Jacob Wade came into $100,000 at a young age thanks to a series of unfortunate events. The next unfortunate event was how he blew through that money without any budget or long-term plan. Hear how he did it and what he learned about budgets in this episode of the Personal Profitability Podcast.
Eric Rosenberg: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome back to the Personal Profitability Podcast for episode number 28. And I'm excited to have a really cool guest on with us today, someone who I met at FinCon, I think in St. Louis, that was FinCon 3 if I'm remembering right. We got to hang out and be buddies and went out to the after parties together and had an awesome time. And he came through in a clutch situation for me at this most recent conference when I couldn't figure out how the sound stuff works and this guy is a serious audio engineer. He has some good knowledge on that. And I am speaking, of course, of none other than the amazing Jacob Wade from I Heart Budgets, who's on the line with us. Say hello, Jacob.
Jacob Wade: Eric, thanks for having me. How's it going?
Eric: I'm doing excellent. It's a nice, cool Portland evening. I know you're just a few hours north up in Seattle, we share a specific northwest rained-in weather. It's a bummer this time of the year, I'm doing pilot lessons to learn how to be a pilot, pilot, about halfway through my hours but I have gotten very few hours since our infamous northwest winters have set in. I can't fly when it's cloudy. So that means I can't fly much.
Jacob: Yeah. So I was gonna say you've got like a 15-day window during the summer and you're good to go.
Eric: Yeah. I tell people when they haven't been up this way before, I'd say if you come after July 4th for about eight weeks you're pretty safe that you'll have nice weather and outside of that expect rain.
Jacob: Funny you mentioned that, it actually is required that it's after July 4th, coz it will rain on the 4th of July and then July 5th will be like 75 to 80 for the next eight weeks.
Eric: That's what Kathleen from Frugal Portland, she's another Portland local, she's been in this part of the world a lot longer than I have; me coming from Denver. And she was the one that told me 4th of July, that's when you can start saying the weather will be nice. It's an interesting way to, it's a good marker though.
Jacob: It is truth.
Eric: So speaking of blogs and people we know, could you share with everybody your story, how you started your website and a little bit about what your site is about?
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. Name's Jacob Wade and I run the blog IHeartBudgets.net, pretty self-explanatory, it's a budgeting and finance-focused website based on getting on a budget, knocking out your money goals, some cool ways to save and just other great ways to manage your money.
So my background, if we go way back…
Eric: Let's do it. Let's dig in.
How I Blew $100,000 Before Turning 21
Jacob: I just turned 30 so let's go back 10 years, I was 20 and I was working at the RadioShack at the mall making a killing.
Eric: RadioShack does not exist anymore in the same form.
Jacob: Absolutely. So we were there selling prepaid cell phones and doing our thing; totally legit. But I was there working at RadioShack. I did a little construction with uncle in the summer. But it was mostly just the RadioShack job.
And I did not managed my money at all. I spent it. Because I could. Actually, you know what, that's a good pause, let me go back to age 18 coz this is really work.
Eric: Did you get anything cool with that money at least?
Jacob: Well let's see if we can go back further. When I turned 18 I received almost $100,000. And I put that in…
Eric: Wow. Is that an inheritance?
Jacob: in my banking account. So it's two things. So unfortunately when I was four my father past, there was some type of litigation, I don't know the details but essentially my mom set aside some money to come to me when I turn age 18; $25,000. It was an that insurance I received and there was no ear mark, like let's use this for education, not of that stuff. It was here's some cash, 18 year old. Which in retrospect, probably not the best plan and I probably won't set it up that way with my kids but I received that. But right before I turned 18 I got in a car wreck and broke my neck.
Jacob: We're talking car that has gone probably a buck 10 buck 20 went up an embankment coz it just missed hitting another car, went up an embankment and rolled six times.
Eric: It's like a movie.
Jacob: Oh man, this was like, remember that James Bond movie? I think it was Casino Royale where he flipped that car like so many times. Yeah, it was me. But it was coming down an embankment and every time the car flipped it landed on its roof on my side of the car. I was the passenger. I was not driving. And the car crushed me, pushed my head down, compressed my spine to the point where my vertebrae exploded in my neck.
Eric: So I'm guessing you didn't just hopped out of the car and adjust your bowtie like James Bond?
Jacob: Not quite that classy
Eric: I'm not trying to make light of your accident. That's a horrible accident.
Jacob: The great thing's I don't remember any of it. I have to be told all the details of what happened. because actually my memory I was watching like MTV Movie Awards coz I was 17 and that's what you do, and my memory literary fades to black. Two hours prior to the crash and then I woke up in the hospital.
Eric: It's an amazing biological thing that our brains do that. They totally block out the worst things. I think that's a good thing.
Jacob: Yup. It's like trauma, put it in the recycle bin, empty. Anyway, broke my neck, all my bones are crushed, I got metal on my neck now, I'm you know like, half Terminator at this point. I'm made of metal.
Eric: Do you beep going through security at the airport?
Jacob: Luckily I don't. I think it was some fancy stuff maybe it's at a [inaudible] I don't know. They put something really fancy in there. But I've got 8 screws, 2 plates. And obviously there was this settlement after that. So I received $70,000 plus the twenty five, I had $95,000 plus from kind of working at stuff, I had some money aside. So essentially I had $100,000 in my bank at age 18, to do with whatever I wanted to do.
Eric: So obviously you decided to put that money into a 529 so you wouldn't pay taxes on and you go to college with it, right?
Jacob: That's the, not what I did.
Eric: Obviously, I was joking
Jacob: And this is the part of the show where I need to crack my beer because sometimes it's painful to…
Eric: I was gonna wait till you turn 21 in the story but this is a good enough juncture so…
Jacob: Oh goodness
Eric: So regular listeners know that personal finance should be fun and shouldn't all be uptight..Jacob, would you share with us what you are drinking out there is Seattle?
Jacob: So there's a local brewery called Hale's Ales in Shoreline, Washington here and it called El Jefe. It's a Weizen Ale Bavarian Style.
Eric: I have seen that one on the shelves.
Jacob: Yeah. Funny story, I hate it. It's not very good. But I'm a frugal blogger, right? And I bought a bunch of beer for my birthday party, which was almost a month ago. And this is the last can. And so I am so excited to drink this because then I can go buy more beer, some good beer. Because I have, other IPAs are okay but this one in particular was the last for it and I just had to choke them down.
Eric: I live about a mile or so from Gigantic Brewing, if you ever seen their stuff, they're amazing. And I have a Gigantic IPA here. I'm holding up and cheersing it to you, virtually via the internet.
Jacob: Sir, thank you.
Eric: And if you listeners are able to join us in having a beer, this is your opportunity to hit , by the pause button, go grab your favorite brew, cocktail, I don't judge if you like something other than beer. You know, I might judge a little but you're allowed to like what you like.
Jacob: And please do because this story gets better. So I'm gonna take a …
Eric: Take a big swig
Jacob: Oh it's so delicious.
Eric: Sometimes I find if…. I have a serious podcast like if I like hold my throat right, by the microphone as I gulp. Let's see if you guys hear my gulp. Let's try it. Did you catch that?
Jacob: Goodness, it had some bass to it.
Eric: Yeah. It's all about the bass.
Jacob: Lots of bass. So where are we? I'm 18.
Eric: Came into a bunch of money and you have a digital neck. A digital neck or a robot neck.
Jacob: So I have a non-analog neck and I have this big neck brace on and I'm like, ‘Well I have a $100,000. What should I do?' So the first thing I did was I stucked, I think, 60 grand of it in CDs, because that's what you did back then. You put it in CD.
Eric: We're the same age so when you were eighteen, seventeen a CD was paying probably 5%, 4%.
Jacob: It was. And so I'm like, ‘Sweet, I'll put this money away, I'll have three, forty grand to live on and do whatever with. And then I feel like I did the right thing. But, this is a big but, somehow we convinced the bank manager to put a clause in before I sign the CD note or whatever it was, the agreement. We stuck a clause in for early withdrawal no penalty.
Jacob: That's gonna be key later in the story.
Eric: That's not something that normally come with a CD.
Jacob: They do not do that and I was able to somehow… I don't even know why. I still can't think better why did we put that. Anyway, put that in, got that all setup. My mom helped me get it setup and I was like, ‘Thanks, Mom.' Sweet. I'm saving money. And so I got this money.
Now I got $40,000. So what's the first thing I do? Well I'm 18, I want a ballin' vehicle. So I decided to, because I didn't know anything about cars, I decided to go get a 2-seater low rider truck. Because again I didn't know anything about cars.
Eric: So that big rims?
Jacob: Oh, not yet but it will. I spent $9500 because you go to a dealer and they rip you off. So with $9500…at least it was a used car and I bought it cash. So that was good.
Eric: That helps a little.
Jacob: And first thing I did was go to this car stereo places somebody recommended me and I dropped $4500 into the stereo.
Jacob: So I got custom subs because it was a 2-seater non extending cab truck.
Eric: I didn't even spend that much on my speakers and I'm a DJ; to put it into perspective.
Jacob: Oh goodness. And so I had a touch screen that popped out. It even had a little antenna to get local cable channels. It had a rear view camera, a wireless rear view camera. I had a brainbox under the seat that I was able to stick behind my front seats. I put an XBox and PlayStation 2 in there. I had two custom subs with a thousand one amp, all brand new speakers. And then I had underglow and I had black lights inside the cab of the truck.
Eric: Do you still have it?
Jacob: Oh goodness, no. Then I bought rims from a friend but they were stolen rims, apparently. I didn't know what ‘hot' means. He's like, ‘Yeah, these are hot.' And I was like, ‘Oh you mean the price.'
Eric: Like, we'll make it pop. No, that's not the same thing.
Jacob: Apparently they were taken off another car. Anyway, they were the hundred spokes rims, like I can't even, man they were bad.
Eric: There weren't spinners though, huh?
Jacob: That was the next step. I didn't quite go there. So I dropped almost, let's see, fourteen grand into this vehicle. So the other piece was, is that I spent so much money on a Cadillac. I bought my mom Cadillac. Coz I was like, my mom needs a car. I was this used one, it was $4000.
Eric: Did you get her the same stereo you got yourself?
Jacob: Oh my gosh. I should have It would have been worth more than her car. No, just a Cadillac that later died so that was fun. And then I ended enrolling myself into art school because I thought I was going to be a DJ producer guy. And so I went to The Art Institute of Seattle. Tuition was way more than I would ever recommend anybody paying for an art school but it was $32,000 for an 18-month course. I paid half of it and pulled out half in student loans because…
Eric: Even though you have the cash you're like, ‘Ah, I'll just take the loans because they're giving them to me.'
Jacob: Yup. Exactly.
Eric: It's like free money, right?
Jacob: Yup. So essentially I did that and once I enrolled in school I moved in with some buddies in Seattle and I was running out of money. And I didn't want to work during school. So I went to the bank manager at the nice Bank of America and I said, ‘Hey, I need to exercise those CDs.' And I dump dump all into a savings account and then just I strategically drained $1500 a month for 18 months to live on. Looking back I'm like, ‘Sweet, I live on $1500 a month. That's pretty good.' With rent and everything.
Eric: That's not so bad.
Jacob: But here is the other piece. That was sort of my regular expenses. I have $35,000 over that period of time that disappeared and I have no idea where it went. I have no receipts. I have no assets. I have no idea. I blew $35,000. Gone.
Eric: So at least you spent it. It wasn't like someone else who blew through it, right?
Jacob: Oh no. It was me. It was all me and I have no idea. Whether it was mall food or shopping or…
Eric: You weren't going to the bars yet?
Jacob: No. And I wasn't even 21. So I blew all this, I blew a $100,000..
Eric: I had those moments when after college when I had the job at a, I have to give myself up this way, everybody had those moments where I was at the nightclub with my friends and I was like, ‘Round Jager Bombs on me.' That's a really quick way to spend a hundred dollars in under a minute.
Jacob: Luckily I wasn't there. I would have gotten much quicker.
And then I had to sell my truck, which I had 14 grand into, I sold it for seven grand two years later to pay rent. Coz I ran out of money completely. So it was a $100,000 in just over two years before I turned 21.
Eric: Was it at least a really fun couple of years?
Jacob: A few. Yeah. It was kind of a blast. It was fun.
Eric: I'm not sure I need to tell other people to repeat it, I'm just hoping you had a good time.
Jacob: Oh, no. There was some fun in there. But when I look back I'm like I probably could have the same amount of fun for a tenth of the cost. And then I looked back and see things like, hey what if I had stuck all that money and invested it and rode the market for the last 10 years? Where would I be? Over a hundred thousand dollars? Oh cool, so I'd probably have over $200,000 [inaudible] to the point where my house would almost be paid off. I mean, insane.
Eric: That is serious money.
Jacob: I called that a opportunity cost.
Eric: Yeah. When people come to me, I'm sure you see the same thing on your site, people like, ‘Where should I invest my money?What should I do with this?' The safest thing, I always say to people especially young people, put in in S&P 500 Index Fund. Don't touch it. Just let it do its thing. It might go down, it might go up. Don't even pay attention. And before you know it, when it's time for you to buy your first home when you have a family, you'll have a downpayment. It grows over time.
Jacob: Coincidentally, that's where my money is now.
Eric: It's in your home? Through S&P 500?
Jacob: In the S&P 500 Index Fund.
Eric: That is where a very large portion of my investments are.
So you blew through all these money, did you finish school?
Jacob: At least I finished school.
Eric: That's good.
First Full Time Job
Jacob: I got a good grade and everything. I was able to get a job out of it making fourteen whole dollars an hour. Absolutely killed it. So I paid 16 grand and another sixteen in student loans and I was making 14 bucks an hour.
Eric: Was it s big company, a small company?
Jacob: A very small company. Actually, high end home theater installer in the Seattle area. So I actually got to go down the waterfront $10M homes and install half a million dollar home theaters.
Eric: So you were like setting up Bill Gates' speakers? I mean not literally Bill Gates but..
Jacob: It's just funny coz he does live on the water there and some other company did it. But yeah, essentially I was going in down and it was these ultra wealthy families with Ferraris parked in the garage and ten, fifteen thousand square foot houses on the water with yachts and we were doing tons of stuff. I actually went on a yacht and we did one of the yachts, just a finished piece of it. But yeah, it was kind of cool experience low pay; learned a lot. Again, AV background, I went to school I learned how to record records and do a live sound and all that. So I applied that knowledge.
But then I got into the corporate AV world at a large tech company. Years later, I'm still there.
Eric: Has your career grown since you've been there?
Jacob: Yeah. One of the cool things is I got in and I didn't know a lot about how to build a career out or how to make more money or progress but I learned very quickly that I just need to kind of try harder than the next guy. And that's not very hard coz most people really are just coasting. In the corporate world, it's kind of insane to look at it. But I came in I had some hunger, right? And I was like, hey I wanna do something. I wanna learn more. I wanna use many of these skills so I quickly got a dollar an hour raise more than I came in at. And then within six months became the lead and then within a year and a half after I became a Systems Engineer. ANd then within two years after that I became a Help Desk Manager and then I actually got pulled over into IT about year and a half ago. Now I'm sort of like two, three service manager level over video and video conferencing in kind of the conference space. It's been kind of cool trajectory but at one point, I tripled my salary in less than five years.
Eric: That's pretty sweet. It's taken me about a decade to double mine. I wish I could have tripled it in under 5 years.
Jacob: It helps that I wasn't making a ton at the beginning. But I also, again it was just sort of this asking what I can do more and taking on more responsibility versus sitting and waiting for somebody to assign me something. So I just had this drive. And really for me, it was I got married and all of the sudden I just had this drive. I wanna provide. I want to do really well at this and I just started pushing and hustling. Actually when I got married I moved away from that job for a year. I took a salary with less money but they allowed me to work part time, five hours a week, telecommuting. So I had two jobs from pretty much the beginning of my marriage. Actually that plays out throughout my story.
Eric: There is another story in here going on at the same time that we left to fill in the gaps – I Heart Budgets.
Jacob: Right. So essentially I got, I blew through all the money, I got engaged and I already started working at this company but…
Eric: She knew you blew through all that money when you got engaged or did you tell her that after?
Jacob: She started dating me because she thought I had money. We love telling the story because obviously it don't matter now and I'd blown it all. But when we started dating I did have the money and I was just finishing blowing it. She saw the truck and all that. So we started dating which is, we were kind of shallow on both our ends but it ended up coming together in an awesome way.
Jacob: But when we ended up getting engaged, January of 2008, one of the first things, I just all of the sudden had this weight on my shoulders like, hey I actually have no idea what I'm doing with my money and I just blew it all. Coz this was sort of the tail end of blowing all my money and I'm like, uh oh I gotta figure something out. And so all of the sudden I started tracking my money. That's the first thing I did. I got this spreadsheet, I said, okay where is all my money going? I downloaded my bank statements and my credit card statements and I sort of laid it all onto a spreadsheet and I put a category name next to every transaction, right? This is groceries, this is eating out, this is bills, whatever it was and first time I did that I realized I spent $600 on mall food that month.
Eric: Wow. On mall food.
Jacob: I was working at, that was back when I was worked at the mall but basically I went through and did that. And then…
Eric: I'm looking at a calculator. I'm trying to figure out what that is per meal.
Jacob: I know. It's 20 bucks a day so it must have been two meals, I don't know what it was but I had spent $600 a month on mall food. So I said, that has to go. right? And that was sort of the magic for me. Once I put it on paper and I saw it in front of me I realized where I was being ridiculous and I'm like, oh I can cut that because that's not a priority anymore.
Eric: Panda Express isn't that good to be worth six hundred bucks a month.
Jacob: It's so good though.
Eric: They actually don't make anything vegetarian at all. I found out. I used to go there and their veggie noodle thing but I found out they put chicken stock in it.
Jacob: I'm pretty sure they don't make anything that's real food at Panda Express.
Eric: That's probably true. That's probably all chemicals and not real chicken.
Jacob: No, chicken product, by product.
Learning How to Budget
Jacob: But yeah, I saw it on paper and that sort of opened my eyes. And then getting engaged and realizing I needed to do something. My brother-in-law totally, just a god moment, just dropped the Dave Ramsey audio CD in my lap. And I'm like, okay who is this weird bald guy staring at me? What is this? He's like, ‘Listen to it.If you wanna figure out money, listen to this guy.' I don't think so. So I brought it to my car and I threw it on the floor. And I drove for about a week, every time I got into my car there's this bald smiling guy looking at me.
Eventually I said, fine Dave, I'll put the CD in. So I dropped in, it was The Total Money Makeover audio book. I put it in. I listened to it on my commute for about a week and a half and finished it. And I was absolutely hooked. And so I got an actual budget not just tracking my money and saying, oh I wasted a bunch of money, but actually, oh I'm gonna budget before the month begins and tell my money where to go. So I got on a budget and I was hooked. I was able to cut a ton of money. I actually saved a lot of money because we were gonna get married there wasn't really any funds there from anywhere. So I gonna save and pay for the wedding.
So I was able to save thousands of dollars by just getting on a real budget and minding my money well. What happened was is we got married and we moved to Oregon, I got a job making $14 down there in Oregon.
Eric: Where in Oregon?
Jacob: This was in the Beaverton area.
Eric: Out in the burbs.
Jacob: Yeah. We lived in Newberg because she went to school at George Fox University.
Eric: Newberg is where I fly. That's where my little airport is. I take off right next to the Newberg river.
Jacob: Oh that's awesome. Yeah, I know. I love that little town. It's a cool little town. But I got a job working in the Beaverton area and I was making 14 bucks an hour. She had a job at a coffee stand but because we were on a budget, not a coffee stand but a coffee shop sorry. Oregon people that's a big deal.
Eric: We're serious about our coffee here. Though Stumptown is no longer local. They sold out to the big corporate guys. I don't remember who was it who bought them, probably Starbucks or something.
Jacob: But because we were on a budget and she worked for a really creepy boss she was able to quit and we lived on 14 bucks an hour and still saved money. Which was kind of insane. So we got married. We had our happy little apartment and we were able to do everything and still saved, two to three hundred dollars a month and she didn't have to have that job with the creepy boss. She could just focus on finishing school, which she did, and then we moved out of there.
Jacob: As I was getting, I was super into Dave Ramsey, I would podcast him and I would just rock the budget. We just killed it. It was so fun. It became a game for us. And then people around me started noticing – my family, my friends and people at work are like, ‘Wait, you only spent what? You only spent $240 a month on food for you guys? How do you do that? You don't waste money on clothes? How do you do that?'
All of the sudden I started teaching, not little budgeting classes, but sort of one-on-one financial counseling with people. And I started helping them and helping them and I realized that I was just super passionate about this and I could go on and on. So I did financial coaching for about five to ten people up to that point.
And then we ended up moving back and I was still really excited about it so I helped more people. Through our budgeting and saving and, there was another piece of inheritance money and income in the market and how everything worked, we saved up and bought a house in early 2010. And so we bought a house and my income wasn't quite enough to cover everything. My wife was working and we were kinda rocking that and then we got pregnant.
The time that we had gotten pregnant I was not making enough money to cover our bills. I actually wrote a post on my blog called, “I Don't Make Enough Money to Pay My Bills.' And we didn't, technically. At that time, we were, got pregnant, I started studying to do taxes because I need a second job here or another career. I need to make this happen. And again I sort of just had this internal fire burning in me that I've gotta hustle, right? I've been getting sort of more money at work but I didn't get the big promotion that I was hoping for. So I started doing taxes and I got my Enrolled Agent Certificate, started working for a small CTA firm and did taxes on the side of my regular job.During that, once my wife stopped working those two things were covering our bills. We had a substantial savings luckily during that time as well. Again I was still helping people with money and because we're doing a budget, we were actually able to cut down to one income; barely making it by. If we were not on a budget, never would have happen, never would have been able to cut down.
Building the Website
Eric: It's great you discovered budgeting when you did. Sounds like it was the right time.
Jacob: It was absolutely the right time. But because I talked about it so much and my wife heard about it so much, she finally said, ‘Why don't you just write about this to the internet? So you can just talk at the internet instead of me because I heard all this and I am so glad you're passionate about it but please tell someone else about budgeting.
In early May of 2012, IHeartBudgets.net was born and I started by writing out my budgeting basics series which is still the staple of the site. That was, I think, my first five posts was budgeting basics part one through five. So that was how the website was born.
Eric: That's great. I'm guessing when you built the website originally you weren't thinking it was a money making thing, you were thinking it's a I'm-gonna-stop-annoying-my-wife thing.
Jacob: You know, what's really interesting is I discovered, you know, the Yakezie network group of people and all those guys that kind of started way back then.
Eric: I was one of the original class members.
Jacob: Yeah! It was such a great thing to, there's a bunch of people that I have in my ‘class', right? You got Holly from Club Thrifty and Grayson from Debt Roundup and all these really cool people that started around that time. So I got pulled into there and just started blogging. I had learned that some people were making money doing it. I didn't really understand how. But I'm like, I'm passionate about this anyway so I'm gonna do it.
As I started it was, yeah the first six months was just like, let me just write all the things that are on my brain about money and put them out here so I can help more people instead of just some of the people that I chat at in real life. But it did end up turning into something that, again it was sort of my, I say during that time two and a half jobs because the blog did start to make some income.
Monetizing the Blog
Eric: That's great. So when you started monetizing, what was your strategy and how successful was it early on?
Jacob: So back in the, I know the blog is not that old, but in the early days at 2012, 2013…
Eric: That makes you like 50 in blog years.
Jacob: Pretty much. Yeah. The first way to figure out, I tried monetizing was I signed for a Google Adsense account, just sticking some sidebar ads in there., little pictures like, hey click this and you know, it uses people's cash and says, ‘oh hey you're probably interested in this', if you search this and maybe they'll click here and that. That never picked up. And to be honest till today still has not optimized on my site.
Eric: I've actually removed it from my site, at the beginning of this year when I rebranded from Narrow Bridge to Personal Profitability. I decided, it was actually something, I feel like FinCon comes up a lot in this podcast. I was at FinCon in New Orleans, probably the FinCon that I did the least amount of actual real work stuff of how the FinCon's given we were two blocks from Bourbon Street.
But one of the sessions I went to was Mr. and Mrs. Money Moustache and they were doing a teardown on people's blogs saying here's things that we like, here's things that we don't like. And Mr. Money Mustache, he said, ‘Look at this, there's ads all over. Everyone who comes to your site should be like, man those ads are awesome. I wanna see more ads on your site.' I was like, you make a really good point there, people don't wanna, I don't even notice click ads anymore. I think a lot of people just zone them out.
Jacob: Yeah, absolutely and everybody's got adblock installed and all that. I started with that, I tried to do Amazon coz I had a few books I wanted to recommend, The Millionaire Next Door, Total Money Makeover, the financial pieces stuff that really benefited me. I made almost no money on that stuff.
And I didn't really have the traffic to do so but what I found out is that people would pay money to mention to their company and then you put a link to their site. This was sponsored content, is a nice to say it, but really it was link farming and it ended up coming back to haunt me but they paid a substantial amount amount of money. They say, ‘We'll pay you, I don't know, two hundred bucks if you stick this link in there and leave it for 12 months.' Oh okay. And it was just some old posts, I'm not spamming it out to everybody. I always made sure it was some company that wasn't super sketchy. It was just some an online bank or whatever; fine, I'll put it in there. And then every now and then, they say, ‘hey can we do a guest post? We'll write about something your audience would like and then we'll put the link in there and we'll pay you three hundred bucks.
And so I started doing that and actually made a decent amount of money. I was making, I think five to eight hundred dollars a month doing that. Unfortunately, that came back to bite me because Google in their terms of service say, hey you're essentially just selling links which you're not allowed to do.
Eric: Well you're allowed to do it you're not just allowed to do it if you're ranked in Google at the same time.
Jacob: That's what I'm saying. Not according to the law but according to Google's standards if you wanna keep your search ranking. Which I did. I wanted to make sure my ranking was, you know, that I was a legit site through people trying to find answers to their questions through Google. And they slapped me, penalized me and knocked me down to a PR 0. I essentially had to, luckily most of the links were expiring at that time and so I went through and removed all the links and shot Google a mail and they give it back to me within a month.
But then at that point I said, I'm done. I'm not gonna be selling links like gives these companies exposure, they give me money but that's not really what I'm about.
So that was my first foray in making money and I made a few thousand dollars doing that. Again helped during the time we needed. I didn't feel bad about it coz it was legit companies but it wasn't really the style I wanted to go for.
Now at that same time, luckily, in came travel hacking and I got approved for some credit cards at that same time. So that income was actually quickly replaced and exceeded after getting some good traffic and guest posts on some big sites, Mr. Money Moustache and got featured in the front page of Yahoo and a few other things. Got a bunch of traffic in and then I started teaching people how to use credit card points to get free travel. And then when they would sign through the credit card from my link, you know I got paid a commission.
Eric: The good old days
Jacob: The good old days when they would actually approve you for a credit card. They will no longer do that without crazy compliance; we all know about that now. Essentially I was like, oh-oh there goes an income stream. And I still doing taxes at this time but then back in the, in came the credit card affiliates and traffic and those kind of things. It kind of worked out that it sort of replaced that income and it was kind of get it going for a little while.
That was sort of how my blog sort of built. I would say at the most I made eight grand in a year. Then again this was on the side. I was working a full time job and during tax season I was putting in 70 plus hours. And I still did some blogging stuff on the side.
Eric: That was serious hours.
Jacob: Fifty hours to me, I get pretty worn out. At seventy I am absolutely mushed. I was a whole lot of mushed at that point.
Eric: Brains don't function very well with that kind of work.
Jacob: No. And then again it was this sort of hustling because I needed to make it happen so that I can provide for my family so my wife could stay at home and it was something that we both really wanted to do. And I was willing to do that.
So we do that sacrifice for a couple of years and then luckily I was able to maneuver my way up through the company and get me to a place where I didn't need that side income. So I quit taxes a couple of years ago. And I didn't need the blog income either. What happened was once we had that I feel like I wanted to give my family some time back. So I stopped blogging. I started blogging, actually if you go through my archives, it's on the sidebar of my site, you can see…If you go way back to 2012, 2013 I was cranking out 8 to 10 posts a month. And then right around March, April 2014, this is when my daughter was born, she was born in January, it scaled down to 3 posts a month, then two and there was even a couple of months in early 2015 where I only did one post a month or maybe two. So I scaled it way back to give my family that time back. I didn't have the side job. I just poured into them. Unfortunately my blog traffic and following and everything just sort of died at that point.
Reigniting the Passion for Blogging
Jacob: Honestly the lowest point for my blog traffic wise was at FinCon this last year.
Eric: Oh wow. In 2015?
Jacob: Yeah. Which is kind of crazy coz I was active on the FinCon group and I love connecting with my people and staying active in the blog community but I was not putting the effort in. And I feel like I couldn't get back on the horse.
But I went to FinCon and I sat with a few amazing people. They did a blog tear down session with a guy from the, Kyle from The Penny Hoarder, and with a few other people that were able to tear down my blog and say, ‘here's what we would do, here's how you should design it, here's how you should optimize your income' and all these things.
And then I met a few people in there, Erin Chase from $5 Dinners and Toni from The Happy Housewife, sat down and just whipped her Pinterest with me. Showed me, ‘here's how you promote to Pinterest, and here's how you create an online course…' And all of a sudden I started getting really motivated, right?
Then I joined a mastermind group with some people and I just had some amazing connections. And I picked up a bunch of freelance work. And all of the sudden I was sort of reinvigorated to start building the blog again. And I'm happy to say that three months later my traffic has almost quadrupled this month from what it was in October.
Jacob: It's been quite the ride so I guess it's what October…
Eric: January? When people hear this it will be February.
Jacob: Okay. So at this point, hopefully it's even more. Hopefully it's five times. But yeah, my traffic's up and my freelance income is more than I've ever had. I scored really cool jobs. I'm writing about credit cards which I love to do anyway. I'm writing some longer form pieces on money management. I'm building an online course. I've got a framework. My email list has more than doubled in the last two months.
Eric: That's awesome
Jacob: It's insane. The amount it grew just kind of coming out of that and getting reinvigorated and realize, no I still have something to say. I still want to build this thing out and I want to make I Heart Budgets a way better resource. So yeah, it's been a really cool journey where it sort of went up and sustained us and then just died and at the lowest trickle it just got, just a firehose turned on over the last three months.
Eric: Sometimes it just takes a ….One thing that I always enjoy are Ignite events which I ran the Ignite FinCon speaking event. For those who don't know Ignite, it's like TedTalks on speed. There are like 5-minute talks. Each talk is called The Spark. And spark they say can ignite a fire. It sounds like you really got ignited this year and you're back on it rocking and rolling. That's pretty sweet.
Jacob: Yeah. It's nine day and I still haven't posted as frequently as I wanted but I got all these things going on in the background and my income is more than I've ever had because of the freelance work. I'm looking at redesigning the site next month, a whole fresh skin on it and make it beautiful and all that. Yeah, it's just been a blast.
Eric: If I can help, let me know. It's something I do.
Jacob: Oh, absolutely.
Eric: I actually remember, a more personal note, when we were hanging out in St. Louis at the, I think it was the last night we were there in St. Louis, and Pat Flynn was cutting a rug and we were all showed out in the bar. I remember hanging out with you and talking about, you were so excited about your growing family and all these stuff. At that point I think I was, I don't know if I was dating or engaged to my wife and just three months ago we welcomed our first bundle of joy. And I definitely think about that conversation every once in awhile just hanging out and you saying how awesome your family life was and at that point I was definitely more living twenty something party life than the family life. But I flipped over to the….I've joined you to the dark side.
Jacob: I remember that. That was such a great night too because it was unique that we just sort of connected and hung out. Yeah I remember those conversations coz I was… It was my first FinCon and I believed my son was about one maybe one and a half at that point. I remember chatting with you. Yeah , you were still dating at that point.
And then I saw you the next FinCon you were like, you were either engaged or married or just about to be married at that point. The the next FinCon, you're like, ‘hey we're expecting really soon.' It was really cool to sort of see stages as we sort of met out there.
Eric: It's cool. A lot of people don't understand unless they've been a part of an online community like this but internet friends can become your closest real life friends. It's a cool thing when you…seeing each other only once, twice, a few times a year, with some people.
Year after year our lives change and a lot of people I met five, six years ago on the internet, now we have families, and we're married. We're not talking about budgeting for bar visits. We're talking about budgeting for taking our family on vacations. But now we know all about miles and points. We don't really pay for that anyway anymore.
Eric: If you wanna learn more about that I have an awesome travel hacking post that I'll link to in the show notes and I know Jacob writes about that quite a bit as well.
Before we go, if anybody wants to hunt you down and find you on the internet and connect with you and chat with you, what are the best places to do that?
Jacob: Yeah. So I'm almost on every social media – website, it's just at I Heart Budgets, so you're gonna do twitter.com/iheartbudgets, pinterest.com/iheartbudgets, facebook.com/iheartbudgets
Eric: Very good branding.
Jacob: I try to make it simple. IHeartBudgets.net is the website and if you want to be in direct contact with me, you can just do email@example.com.
Eric: Well thank you so much for the time. Thanks for sharing your story. Learned a lot of new things about you I did not know before. And it's always fun having a beer with a friend even if it's with fiber optic cables in between us rather than a table. It's fun to catch up and chat .
Thank you so much, Jacob for sharing your story. Thank you listeners for listening the whole way through. As always if you have any questions,comments, feedback, you can send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from each and everyone of you.
I'm sure Jacob would love to hear from you as well. So thank you everyone again for being a part it. And until next time, stay profitable.