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“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Wow, it's crazy to think that we've been living on a boat for over a year now! Just a year ago, I was pretty much a complete newbie to sailing. I had no idea what I was doing, and at times, I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.

You can read all about our start in Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

In the beginning, I shed a lot of tears, was stressed out, and occasionally wondered if I made a huge mistake.

But, I also pushed myself, learned a ton, and was rewarded with each new accomplishment. I've even received compliments on my docking, line handling, and sailing skills from other sailors, and that is so nice because it helps improve my confidence with this never ending learning process. I know that I am not perfect, but I know that I am trying my hardest!

We had so many people tell us that they were excited for our new journey, but we also had just as many people tell us that we were going to die and/or not make it.

So many people told us that the first year of sailing and living on a boat would be the toughest, and we've personally met many people who quit just a few months into the sailing life due to that.

While I am still no expert (learning never ends when it comes to sailboats), I am very proud of what I’ve learned this past year – not just about sailing, but pushing my own limits as well.

While the first couple of months living on a boat were the hardest, the recent months have been absolutely amazing.

There have been amazing sails, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, great snorkeling, fun dinghy rides, so much incredible sea life, fun visits from family and friends, and more.

I love being on our boat and I’m sad whenever I have to leave it. I love sailing, I love the planning that goes along with it, I love going to new destinations, I love being on the water, and more.

It's crazy to think back to the start of this past year and realize how much I've grown and learned. It'll be interesting to read this post next year and do a second year update.

Related content:

Recently, I posted the following question on Twitter, and between the responses there and the questions I've received via email and Instagram over the past year, I have a lot of things to talk about today.

What questions do you have for me about living on a boat? I'm writing an article on it soon!

— Michelle Schroeder-Gardner (@SenseofCents) April 15, 2019

So today, I am going to answer your questions about living on a boat!

Did you quit RVing because you didn't like it?

Oh, have I heard this question so many times…

We did not stop RVing and switch to sailing because we didn't love RVing.

In fact, we loved RVing a TON! We decided to start sailing because we wanted to learn something new and go on a new type of adventure.

While we sold our RV last year, we haven’t finished our RV adventures.

I recommend reading 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life.

Is living on a boat as perfect as it looks on Instagram and Youtube?

Things aren’t always picture perfect like on Instagram – cruising on a boat and traveling with your home is a lot of work.

One of the things I hear ALL of the time about sailing is “the highs are high and the lows are super low.”

That is the truth.

The hardest part for me about living on a boat is the fact that I enjoyed RVing sooooooo much, and I sometimes miss the adventures we had on land – rock climbing, long hikes, cycling, and more. While this is possible to do while living on a boat, it is a little more difficult as you can't exactly park your boat at the bottom of a mountain or carry a bunch of outdoor gear on board. In fact, we can barely find room for our folding bikes on our boat, let alone a mountain bike.

RVing had gotten so easy and comfortable. There really weren’t any super lows – everything really was amazing.

But, we had wanted to move onto a boat for quite some time. Actually, we wanted to live on a sailboat before we even started RVing.

We made the switch to a sailboat because we wanted the challenge, to gain new skills, and to try something different.

And, living on a boat does bring lots of new challenges, like dealing with the weather, fixing broken things, staying safe, it being expensive (boats are expensive!), and more.

I talked about the subject more in my recent blog post Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds?

Still, sailing is great and the highs are amazing! I would never trade all of the hard things in for all of the incredible things we’ve been able to do – sailing to new locations, spending time exploring beautiful islands, being able to moving our home with just the wind, being able to make our own water, and more. There really are so many great things about sailing that you just can’t do while RVing.

What did you do the first year on your boat?

In our first year living on a boat, we:

  • Sailed from Fort Lauderdale to St. Pete (we stayed in St. Pete for hurricane season).
  • Went on many day and overnight anchorages at nearby islands to improve our skills and to have fun during hurricane season.
  • Added several things to our boat, such as a Code 0, feathering props, and more.
  • Sailed to Key West on a friend's sailboat – the boating community is great!
  • Once hurricane season was over, we sailed to Key West and did our first solo overnight sail. It was around 33 hours and was the first time it was just the two of us sailing.
  • Hung around the Keys for about a month.
  • Sailed to the Bahamas and went to so many islands.
  • The first stop was Bimini. Bimini isn't usually talked about a ton, but we loved this little island!
  • Then, we went to Grand Bahama. We stayed for just a few days to check it out.
  • Afterwards, we headed to the Berry Islands, Great Harbour Cay to be specific. We absolutely loved the community here, as well as the fresh bread delivered to the marina. Yum!
  • Next, we sailed to Chub Cay. We had a visitor fly in to stay with us and we stayed for a while to relax after the busy months we had.
  • New Providence came next, and we loved Nassau! People were friendly and there was a lot to do.
  • And on to the Exumas. We were only able to do the northern Exumas this visit, but it was a blast. We will definitely be back! We snorkeled, saw a ton of sea life, and the blue water just can't be beat.
  • Then Eleuthera. After visiting Eleuthera by plane the previous year, we knew we wanted to bring our own boat for a visit. While we only visited one tiny spot on this long island, we had a great time.
  • After that, we somewhat retraced our steps and went back to Florida (where we are now) to have some boat work completed.

I ended up with around 3,000 nautical miles under my belt in the first year of living on a boat. I accomplished more than I thought I would, and I am so very happy with how the year went!

What are your future sailing plans?

As full-time travelers, we don't live by a specific schedule, and that's because things can change fast. One thing we learned from RVing is that it's hard to plan even a month out, let alone years.

Our plan right now, which will probably change, includes going back to the Bahamas next winter and exploring the parts that we weren't able to visit, such as going further into the Exumas, the Abacos, more of Eleuthera, and so on.

There are around 700 islands in the Bahamas, and we loved our time there so much that we definitely want to go back!

The Bahamas are great, especially if you have dogs. The Bahamas are easy to get into and each island is a little different.

We have dreams of exploring the Caribbean even more and visiting Europe, the Pacific, and more.

When will you be done living on a boat?

The number one question we got while RVing was “how do you get mail?” The number one question while sailing is “when will you be done?”

I find this super funny because the questions are so different even though they are both about full-time traveling.

I have no idea when we will be done. There are still so many places we want to see and sailing goals we want to meet.

How are the dogs doing on the boat?

For some reason, some of you think that we just gave our dogs away. Haha, that simply isn’t true! I wouldn't be living on a boat if it meant my dogs couldn't come. We've had them for far too long – we got Sailor when we were just 18 years old, French Fry when we were about 20. They come on nearly all of our trips, and they seem to love it!

We have taken things slowly with them since they are older and didn’t grow up on a boat. Taking it slow is the top tip we’ve heard heard from other people with boat dogs.

They’ve adjust really well, and our dogs can get on and off the boat just fine. Sailor runs on and off without any help and hasn't fallen in at all (yet).

We had no problems bringing them to the Bahamas, but we did have to get some documents in order to be approved, which wasn’t too difficult.

Since our dogs were used to RV life, they got used to a TON of walks, chasing us on mountain bike trails, hiking mountains, and more. But, that didn’t really translate very well to boat life, haha.

We've learned that even though we would love to visit far away islands, our bigger dog just likes walks too much. To keep her happy, and us, we’ve done shorter sails and still walk her about 5-6 times a day.

We've met many people who have re-homed their pets due to the reasons above, and others who limit walks. We know some people who literally never walk their dogs, we know some who walk once a day, and then there’s us – walking our dogs about 5-6 times a day. Due to this, we tend to get some weird looks from other sailors.

But, I'm fine with all of this. We still find plenty of places to explore and I just can’t imagine not bringing our dogs with us! While there is definitely more planning required when you have dogs on a boat, we wouldn't trade it for the world.

How do you receive mail?

Last year, we switched our residency from South Dakota to Florida. We chose South Dakota while we were RVing as it's a state friendly to full-time RVers (fun fact: it's one of the top 3 states that full-time RVers tend to choose). Now that we are on a boat, though, Florida makes more sense.

We belong to a mail forwarding company called St. Brendan’s Isle. All of our mail gets sent there, and they forward our mail to wherever we are.

Aren’t you scared of rogue waves, sharks, your boat breaking down, modern day pirates, or unexpectedly sailing into an unfriendly island?

I get asked this a lot, and it’s tough to answer.

These are all things that can and have happened to people while sailing. There are ways to prepare yourself for freak events and ways to be more careful, but in the end, I'm not scared enough to stop sailing.

How much learning and training do you need to put yourself (and your husband) through to sail and operate a boat?

Learning never ends on a boat. We did training in June and July of last year and have been doing everything by ourselves since then.

Wes has logged many more miles than I have, and he has several family members who have lots of sailing experience. For me, though, I was a complete newbie.

You can’t really take time off from learning when you’re living on a boat, but I expected that going in. If it were easy, then everyone would do it!

How do you do your laundry?

We have a washer/dryer on the boat. It's an all in one unit and works very well! The only downside is that our clothes come out quite wrinkly.

Since we have dogs, having laundry on board is really nice since our bigger one gets pretty dirty and likes to roll around a lot outside – we’re constantly cleaning up after her!

Do you think you'll miss your boat when you move onto your new plane?

I had to include this one. While this person knew I was joking, most of my readers, even family and friends, thought my April Fools joke was real. Ha!

So no, I'm not moving onto a plane.

You can read more about this here: We’re Moving Onto A Plane!

What’s the biggest difference between living on a boat and an RV? In terms of actual living space, etc. Obviously not just the fact that it’s in the water versus on land.

Because I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of questions about RVing versus sailing, I’m going to write about this more in-depth in a separate blog post.

RVing and sailing are similar in a lot of ways, yet they are different in a lot of ways too.

With both options, you are traveling with your home and bringing it to new places. You can bring both of them around the world (yes, you can bring your RV around the world – people do it all the time), you always have the comforts of home with you, some of the systems are similar (such as how you still need to dump your tanks, fill up water, solar, etc.), boondocking is similar to anchoring, campgrounds are similar to marinas, you're living in a small space, there's lots of planning that goes into where to travel next, and more.

But, of course, they are different too.

Differences between sailing and RVing include:

  • Our living space is MUCH bigger on our boat, and that means we can host guests much more comfortably. But because of the layout, the boat has less storage space than the RV. I know that doesn't make much sense, but that's just the way it is.
  • Living on a boat comes with more daily and weekly chores than living on an RV. That’s because, on a boat, you are fighting so many elements since you are dealing with both the water and the wind.
  • You can go a lot faster in an RV. We could easily log 500 miles in a day and still feel great. Our last RV drove like a dream. In the boat, though, sailing 75 miles in a day makes for a really long day.
  • Being on the water, even in a marina, is absolutely beautiful. I love just being able to go outside and see the beauty around me. Yes, RVing is great too, but being on the water is a much different and wonderful feeling.
  • When you are sailing, you get to see so much amazing sea life from your boat, even when you’re in the marina. Right from the helm seat while sailing, I've seen sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, sting rays (we even sailed through a “fever” which means that there were over 1,000 rays and we were surrounded by them!), sea turtles, star fish, and more.
  • Paying attention to the weather is very serious when you’re living on a boat and sailing, while it’s not nearly as important when living in an RV.

The list goes on and on.

Both are great and they both have their positives and negatives. It's hard to choose which one is better because they allow you to do slightly different things.

We have met many RVers who used to sail, and many sailors who used to RV. The type of people are actually quite similar – whether they want to admit that or not (there's definitely a rivalry that goes on amongst sailors and RVers, which I've learned about over the past year, haha).

What is the best and worst thing about living on a boat?

Best – being able to travel, sail, see ocean life, and explore. Our boat is fairly self sufficient, and that is an amazing thing. We have solar panels, we can make our own water, and we have sails to move the boat. Sure, we do use our engines, but we really haven’t used too much fuel in the past year.

Worst – the amount of planning, breakdowns, and bad weather. While our Lagoon 42 has been solid, other items have broken or failed us, such as our solar panels, watermaker, we had a prop fall off as we were docking, and more.

And, that's just completely normal for #boatlife, haha. They say traveling on a boat is simply fixing a boat in exotic locations – ain't that the truth!

I hope you enjoyed today's blog post about the reality of living on a boat. I feel like I have so much more to talk about, so I will be doing this again for sure!

What other questions about living on a boat do you have for me?

The post Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to make extra money running Facebook ads for local businesses.

I recently had the chance to interview Bobby Hoyt. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Yes, this is a skill you can learn!

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to make money running Facebook ads for local businesses may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • How Bobby started making money through running Facebook ads;
  • Why small businesses want Facebook ads;
  • How a person can find their first Facebook ads client;
  • How much you can make doing this type of work;

And more!

Bobby has been seen on CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Reuters, MarketWatch, and many other major publications.

One last thing before we head to the interview on how to make money running Facebook ads for local businesses. Bobby has a course called Facebook Side Hustle Course that teaches you how to successfully make money running Facebook ads for local businesses.

Check out the interview below for more information.

Related articles on making extra money:

1. Can you share your story and also tell us how you started running Facebook ads for clients?

Sure! At this point my story is getting more and more complicated, but I’ll filter it down to the important parts.

Just a few years ago, I was a high school band director that wasn’t quite happy with my career path. It’s not that I didn’t like teaching part of my job or the kids, but I felt trapped. Like a lot of teachers, I was really struggling with the idea that I would never really make a lot of money, and I definitely didn’t feel like I was being paid enough for how hard I worked (band directors regularly work 70-80 hours per week).

I also had $40,000 of student loan debt coming out of college, which didn’t help. Between that and my teaching salary, I was feeling trapped.

So I decided to live as far below my means as possible (up to and including renting a 10×10 bedroom from my in-laws and driving a crappy car with no power locks or windows), and threw everything I could at the loans.

18 months later, I had paid off the entire $40,000 of student loan debt!

But… I still had the job I didn’t like haha. So I started blogging, eventually created Millennial Money Man, and got SO passionate about working online that I walked in one day and quit my job after making a cool $3 in display ad revenue.

It wasn’t exactly the smartest move and I don’t recommend that anyone quits their job the way I did, but at the time I felt like I could “make it” with M$M and was willing to take a shot on it.

After I quit, I got scared. Not going to lie. I loved running the blog and it was growing, but I wasn’t bringing in enough money. In fact, I wasn’t bringing in any money at all.

That’s when I started looking for other ways to make money while the site caught on, and I eventually ended up connecting with the jeweler that made my wife’s engagement ring.

He needed someone to help run their website, create content, and run Facebook ads.

I was desperate, of course, so I started working with him and learning how to run ads for local businesses. The money was solid for the amount of work it took, and I picked up a few more clients which allowed me to make money while I continued growing my “full-time” gig.

2. I keep hearing that “Facebook is dead?”

You can hate Mark Zuckerberg all you want – but this just isn’t true.

Facebook ads are the most effective local lead generation strategy for brick and mortar businesses, and when you add in the fact that Facebook also owns Instagram (which is wildly popular and is quickly becoming popular for local business lead generation), that won’t be changing any time soon.

3. Do small businesses really want Facebook ads? Why would they pay for a service like that? Can't they just do it themselves?

They really do want Facebook ads, and it isn’t hard to see why. The only thing that business owners need more than extra hours in the day, are more customers and clients walking in the door.

Local businesses use Facebook just like the rest of us do, and they’re constantly seeing their competitors successfully use Facebook ads to bring in leads for their business. They hear about how effective Facebook ads are and they want that for their business.

The problem is that Facebook doesn’t exactly make it easy for business owners to run ads effectively on their own.

Here’s the normal progression for small business owners that attempt to use Facebook ads:

  1. They see the “boost post” option on their Facebook page
  2. They hook up their business credit card and boost a post
  3. They waste money because boosting a post isn’t the correct ad type to run for local businesses
  4. They give up and decide that Facebook doesn’t work

It’s unfortunate, because if they just used the correct ad types they would actually be able to generate tons of leads for their business. Instead, then get frustrated and give up.

That, or they just don’t have time to learn how to run ads effectively or even make time to focus on the ads. Even in my own business, there are plenty of times that I outsource tasks that I either a) don’t have time to do, or b) have no interest in learning.

You can help solve both of those problems – you can bring them tons of new customers and increase their monthly profits, while also taking a big task off their hands so they can focus their time on other things without stressing about their marketing efforts.

That’s why there’s such a market for ad managers. You can go in, run the correct campaign types for business owners, help them generate new business, and charge great money for the service because you are increasing their profits.

4. Is this side hustle hard?

No, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work involved. We teach our students literally everything that they need to know to be successful with this side hustle, from creating the ads, to finding the clients, all the way down to the nuts and bolts of billing their clients.

If someone is willing to put in the time to dig into the course material, then we do everything we can to help them succeed in the private coaching and support group that’s attached to the course.

The course itself is structured in a logical, step-by-step way and uses “over the shoulder” style videos, so student can literally see our screens as we create the ads and talk them through the process.

When it comes to actually running the side hustle, it only takes a few hours per week to run ads for a client. The beautiful thing about Facebook ads is that once you set them up, they essentially run on auto-pilot.

Sure, you’ll need to make small changes from time to time, but the reason this course has worked so well is that it’s truly designed to be a service that is provided in your spare time to bring in an extra $1,000 – $2,000 per month.

5. How can a person find their first Facebook ads client?

We understand that the idea of trying to find clients is hands down the most intimidating part of starting this side hustle, which is exactly why we spend so much time on client acquisition strategies in the course.

Luckily there are plenty of simple ways to find clients online, even if you're an introvert or are brand new to the online business world. We provide training on 9 different ways to get clients using a variety of methods and social media platforms. We have effective strategies using Facebook groups, LinkedIn, email, YouTube, and Upwork just to name a few.

All of these methods can be used to find clients without paying for advertising. It just takes some time, effort, and a little courage to put yourself out there. We’ve found that some of our students are very introverted, and some are extroverted, so we made sure to include strategies that will be for all personality types.

Our biggest advice when it comes to client acquisition is to focus on one or two of the strategies that we teach, and then go all in on those.

Our students tend to gravitate to different strategies, but we’ve found that the ones who stay focused and put the work in using the strategies that appeal to them most are the ones that stack multiple clients (assuming they want more than just one).

It’s also important to note that we don’t just give you the strategies and send you out into the world on your own.

We help our students strategize client acquisition in our coaching and support group.

Let’s say you reach out to a business owner and want a little help formulating a response to something they say to you. All you have to do is post your situation in the group, and we will tell you exactly what to say to get their business.

We really do everything we possibly can to help our students get clients, which is a large reason our students have been so successful since we launched it in 2018!

6. How much money can you make doing this type of work, and how many hours does it take per week?

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client. Now I know that sounds like a ton (and it is), but you have to think of this from the business owner’s perspective:

If you could pay someone to give you a steady stream of customers to your business, would you? Especially if the leads were affordable, and you made way more money from the new customers than you were paying for the ad management?

It’s really a no-brainer for a lot of business owners.

The other factor is that while $1,000 is a lot of money, it’s usually not an arm and a leg for an established small business owner. Many times, their rent alone is several thousand dollars per month!

So when you look at the $1,000/month per client we recommend charging from the business owner’s perspective, it makes a lot more sense.

7. Is there an opportunity to grow this side hustle into a full-time business?

I love this question, and the answer is absolutely! In fact, during our last launch someone asked this exact question in my Facebook group and our students chimed in with some incredible responses.

Check this out to see what I mean:


The course was initially designed to just be a side hustle, but we’ve had quite a few students take it full-time and leave their day jobs.

Here are a few other stories from some of our other $5k Club Members (our $5k Club is for students who have 5 or more clients paying $1k per month – it’s a big deal in our coaching community when someone achieves this):

  • Kathrine left her job and was able to support herself and her children after a divorce using what we teach in FBSH
  • Jason and Candace were able to build up enough income to allow Candace to leave her teaching job and become a stay at home mom. Now they are working on replacing Jason’s income.
  • Graham paid off $20k of debt last year and now runs his agency full-time from the comfort of his home.

We have video testimonials from these people on our sales page, so you’re welcome to check out their stories and put faces to the names)

8. What exactly are people going to learn from your course?

The course teaches you how to create profitable ads for local businesses so that you can start making an extra $1,000-2,000 per month on the side, even if you have no marketing or technology background.

Inside you’ll learn:

  • How Facebook Ads work, so that you will be prepared for any questions from prospective clients, and will be able to confidently share your new expertise with clients
  • To create profitable ads for local businesses, with step-by-step video walkthroughs so that you know exactly what settings to choose and buttons to push to get the best results
  • Strategies for troubleshooting problems with ads, and exactly what steps to take to overcome those issues and improve ad performance
  • Unique methods for targeting the right potential customers for your client, so that they make more money and refer you to other businesses
  • Our top three strategies for finding your first Facebook ad management clients, so that you can start making money as soon as you complete the course
  • Systems and templates for tracking results so that you can show your clients exactly how much money you are making their business – when clients understand the results you’re getting, they'll want to keep you on payroll forever! (Some of our clients have been with us for years for this exact reason)
  • Ins and outs of running a Facebook ad business, so that you can get better results for your clients and work fewer hours.

You get lifetime access to the course for just $397. Just to give people a little perspective, Facebook training courses like this typically go for $1,200 or more.

But I wanted to do something different. Mike and I understand how difficult it can be to create a successful side hustle, but we also know how life-changing it can be.

I have so many readers that ask me for legitimate side hustles, so we decided to price this course so that it was accessible to as many people as possible.

And since you can earn more than double the investment with your first client, we think it’s a pretty sweet deal.

But when you join you’re going to get more than just the course…

You’ll also get access to our coaching and support group where students can ask questions, get troubleshooting advice on their ads, and help them put out any fires that might come up with their clients. Membership in the support group is paid, but we give everyone who joins the first month for free to make sure they get all the help and support the need to be successful when they start. After that it’s only $47/month afterward. And of course, the group is totally optional, you can leave at anytime.

But think of it this way – you can get the course plus nearly a year and a half of support for the amount you can earn in the first month working with ONE client.

Please click here to check out the Facebooks ads course.

What do you think of this Facebook side hustle idea?

The post How To Make $1,000 Extra With Facebook Each Month appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Next week, I turn 30.

Wow!

While some of you will still think of me as a youngin', turning 30 is… uh… interesting.

When I was really young, I frequently remember adults telling me that their 30s were the best years of their life.

Even with that, I thought they were crazy.

When writing this article, I stopped and started reading articles about turning 30. Some interesting things I found from 11 Points and Buzzfeed include:

  • At age 30, you’re older than 42% of Americans.
  • The most common way to die at age 30 is by accident.
  • The average person has had 7.5 jobs by age 30, and you’ll have 2.4 more by age 35.
  • 30 is the average age of retirement for NFL players.
  • At the age of 30, you are six years older than Monica and Rachel were at the start of Friends.

I thought those were entertaining to read, haha!

Despite some initial fears about turning 30, I do think that my 30s will be the best time of my life.

I've learned a lot about myself over the years, and I have grown a lot too. Thinking back to what I was like a decade ago makes me cringe, haha!

10 years ago, I wasn’t great with my money, I bought way too many clothes, I never believed I would be traveling full-time, and I would have laughed if you told me I could retire whenever I wanted.

Because of that, I think birthdays are a good time to reflect on any life and money lessons you’ve learned throughout the years. For me, it helps me see what mistakes I have made, it also reminds me that I’ve made good decisions too. Whether they have been good or bad, I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons.

I published the first of these posts three years ago, 27 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned. I have been adding a new lesson for every year, and now I have one more. I plan on doing this for each new year ahead of me.

I really think self-reflection is a good idea because we can learn so much from the past, both the good choices and the mistakes we’ve made.

Trust me, I've made mistakes, but I've also made some great choices. All of those choices have led me to where I am today, and now I am happier than ever.

While I am not perfect, life is good, and I am very fortunate. I have great friends, a great family, a happy marriage, wonderful dogs, a business that I love, a life of travel, and more.

So, in honor of my birthday, here are 30 life and money lessons I've learned in the first 30 years of my life.

While some may seem obvious, others may not, but everything below is what makes me who I am today. Plus, you may learn something new or something may just click after reading my list. Enjoy!

1. Value your time.

When I was younger, a year seemed like an extremely long time. Now, it seems like years go by very quickly.

Time is important, and you should value it. Instead of spending your time doing something you dislike, make a goal to eliminate any negativity and focus your time on what you enjoy doing. Don’t wait decades to start living a life you love.

Related: Reclaim Your Day With These 12 Time Saving Tips

2. Never compare your beginning to someone else's middle.

Comparing yourself to others can sometimes give you motivation to work harder, but you also don't want to be unrealistic or get frustrated with where you’re at.

You should always give yourself time with a new task, and don't think of yourself as a complete failure because you're not at the same point as someone else, especially if they’ve been doing it for longer than you have.

Everything takes time, and practice makes perfect.

“One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, ‘Mine isn’t as good.’ You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, ‘Mine is nowhere near as great as that.’ You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, ‘I’m not great like that.’” – Jon Acuff

Related: Don’t Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else’s Middle

3. Create a plan to reach your dreams and goals.

You aren’t going to magically reach your dreams and goals unless you create a plan to do so.

What do you often dream of? Maybe you want a certain career, you want to travel, or something else.

Whatever you want to do, why not create a plan so you can reach your goal? You might live in regret until that happens! You only live once, so a good first step is creating a plan to achieve your dream.

4. Be positive.

I say this in many of my posts because I truly believe in it. It’s also something that I think more people need to work on.

Being positive can completely change your life. This means you should laugh more, smile more, be happy with yourself (this is very important!), quit being jealous, complain less, have a better outlook on life, and more.

The power of positive thinking may help you:

  • Find another option or route.
  • Feel motivated so you can keep pushing forward.
  • Move on from your past mistakes.
  • Convince yourself that you can improve your situation (career, financial, family, etc.).
  • Reach for your goals.
  • Be happier.

Related article: Why I Believe Being Positive Can Change Your Financial Situation And Your Life.

5. Learn something new as often as you can.

Back when I was in school, I hated learning new things. Yes, that's how most children and students are. However, when I was a college freshmen there was a man in his 60's in one of my philosophy classes who told me something I didn’t fully realize until years later. We all asked him why he was there, because, as young 18 year olds, we all thought school was such a drag. He proceeded to tell us how learning and school were the best things in life and that one day, while maybe not right now, we would realize that same thing.

Well, now I get it.

I now enjoy learning more than ever. I'm constantly reading and learning about new things, and I want to know even more.

There is so much to learn in the world, and it is so easy to do. There are classes, articles, great books, and many more things that are so easily accessible in this day and age.

6. Stop living in regret.

You can't change the past, so there is no point in dwelling on regret and letting it negatively impact you. Instead, you should learn from your mistakes and move on.

That can be hard for many people to understand, but once you do, you can move forward with your life.

7. Don't care about what anyone else thinks.

This is one that took me awhile to realize, but thankfully I’ve now learned to live my life this way. You should do things for you and not let other people's opinions rule your life.

Do what is right for you!

8. Live life to the fullest.

No matter who you are, what you are currently doing, how much money you have in the bank, and so on, you can start living your life to the fullest.

You just never know what may happen in the future, so taking advantage of the time you have now is very important. No one ever wants their life to flash before their eyes and wonder whether their life was meaningful, if they had a good time, or if they regret past decisions.

And, yes, you can live a great life on a realistic budget.

9. Cherish moments with loved ones.

Now that we are full-time travelers, we don't see family and friends as often as we used to. In fact, we haven't been “home” in over a year.

I've always cherished the time I have with those I love, but now I make sure to make each trip even more special.

You should never take a moment for granted with those that you love. This will sound very doom and gloom, but you just never know what may happen to you or them. Plus, spending time with your loved ones is always a great time, so why not just do it more?!

10. Make time for fun.

All work and no play makes for dull life.

You should always make time for the things that you love, even if it’s just a few hours each week. This can help lift your mood, increase your motivation, and more.

11. Excuses are just that – excuses.

Many people make excuses for why things aren't going their way. Yes, sometimes you may find yourself in a bad situation, but you are still in control of your own destiny.

Don't let excuses hold you back. Instead, take action in your life and overcome the obstacles in your path.

12. Do what YOU want to do.

What makes you happy, excited, joyful, and motivated? That’s what you should be doing with your life, as long as it’s legal, haha!

If you want to live a life of adventure – Go for it.

If you want to start a family – Start planning one.

If you want a better job – Get one.

If you want to change the world – Do it.

13. Less is more.

The idea that less is more is something I think about nearly every day.

After having to get rid of the majority of our belongings to move into our RV and now boat, I truly realize how less is more. We had so much junk that we had never touched, and it wasn't improving our lives in any way.

Having less stuff is great for many reasons:

  • Less clutter.
  • We can give more attention to what truly matters.
  • Less money spent on things that don't matter.

Related: 8 Lessons I've Learned From Living With Less Stuff

14. Laughter is the best form of medicine.

Laughter and happiness can pretty much cure anything. Next time you're feeling down, try to find a way to laugh. It will help!

15. Help others as much as you can.

Helping others can change more than just your life. Whether you do something big or small, do something! The smallest gesture can make someone’s day and completely change how they feel.

Here are a few ways to help others:

  • Smile and say hello to everyone you cross paths with.
  • Donate items from your home.
  • Donate blood.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling.
  • Foster an animal.
  • Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister.
  • Volunteer.

Read more at 58 Random Acts Of Kindness.

16. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Without trying something new, you’ll never know all of the amazing things you are capable of doing. Instead of constantly thinking “what if?” you may need to take the leap and finally try it out.

17. Dogs are awesome.

Here's proof.

18. Gain control of your financial situation.

Money isn't everything, but being in a good financial situation may make your life easier.

You should pay off your debt, earn more money than you spend, stop keeping up with the Joneses, save for retirement, and so on. These are very important money lessons to learn.

Gaining control of your financial situation is important because you won’t feel as stuck when it comes to money. You will probably be able to do more with your life because you won’t be held back by monetary problems.

This can help you reach your dreams, such as traveling more, following your passion, be less stressed, and more.

19. You can say no.

You don't have to say yes to every single request. Saying yes can be great if you have the time, but saying yes to everything can also cause a lot of stress and leads to people taking advantage of you.

Sometimes you have to evaluate your options and possibly say no.

20. Gossip stinks.

Gossipping doesn't help anyone.

If you don't like someone or what they're doing, why should you spend your time thinking about them or talking about them to others? That is just a waste of time!

21. Don’t let life pass you by.

It can be really easy to let life pass you by. Before you know it, years or even decades may be gone.

Too many people have the mindset of “Oh, in ten years life will be so much better because of this and that.” And then they just let their lives go by without ever thinking about the present.

Well, what about now?! Ten years is a long time! Reaching a goal is great, but during the present, you should try to fit in some happiness as well (on a budget, of course).

22. See the beauty in everything.

There are beautiful things all around us. Instead of seeing the bad in things, try to see the good.

23. Kill them with kindness.

Being kind to others is always important, even when a person is being negative, hurtful, or difficult.

Whenever someone is being difficult in my life, I almost always attempt to kill them with kindness.

And, I've found that it works 99% of the time.

24. Be open to new things and tackle your fears.

When was the last time you did something new? So many people live inside their comfort zone when they actually need to branch out every now and then.

Yes, stepping outside of your box can be tough, but what if it completely opens your eyes and changes your whole outlook on life? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Related: 10 Daily Challenges To Improve Your Life

25. Balance is important.

You can't do everything 24/7. You need some sort of balance to stay sane.

26. Be confident.

Being confident can help you succeed in life. If you don't believe in yourself, then who will?

27. Money is just money.

Too many people let money take over their lives in ways that don’t bring them any joy. Yes, you need money to pay your bills and to survive, but it is just money.

This can be one of the hardest money lessons to learn because earning more money can positively impact your life. But, don’t let money take over your life or think that it will make you a better person. You should use it as a tool to help improve your life.

Instead of thinking about money in a negative way, think about it in a positive way and take actions to improve your financial situation.

28. Traveling full-time is amazing.

Traveling full-time is absolutely amazing. While I know that not everyone wants to travel full-time like I do, I know that I love it.

I love being able to live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else we choose to go. I love that I am spending more time outside and hiking nearly every single day. I love how beautiful the outdoors are. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

And, I'm so glad that I gave this untraditional lifestyle a chance.

Related: 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life

29. It's okay to be afraid. (written in May 2018)

So many people are afraid to try new things. They're afraid of what may happen, the unknown, making a mistake, failure, and more.

However, you won't know what may happen unless you put yourself out there.

Not everything in life is easy, and in order to reach your goals and live your dream life, there are going to be some scary things that you may have to do.

Making changes in your life can scare you, but it can also be great. Changing your life for the better will most likely mean that you have to step outside of your box and try new things.

One of the scariest things I have done was starting to sail full-time. I nearly talked myself out of it just as we were buying our boat. I felt very comfortable traveling in our RV, we had been doing it for a couple of years, and I had found my comfort zone.

I had to remember that RVing scared me when we first talked about it. Just like sailing, I made all sorts of excuses for why it wouldn't work.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that it’s okay to be scared and that many of the things you’re doing now scared you before you started them. Fear is normal human behavior, but don’t let it hold you back from living your dream life.

Related: Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

30. There's a lot to see and do in this world (written in April 2019)

I know that most of you will laugh at me – but turning 30 is something that I was dreading for a little while.

No, it wasn't keeping me up at night, but it made me think about all of the things that I still haven't done, and how there is still so much to do and see.

But, the world is an amazing place and I'm glad that I get to experience a little bit of it.

I know that my 30s will be amazing, and I have big plans to explore even more and reach some travel/outdoors goals of mine!

What life and money lessons do you think are important?

The post 30 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned In The First 30 Years Of My Life appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Image Source: Ivory Mix

Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by TransUnion and contains affiliate links to their products. I received a [free demo and free trial] of the product to use and am being provided compensation for my review of the product. All thoughts and opinions are my own. My experience is my own, and your experience may differ. 

Are you trying to improve your financial situation, and reach your credit score goals, but don't know how to begin? Do you want personalized recommendations on how to reach your credit goals so that you know exactly what steps to take next?

I have seen a lot of generic information out there about credit scores, and this can lead to frustrations about the lack of information and the prevalence of “one-size-fits-all” information. As you may know, this can lead to a person not caring about or monitoring their credit score because it seems so unattainable! Well, today is your day for that to change, because there is a new product that I think you should check out.

TransUnion recently created a product called CreditCompass. It can help you reach the credit score that you want, by giving you personalized and actionable recommendations and tips.

CreditCompass analyzes your personal credit situation against millions of data points of people who improved their credit score in similar situations over a two-year period, so you can see what you could do in order to reach your goal credit score. This product is available online and via mobile browser.

This is an amazing new product, as it helps puts YOU in control of your credit score.

I have seen a lot of bad or generic advice floating around out there about how to improve your credit. This new product will help you get rid of all the noise out there that may be confusing you, because CreditCompass is customized to your current financial situation. It generates tangible steps you can take to help reach your desired credit score.

Your credit can impact your life in many different ways, including the interest rate you get on a mortgage, whether or not you’ll get chosen from a sea of applicants for a home rental, your car insurance  rate, and so on.

Even though poor credit health could have a negative impact on your life, that doesn't mean it's hard to change. When you begin to transform your credit health, you may start to have a more positive self-perception as financial wellness plays an important part in your overall wellbeing!

Over the years, I’ve been careful about my financial habits, so my credit score has remained high. By keeping a strong financial standing, I’ve eliminated the need to worry about my credit score and instead, used my good credit to my advantage and remained motivated to continue incorporating strong financial behaviors into my everyday life.

My strong credit has also allowed me to use credit card rewards to my advantage. And, when you get your finances in a good spot, you’ll see there are great benefits too!

How can CreditCompass help you?

This easy-to-use product gives you actionable recommendations so that you know what you should do in order to reach your credit score goal.

CreditCompass is powered by VantageScore 3.0*. According to the VantageScore website, this credit scoring model provides credit scores to those who are often excluded by traditional credit scoring models, including consumers who are new to credit. This means around 30-35 million more individuals can be scored than traditional scoring models. This is great because this means that CreditCompass has the ability to help so many more consumers, no matter where the consumer is on their credit path.

This product only works if you do the work, though. So, if you truly want to improve your credit health, then you need to take the required steps in order to do so.

CreditCompass helps takes the guesswork out of trying to reach your credit score goals, so that you can take steps to build your credit health without making the many common mistakes that I've seen over the years!

How CreditCompass works

As you all know, I am a big fan of TransUnion and the products that they provide. I received a free demo of CreditCompass so I could see exactly how it works and how it could help my readers.

CreditCompass is very easy to use.

When you log in you will see:

  • Your credit goal – When you first log in, you will create your credit score goal with the interactive product. 
  • Your credit status – The product then aggregates info based on your personal credit report to show you where you stand. Info shown includes your payment activity (have you missed any payments?), credit utilization, debt and balances, and recent credit activity.
  • Your recommendation – The product will also show you clear, personalized recommendations of steps you can take based on your current credit score/history and credit score goals, so that you know what to do.

As you'll see in the image below, the product will give you great pointers on what you should work on.

Image provided by TransUnion.

Here’s how you can use CreditCompass:

  1. Sign up for TransUnion Credit Monitoring & get your score
  2. Set your goal score & see steps you can take to reach it
  3. Track your progress at a glance – anytime, anywhere!

Please click here to check out CreditCompass.

Do you know what impacts your credit score? What are you doing to improve your credit health?

*There are various types of credit scores, and lenders use a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions. The credit score you receive and the one used for CreditCompass is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model and may not be the credit score model used by your lender.

Related content:

The post This Easy Product Gives You a Customized Plan to Help Achieve Your Credit Score Goals appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Hello! Today, I have a great guest post on an amazing debt payoff story. If you are interested in learning how to pay off your mortgage early, this is something you should definitely read! Enjoy.

I get asked all the time, “how in the world did you pay off your house at your age?”  Normally I give some wise anchor answer like I won the lottery, or my rich uncle died but those just aren’t true.  The truth is, I’m a pretty normal guy but I had a big, not so normal goal.

Hi, I’m Tyler, my wife Ashlee and I paid off our $223,000 mortgage off by the time we were 30.  Now, we live a life full of freedom, adventure, and 4 kids. To find out more, check us out at Paid Off House.  

So here is how we did it. I know some of these things are pretty common-sense things, but I happen to know for a fact that they work. (Because we did it!)  

Related content on how to pay off your house faster:

How to pay off your mortgage early. Dedication is key to paying off your mortgage early

Dedication is key when you want to achieve a specific goal, let alone a big hairy goal like paying off your house.  We weren’t dedicated to the goal of paying off our house just to have a paid off house.

We were dedicated to paying off our house because we knew what it would do for us and our family.

We had 2 kids when we first started our debt free journey (now we have 4) and we wanted to spend more time with them, especially me.  We knew if we could pay off our house super fast, we would be able to give our kids the time and dedication they deserve.

We knew that if we had a paid off house, our career, work and business decisions would be free from the stress of having to worry about making a specific amount of money to pay the mortgage.

We knew it would free our time up, so not only could we spend more time with our kids, but we would be able to spend more time as a couple too.  We knew it would bring a freedom that we hadn’t had in a long time. That is what we were dedicated to.

Focus

When you focus your time and energy on a specific goal, good things will happen.  You have to have it be your number 1 priority. This kind of focus will allow you to push things off to the side that don’t matter and keep moving toward paying off your house.  

You can’t let the little things, or the big things get in your way.  The little things are the little sacrifices you have to make day in and day out to achieve your goal.  

Giving up those $10 lunches or the constant trips to Target or Walmart (those will eat you alive), cutting cable or whatever it may be.  Those are the little things that will nickel and dime you to death.

The big things are the luxurious things that tempt all of us.  

New cars, boats, super expensive vacations and so on. I’m not saying live like a bum, we didn’t.  We still had a lot of fun and went on vacations while we were paying of our house, but we did it smart with our focus still on the big prize.  Now, we could go on vacation every month if we wanted to!

Sacrifice

Let’s face it, if you’re not willing sacrifice, you will never hit a big goal like paying off your house.  Just like being focused, you have to be willing to give up things in order to hit a big goal. I drove a 2004 car with 200k miles on it (I still have it by the way) when I easily could have splurged and bought a nicer one.  

Whether it’s sacrificing your lifestyle for a period of time or working really hard to make extra money or both, without sacrifice, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always been getting. I sacrificed a lot of long days and some nights to increase my income.

I was working in sales, so the nice thing was, the more I worked, the more I made.  Everything extra we made went directly to the mortgage principal. When we first started out, I was only making about $60,000 and my wife is a stay at home mom (hardest job ever).  By working like a mad man, I was able to increase my income month after month along our journey..

I’m 100% positive that the reason I was able to increase my income, was because of our goal and our drive to hit it so quickly.  Had we not had that goal, we could have lived of $60,000 no problem and been comfortable. By reaching for something greater, we were able to succeed.  It’s not easy but it’s so worth it. Get out of your comfort zone and start doing something hard!

Budgeting

Budgeting has a lot to do with focus and sacrifice.  You have to be dedicated and focused on your budget or it won’t work.  I know budgets aren’t always a lot of fun, but when you stick to them, they work.

When my wife and I started doing our budget, it was a guaranteed fight every time (mostly because I was such a tightwad) but after some trial and error, we got the kinks worked out and it really started to improve our communication and our overall financial picture.  By doing our budget, we knew exactly how much extra we were able to throw at our mortgage each month.

If you want to pay off your house, you have to know how much money you are bringing in and where you are spending it. It sounds simple and after a little trial and error, it is simple, and it does work.

Better Half On Board

If you are single, you can skip this section because the only person you have to worry about is yourself.  For those of us who are married, it is essential that our spouse be on board with us. It would be impossible to do this on your own.  Luckily, my wonderful wife was on board from the get go. She saw the vision I saw of a world of financial freedom.

I’m not going to lie to you and say it was all cupcakes and rainbows.  She’s a woman, and like most women, bless your hearts, she really like clothes. One of our main challenges was coming up with an amount of money that we both felt good with that she could blow (I mean spend) on clothes.  It took a little give and take but we made it work. Now that we have our house paid off, well, let’s just say her ‘clothes fund’ is very healthy!

If for some reason your better half isn’t on board, try to get them to see the vision of what debt free could mean for you.  There must be something that gets them excited. For us, it was the freedom, travel when we want, spend more time with kids and just the overall peace of mind of having no mortgage.  Everybody is different, find out what really gets them going because whatever it is, just imagine how much bigger and better you’ll be able to do it when your house is paid off.

Free Your Income

The main reason we were able to pay off our mortgage off so fast (3.4 years) wasn’t because we were making a ton of money or because we ate ramen noodles everyday.  What really helped us is that we didn’t have any other debt or big expenses. By not having any other obligations, huge portions of my take home pay would go towards the mortgage.  

Think about how much extra money you would have if you didn’t have any other payments other than your mortgage.  If all your money is going towards payments on credit cards, car loans, student loans etc., your money is tied up.  Pay off your consumer debt as fast as you can and free up your income.  It will allow you to throw big hairy payments at your mortgage and knock it out super fast.

Don’t give up

When we first took out our 15-year mortgage when we were 27 years old, I would think to myself, “man, I’m not going to have this house paid off until I’m 42 years old.”  Back then I thought 42 was really old and it just seemed like an eternity.

Even when I did the calculations of putting extra toward the principal of the mortgage, it still seemed like forever before it would get paid off.  We didn’t give up and we were determined to pay that sucker off.

At first, we weren’t able to throw a lot at it and it wasn’t paying down very fast.  When the balance goes from $223,510 to $222,510, it doesn’t move the needle very much.  

It kind of demotivates you. You have to stick with it!

Our 15-year mortgage turned into a 3.4 year mortgage because we didn’t give up.  We slowly and methodically kept paying down our balance month after month. Some months we were able to throw big chunks at it and others we were only able to make the minimum payment.  The key was just keeping on keeping on!

The “WHY” of paying off your mortgage early.

Have you ever wondered what kind of things you could do if you had your house paid off?  We did. In fact, that was our driving force that allowed us to work so hard and pay it off so fast.  If you have your “why” set in stone, it allows you to get through the hard stuff and keep your eye on the prize.  Here were our “why’s”.

Travel

If you like to travel like we do, paying off your house will give you the freedom to go whenever and wherever tickles your fancy!  

Since we paid off our house 3 years ago we have able to go to Hawaii 2 times, an Alaskan cruise, Cancun, Cabo, Puerto Rico, Florida (Disney World), Ensenada, Disney Land twice (not my choice), Vegas, Mexico City twice, Washington DC, France, Vancouver, New Port Beach, Lake Powell 4 times (happiest place on earth), Yellowstone, Zions National Park, and several small trips inside our great state of Utah.  I think that list would be even longer if our kids weren’t so young.

The point here is when you don’t have a house payment, it frees up a lot of your income to do things you really love doing.  I’m not a big spender by any means and really don’t care for luxury items but I love to travel and make memories with my family.  

Spend time with my family

I have a really good friend that works on Wall Street.  He makes a ton of money but considers himself a weekend dad.  He gets up at 5:00am to get ready, catches the train by 6:00am and gets to work by 7:30am.  He works all day and then catches the train to get back home by 8:00 pm. By this time his kids are asleep, and he repeats the process day after day until the weekend comes and he can see his kids.  Thus, “weekend dad”. Sound fun? Not to me.

I have nothing against hard work.  Trust me, I’ve worked my butt off to get in the position we’re in now but that was a short-term thing for a long-term purpose.  There were some days that I wouldn’t see my kids all day either. But I knew if I could hit my goal of paying off my house, I could spend as much time with my family as I wanted to, and now I do.  Life is all about family and spending time with them.

Do you ever find yourself playing princesses with your 4-year-old daughter in the middle of the day on a Tuesday?  I do. Or how about playing ball with your boys on a Thursday afternoon? I do. I even get to coach my boys little league teams and not have to miss any of their games or important activities. It’s awesome!  

I also get to spend a ton more time with my wife as well.  We go out to lunch all the time, exercise together, work on projects together, go hiking, mountain biking, boating together and the list goes on and on.  Not to mention I’m able to help her out around the house a lot more (her favorite). If you’re a family man like me, this will be one of the best rewards you will get from paying off your house.

Giving back

One thing that I have dreamed of doing since I was in my early 20’s was a doing a humanitarian mission to Mexico.  My parents taught me to serve others and doing a humanitarian mission was right up my alley. It’s hard to do these kind of things if you don’t have extra money or time. When you pay off you house, you have both.

After we paid off our house, I took my then 8-year-old son to an orphanage in Mexico where we helped build a little school house.  This was an amazing experience! Luckily, I grew up working construction with my dad, so I was really able to put my skills to work. I highly recommend you do a humanitarian mission of some kind.  You really appreciate life more when you see how little some people have in the world.

On a separate humanitarian mission a year later, I was also able to travel to Mexico again and help a water foundation that helps build wells for communities that don’t have potable water.  Again, another life changing experience! If you have ever dreamed of making a difference in someone’s life, getting yourself in a good financial position will allow you to do these kinds of things.  

Help others Financially

When don’t have extra money, it is impossible to help others financially.  Once we paid off our house, we were able to really start helping people out financially.  Think of things that you could do to help people out financially if you didn’t have a house payment.  If gives you so many options.

Here are some of the things we have done to help people financially:  Give huge tips at restaurants, pay for people’s meals behind us at drive thru’s.  The secret Santa for families in need each Christmas (my personal favorite). Give extra to our church.  Give to fundraisers. Help family members that are struggling. A little while back my wife’s cousin was going through a divorce, so we surprised her with a nice juicy check!  It was awesome!

Helping people out financially is one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do with money.

Buy nice things

Like I said before, I’m not a big spender and luxury items just aren’t my thing.  But when you pay off your house, if you want nice things, you can buy nice things.  When we were getting out of debt, I sold my Nissan Titan that I loved to help us speed the process up.  Those were some long years without a truck let me tell you.

After we paid off our house, I got my Nissan Titan back, and in nicer fashion!  I have a sweet truck that I paid cash for and my wife drives a sweet SUV that we paid cash for (she likes nice things more than me).  

The point is, when you have your house paid off, you can save up and pay for anything super fast.  If you like nice clothes, you can buy nice clothes. If you like nice cars, you can buy nice cars. You have to pay the price and have some patience for a while, but it is so worth it.  

Invest

Because we don’t have all our money going to banks, credit cards, mortgage companies etc, we have money to invest.  It’s amazing how much money you free up when you pay off your house.

I love investing.  Ever since I took a finance class in college and started calculating the time value of money, I was hooked.

Here is an example of what a mortgage payment invested can do for you:  My mortgage payment was $1558. If I just took that $1558 mortgage payment and put it into a good mutual fund that averaged 10% (mine have averaged 10% over the last 10 years) for 30 years, it would grow into about $3.5 million!  Who could get mad at that? And that is only a mortgage payment! Think of all the other money that you will have to invest as well.

One of the biggest investing benefits I’ve experienced from paying off my house was money and time that I’ve been able to invest in myself.  I’ve invested in courses, books, conferences, seminars, classes etc not only just for business and financial gain, but also for personal and family gain.  This money that I’ve been able to invest in myself has paid me a huge return, not just in money but also in quality of life.

Quality of life

Your quality of life when you pay off your house is unquantifiable (that’s probably the biggest word I’ve ever used in my life).  I say that because most financial advisors will tell you to keep your mortgage for 30 years at 4.5% or whatever your interest rate is and invest the difference to make the spread.  

That sounds good and just might work but they leave out the risk of having debt (mortgage debt is still debt) and also the unquantifiable factor of your quality of life without a house payment.  I am 100% certain my return on investment from paying off my house is 100 times better because of what it has done to my quality of life.

I know you have heard it before, “if I can do it, so can you”. But it’s true, I know you can pay off your house if you have a big enough “why”.  Once you do, you’ll have the rest of your life of pure freedom!

Like our story?  Check us out at Paid Off House.

Do you want to pay off your mortgage early? Why or why not?

The post How We Paid Off Our $223,000 House By The Time We Were 30 (Yes, We Have Kids!) appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Is love enough for a healthy and happy relationship, especially when it comes to financial troubles? What if your partner was hiding a secret account or was lying about their spending? Are those issues you could work past?

Unfortunately, negative issues with money and relationships are incredibly common. I actually receive lots and lots of emails from readers who are struggling with some of these exact issues. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get a question or comment from a reader who has concerns about the bad spending or savings habits of their partner.

Here are a few of the situations I’ve been asked about:

  • My partner earns $50,000 a year and wants to buy a $900,000 house, and we have NO savings. How do I explain why this won’t work?
  • My partner has the mistaken idea that if he has a coupon for Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. that he must absolutely buy something because he’s “losing money if I don’t use the coupon.” He is a hoarder and spends all of his money on stuff that he will never use. How do I help him work past his issues before it’s too late for us?
  • My partner spends over $1,000 a month on entertainment but we have a lot of debt. How should I approach them about it?
  • My partner is hiding her spending from me and I know it’s happening. How do we work through this?
  • My partner isn't trying to find a job but we desperately need the money. What should we do?

If these situations sound familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, 35% of Americans named money as the number one thing causing friction in their marriage. CNBC reported on a money and relationships study done by SunTrust Bank, and here are a few more findings:

  • In 2 out of every 5 couples, someone lies about money.
  • 31% said that they have a secret credit card or bank account.
  • 75% said that financial deception has hurt their marriage.

It’s no surprise that money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce.

And, according to a recent story on NPR, even couples who managed their money well together in the beginning can still struggle with financial infidelity. This is especially true if one partner earns significantly more than the other, if one spouse is laid off, etc.

Related content to money and relationships:

Now, if you're in a relationship with someone whose financial beliefs and practices oppose your own, does that mean you're doomed and should end it all?

Not necessarily.

There are ways you can work towards resolving your financial differences and improving the behaviors that affect your money and relationships. Before calling it quits due to financial stress, you should:

  • Be honest and stop keeping money secrets from your partner.
  • Stop ignoring the problem.
  • Make a budget and start following it.
  • Make money conversations a priority, even if they have been difficult in the past.

Me and my husband have been together for over 12 years, and we are always trying to work at our financial situation as a team. We’ve had a lot of major changes in the past few years, like selling our house and moving onto an RV and now sailboat, and because each of these changes had a lot to do with money, we’ve had to share a lot of our feelings with one another.

And, every couple is going to handle money and relationships a little differently. We all have different spending habits, and in a marriage it’s important to come together to see how your behaviors affect your shared life.

Working together is key for a happy relationship, especially when you want to meet your financial goals.

If your relationship is struggling because of financial differences, here are some steps that you may want to take.

Here is my advice for handling money and relationships Have regular money check ins.

A relationship that has regular money talks and budget meetings is more likely to be financially successful and happier than a relationship that doesn’t. That’s because regularly communicating about money is an important step for healthy relationships.

Being open about your money situation can help prevent any surprises, it will ensure that both people in the relationship are aware of what’s going on, and so on.

Here are some of the ways for these check ins to help you with your marriage and finances:

  • You can work together and succeed. If you are both putting effort towards your financial goals, you can tackle them as a team and are much more likely to have a positive outcome. You can motivate one another, troubleshoot together, and brainstorm for ways to work towards your goals.
  • Knowing your financial situation will help you keep a budget. Understanding your financial situation means you can create and keep a budget that works for the both of you. You will know more about the amount of money you are spending, whether you are living paycheck to paycheck, and more.
  • Being aware may prevent everything from falling on one person. Both you and your partner  should be aware of your financial situation. It's not fair for one person to manage it all, and you would be in for a rude awakening if something were to happen to that person. You both should know how much money you make, how much debt you have, when bills need to be paid, etc.
  • Being involved can help you with your family's goals. It would be quite difficult for a person to work towards their family's financial goals if they weren't aware of their financial situation. Being involved will keep everyone motivated and working in the same direction.
  • Regular money talks can lead to less fighting. When you are open about money in your relationship, you are less likely to have financial surprises and money fights. This is because conducting regular money talks and budget meetings means you will both be aware of what’s going on.

Recommended reading: Family Budget Meetings – Yes, You Need To Have Them

Be open about money.

Talking about money is seen as taboo, even among married couples. But, according to money and relationship studies reported by Policy Genius, nearly 30% of couples don’t know each other’s salaries.

I have personally met spouses who had no idea what their monthly mortgage payment was, how much student loan debt they had, and so on and so on. For some reason, it is the “norm” for one spouse to be completely clueless about their financial situation, while the other spouse handles the finances. However, this is definitely something that should change.

To become better with this money and relationships issues, you and your partner should sit down on a regular basis, like once and week or once a month, and be honest about where you are currently at. You could even use this time to pay your bills together, discuss future purchases, and more.

But, to make the most out of these money meetings you will have to go in with an open mind and be willing to share where you are at. You money meetings should include:

  • Your financial goals, money values, and more.
  • How the two of you are doing financially.
  • What changes may need to be made.
  • Any financial problems, and so on.

The key here is that both of you are up-to-date on what is going on with your marriage and finances so that everyone can work together on your family’s financial goals.

Always be honest about money in relationships.

In a money and relationships article on CNBC, it was reported that only 52% of people in relationships believe their partner is being completely honest about money. And, only 61% of people say that they are totally honest with their partner about money.

What I see there is that in many, many relationships, there are some serious trust issues when it comes to talking about money.

The problem with financial infidelity is that it can lead to even bigger financial problems (like debt piling up beyond what’s imaginable), stress, unhappiness, it may start impacting other areas of a your life (such as work), and it may even lead to divorce.

Unfortunately, it’s possible that you may already be a victim of financial infidelity without even knowing it. Here's how to recognize the signs of financial infidelity:

  • You haven’t noticed any bills in the mail. This could be a sign that someone is hiding the bills.
  • You are getting calls from debt collectors. These may actually be legitimate calls!
  • Your credit cards are being declined. This could be a sign that someone is overspending without your knowledge.
  • Your partner no longer wants to talk about money. This could be a sign that your partner is too afraid to talk about money with you because they fear that you will uncover the truth.

Lying about money and relationships is very serious, but it’s important to realize that it’s an issue that both partners should work towards improving. While being honest with your partner is important, you should also make sure that your partner feels comfortable telling you when they are struggling.

Set spending limits for each other.

Spending limits shouldn’t be looked as limitations or rules – think about them as guidelines that help you work towards larger goals. That’s because spending limits are really just there to help you stay on track with your budget.

You can set limits however you would like, and some couples tell each other about every single purchase they make, whether they buy something for $1 or if they buy something for $1,000.

Others only tell their spouse if they reach a certain amount, such as $100.

Whatever you decide, it's a good idea to sit down with your spouse and determine what kind of limits you should set for your specific situation.

Doing this can help keep the communication lines open with your marriage and finances so there are fewer arguments about money.

Learn how to improve your financial situation.

For anyone needing help with money and relationships, one of the best things you can do is learn how to improve your financial situation. It can be an empowering thing for you to work towards with your partner and it can bring you both closer together.

If you want to improve your financial situation, here are some of the things you may want to do:

  • Read financial blogs. Reading financial blogs can help you see what other people like yourself may be doing to improve their financial habits. While it may not always be perfect and/or applicable, it can be helpful to see real life examples.
  • Listen to financial podcasts. You can learn a lot about money and relationships by listening to others talk about their own situations and topics relevant to your life. And, there are so many amazing financial podcasts out there ‒ take your pick!
  • Read financial books. 17 Personal Finance Books That Will Change Your Life is a great read if you are looking for financial books to help you with money and relationships. That list shows books that will help you to pay off debt, find side hustles, manage your money better, figure out retirement, and more.
  • Attend money workshops. There are in-person workshops on the topic of personal finance, huge conferences, money meet-ups, and more.
  • Join money-related Facebook groups. I have a free Facebook community that you can find here, and another favorite of mine is ChooseFI.

The key here with this and any other money and relationships advice is to do it together. I think learning more about money can usually help get a person more motivated about improving their financial situation, so if your spouse is having a hard time managing money, this can be a good way to get them more involved.

Reevaluate your situation.

Should money break a relationship?

Some will say no, and others will say yes.

For me, I do believe that money can break a relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that divorce or separation should be the first place you go when you are struggling with financial infidelity or other issues affecting money and relationships. You will need to work on your issues together before deciding that it’s time to call it quits.

Being on the same page is so very important, and if your partner is the complete opposite of you, you may be fighting constantly, you may both be unhappy, and more. If that’s where you are at, then reevaluating your relationship may be an important next step.

Only you can determine what goes on in this step, as it's a very personal decision and no one knows the exact issues you’ve been through and how they’ve affected your relationship.

What money and relationships advice do you have to share? What would you do with a partner who was bad with money?

The post Money And Relationships: Are You On The Verge Of Calling It Quits? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Looking for a list of outdoor jobs? These outdoors careers, adventure jobs, and nature occupations may change your life. Whether you are looking to make extra money or if you are looking for a full-time career, this list of top outdoors jobs is a fun one.

Recently, I was helping someone I know come up with a list of outdoor jobs for them to look into after high school, and it was fun to think about all of the exciting paths a person could take for work instead of the more traditional route of an office job.

There are actually quite a few career paths that will allow you to spend time outdoors, doing something that you love.

Now, of course, things won't always be absolutely amazing because you still have to WORK, but you can be doing something that you love, helping a cause that you believe in, getting people more interested in the outdoors, and so on.

As someone who loves the outdoors, I would personally do a number of these outdoor jobs!

It was difficult to find exact stats on outdoor career paths as they can vary so much, but according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation contributed over $370 billion to the U.S. in 2016, which is higher than utilities, mining, and more… (source: The Statesman Journal)

That same year, the industry saw growth of 3.8%, compared to the overall economy's growth of 2.8%.

You’ve probably seen outdoor careers growing without even realizing it was happening, like seeing busier outdoor spaces and parks. There is just a need for even more people to work in these spaces.

According to the U.S. National Park Service, around 330,000,000 visitors go to the parks each year, and people are enjoying them more than ever. In fact, parks are setting record visitation numbers because so many people are spending more time outdoors.

More people are RVing, traveling, hiking, and more.

And, this is where a lot of these amazing jobs come into play! As more people are doing these activities, outdoor and nature careers in those areas are just going to increase.

For some of these outdoor career paths, you may need a college degree, and others you may need some kind of experience or certification before you can be hired on. But, there are others that you can start and learn as you go. Some of these outdoor jobs are part-time and some are full-time. In the end, there is a wide variety of choices that may be more exciting options than “normal” office jobs.

Related content:

Here's my top list of outdoor jobs for you to check out. Work as a park ranger.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a park ranger, this website is a great place to start – ParkRangerEdu.Org. According to this site, earning a college degree in a relevant major is helpful to becoming a park ranger, and may include majors related to conservation, biology, botany, ecology, forestry, earth science, and anthropology.

If you're interested in an outdoor job, then I'm sure you know what a park ranger is. But, you may not know everything that they do.

Park rangers help protect the land's parks, wildlife, visitors, and more. The responsibilities and tasks that a park ranger can have will depend on where the position is and the needs of that park. You may be working in a visitor's center, be law enforcement within the park, protecting wildlife, conducting tours/programs for visitors, and more.

Become an environmental engineer.

Environmental engineers develop plans to address recycling, waste disposal, public health, and water or air pollution. This is definitely an outdoor job that you would need at least a bachelor’s degree to apply for, but I imagine it could be very rewarding.

And, environmental engineers spend a lot of time outside collecting soil or water samples, inspecting facilities and the grounds surrounding them, and more. This is also a great job if you feel strongly about environmental work.

Walk dogs with Rover.

This would be a great side hustle for anyone who loves being outdoors and who loves dogs. And, who doesn’t love dogs!?

Rover is a company who helps pet owners find dog walkers, pet sitters, and more. It can be a great job that lets you get in plenty of exercise outside in the fresh air. You can also find dog walking clients by listing your services on Facebook, Craigslist, your online community forum, and more.

Work on a cruise ship.

When we went on a cruise several years ago, we met a man who was sitting in the hot tub waiting for his wife to get off work. She was a balloon artist on the cruise ship, and he got to tag along for the ride. She didn't work a ton of hours, and they both seemed extremely happy with the gig that she had landed.

They were able to cruise around the world, for free, and earned a good salary.

And, there are lots of opportunities out there to land a job on a cruise ship.

Cruise ship jobs can include working in the ship’s entertainment area, salon, fitness center, onboard store, excursion planning department, restaurant, photography team, boat crew, cleaning, and the list goes on and on.

And, there are lots of cruise ships to work on too, from Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Norwegian, Disney, and more.

With a job on a cruise ship, you would live on the cruise ship and many of your expenses, such as room and board, would be included. You would also earn a salary and may tips too on top of that.

Work at a nursery or garden center.

If you love plants and being outdoors, working in a garden center or nursery could be a great option. Your tasks might include helping customers, watering plants, doing some landscape work, and more. Working in a garden center doesn’t necessarily require a lot of training, and this is a great option for both teens and adults.

Be part of a yacht crew.

I've only been around boats for around one year, but one thing I have learned is that people are always looking for help on their boats. In fact, just last week I was asked if I wanted to join a mega yacht and sail all over the world. And, that wasn’t the first time – Wes has delivered two sailing catamarans for a total of around 4,000 miles (that doesn't even include our boat), and we've been offered crew jobs on several other occasions.

Being a part of a yacht crew can include many different jobs, but if you like boats and/or are interested in learning about them, then this could be a fun career path to get into.

Working on a yacht may mean that you are a captain, a mechanic, a server, a cleaning person, a chef, etc., or you may even be all of those things if you are working on a smaller boat.

Working on a yacht or large sailing vessel is usually hard work, but you will be able to travel around the world with most expenses paid, plus you are often paid a salary too. The terms vary depending on the boat and what type of work is available.

Networking is extremely important in this line of work, and who you know goes a long way when it comes to getting one of these jobs. Now, it isn’t only about knowing the right people. Just hang out around the docks and/or other boaters long enough and jobs just seem to be floating around. There are also websites that you can join which connect potential crew to boats, and there are even agencies that can find yacht jobs for you.

Become an outdoor photographer.

We have met so many amazing photographers in the years that we've been traveling full-time.

We've met National Geographic photographers, people who are traveling around the world photographing crazy races, people publishing amazing photos on Instagram, and more.

As far as outdoor jobs go, this could be a really exciting one that allows you travel to all sorts of places that you never imagined you could go.

Related content: How I Made Over $1,000,000 in Photography Without Being a Pro

Work at a campground.

Work camping (or workamping) is when you work at an RV park or campground.

Many, many campgrounds (including ones on the beach, at national parks, national forests, and more) are looking for workampers, and this can be a good way to get your stay for free.

I've met many very happy workampers. People who work at campgrounds get to stay for free in some the most beautiful places. What's not to like about that?!

The outdoor jobs available for workampers may include:

  • Working in a campground office office
  • Helping clean up RV sites and the RV park
  • Cleaning bathrooms
  • Guiding RVers to their sites
  • Making food

As a workamper, the way you are paid can vary. Workampers can be paid with an RV site to stay in, at an hourly rate, or a mixture of the two.

Related content: How To Make Money While RVing

Become an outdoor guide and/or instructor.

There are so many outdoor jobs that involve being a guide or instructor, and it really just depends on your skill level and/or what you may be able to learn (such as if someone is looking for an apprentice).

Ideas for these kinds of outside jobs may include:

  • Hiking guide
  • Rock climbing guide
  • Diving guide
  • Kayaking/canoeing guide
  • Fishing guide
  • Skiing guide
  • Surfing instructor
  • Caving guide
  • and so on

You may work for a private company, be self-employed (with your own company), a park (such as a national park), a summer camp, and so on. In fact, I know someone who has one of the many hiking guide jobs that works for the military giving tours to visiting families. He also manages the equipment and does mountain biking tours as well.

As far as room for new workers, The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that outdoor jobs in this area are expected to grow by 14% between 2012 and 2022.

Study to become an agronomist.

Agronomists are scientists who study plants and soil to find ways to help plants grow better. You might be helping plants grow for food, fuel, or land reclamation. You will need a degree in agricultural science, biology, chemistry, or physics for to become an agronomist.

You will spend a lot of time outdoors collecting samples, conducting experiments, and checking on the plants that you are working with. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this job to continue growing at an average rate of 5% until at least 2022. And, because of climate change and food insecurity, jobs in this field will likely continue to grow even more in the future.

Become a marine biologist.

When I was a kid, I dreamt of being a marine biologist. Not sure what happened with that, haha – probably because I've never been very good at science.

A marine biologist is one of the outdoor jobs that may have you working for a university, the federal or state government, a tour company (such as a whale watching charter), a nonprofit organization protecting wildlife and the water, and so on. You may be working as a guide, naturalist, researcher, a teacher, a consultant, and so on.

Marine biology is so very important, and this could be an amazing and impactful career path to get into.

Find a job as a landscape designer.

Landscape designers are people who are knowledgeable about plants, the climate they live in, and have a good eye for designing home and/or commercial gardens. Not only do landscape designers develop the plans for gardens, they may do some of the planting and care depending on the job you find.

You can work for yourself, a nursery, or a large landscaping company. This is one of the outdoor jobs that doesn’t always require professional training, but it can be helpful.

Work as a commercial fisherman.

Commercial fishing reality TV shows are more popular than ever. These jobs are pretty much what you think – fishing and bringing in hundreds of pounds of fish, crab, etc. If these jobs are anything like what TV shows make them look like, they could be incredibly dangerous but exciting too.

Work in the sports industry.

Outdoor jobs in sports are more than just being a professional athlete. There are trainers, coaches, referees, groundskeepers, and more. I was recently talking to someone who’s teenage daughter was being $35 an hour to ref club soccer games. She gets to be outdoors, spend time doing what she loves, and gets paid a really good hourly wage for a part-time job.

The type of training you need will depend on the field you are going into, but this could be a very fun job if you love sports.

Outdoors travel blogger.

Blogging is what I do to make money while sailing and RVing. Like I always say, I never realized I would be earning as much income online as I do now. While this job may feel unattainable because making money simply for traveling seems like an unbelievable opportunity, but just know that everyone has to start somewhere.

Also, blogging is not a way to get rich quickly, but it can be a way to make side money or even a full-time income if you put enough hard work and time towards it.

You can make money through advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsorships, reviews, partnerships, e-courses, ebooks, and more. You can read all about how I earn a living online in my monthly online business income reports, where I describe how I make over $100,000 online each month.

You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $2.95 per month, plus you get a free domain name when signing up through my tutorial.

Related articles:

Are you interested in working outside and having an adventurous career? What do you think of this list of outdoor jobs?

The post 15 Outdoor Jobs For People Who Love Being Outside appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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Blogging completely changed my life, and it's funny to think that I literally had no idea what blogs were until right before I started one in 2011.

Back then, I also never realized that you could earn money blogging. I don't think I even looked into it because that was never my goal when I first learned how to start a blog. I certainly never thought blogging would drastically change my future, but I’m so glad I gave it a shot.

I had so many questions when I started my blog, and I learned 99% of what I know that hard way – by making mistakes.

I know that many new bloggers probably have some of the same questions I had because I receive around 100 emails a day from readers wanting to know how to start a blog, how to earn money blogging, and more.  So, I'm hoping today's post will help you solve your blogging questions.

I know that blogging can seem scary in the beginning, but remember that most other bloggers were in the exact same place you were when they started.

Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks from the outside, but it is something that you can do. You can earn money blogging so that you can work towards living the life you want.

Blogging has allowed my husband and me to leave our day jobs, travel full-time, see family and friends more often, meet great people, and live one heck of a great life.

Because of the great experience I’ve had, I love helping others learn how to start a blog.

I never thought it would be possible, but here I am. Plus, I know many, many other bloggers in all sorts of niches who are making a great living online.

While there is no 100% guarantee that you will be able to earn a full-time living by blogging, I know many bloggers who are full-time and are very happy with it.

Due to that, today’s post is all about answering the questions I commonly receive about about how to start a blog and how to earn money blogging.

Related content:

Here are my reader’s top questions about how to earn money blogging: Is 2019 too late to start a website/blog?

No, it's not too late, and you haven't missed out.

2019 is a great time to start a blog.

Trust me, people were saying the same thing when I first started Making Sense of Cents – that people who started in 2011 were starting too late and that no one would earn money blogging if they started when I did.

However, that wasn’t the case then or now.

The online world is still so new, and each year there are new ways to monetize and grow your blog.

For example, it wasn’t until the past couple of years that companies and advertisers started realizing the value of online influencers, such as bloggers, and that means even more opportunities to earn money blogging.

Before that, it was mainly celebrities that companies advertised with, but now, it is actually shifting to bloggers and other online influencers (such as Youtubers and Instagrammers!).

The online world is a huge place and it is just going to keep growing. Every blogger earns a living in slightly different ways, and everyone has a different message and story. Plus, there are so many different ways to earn money blogging, and I expect that the options will continue to grow.

Of course, because the blogging world keeps changing, there will constantly be new things for you to learn, but that will probably always be the case for managing any kind of business.

So, if you are thinking about starting a blog, today is the day. Don't let your fears hold you back any further! You can find my free How To Start a Blog Course here.

How do I come up with a blog name and URL?

Deciding on a name for your blog is probably one of the hardest parts of blogging.

Even if you know exactly what you want your topic to be and have some articles written, deciding on your blog’s name may be stopping you from actually creating your website and launching it.

I don't remember how I came up with Making Sense of Cents, but I'm glad I did. It is still catchy, and I receive compliments on it to this day.

Coming up with a blog name shouldn’t lead to stress, so here are my tips for deciding on a blog name:

  • Make it easy. My blog name isn't the easiest for people to spell, and even I sometimes jumble it when I'm spelling it. So, my top tip would be to make sure that your blog name is easy for people to type or spell out loud. I've seen blog names that are extremely long, contain words that are difficult to spell, and so on. Instead, you should make it as easy as possible for your readers to find you.
  • Think about what you'll be writing about. Think about the topics you want to write about, who your target audience is, and more, and then jot down descriptive words that are related to each. Brainstorming like this is a good way to come up with a blog name!
  • Use a thesaurus to find similar words. If your first or second choices are taken or if you want to see if there are some catchier sounding blog names, using a thesaurus can help you with some new ideas.
  • Make it catchy. You may want to think of something funny, use alliteration, or something else to make your blog name catchy and memorable.
  • Use your name. If you don't want something catchy and/or if you think you're not creative enough, then just use your name. It's super easy that way, and more and more people are starting to do this.

See, creating a name for your blog can be easy!

What topics should I write about so that I can earn money blogging?

I know a lot of people think that you have to write about blogging to earn money blogging.

But, this is not true. The reason you may think that is because the bloggers who have income reports are the ones who talk about blogging, but that’s only because it fits in with their niche of trying to help other people start a blog. It’s meant to encourage others and to show them that it’s possible to earn money blogging.

It wouldn’t make as much sense for someone who writes about fashion or DIY stuff to have income reports. And, many people don't like to openly share their income – money is a taboo subject still!

The truth is that people in all different niches make money blogging.

I know bloggers who are successful and write about health, clothing, home renovations, DIY, finance, travel, homesteading, business, self-help, relationships, food, and more. I even know plenty of people who just write about their lives and earn a full-time income from doing that!

So, how do you determine what to write about?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I always recommend creating a blog around a topic that you are passionate about, that you are an expert in, that you like, or something else along those lines.

This can make blogging feel fun instead of like a chore.

You can blog about several topics or you can blog about one specific thing, such as personal finance. For me, I cover a ton of different topics here on Making Sense of Cents. I talk about personal finance, life, travel, RVing, sailing, self-help, and more.

Some things that you may want to think about when choosing your blog topic include:

  • What are you passionate about? I always recommend that you start by thinking about what you are passionate about. Perhaps it's a sport that you really love, crafts, cooking, managing money, travel, or something else. Whatever it is, blogging about your passion is great because that will show in your writing, and your readers will enjoy that.
  • What blogs do you enjoy reading? If you are thinking about starting a blog, I'm assuming it's because you probably enjoy reading blogs yourself. If that's the case, then you may want to think about which blogs you really enjoy spending your time on, and possibly blogging about something similar.
  • What are you an expert in? Now, you don't need to be an expert in your blog’s topic to earn money blogging (more on that below in the next section), but if you are an expert at something, then this could be a topic that you blog about. There are many successful “How To” websites because people love to learn new things through blogs. And, there is probably something you could teach (everyone is an expert at something, even if you don’t realize that yet!). Think about the questions your friends and family are always asking you about, topics that you enjoy helping others with, and so on.
  • What things do you like learning about? Like I said above, you don't need to be an expert in a topic to blog about it. People LOVE reading blogs from people who are learning or trying new things. This is because everyone has to start somewhere, and people love following the journey and seeing how something is actually done. So, if you are learning how to earn money blogging, for example, that could be where you start your blog. You can write about all of your mistakes, talk about what you've learned, show how you have tried and reviewed different options, and so on.

To earn money blogging, your blog can be about anything and/or everything. It's entirely up to you.

Here are some possible blog topic ideas. The list doesn't end here either. Choose one, all, or some. It's all up to you.

  • Lifestyle
  • Home
  • Family
  • Finance
  • Crafts
  • DIY
  • Small business
  • Outdoor activities
  • Fitness and health
  • Food
  • Inspiration and advice
  • Animals
  • Travel
  • Games
  • Relationships
  • School
  • Electronics, and more!

That's the beauty of having a blog – it can be about anything and you can still earn money from it.

But, the only thing I would avoid when starting your blog is that if it is about legal things or tax issues, then you should be an expert before giving people advice. You could get someone in a lot of trouble if you gave them the wrong information.

Should my blog be self-hosted? What does that even mean?

First, yes! Your blog should be self-hosted if you want to earn money blogging. It’s actually one of the first things you should do.

I recommend you start on self-hosted WordPress (this tutorial will help you start your blog the correct way). I cannot say this enough, but I do not recommend Blogger or WordPress.com (you want the self-hosted version, which is WordPress.org – confusing, I know). Buying that $10 domain name from Blogger or GoDaddy does not mean you own it either.

Unless you self-host your blog, advertisers, companies, and readers will still know you are on Blogger or free WordPress, and that can look unprofessional. Plus, your blog can be deleted at anytime and for no reason if you are using a free version, which actually happened to me. Even though you may save some money in the beginning, not being self-hosted can hurt your chances of earning money through your blog.

Seriously, just trust me. Go with self-hosted WordPress, and it will significantly increase your chances of monetizing your blog.

If you want further proof, take a look at my past income reports. You can tell that my blogging income didn’t take off until I switched to WordPress. That right there is a lot of proof that being self-hosted on WordPress is the way to go!

So, to recap, the positives of being self-hosted on WordPress through Bluehost include:

  • Your blog will look more professional meaning you will increase your chances of making money online.
  • You will have complete control over your blog.
  • You own your blog, and it can’t be deleted for any reason.
How much do I have to spend before I can earn money blogging?

When I first started my blog, I spent almost NOTHING on blogging expenses. In fact, I probably went a few years when I was only spending about 1%-2% of my revenues on blogging expenses.

Now, some of my expenses include:

  • My computer
  • The actual blog (design, hosting, etc.)
  • Courses, guides, and ebooks
  • My email (newsletter) list
  • Virtual assistant and editor
  • Technical management
  • Transaction fees

But, you do not need to spend money on all of these things to earn money blogging – I spent less than $100 total for the whole first year of Making Sense of Cents!

Learn more about my expenses at My Complete List of Monthly Expenses for a Multi Million Dollar Blog.

Do I need a lot of readers to start making money from a blog?

You do not need millions of pageviews per month to earn money blogging, but if you want to increase your income, it will be important to increase your page views.

Every blog is different, and it isn’t always the blogs with the largest number of readers that make the most money. That’s because once you understand what your readers want, understand how to effectively reach out to companies for partnerships, and know how to charge the correct rate, you can make a good income online in many cases, regardless of the amount of pageviews you receive.

But, if you want to increase your pageviews, here are my tips:

  1. Publish high-quality blog posts.Readers come back to blogs with high-quality and helpful posts. I recommend that your blog posts be at least 500 words, but more wouldn’t hurt either. The majority of my blog posts are around 1,500 to 3,000 words (this one is clocking in at over 8,000 words!).
  2. Be active on Pinterest. Pinterest is one of my top traffic sources. To increase your pageviews with Pinterest, I recommend creating great images, making sure the description and title of your images are catchy, pinning regularly, and only pinning long images. I use Picmonkey to edit all of my images and Tailwind to schedule them.
  3. Be active on other social media sites. Social media lets you interact with your audience more and can help you reach a larger audience. Besides Pinterest, you may want to check out Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Periscope, Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, and others.
  4. Post regularly. If you want to earn money blogging, you should publish something at least once a week. Going for weeks or months at a time without a blog post can lead to readers forgetting about you.
  5. Network with other bloggers. You should look at other bloggers as friends and colleagues, not competition. This means you may want to interact with them on social media, reach out to them via email, attend conferences, and more. Of course, be genuine and give more than you take.
  6. Guest post. Guest posting is a great way to reach a new audience and helps build partnerships with other bloggers.
  7. Make sure it’s easy to share your content. I love sharing posts on social media, but it gets frustrating when some blogs make it more difficult than it needs to be. You should always make sure it’s easy for readers to share your content. This could mean making your social media icons easy to find, having all of the info input that is needed for sharing (title, link, and your username), and so on. Also, you should make sure that when someone clicks on one of your sharing icons the title isn’t in CAPS (I’ve seen this too many times). No one wants to share a blog post when it sounds like you’re screaming at them.
  8. Create catchy headlines. The title of your post is a major factor influencing whether readers click over or not. I like to use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to help me with my headlines.
  9. Learn SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) is not something I could teach in such a small section, but I recommend doing your research and learning more about what it is and how it can help you.
  10. Make it easy for readers to browse. If you want more pageviews, you should make it as easy as possible for readers to read your other blog posts. Readers should be able to easily find your blog homepage, categories, tags, search bar, and so on. Also, I recommend including links for related posts in every single one of your blog posts.
How does a blogger network with other bloggers?

As you learned above, networking is so important!

Bloggers should be open to making blogging friends, attending blog conferences, sharing other blogger’s content with their readers, and more.

However, I believe that many bloggers skip this area, which can hold you back if you want to earn money blogging. Many bloggers see other bloggers as competition, and this is a bad thought for a blogger to have.

Networking can help you enjoy blogging more, learn new things about blogging, learn how to make money blogging, make great connections, and more. If you want to make money blogging like I have done, then you will want to network with others! After all, networking is how I learned how to earn money blogging!

Here are my tips to build relationships as a blogger:

  • Attend blog conferences and meetups. Attending networking events in person is great because that's usually where you can build blogging connections with others. I attend Fincon every single year. Even though it’s mainly for financial bloggers, it's a great conference for bloggers in pretty much any niche because the conference topics can be applied to many different types of blogs. For example, there are experts from all types of online industries to teach you how to improve your blog in so many different ways.
  • Comment on blogs. A super easy way to network with another blogger is to comment on their blog posts, talk to them on social media, reply to their newsletter emails, and so on. This is so easy to do!
  • Share articles. I share other blogger's articles all the time. I do this because there's so much great content out there that I want my readers to see, and by promoting other’s posts you’re helping them as well. This can be a great way to network with other bloggers as it's something that other bloggers will notice.
  • Be active in Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups for pretty much everything these days. You can join groups for bloggers, digital nomads, those who just want Pinterest tips, and so on. By joining Facebook groups, you can connect with others who are interested in the same things as you are.

As you can see, there are so many ways to network and to build relationships, but make sure you treat it like building a “normal” friendship. You can start off really simply by commenting on a person's blog and sharing their articles. Then, you eventually may want to interact with them on social media, attend blogging conferences, and so on. You can build relationships with those in your niche, somewhat related niches, or people who are blogging about things you’re interested in.

The key is to be genuine and to give more than you take, which are the two main things I always tell people when it comes to networking. I receive so many emails every day from people who clearly aren't genuine and it's very easy to see.

You shouldn't be emailing other bloggers and people in the industry demanding that they do something for you – that just isn’t how networking works. Instead, you should find ways that you can genuinely help other people.

Do you mind sharing a detailed list of what processes you have with new blog posts?

This may sound like a pretty long process for each article that I write, but it has become quite routine over time. And, other than me brainstorming and writing the actual blog post (besides guest posts, I have always written my own content myself because I enjoy it), almost everything else is now outsourced to virtual assistants.

Here is a list of what goes along with each new article that you see on Making Sense of Cents:

  1. Think of new article topic ideas. I have a list of over 100 possible article topics that I keep on my laptop and my phone. The topics you read about here on Making Sense of Cents come from life experiences, reader questions, research, articles that I've come across (like if I see a crazy statistic that I find interesting, I'll then turn it into a long article), and so on.
  2. Create a schedule. I have a schedule of topics for at least one full month, including the dates articles will be published. And, I like to make sure I cover a good variety of topics each week. For example, I don't usually like to have a week full of making money ideas. Instead, I like my posts to vary between making money, saving money, life improvement, and so on.
  3. Write content. I like to sit down and write an article from beginning to end without any breaks. It may take me an hour to write an article or I may be at it all day. Sometimes, content does span a few days, but for the most part, I like to finish a piece of content in one sitting. I then hand over the content to my editor to fix anything from grammar and punctuation to the general flow of the article. The only thing she doesn't edit are my monthly income reports.
  4. Add images and formatting. Once I get the content back from my editor, I add images (one for Pinterest and one for Facebook), format the post the way I want it to look, and add links to related content on my website.
  5. Publish the article and share. Once the article is published on Making Sense of Cents, I share it to Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, StumbleUpon, Flipboard, and Twitter. I also schedule it to share on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter for future dates as well.
  6. Email my subscribers. The last thing I do is send an email to my subscribers about a new blog post being published.

I also do this for all of the articles I write for other blogs too. If I'm guest posting on a blog, I usually share it a little more than I do my own content. If you guest post on a person's website, you should do the same – the more you share it, the more traffic that person will get, and the more likely they are to re-share it too.

Everyone wins!

Where does blogging income come from? Who pays bloggers?

This is a question I receive more and more often about how to earn money blogging. Many of you are interested in blogging, but you aren’t sure where the income actually comes from.

You receive blogging income from whoever is paying you.

  • If it is affiliate..
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My monthly Extraordinary Lives series has been a lot of fun, and I’m back with another inspiring interview. First up was JP Livingston, who retired with a net worth over $2,000,000 at the age of 28. Today's interview is with Amanda, who is now living debt free after paying off $133,000 in three years and seven months.

I've been following Amanda – @debtfreeinsunnyca – on Instagram for quite some time, and I'm so happy that I was finally able to interview her!

In this interview, you'll learn:

  • How Amanda got into debt.
  • Why she decided to get out of debt fast.
  • The expenses she cut so that she could pay off her debt quickly.
  • What she thinks about the cash envelope method.
  • The sacrifices she made to reach her goal.
  • What she did to stay motivated.

And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information!

I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask her, so below are your questions (and some of mine) about Amanda's story and how she has accomplished so much. Make sure you're following me on Facebook so you have the opportunity to submit your own questions for the next interview.

Related content:

Tell me your story.

Hey Michelle! Thank you for the opportunity. Here is my story.

I was 22 years old and working as a massage therapist on a cruise ship when I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel and cubital (elbow) tunnel. The career that I had trained for was no longer an option. I had to start over and pick a new career. Tired of working commission jobs where your paycheck depends on how good of a salesperson you are, I sought out an in demand, well-paying career in cyber security.

Like any normal person would do, I took out student loans to cover my tuition. I didn’t pay any attention to how much I was borrowing or the interest rate. I figured I would be making the big bucks when I graduated and could afford the payments. To make that happen, I worked hard to get into my field and landed an internship during my first year in school. By the time I graduated, I had already been in the IT field for several years.

So, was I making the big bucks now? Nope, not even close. There was no big, fat pay raise when I graduated. Reality slapped me hard in the face when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to afford my student loan and car payments with my small salary in California.

I knew I had to do something to clean up my mess. Years before I had tried to get out of debt by following Dave Ramsey’s plan, but reverted to my old ways after going through some personal things. Wanting to give it another try, I enrolled in Financial Peace University. I also went back to school for my master’s degree. This allowed me to defer my loans while cleaning up my mess. The best part was the company I now worked for reimbursed tuition for degrees that are related to your field.

My debt was over $80,000 and consisted of student loans, a car, and a small credit card. Once I committed to doing a zero-based budget, I started to see some great progress. I was sharing all my progress with my then boyfriend, now husband. I tried to get him on board, but he wasn’t interested at the time. After a few months of hitting it hard, I started to get mad that my balance wasn’t going down as fast as I wanted it to. It was going to take me forever to get out of debt!

That’s when I had my second “I’ve had it” moment where I was now ready to take action. The Prius I was upside down on had to go. It was a drastic, but necessary move. I quickly saved up $5,000 for a used Honda Civic and sold my car. With one transaction I got rid of $17,000 worth of debt. It felt like I was getting somewhere now! Because of my past, dumb mistakes, I had to take out a $7,000 loan to cover the difference I was upside down on. Owing $7,000 is WAY better than owing $24,000. I consider this to be the best financial decision I’ve ever made. It catapulted my debt snowball and provided the motivation I needed to continue.

After seeing my progress and going through FPU, Josh got on board and started paying off his debt. He cash flowed my engagement ring and proposed several months later! We paused our debt free journey and cash flowed $14,000 in six months for our wedding and honeymoon.

With the wedding behind us, it was time to get to business. Together we had a total $133,763 in debt. Josh added a truck and multiple credit cards to the pile of debt. We combined our accounts, started doing a zero-based budget, and utilized cash envelopes to stay on track. We both worked to increase our income while keeping the same lifestyle. After three years and seven months of hard work, we became debt free on July 5th, 2018!

 

How much debt did you have and what was your debt from?

Our debt totaled $133,763 and consisted of 16 student loans, 8 credit cards, 2 vehicles, and 1 personal loan. Nearly half of our debt was my student loans from my associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

Why did you want to get out of debt fast?

It’s an awful feeling not having enough money to pay your bills or having to tell your friends/family you can’t go out because you’re broke. I wanted to get out of debt fast so I could afford my bill and have money to do the things I enjoy.

My why evolved over time when Josh and I started talking about our future together. He almost bought a sailboat when he got out of the Army years ago. Josh ended up moving back to San Diego instead, and then we met. He shared his dream with me, and I was immediately on board. I had been obsessed with tiny house living, and having worked on cruise ships, I loved the water. Getting a sailboat and one day quitting our jobs to travel became our new why.

How long did it take you to pay off your debt and reach debt freedom?

We spent three years and seven months working on paying off all our debt. The first year I was on my own. We weren’t married yet, and it took some time to convince Josh to get on board. After getting engaged, we paused our debt payments for six months to cash flow our wedding. We finished up the remainder of our debt a year and a half after we were married.

How did you manage to get out of debt so fast?

Getting out of debt can be broken down into two areas: increasing your income and cutting your expenses. We did both during our journey.

Our income increased by $75,000 during our debt free journey. This was from raises, overtime, and on-call pay. How did we do this? I attribute a lot of my success to working while I was going to school. I landed a part-time internship when I was in my first year of school. It allowed me to work my way up the ladder faster and increase my income. While in my master’s program, I managed to get into the IT Security department at my company. It came with a significant pay increase and each yearly raise has been a generous amount.

Josh also works in IT. He doesn’t have a degree, but his eight years of experience in the Army and his drive more than make up for it. Josh manages critical applications and is one of the go-to people in the IT department. He’s on-call and often working overtime. His skills and work ethic have earned him well deserved pay increases over the years.

Cutting expenses also helped us reach debt freedom faster:

Housing

For most of our journey, we lived in a small 550 sq. ft house to keep rent low. This saved around $400 a month for the 2.5 years we lived there. That’s $12,000 saved!

Vacations

Other than a honeymoon, we didn’t go on a vacation during our whole debt free journey. We had a few small trips: graduation, a wedding, Christmas in Tennessee with my family, which my mom paid for because she wanted to see us while supporting our journey.

Instead of traveling, we found free things to do in San Diego. Going hiking with the dogs was one of our favorite things to do. We also hung out with friends at their house instead of going out. We would cook dinner and watch a movie or TV series.

Hobbies and fun

Josh has a lot of expensive hobbies that he put on hold during our debt free journey: spear fishing, fishing, tech stuff, etc. I didn’t have any hobbies since my life was consumed by work and school. We cut out restaurants, date nights, movies, and excessive clothing. If we wanted to go out to eat or buy booze, it would come out of our budgeted spending money. There were a lot of Netflix and chill nights! Our date nights consisted of grilling out in our yard and sitting by the fire pit. We did budget for date nights whenever we hit a big milestone.

Work perks

Josh and I work at the same company, which allowed us to carpool to save money. Additionally, our company has amazing benefits. Our health and dental insurance are extremely affordable, both of our cell phones are paid for because we’re on call, and we’re able to make up missed hours instead of taking PTO if we need to leave work for some reason.

Can you tell me about cash envelopes? How does it work and why do they help?

Cash envelopes are a budgeting method where you take out cash for specific categories instead of using your debit/credit card for purchases. Each payday we take out money for groceries, gas, spending money, and any sinking funds we’re saving for. For that two-week period, all groceries come out of the grocery envelope. Same with gas and spending money. Once it’s gone, it’s gone! There’s no money left in our accounts because it’s all been paid to debt, so you better spend the money wisely! We had our emergency fund in case anything happened, but spending too much on groceries is not an emergency.

This method really helps curb your spending because you feel it more when you use cash. It’s also easy to look in your wallet and see how much money you have for each category to stay on track. Josh is a spender and he’s had great success with cash envelopes. I had a wallet with several dividers made for him to make it easy.

A lot of people are scared to carry around cash. I think the benefits of using cash outweigh the risk of losing it or it being stolen. I suggest only carrying around the amount that you need and leaving the rest at home in a safe until you need it. If anything were to happen, you always have your emergency fund to fall back on.

What is your response to people that say, “You should invest that money instead of paying off the debt, you'll earn more in the long run…” etc.?

Ahhh the age-old argument! My response is do what works best for YOU! Everyone’s situation and priorities are different.

When I started, I didn’t have a choice because I wasn’t going to be able to afford the minimum payments on my debt! As we got further into our journey, sure we could have invested, but paying off debt was more important to us. Becoming debt free is a sure thing and will force you to change your spending habits for the better. I never want to get in a bind and have to pull out investments early because of debt or bad spending habits.

What sacrifices did you have to make in order to become debt free?

The biggest sacrifice I made to become debt free was selling my beloved Prius for a 2005 Honda Civic. At first, I didn’t want to sell it. I was going to try and get out of debt while keeping the car. After eight months of paying down my car loan and not making a lot of progress, I realized I had to make some bigger sacrifices, otherwise I would fall back into my old spending habits and go further into debt. I still miss the ability to get into my car without taking the keys out of my purse and the convenience of Bluetooth! My used Honda is old and janky, but it’s paid off!

Often people paying off loads of debt feel they have to choose between “living life” and making payments. Were there any times during the journey that you chose to “splurge”?

There were a few times we splurged! We got sick and tired of living in a small house, so we moved into a bigger rental with office space and a yard for the dogs. Before moving we did a cost analysis on the expenses to determine if it was worth it to us to push back our debt free date by a few months or stick it out and continue living the same way.

Our new place was so empty when we moved in. Imagine going from 550 sq. ft to over 1,300! We didn’t even have a table. We spent a few weeks buying furniture and things that we needed for the house before getting back into the swing of things.

Another big splurge was a complete surprise to me! I had been eyeballing this nice Canon DSLR camera and planned on getting it as a debt free gift to myself. Right before I graduated with my master’s degree, my mom was in California on a travel nursing assignment. She knew we were on a strict budget and would say no to most things that cost money. My mom told me she won $150 gift card and wanted to use it to take us out to eat.

I agreed because who passes up free!? During dinner, I kept making comments about us going all out because we have to use up the gift card. Avocado eggrolls, pizza, and several beers later, Josh said he forgot his wallet out in the truck and went to grab it. He came in the door behind me and set a big present on my lap! I immediately knew it was the camera!

So, how did Josh get this big purchase by me? He’s a veteran and was in school at the time. Veterans get a housing allowance each month while in school per the Post-911 GI Bill. The money was deposited into his personal checking account, and then he moved it to our joint checking every month. He told me that the allowance was delayed that month because of paperwork! I completely bought it. Josh used the money to go in on my graduation gift with my mom.

And the gift card? There was no gift card! They knew the only way to get me to a restaurant during our debt free journey was to lie to me and say she had a gift card. The total with tip came out to just over $150.

What did you do to stay motivated?

It’s so important to find ways to stay motivated when you have years of work ahead of yourself. Because I had fallen off track once before, I knew I had to find better ways to stay motivated and focused.

Visuals were by far my favorite way to stay motivated. I had multiple charts, spreadsheets, and countdowns going at home and work. Every time we made a payment towards debt, I would get to color in charts, change Excel spreadsheets, and update the whiteboard at work. Having reminders where you’ll see them every day is extremely motivating.

I also sought to find other people on the same journey. Back in 2014, there weren’t a lot of people on Instagram sharing their progress and journey. I found a small group of people from searching #debtfree and #daveramsey, and started following them. The hashtags started to get polluted by people selling those skinny teas and weight loss wraps. I put out a call to the small community, and we decided to vote on our own hashtag. That’s how the #debtfreecommunity was born!

It’s so motivating to talk to people who are going through the same thing. In real life, none of my friends or coworkers were trying to get out of debt. Their eyes would gloss over when talking about budgets or paying off a debt. Every time I opened Instagram, I would immediately be motivated by another person's journey or the lovely comments left on my posts.

If you were starting back at ground zero, what would you do differently?

There are so many things I would do differently! First off, instead of getting a $12,000 car when I was 16, I would save up a few thousand and buy a used, reliable car. That one decision would set my life on a much better path! I’d be able to save up money and pay for school upfront, which is my next point. I would spend more time figuring out what I want to do in life and researching schools. I’d make sure to pick a career that is not commission based and makes a great salary. I would start investing early in life, even if it was only $100 a month. I would continue to pay cash for purchases, save money, and invest.

What is your very best tip (or two) that you have for someone who wants to reach the same success as you?

Hands down the best tip I can give is to create a zero-based budget and stick to it. A budget doesn’t sound sexy or fun, but it gives you freedom to spend money on the things that matter to you. Budgeting doesn’t mean you have to cut out all your fun! Put it in the budget. The point is to know where your money is going and to spend it intentionally. Don’t resist the budget!

The second tip I can give is to find your people! It’s hard to stay motivated to pay off debt or save when all your friends are spending money left and right. Having a supportive group of people that get you is priceless.

What's your next financial goal?

Our next financial goal is to save $25,000 for our 6-month emergency fund. We want to be prepared for anything that comes at us!

We keep $2,000 in a local savings account and the rest will be in a high interest savings account. Transferring money from our large emergency fund to our checking account takes a few days, which is great because it helps prevent us from dipping into it for non-emergencies.

The emergency fund will cover all of our expenses for six months with minimal cuts to the budget. It’s going to be a huge relief to have money set aside just in case. No more money fights when something unexpected happens!

Where can my readers go to learn more about you?

You can learn more about us by following along on Instagram, heading to our website, and checking out our debt free swag.

Do you have any other questions for Amanda? Are you trying to pay off debt?

The post How Amanda Paid Off $133,763 In Debt in 43 months appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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I know that traveling full-time sounds fascinating – you get to explore new places, bring your home everywhere you go, try new foods, meet new people, and more.

But, it's not always beaches, mountains, and other beautiful landscapes.

I’m definitely not complaining and I am very thankful for the life I get to live. However, while I once believed that full-time travel was the greatest thing ever, lately I have been feeling oh so tired!

Related: Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

Over the last few months, I have seen countless friends and travelers that I know stop traveling full-time, all for various reasons. And, each time someone quits, I have stopped and thought about my own life and full-time traveling journey.

I want to bring this up because I know that so many people who travel full-time feel that they are the only ones having a hard time – struggling with loneliness, dealing with broken RV or boat parts, feeling tired, and so on.

I think that if more people realized that these feelings are normal, then they could push past the hard parts and enjoy the fun parts even more.

Traveling full-time is amazing but it’s not for everyone. And over the years, I've had plenty of people tell me that they could never travel full-time, and I always thought those people were absolutely crazy.

“WHAT?! Why wouldn't you want to travel full-time?”

But, after so many years of being location independent (since 2013), I'm finally starting to understand why some of the RVers and sailors I’ve met start to slow down or stop traveling all together.

And until recently, I had a hard time answering a question I often receive, “What do you NOT like about full-time travel?”

While the first couple of months of full-time travel were a difficult transition, the following years have been glorious and amazing. But like I said, I’m starting to understand some of the downsides.

Still, traveling full-time has many, many positives. I wouldn't be doing it unless I thought it was amazing! You can read about all of the reasons why I love full-time travel below:

Today, I'm going to talk about the downsides of full-time travel. And while I don't see us stopping full-time travel anytime soon, these are all things that you may want to think about before you decide it’s the lifestyle for you.

Being away from friends and family.

I don't think I've been back “home” to Missouri in over a year, and even then, it was only for a few days during a stopover before getting our boat. I can't even remember the last time I saw my friends from home. It's also been forever since I've seen our family!

While we have visitors occasionally, it's very different from regular get togethers with friends and family at home.

I still remember the day that we sold our house in Missouri – I cried and I was so sad to move away! Even though I looked forward to our new adventure, it was hard to leave everything that I was familiar with.

That being said, we have made great friends both on the road and in the boating community.

But, since most these people also travel, we eventually have to say our goodbyes and will probably never see those people again, no matter how great the friendship is. I still fondly remember saying goodbye to an RV neighbor we once had. We didn't speak to each other a ton, but we loved sharing our past experiences with one another. I really loved hearing about the amazing life our RV neighbors lived. When it was time to separate, this 87-year-old man, who barely knew us, had tears in his eyes.

And, this happens all the time! It's difficult making friends when you know that it's going to be over soon.

Dealing with a literal broken home.

When something is broken in a “normal” home, you can typically still use your home, sleep in it, and have no other worries.

Yes, you may still have the stress of money and trying to fix it, but dealing with a broken moving home, such as an RV or boat, can lead to a lot more things, such as:

  • Getting into an accident because something is broken (such as a flat tire, blown engine, etc.).
  • Not being able to sleep in your home because it's in the shop, which can lead to even more expenses, scrambling to find somewhere to sleep, and more.
  • Putting your life at risk in order to repair the issue (this is more-so true on a boat than an RV, because with an RV you can just pull over, but it's more difficult to do that on a boat.

Then there's the whole boats and RVs just aren't made the way that homes are, so they are literally just broken all the time. This is true whether your RV/boat is brand new or if it's 50 years old – there's just always a long list of things to maintain and items to replace and/or add.

Get used to being uncomfortable.

Many people have a very specific routine that they go through every day, whether they want to admit it or not.

After all, humans are creatures of habit.

When traveling full-time, it can be very difficult to establish anything that even remotely resembles a routine. This is because most days are different, life can be dependent on the weather, things break, and so on.

Here are some instances in which you may have to change the way you live while traveling full-time:

  • Using less water. In a normal house, the average person uses around 100 gallons of water a day. If you are a full-time traveler (in an RV or boat for example), you will need to learn how to live with less water, unless you're at a campground or marina.
  • Dealing with dirty clothes. If you don't have laundry aboard, then you will have to find laundromats. Yes, I realize that many people use public laundromats, but when you’re traveling it can be hard to find laundromats at each place you visit.
  • Learning new cultures, laws, rules, etc. so that you don't do something stupid.
  • Not speaking the language of wherever you are.
  • Feeling sick? You'll most likely not be around a doctor you know, and you may have to go to a doctor in another country who speaks a language that you don’t understand.

And more! While those reasons may seem petty, those things can really test your comfort level and are why many people stop traveling full-time.

Not having a home base.

Okay, so our sailboat is our home, as was our RV.

But, there is something to be said about having a home base – as in one that doesn't move.

For me, I do dream of one day having a home with a beautiful mountain and/or valley view, a garden, and a place to stop and refresh after a fun trip.

I don't see myself quitting traveling forever, but being able to relax at home without having to move it sounds nice in the future.

I'm seeing more and more RVers purchase homes/property that have full hookups, so that they can stay in one spot and rest for a few months in a row. I've also met quite a few sailors who do the same for hurricane season each year.

Not having room for all of your stuff.

Another positive of having a home base is having room for all of your things!

The reality is that even a minimalist will have stuff.

When we downsized our house and belongings to move into our RV, we rented a storage unit for a few months to help us deal with some things that we still had but couldn’t fit into the RV. While it was helpful at the time, we are now really happy that we got rid of our storage unit.

I won't lie, though, just a few months ago, we were talking about whether or not we should get a small storage unit again for some of the gear we have (bikes, bikes, and more bikes, and other outdoor gear) and things that we have collected over the past few years while traveling.

But, we've decided not to.

Related content: 8 Lessons I've Learned From Living With Less Stuff

The amount of trash in the world will make you sad.

I'm not perfect, and I realize that I'm contributing to the worldwide trash crisis. But, traveling full-time in beautiful places and seeing so much trash everywhere is a real eye-opener.

I hate seeing all the trash, and traveling full-time makes it a little more difficult to live sustainably. Sure, a sailboat can be powered by the wind and solar panels, but other forms of travel aren't as eco-friendly. And, when you're traveling in certain countries, they may not be as eco-friendly as you’d hope (you may get plastic plates with your food and items in the grocery store may come with a crazy amount of plastic packaging).

Sometimes I dream of having a sustainable home, one that runs on solar and has a bountiful garden.

Related content: Save Your Money And Avoid A Storage Unit

There are so many decisions.

When living on a boat, so much of your life is controlled by the weather. Once you arrive to a new anchorage or marina, you're pretty much already thinking about your next spot, which can even happen the following day (depending on the weather).

There are so many decisions that you have to make as a full-time traveler, whether you are by suitcase, vehicle, or boat, such as where you'll be living the following week, how you'll get food/groceries, dealing with checking in and out of countries, route planning, figuring out when/where to get fuel, water, where to dump, and more.

Full-time travel means that you have to plan everything full-time!

How much longer will I travel full-time?

After reading all of the above, I'm sure some of you think that I might be about to quit this lifestyle.

Well, don't hold your breath – I have no plans of quitting this life of travel any time soon.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and there are positives and negatives to each.

I absolutely love full-time travel for many reasons, such as:

  • Getting to travel – DUH! I love being able to go to new places, find new hikes, try new food, meet locals, see beautiful landscapes, and more. This world is a beautiful place and I want to see it all!
  • You can explore off the beaten path places because you have a lot more time to see everything. This is probably my most favorite part of full-time traveling! I love just stopping for a break, realizing that we found something amazing, and staying for as long as we want.
  • You can bring your home to places that people can't get to by plane, which leads to more travel options and you can stay in these places even longer. And, you never have to pack! Okay, well you kind of have to pack your home up but at least you know that you'll never forget anything at home, haha.
  • You can live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else.
  • You can spend more time outside.

And so much more.

While it does take some effort to make this lifestyle work, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

The thought of no longer traveling is something that scares me since we've been doing it for so long. Would we really enjoy being “home” most of the time? Would sitting still for long periods of time drive us crazy? Would we regret the change and go back to full-time travel life?

While it seems like a dumb thing to be afraid of, I know of many people who stopped traveling and felt lost, experienced culture shock, and were not happy. Full-time travel and house life are two lifestyles that are so very different.

Now, I know that some of you may take this as one big complaint of a blog post, but I am definitely not complaining about the life that I live! I know that many people live much more difficult lives, and I am very grateful for mine. In this blog post, though, I am hoping to help others make the transition smoothly and be aware of the possible downsides.

If you're interested in long-term travel, please read Want To Be A Full-Time Traveler? 13 Ways To Make It Happen.

Are you interested in full-time travel?

The post Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds? appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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