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In the world of personal finance blogging, there aren’t many true celebrities.
Most of us are average people who’ve decided we don’t want to be average with our money anymore. We go to work, wear normal clothes, drive used Toyotas, and have a normal haircut.
No capes, masks, or tights (at least not in public).
We blend in beautifully in a crowd. We don’t look any different than your average person. It’s why so many of us work so hard to distinguish ourselves from our brother and sister bloggers.
Sure the personal finance world has our share of people who have written books, developed course, and who are doing very well for themselves. But as far as TRUE rockstars, there aren’t a ton.
One of the exceptions to this is the OG of personal finance rock stardom, J$. J. stands out in a crowd. Whether it’s in person with his crazy mohawk or online with his attention-grabbing blog, Budgets Are Sexy, J$ is the definition of cool.
But don’t let this hip-hop loving, coin collecting blogger fool you. When it comes to money, he KNOWS his stuff.
He’s been featured EVERYWHERE, from the New York Times to Forbes…
And now he’s on Method To Your Money.
J. is one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. Even though he’s run TONS of blogs, started Budgets Are Sexy and the personal finance GIANT Rockstar Finance, and been quoted in Time magazine, he hasn’t gotten too big for his britches. In fact, his britches fit just as well as they did when he was a graphic designer trying to get out of debt after buying more house than he could afford.
One thing I really appreciate about J$ is how approachable he is. As a new blogger, I’d tweet out to him about something he’d said and he’d respond back. It seems like such a small thing, but for a newbie blogger to be rubbing shoulders with someone so established was amazing and a wonderful example.
I am SOOOOO grateful that J. agreed to be a part of Band of Bloggers. It’s a huge privilege and honor to welcome him.
You all are going to be blown away.
Tim Ferris says that “Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.” What is one vague wish you were punished by or one specific ask you were rewarded for?
Haha… I’m the worst at setting specific tasks as I love just going with the flow of things, but the last real “big” ask I threw out there was to become a full-time blogger after realizing how much fun it was 🙂
Took me a couple of years of hustling/luck/opportunity – as well as getting fired from my 9-5! – but we’re now going on 8 years strong being self-employed and haven’t looked back (nor come up with any new “big” asks – womp womp…).
(Me in red) Blogging IS really fun. It’s so cool to have the opportunity to grow something from the ground up. There’s a real sense of personal accomplishment when you reach your goals. It’s like, “Hey, I did that!!
But J., in his typically humble way, points to the fact that he WASN’T alone in being responsible for his success.
Yes, he hustled. He busted his butt and worked his tail off. But he did so to put himself in a position to take advantage of the luck and opportunities that came his way.
We CAN’T build our blog, business or brand by ourselves. If we think we can we’re delusional.
What we can do is bust OUR butts writing, networking, creating, and hustling, to put ourselves in the spaces to CRUSH the amazing opportunities that will inevitably come our way.
That’s what J. did. And we should too!
What are one to three books that have greatly impacted your life (money related or not)?
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Hands down the most influential book for me in recent years as it helped me to really wrap my head around what I should be *focusing on more* in life/career, as well as what I should be letting go of.
It immensely improved my work/life balance, and eventually led me to offload one of my biggest projects I’ve ever built (Rockstar Finance) in order to free up even more time for me and my family.
Highly recommend the book, especially if you’re feeling stuck right now!
I’m a big believer in a “less is more” philosophy. I know for me, life can seem CRAZY busy at times. Too often we can find ourselves running around like chickens with our heads cut off going from one task or activity to another. The sad part is, it’s often at the expense of the things that really matter.
I’m going to have to check out Essentialism. It sounds like it was able to give great clarity to J$ as he made some critical decisions which greatly improved his quality of life.
A book I’d recommend in the same vein is Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. The book describes how to say no, when to say yes and how to take control of your life (incidentally, the subtitle of the book!). It’s been very helpful for me as I navigate finding balance and health in my life and relationships.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last year (or in recent memory)? The more specific details the better!
Probably my $20 automatic donations every month to organizations I believe in. I’m not naturally good at donating money, so I started applying the same strategies of wealth building to it, and now every time I get a receipt emailed to me I smile hard knowing I’m finally getting better at it 🙂
I’ve also started a “must say yes” rule to anyone who asks me for money (charitable-related), and that’s also helped get me in the right mindset as well as learning about all the awesome stuff people are doing in this world.
Automated and Conscious Giving
This is such a KILLER idea!! This is one of the things that I love about J, how he takes conventional ideas, turns them on their head, and applies them in unique ways.
Automating your charitable donations is a great way to ensure that you are generous FIRST and not just with the leftovers.
I also like how he gets a receipt each month. A big part of giving is that it builds an attitude of generosity. If your donations were automated and you didn’t get any notification that anything has happened, there could be the potential for an “out of sight, out of mind scenario” to take place.
This would defeat one of the main benefits to giving, that it fosters a generous mindset or way of thinking. Getting the monthly receipt brings to mind the donations being made and reminds J not only who he’s giving to, but more importantly, WHY he is giving.
Kudos to him for using technology to discipline himself to be generous. It’s so easy to forget, get busy, or give out of the leftovers. This is especially true at Christmas when we can be intensely focused on the holiday trimmings and not what really matters.
J. has made sure this doesn’t happen.
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite success?
I don’t have a favorite success, but I do have a handful of failures 🙂 Here’s my “resume” of them if you really wanna feel better about yourself, haha http://jmoney.biz/failures/ (inspired by Johannes Haushofer’s “CV of Failures” that went viral a few years ago)
I love how genuine and honest J$ is about his failures. In the blogosphere it seems like all you ever hear about is, “How I went from 0 to 100,00 pageviews in 2 days” or “How I Paid Off 1 Million in Debt and Saved $500,000 and Travelled The World on a Teacher’s Salary…in a Month”.
Don’t get me wrong. Successful bloggers and millionaire traveling teachers are inspirational, but it’s only a handful of people that really share their failures.
In fact, we should be CELEBRATING failure!
WHAT?? WHY?? Are you NUTS??!!
Because when we fail, we learn. When we learn, we grow. And as we grow, we succeed.
Failure is simply a pit stop on the road to success.
So don’t look at failure as a negative. It’s simply one of your First Attempts In Learning (FAIL).
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
“It’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up one you don’t.” I’m not sure who said it, but it’s probably the one line that’s impacted me the most over the years. Especially when you work online and there are ENDLESS ways to make money and grow your business, both things I’ve come to realize don’t motivate me as much as having freedom and *purpose*.
I’ve probably turned down over a dozen amazing opportunities in my digital career so far (despite the advice of friends and family!), just because they would have led me away from peace and happiness in the end. And only WE know what’s best for us, so it’s important to pay attention to that gut of yours!
This is KILLER advice from someone who has been around the blogging block for a long time (not that you’re old or anything J.).
There really are TONS of ways to go about running your online business. And there are even more ways to make money from it.
Straight up blog? Advertise? If so, how much? Freelance? Are you going to develop courses? Build other sites? Sell eBooks? Downloadables? Maybe you want to be a virtual assistant? You could teach others to ve VAs. The options are seemingly endless.
And many of them are good. As J. mentioned, the opportunities he turned down were amazing.
They just weren’t for him.
If you’re going to pour thousands of hours into your blog to build it into something AWESOME (and make no mistake, it’ll take that many hours…at least), then make sure it’s the business YOU want.
Sure you could make money selling bullet journals, but does that pump you up? Are you passionate about money? If not, the whole personal finance blogging thing probably isn’t for you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find another niche to write in, or another method to build your online business.
Whatever you decide on though, be sure you’re climbing the right ladder, so as you move higher the view gets more beautiful with each step!
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
This is a tie between waking up at 5 am every morning a la Benjamin Franklin and no more working on nights and weekends.
I’m about three years into the early morning wake ups which *completely* transformed my days (and sanity!), and it’s been a little over a year of not opening up laptops anymore after “work” hours which has been game-changing. And ironically enough, I’m getting MORE work done scaling back because I’m now forced to be efficient!
And it doesn’t hurt that my family enjoys seeing more of me around the house too 🙂
A Personal Pep Talk
Ok J$, I feel like you’re talking directly to me. Or have you been chatting with my wife about my struggle to get up in the morning or how I can get distracted by blog stuff?
Seriously, this response is meant for me (and I’m sure for many of you too!).
I need to get up earlier to get stuff done. It would be so much better for my sanity, health, and my family.
My problem is that I also feel like I need to work late because, bottom line, I feel like I have too much “bloggery” that needs to be done!!
I’m interested in what J. said about actually getting more done though since he’s been getting up earlier and not working at night. Somehow, even though I don’t know how I’ll get everything done, that rings true with me.
I need to quit talking about this and just GET IT DONE!! (Sorry for the personal pep talk here 🙂
A practical note by J$ is that he hits the hay by 10 in order to get up at 5. In my mind, I’d probably need to be asleep by 10 if I wanted to get up that early. That’d mean pretty short evenings but if it works for B. Frank and J$, who am I to argue?
What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
JUST WRITE YOUR HEART OUT AND IGNORE EVERYTHING ELSE!!
So many people get bogged down with design or strategy or worse – monetization (blech) – and they forget that the whole point of blogging is to *share your thoughts and ideas*.
The rest will come if you’re fortunate enough to build up an audience, but it all starts with being *real* and* raw* and not being afraid to just tell your “story”. Which is why people will keep coming back – because it’ll be YOU they resonate with, not because you’re trying to get more money or become popular or build an empire.
All those perks are great if they happen to come along the way, but first you gotta put yourself out there!
A Low Bar
This is so true but so hard! It is crazy easy to forget that the point of blogging is to share yourself with the world and to help people. I can get bogged down in SEO, Pinterest, Facebook ads, courses, and networking.
Why? Because ultimately I DO want to grow my blog into a successful online business. And to do that, I NEED to think about all of those things.
But J$’s advice is well taken. If you write and write well, you will get noticed. Yes, you’ll need to connect with other bloggers and share your content on social media so that readers actually go to your site. But if your writing is drivel, they’re not going to be coming back.
In truth, I find the bar for online content is VERY low. Just read some of the ad-infested viral pin posts out there and you’ll see.
But if you write from the heart, if you’re creative, if you share your unique perspective with the world and really try to help people solve their problems, your blog WILL grow.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t do the other things like SEO, Pinterest, ads, etc. It’s just that they should ALWAYS take a back seat to writing great posts!
What common advice should they ignore?
That it’s easy to make money blogging or that it’s *passive*!
There are 1,001 other jobs that pay much better and quicker than blogging, and even when you do “make it” it’s anything but passive.
Not saying it’s not fun or worth it (it’s fantastic!), but I never encourage anyone to start a blog purely just to make money. You have to really ENJOY it and be PASSIONATE about this stuff or you’ll burn out before you even see your first dollar.
95% of finance blogs don’t make jack!
Totally agree with this. I’ve worked harder in my spare time over the last year than EVER on anything part-time. I’ve poured in hundreds of hours to my blog and I’ve made less than $1000. If I calculated my hourly wage…well, I won’t, because it’d be sad.
But here’s the thing, I really LOVE blogging. Sure there are times when it’s frustrating, even infuriating. And as I mentioned, I’m still trying to figure out the whole blog/life balance. But it really is something I enjoy. I love building, creating, and growing.
If I didn’t, I don’t think I could continue doing it because it really is hard. And I’ve only been at it for a year! When someone like J$ says it’s tough and there’s no such thing as passive income, all us newer bloggers should sit up and listen.
What one thing has been most effective for increasing traffic on your blog?
Probably guest posting. You get a double bang for your buck there as you not only get to “steal” someone else’s audience for the day, but also get those ever beautiful links back which are gold in the internet world.
But of course if the content isn’t good it won’t help you much in the long run anyways, so going back to my earlier points, it’s all about throwing your heart into it and really trying to make an impact!
I have been super fortunate in my blogging career to guest post on a number of wonderful sites. Some have been smaller, up and coming blogs, and others have been HUGE. In fact, J$ even let me guest on his site!!
I’m torn though about how much of an impact guest posting has on traffic.
In my third month of blogging, I had close to 5000 pageviews. It’s been 9 months since then, and I haven’t been able to crack the 5000 ceiling. In those 9 months I guest posted on Get Rich Slowly, Millennial Money Man, Budgets Are Sexy and Making Sense of Cents, 4 of the biggest blogs in the personal finance space.
I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or what. Do I need to be putting more links into my guest pieces? I’ve gotten a bit more savvy in the last while but I honestly was just writing content for them that I thought their readers would enjoy. I was also hoping to get in front of a larger audience to grow my readers. But as of right now, I can’t say that has happened.
Even though the jury on guest posting is still out, I’m going to keep working on it. For me, the more valuable thing to come out of my guest posts has been the relationships I’ve built which don’t really translate directly into traffic.
If I hadn’t guest posted for J$ he probably wouldn’t be on Band of Bloggers today. Without guesting for J.D., I never would’ve had him edit my work and give me some AMAZING feedback on my writing. And for all of the sites I’ve guested on, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to really get to know the wonderful people that run them.
All that said, I love guest posting and some of the intangible benefits it brings. I’m just not sold on how much it impacts your traffic.
Which is better? A goal that is smaller and you achieve it, or one that is too big and you don’t? Why?
A goal that is smaller and you achieve it 🙂
I’m horrible at larger “take over the world” goals and tend to do much better stacking up the small wins to boost my confidence and overall enjoyment vs waiting days or months – or worse, years! – to see something finally come to fruition.
I don’t have the patience or motivation to be able to wait that long, haha…Though I admire the crap out of all those who can.
Some of my best projects have been collaborations with others who have that trait, and then you get the best of both worlds: someone who can get down and dirty and start knocking away items one-by-one, while the other is pushing for greatness and leading you towards a more impactful vision!
I’m in the same boat as J. I’m better at the small goals and knocking them out one by one. I find that I have a vision of where I want to go, but it’s sometimes hard for me to break it down into the small, actionable chunks.
It’s something that running the blog has really helped me with. There are SOOOO many things you could be doing and need to do to be a successful blogger. Sometimes, actually, most of the time, it can be overwhelming thinking of where you ultimately want to go and the many things you need to do to get there. In blogging, you’re forced to narrow your focus or you won’t be able to get anything of value done.
Trying to be a Jack of all trades sucks
Take for example my blog right now. I have a number of things I want to be working on to grow my site. A few of my top priorities are developing a course for parents to teach their kids about money, improving SEO, upping my Pinterest game, exploring Facebook ads, networking, and generally growing my traffic.
Now each of those topics could take me a TON of time and potentially money to get done. Whether it’s buying courses and taking the time to figure out the best way to implement the new knowledge, purchasing ads, or interacting on social media to build relationships with other bloggers, there are many potential BIG investments of time and money.
Up until the last few months, I’d been trying to do each of these things at the same time. In truth, I hadn’t done any of them very well.
It’s only in the last 2 months that I’ve really been trying to prioritize my time and focusing on finishing my course. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been optimizing for SEO or pinning or networking. I have been doing all of those things. But I’ve just been doing them at a very shallow level. I haven’t dove deep. Once my course is done and humming along, I’ll look at some of those other things in more depth.
As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is the master of none. For me, I’d rather master one task at a time than do a whole bunch poorly.
What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?
People would probably say “budgeting”, “credit card debt”, or “not making enough” here, but the biggest thing in my eyes is just CARING ENOUGH to prioritize this stuff and actually make it happen.
Everyone knows how to save more or pay off debt, blah blah blah – it’s not that hard of a concept! – but getting someone to *take action* is a whole other ball game. And until you care enough to finally make it a priority, you’ll just continue along the same path wondering why you can never get ahead 🙁
The 90/10 Rule Of Personal Finance
Nail. On. Head.
The math to get ahead financially can be learned by a 5th or 6th grader. It’s not tough. And there are COUNTLESS places you can find info on how to save more, make more, or get out of debt.
But what J$ nailed is that personal finance is not about the math. If it were, personal finance bloggers would be out of work.
No, personal finance is 90% behavior and only 10% knowledge. More recently, whole fields of science, such as behavioral economics and financial psychology, have been developed to help people overcome their natural psychological tendencies towards laziness and stupidity.
A big part of overcoming the apathy J$ talks about and actually taking ACTION is connecting with WHY you want to win with money.
Is it so that you can stop worrying about money? Do you want to be able to move somewhere different when you retire? Are you planning on paying for your kids’ education? Maybe you want to quit your job and start your own business but you can’t do that until you’re out of debt.
Whatever the reason, you’re much more likely to reach your end goal when you, as author Simon Sinek states, Start With Why.
Starting with why moves you away from apathy towards action and sets you up to CRUSH your money!
Bringing It All Together On Band of Bloggers With J$
What a MASSIVE honor to have J$ bring his brand of humble, insightful financial wisdom to Band of Bloggers. I am SOOOO incredibly grateful to him for taking the time to participate.
As he mentioned during the interview, he’s turned down many AMAZING opportunities, so the fact that he said yes to Band of Bloggers is humbling and INCREDIBLE.
J. dropped some MASSIVE wisdom bombs on us all today. Here are a few that stood out to me:
1) Pursue Less
When we pursue less, paradoxically, we actually GAIN MORE. And not just in our work, but also in our relationships, health, and overall wellness.
2) Better to be at the bottom of the right ladder, than halfway up the wrong one
When it comes to reaching your goals, be sure you’re climbing the right mountain. Focus on the things that are important and leave all else behind.
3) Psychology trumps Math
If you want to win with money, be sure that you’re focusing on controlling your behavior and not perfecting your Math skills.
Honorable Mention – I need to get my butt out of bed at 5 am and GET ‘ER DONE!!
If we only focused on pursuing these three (or four) things, we’d all be CRUSHING IT in life and with our money!