekly meal plans. If you’re into writing stuff down, get a meal planning notepad to keep track of recipes.


Building up an emergency fund isn’t easy. It takes some creativity beyond just cutting your expenses. Getting to the recommended e-fund of 3-6 months expenses can take a while. Don’t focus too much on that set amount.

Focus on building a mini emergency fund of about one month’s expenses. It will give you peace of mind and keep you from going into panic mode whenever some unexpected expense comes up.

Additional Things to Try

Ebates: Use the cashback site Ebates for when you shop online. Ebates allows you to earn cash back when you shop through their portal at more than 1200 stores. When you sign up for Ebates, you’ll get $10 bonus after making your first purchase.

Ibotta: Use Ibotta to earn cash back on purchases you make in store. Get a $10 bonus when you sign up and make a purchase.

Utilize water more often: Pre-made and single-serve drinks can add up to so much money after a while. Not only that, but they’re usually loaded with a lot of sugar. Use the water from your sink and buy some low-cost drinker flavorings, ice tea mix, Crystal Light, or Kool Aid. 

Travel, Survival Jobs, and Life in Transition

constant in life australia backpacker travel

At the start of this year, I found myself sitting at my desk in a humid filled room. It was the morning time and the school forbade us from turning on the air conditioning until 8:30 a.m.

I had been living in Thailand for nearly a year at that point. My pay was small but paired with the low cost of living, it evened out.

Eager to finish paying off the rest of my student loans, I picked up a part-time job tutoring and started to work seven days a week. With expenses being low, I was able to put a good portion of my income towards debt every month.

When I did get free time, I traveled to new places. I went all over Thailand, seeing new islands and exploring places like the edge of the world. Malaysia and Myanmar followed suit, getting to explore new temples and cuisine.

The only problem was things didn’t feel stable. I was in a transitionary period of my life. There was the shaky thought of if I moved a little too much, things would be pulled out from under me and I wouldn’t have anything.

I knew I didn’t want to teach English forever and ever, but I didn’t really know what was next. Neither did anyone else I worked with at the school. Every one of us, ages ranging from 21 (me at the time) to 34. Most of us didn’t know what we wanted to do. Not just with our careers but our lifestyles.

Finding a Constant In Daily Life

Eager for something of a constant to hold onto, I continued to write and work on my blog. I had started just before leaving the states and wanted to use it to document my financial path and adventures.

The blog (this blog) became the thing I held onto whenever things changed. I held onto this site when I wasn’t sure where I was going to live next or what job was going to come.

A desire formed to want to work on it more. I bought one of those big fold up white tables from the supermarket for 1,278 baht ($38 USD) and used it as my workstation in my little apartment. Then I quit my part-time tutoring gig. Signing up at a co-working place, I started to commute into Bangkok on the weekends when I was off from my full-time job.

My teaching job had started to become something of a confusion. I liked the teaching but disliked everything else: the school system, co-workers, and questionable teaching standards. Every morning, I sat for half an hour in the humid, no air conditioning teaching lounge and contemplated what I wanted to do.

I loved to travel but yearned for the routine. I wanted to go around the globe yet stay in the states full time. Everything clashed against one another and it was confusing.

The First FinCon Went By in a Blur

This confusion carried over into the states when I visited back in September 2016 to attend my very first FinCon. People would ask me what my blog was about and I would look at them with the vague expressed of “uhhh…personal finance?” I didn’t know what my main focus was.

The whole conference went by in a blur. I went back to Thailand not sure what to make of it and not convinced I would go back again.

Things changed again a few months later while in Thailand. I ended my contract with my full-time teaching job without another job lined up. My mind had been in Australia for a while and I had applied and gotten a 12-month working holiday visa the month prior.

Moving to Australia With No Plan

In April, with a body filled to the brim with nerves, I hopped on a plane and took the 21-hour journey to Sydney, Australia. I arrived in the early hours of the morning, with a backpack, one duffel bag, and no job or anything lined up other than a three-night stay at a hostel.

Nothing was waiting for me and the next few months were blurry and confusing. I had left Thailand in March and didn’t get my first official job in Australia until June. Unemployed for three months, it wasn’t fun.

Well, for the most part, it wasn’t fun. I don’t think anyone would love the idea of living and sleeping in a 10 x 14 room with five other people. As a backpacker, you just make it work.

During the two months of hostel living, I met an assortment of people. A law student from France, a guy from Spain who liked to learn American slang, and even an Instagram famous woman! Maybe one day she’ll start promoting Fit Tea on the ‘gram? Who knows!

It was fun getting to meet a diverse group of people. All of them spoke about their love of travel and getting out to see the world. None of them liked the idea of sitting in an office for 8-10 hours a day.

It reminded me of my reason for moving abroad. I hadn’t done it as a way to “ditch the cubicle” considering that I didn’t even work in a cubicle or office. I had done it because I had always wanted to travel more long term.

Despite the varying reasons for being abroad, we all did what we had to do to afford the dream of travel. We worked our survival jobs, showing up every day and saving up as much as we could so the possibility of traveling for a few months afterward would be possible. We huddled together in the small hostel room, on our bunk beds, and recounted the day’s events.

I haven’t been tons of places but have been to several and noticed a common trend to all the travelers I talked with. Throughout it all, the late night drinks, the hours-long conversations about life, a realization came about. 

We Were All Just as Lost as the People Back Home

On Instagram and Facebook, our curated lives looked appealing. Shots of airplane wings and coconuts on the beach. The day to day showed a different story. Feelings of restlessness and anxious about the future. We were hopping from survival job to survival job in order to keep our ambitions afloat.

Thinking long-term was hard, it required exposing yourself and being uncomfortable. That’s the feeling I had when had attended FinCon16. A restless feeling of being uncomfortable.

Drifting and living in the moment was the focus for so many of us traveling. Of all the people, a big thing I noticed was a lack of some sort of constant in their day to day lives. They didn’t have anything to hold onto whenever any change or uncertainty happened. 

One day, while sitting in a street-side restaurant in Thailand, I was stressed about finishing the school year without another job lined up. I didn’t know what to do and the thought of it was eating away at me.

“Well at least you have your blog and your writing,” a friend/co-worker of mine said. “I have nothing” she added.

That has stuck with me for two reasons. The first reason being that she thought she had nothing to go back to (which I later found out was a fear of not getting a job back in the states).  The second reason being I had never really known how much an impact my blog had on me until recently. For the longest time, I treated it as a hobby that I was just really gung-ho about. Now, it’s possible that it was more than that.

My blog has been the constant in my life over the past 1.5 years of moving around. It’s what has gotten me out of bed in the morning. It fills my thoughts when I go to bed.

I don’t dream and think about sitting at a computer alone, typing words into a screen. I think about sharing stories and information. Hearing what others are doing and making.

My work contract in Australia ended right before I came to FinCon17. It was a blow to the stomach. If it had happened a year ago, I would have been completely lost, which is what I felt when I attended FinCon16.

However, I didn’t lose all sense of myself once I walked out for the last time from that job. For the last few months, I had been working on other things and slowly building up a sense of myself.

A Better FinCon Experience

When I attended FinCon17, as a newly minted unemployed person, I felt recharged. I had my blog and I had been freelance writing for several months at that point.

At the present moment, I’m sitting in Texas. My freelance writing side hustle is growing from all the contacts I got while at the FinCon freelancers marketplace. I’m focusing more on my blog.

I’m still not sure if I’ll make this a full-time gig, but I’m exploring my options and applying for jobs all over. I may go back to Australia and do another work holiday stint. Not totally sure.

All I know for sure is without these two things, my blog and my side hustle, I would feel a lot more uncomfortable and restless.

Simply getting started, on my blog and my side hustle, and learning to be okay with the uncomfort that came with it, has allowed me to build a constant in my life as I go through these transitions. A life in progress, as you could call it.

I could have just not started it all. I could have stayed for years and years in my safe, but dull, teaching job in Thailand. Many others have.  Although at the end of the day, I knew it was the right choice to leave. It’s what allowed me to experience Australia. And leaving Australia is what allowed me to experience the ultimately great and far less uncomfortable FinCon17.

Let’s see what’s next to come.


“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” – Abraham Maslow

FinCon17 Dallas Recap

fincon17 dallasThese past two days I’ve gotten so much sleep and it’s been great. Last week I was in Dallas, Texas attending FinCon17. It was amazing, I learned a lot, I lost a lot of sleep, and all in all, it was a great experience.

This year’s conference was my second time attending, the first being last year’s FinCon16. Just like last year, the journey to get to the conference was hectic in the most pleasant way.

The last six months I have been living in Australia so my starting point to the conference happened in Perth, Western Australia. This time around, I tried to prepare against any jet lag that was bound to happen.

Last year when I came to FinCon, I didn’t prepare at all and ended up crashing for a long nap at around 3pm every day. Not the best way to spend a conference, eh? So this year, in preparation to beat jet lag, I stayed up for 30 hours while on my flight journey to FinCon.

This sounds as exciting as reading it. It mainly involved drinking excessive amounts of coffee and pacing around the airport endlessly. I loathe coffee but it was a necessary evil in this case. I ended up not falling asleep in the afternoon while at FinCon! Success!

Admittedly, I was tired during the afternoons, but maybe that had more to do that I didn’t get a lot of sleep while attending the conference. I don’t regret it one bit though, the four days of FinCon were great.

I came home full of inspiration. There was so much I learned and so many amazing people I got to talk with. The 4-hour Megabus journey back to Houston went by in a flash because my thoughts were filled with all the stuff I wanted to do going forward.

PREPARING FOR FINCON

My FinCon preparation extended beyond just staying up for 30 hours to beat jet lag. I actually formed some goals I wanted to achieve while there. This ended up making my experience so much more enjoyable.

My first FinCon experience (FinCon16) was great but it felt confusing as well. I hadn’t gone into the conference with an idea of what I wanted to get out of it so I ended up feeling conflicted about what to do with all the information I got.

I think part of it had to do with being a new blogger. My blog was seven months old when I went last year. I hadn’t really defined what my niche was within personal finance (budgeting, side hustling, frugality, debt, etc) so everything felt like a lot.

After seeing a thread in the FinCon Facebook group about everyone’s conference goals, I decided to make some.

  • Meet fellow bloggers/FinMedia people
  • Find new, higher-paying freelance clients
  • Learn about the new FinTech services
  • Learn about different ways to grow a brand

They were simple-ish and not a set “I want x number of this or that” type goals. Even so, having them gave me a good framework going into FinCon17. Having set goals may not work for everyone but with my love of organization and planning, they really helped me.

It was fun getting to meet all the different financial media people and bloggers I interact with online. There are so many people I wanted to meet and say hi to but I knew it was better to practice quality over quantity.

I reconnected with people from last year and got to connect with new people from this year. A lot of the interactions were so fun. I would spot someone while walking through the hotel, there would be a moment of hesitation wondering if it was really them, it really would be them, and cue the internal freak out as I got to talk with them.

In terms of finding freelance clients, there were two things that were very helpful: the freelancer’s marketplace and the one-on-one mentoring. I got to meet with several bloggers and companies at the marketplace and exchanged business cards.

I made it a point to sit down and really take the time to conversate with each of the companies. There was one company I really loved the mission and personality of. Hopefully the connections I made pay off!

The one-on-one mentoring was something I got to do for the first time. I signed up a few weeks before the conference when the email got sent out and hoped to pair with someone in the freelance writing space.

I got paired with the perfect person! It was with fellow personal finance blogger whose coaching program I had done just a few months ago. Perfect fit and I got to get some burning questions answered.

If there is an area you want to grow more in, definitely consider signing up for the one-on-one mentoring. It was worth it for me.

Meeting Other Bloggers

FinCon is like a family reunion. One that you actually want to go to

I think Pat Flynn said that. Not too sure, but it’s definitely true. The best part of FinCon is the people. Getting to hear their stories, their struggles, and their plans for the future. It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded people and have thoughtful conversations about money and beyond.

I got to see Cait Flanders again, who I met again while sitting in the hotel lobby at 10 pm. I can’t wait for her book The Year of Less to come out in January. She won best minimalism blog this year at the Plutus Awards!

Lauren from Financial Best Life. I’ve been following her blog forever and it was one of the first personal finance blogs I started reading. She has one of the funniest and relatable writing styles. I randomly met her while stuffing cookies into my swag bag in the expo hall, haha.

Gwen from Fiery Millennials I met again while volunteering on the first day. The F.I.R.E panel she was part of was one of my favorite sessions of the conference.

I immediately thought of Desirae from Half Banked when David Bach started to discuss his (controversial?) “Latte Factor” during a keynote. I got to meet Mixed Up Money, who probably has one of the funniest personal finance blogs around.

I went to lunch one day with several bloggers including Catherine from My Work Money Life who told everyone at the table their personality types. Apparently, I’m an INFJ. I also got to meet up with all the people I connected with through the conference app including Ashley from WiseBread and Liz from Kitchen Table Finances.

Allea from Ask Allea I bonded with over a love of gifs and Taylor Swift. Jen from Saving With Spunk who recently became debt-free! And a bunch of other people. So many awesome conversations.

The Sessions

The sessions at FinCon17 were top notch. There was a lot of variety including 20-minute sessions, hour-long sessions, workshops, and discussions. It felt like a good improvement from last year.

I liked that there were more sessions aside from just brand building and blog monetization. I loved the FIRE panel “What’s Wrong with Being on FI/RE?” with Our Next Life, Fiery Millennials, Bigger Pockets, and Military Guide.

I caught the first few minutes of Kylie Travers “How to Turn Your Obstacles into Opportunities to Accelerate Your Business and Life”. She’s one of the Aussies I got to talk to while at FinCon and I love her story of growth.

I liked the session on growing a brand and making products, but it was nice to get to go to sessions about personal finance topics and discussions. The first-day workshops were so helpful. They included a lot of hands-on learning where you got to bring your laptop and follow along with the speaker.

FinCon is a conference geared mainly towards the marketing aspect of building a platform rather than general personal finance discussion. There have been some suggestions in the past for FinCon to have more panels centered on discussing topics within personal finance and I think they’ve really made an effort to improve in this area.

There will always be a main focus on the marketing aspect, but it was nice to see more variety in the panels, both in terms of the topics discussed as well as the speakers. I like that the team makes an effort to take into account all that the attendees recommend.

Biggest Takeaways

Be Yourself.

It’s been said so much it’s become a cliche that lifestyle coaches put on their Instagram captions. It’s on par with the sayings of ‘get enough sleep’ and ‘eat breakfast’. While I didn’t get enough of either of the latter two during FinCon, I did learn the value of being yourself.

As I mentioned earlier, the sessions this year were wicked awesome. Part of what came from the diversity of the sessions was a bigger emphasis on perspective. There were a lot of perspectives and over and over again I heard from people who talked about the different ways to go about growing a brand, reaching financial independence, and getting better with money.

There is a lot of talk about the “right” way to do something, but with the FinCon community, these are people who aren’t doing the conventional, and they’re rocking it.

Companies are creating new FinTech services that change the way we manage our money, people are approaching FIRE in different ways, everyone is using their own perspective to better the financial media community in a unique way.

FinCon felt different for me this year. When I first went last year, I still hadn’t found my blogging voice. I wasn’t sure exactly how to handle all the stuff I had learned. This year was better. I felt surer of myself and was able to focus better.

The conference was really big this year. There are always pros and cons when things get bigger. FinCon16 had 1200 people and this year it was 1700 people. While I can’t say too much about the cons, I can signal one big positive: more voices and more perspectives. And that’s really awesome in my book.

Did you attend FinCon17? Are you going to FinCon18 in Orlando, FL? 

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