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Lily from The Frugal Gene may be the nicest person on the internet.
How do I know? Well, I’ve chatted with a lot of people, and while many are quite nice (all of you included), few are this nice.
I’ve cold emailed her twice to help me out with things, and both times she got back to me in record time. And when I asked her to be a part of Band of Bloggers, she replied with, “Of course! I was wondering where my invite was!”
If you know Lily at all, you know that she has a great, quirky sense of humor and that she writes like she talks, in a super casual way that reminds you of two friends sitting down and shooting the breeze.
But don’t let her casual tone deceive you. Lily is a big-time blogger who has wisdom in spades. She’s also had amazing success in a short period of time, building a loyal following, getting 100,000 pageviews in a month and been featured on massive publications like MSN.
As always, Lily lets her personality shine through as she shares what she’s learned as a child growing up struggling with poverty, a killer blogger, and as a successful entrepreneur.
You’re going to have fun with this!!
What is the one book (or books) that you have given to your friends?
Unfortunately, I find that many of them don’t follow up with these books and actually read them. I sometimes think I’m just wasting my money (it’s not much, I buy those books used) handing them out to friends. But if I didn’t do that, then I would feel guilty because the price of financial knowledge is a lot more costly than $4.99 for a used book from me.
My two cents are in red 🙂
The Millionaire Next Door is a classic…for a reason.
It has no-nonsense advice for living life below your means, saving a large portion of your income, and accumulating wealth the old-fashioned way – through hard work and time.
I’ve checked out some stuff by Bernstein but never If You Can. I will definitely be checking that one out.
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!
I purchased the cheapest plan through Bluehost to start The Frugal Gene. My total was a little under $90 but it gave me my own website.
I use it as therapy to figure things out and think them through. It’s like forced self-reflection (except it’s public and everyone can read it so there’s that awkwardness…xD) and it’s really impacted my entire life (and the lives around me too!).
I’d echo this for sure.
I use Siteground for my hosting and they’ve been amazing.
Having my blog has been awesome to have an outlet for my thoughts and ideas. It’s made me feel like I’m contributing to helping people win with money.
And the people I’ve met as I’ve been blogging have been great (most of them…a few trolls but it’s the internet, what did I expect?)
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
Person 1: “Do you think I settled?”
Person 2: “Are you happy?”
Person 1: “Yes.”
Person 2: “Then you didn’t settle.”
I just couldn’t get this simple thought out of my head when I read it years ago in some random nook on the internet.
My mom taught me to never settle, like it was an objective thing. I should reach for the stars and do everything in my power to better myself etc.
But sometimes, I’m just happy being content and normal. Why wasn’t happiness a part of her philosophy? It’s not like I’m unambitious, but I care more about the logic behind being happy than questioning if I settled.
There’s nothing wrong with settling because it’s not settling if you’re happy.
I love this! As Lily said, so incredibly simple and yet profound.
I personally am a very driven person. I’m always trying to improve and better myself whether in my career, on my blog, or personally.
I think this is a good thing. A very good thing.
But just like eating too much chocolate can make you puke, always feeling the need to achieve something more or greater can leave a person feeling discontent and unfulfilled.
Don’t miss the depth of the wisdom in what Lily shared. Push yourself, yes. But also push yourself to find fulfillment in contentment.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I was always pretty embarrassed because we don’t drive a car and we don’t do the nicest things (trips to Cabo, cruises, mountain climbing etc) compared to our friends.
I just didn’t feel like doing those things, but when I saw photos, for some reason, I felt a bit jealous.
This was the pre-I-Discovered-Personal-Finance days and we were still doing our 70% savings rate at the time.
After finding out that there are communities dedicating themselves to the math behind car-free living or going without cable, I was really excited. I thought, “Hey, I found my people! They’re smart with money AND they’re entrepreneurial! HOLY COW!”
All I’ve done these past few years is learn how to gain more confidence in myself, who I am as a person, and how full of amazing opportunities this world is.
Find Your Frugal Gene Community
70% savings rate!!!
Second, what Lily described here is the power of belonging to a community, of knowing that people have your back and are looking out for you.
It’s what I’ve also found in the personal finance community. From Jon at ESI Money, Mike at Ninja Budgeter, Bobby at Millennial Money Man, to Lily, I’ve been so fortunate to have people ahead of me on the path encourage, support, and show me the way.
If you’re reading this as a new blogger, or as a blogger who doesn’t feel connected to a community yet, here are a few things you can do to build your network.
1. Reach out to people – almost all of my networking, whether it’s just getting to know people or having opportunities for doing guest posts, have come from me taking the initiative to reach out to people.
If I really loved a blogger’s post, I let them know.
When I want to guest post on someone’s site, I just ask.
If they gave me the green light, I pitched them with something I hoped would blow them away. It’s what I did to post on Millennial Money Man and with J.D. at Get Rich Slowly.
2. Join a community of like-minded bloggers – I’m a part of several groups of bloggers, like the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Facebook group, Rockstar Finance Forums, and the Elite Financial Bloggers.
Not only are these awesome places to learn and ask questions, but the sense of community you’ll build here can really help with growing your confidence and audience!
What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
You have to be authentic if you want to stay in this line of work for longer than a year.
I was very self-censorious in my first 6 months of blogging because I was trying to come off with a wider appeal when really…as a whole, no one can be of wide appeal.
I’m weird and I should…just accept that.
This is killer advice, but advice that can be hard to take.
It’s hard developing your own voice.
And it can be scary being authentic. I’ve been authentic at times and I’ve made people mad, which I don’t like. I want to be liked by everyone.
But in order to really FIND my voice, I need to USE my voice.
If that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so be it.
What common advice should they ignore?
Don’t offer freebies or whatever enticing product with download unless you want to pay money to MailChimp every month.
You want a base of dedicated readers FIRST before you start throwing out the giveaways.
Those people aren’t here for you as a blogger, there just there for the free stuff. So when you send them emails, it’s just like throwing money away later on.
This makes a lot of sense. Sort of.
Yes, I could do big giveaways that would get a lot of people to the site. But Lily’s right, they would be there for the free stuff, not for me. In that sense, I see her point about throwing money away.
On the other hand, for the people that are at your site already because they like your writing, I do think it’s important to connect with them via email so that you can continue to build the reader/writer relationship.
Sometimes a freebie is the nudge they need to take the first step in making that happen.
What are 1-3 apps/programs/plugins that have allowed you to maximize your time/energy?
This is a lesser known one, but Smush (that’s the name) is an image optimizer. I used to just run all images manually and download them twice – it was so tedious. Smush automatically optimizes all images with a click.
I always recommend downloading Yoast SEO and for everyone to DELETE Mojo Market/Bluehost off of their plug-in list.
So I have Yoast SEO and as a newbie blogger, it’s been great. The green light has given me a sense of, “I must be doing something right,” when it comes to SEO.
But I recently listened to an episode of Do You Even Blog with Mike Pearson of Stupid Easy SEO. He had some really interesting things to share and it opened my eyes to the fact that Yoast is a great place to start, but it’s not the be all end all.
Writing for SEO has some particular intricacies that can be very complicated. But sometimes, changing things so that your post is “keyword rich” or “optimized for SEO” changes the voice of the piece so much, it just sounds crappy.
There is definitely a balance between SEO and still being true to your voice and your content.
I’m still working to figure that balance out but Mike’s site has some great info to help you crush SEO.
How has generosity been a part of your life (someone generous to you or vice versa)? What impact did it make?
My husband is generous with me every day.
He is gone most of the day and when he comes back, there are house chores waiting for him.
Like I’m too short, even with a ladder, to reach the smoke alarms so when the batteries are low, I have to wait for him to come home to get up there with a stool to replace the battery.
There are people that joke about not enough good men out there and I’m thinking, “Whoops, sorry I took one of them so there are even less good men out there!” I never pictured a guy or really wondered who I was going to end up with…I figured I was going to be a 45-year-old cat lady.
At the end of the day, I think I really won the lottery with my husband.
What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?
It’s not really about the money. It’s the personality and thinking behind the money.
The top 3 things I’d say are denial, being unwilling to put in the work, and having a disregard for another’s similar accomplishment.
I see it a lot and it has pretty much turned me off ALL kinds of personal finance talk with people in real life. You can’t help someone who is unwilling to help themselves even if you come with the knowledge. Some people actually start to feel the sting and hate you for it.
I can get a little grumpy just thinking about it.
I am good at picking up social cues and little emotions behind the eyes. The “Oh I can never do that, no way,” half eye roll. The “I’m not listening, just nod” eyes glazed over look.
In the end, I’ve found it’s better to gift them a book so the book will be there for them when they’re ready to learn.
I sound like a parent but that’s all you can do for them. It’s sort of their journey, their fight to overcome, not yours.
Take Extreme Ownership
I couldn’t agree more.
The victim mentality that is so prevalent today makes me crazy. The people on the internet complaining about what a hard time they’ve had and how the system is rigged against them so that they’ll never be able to succeed.
I get it. Not everyone is born with the same set of advantages or privileges. But we can also compare ourselves unfavorably to someone and feel sorry for ourselves and our circumstances.
But come on people! Get up, get out there, and get it done!
The temptation to make excuses and blame others is powerful because it’s so easy and it takes away any personal responsibility that people have.
But it also doesn’t solve any problems.
If you want to solve problems, you need to take extreme ownership of the problems. That means, you need to accept that they’re you’re problems, you caused them, and you play a critical role in fixing them.
Speaking of which, I just watched an awesome Ted Talk by Jocko Willinck about this where he steps up and shows us what this looks like, and he’s also got a book called Extreme Ownership. You should totally them check out.
What is one thing you have an abundance of and one thing you’re working on building an abundance of?
This will sound a little deep, but I believe we have an abundance of money for our desired level of frugality.
We make our family income and expense reports public and at the end of the month, there’s an expense number that’s like $800 and our net worth that makes it look comical.
BUT we don’t have an abundance of money in the grand scheme of things. We have larger dreams for when we’re ready for kids. I care about leaving a legacy that will jumpstart multiple generations of wealth beyond me. We don’t have anywhere near enough for that yet so we’re building for it.
Who knew money could be scarce and in abundance at the same time…
Bringing It All Together
Lily has one of the most unique voices I’ve come across in the personal finance blogosphere. It’s a big reason why The Frugal Gene has grown to be so successful in such a short period of time.
But don’t let her quirky personality lull you into thinking she’s all style and no substance.
She is wise beyond her years and she proved it with the nuggets of insight she shared in Band of Bloggers this week.
My two takeaways from Lily’s insights are:
1. You need to be yourself in order to stick with blogging and to build an audience – the reason that you’ll build an audience is because people connect with YOU. And they can’t connect with you if you’re trying to be Mr. Money Mustache, or Michelle from Sense of Sense or J-Money from Budgets Are Sexy. You need to be you. Or as Lily said on her blog, “you do you boo”.
2. There is power in community – Lily described how transformative it was when she found a community of like-minded, frugal life-hackers and how that built her confidence in who she was as a person. It’s this confidence that has allowed her to live the life she wants and to not feel guilty about “settling”. It’s also inspired her to write the amazing content that she has and to build The Frugal Gene to over 100,000 pageviews a month.
I’m so grateful to Lily for agreeing to participate in my feature as I work to find MY voice in the blogosphere.
As I write more and more, and read more and more, and learn more and more, I find myself wanting to do MORE AND MORE of what other successful bloggers are doing.
And while this can be a good thing, it can also be tempting to be someone I’m not.
Lily’s story is inspiring for bloggers who know who they are, but aren’t totally sure readers will connect with that. She shows that in this age of “fake news”, what people are craving is authenticity.
And being authentic, even though it’s scary, is something we can all do.
Hi, I’m Lily over at The Frugal Gene. I share our lives and finances with our readers with openness. My husband and I scrimp, save and work our bums off to save over 6 figures a year in the grandest pursuit of financial independence. We live car-free, clearance hunt, and moonlight as your pillow fluffing hosts on Airbnb. Follow along if you like a little humor with your morning personal finance read or midnight reading material.
What have you done to become part of a blogging community? Add to the conversation in the comments below or on Twitter @method_money or my Facebook page Method To Your Money. You can also find me on Pinterest. Want more great ideas for mastering your money? Sign up to receive my weekly emails detailing how to keep more of your hard earned cash!