Home » Interviews » Making a Living with Blogging and Frugality, with Amanda Grossman [TDI043]

Making a Living with Blogging and Frugality, with Amanda Grossman [TDI043]


I came across Amanda Grossman’s blog Frugal Confessions a couple years ago when she left a comment on my blog, and since then, I’ve been following her journey.

About a year ago, Amanda was actually able to quit her job and take a full-time focus on her blog and online business.  While earning an income online, by itself, is nothing out of the ordinary these days, I like how Amanda has introduced the concept of “frugal decadence.”

It’s all about living inexpensively, while enjoying many of life’s luxuries.  Amanda explains it further in the interview, and even gives a few great examples.

Enjoy the interview!

Amanda, I really enjoy reading your blog at Frugal Confessions, and following your journey through being frugal and essentially getting what you want at a fraction of the cost. I love all the tips you provide for saving money, reducing debt, and everything that surrounds your concept of “frugal decadence.”

Tell us about yourself and your journey – what led you to create this blog, and what impact has it had so far on your life?

Thanks, Eric. It’s a pleasure to talk with you! I found your blog, My 4-Hour Workweek, several years ago and have followed along on your own journey, so I’m excited to be here with you.

I grew up on a dairy farm on the cusp of Lancaster, PA, where hard work, stretching your resources, and saving for the future were held in high regard—both out of necessity as well as ‘just because.’ While some people who grow up in this atmosphere rebel by becoming spendthrifts in adulthood, frugality and saving money ran through my veins.

But it wasn’t just frugality; I spent my early 20s saying “no” to almost everything if it cost me money. While I always found a way around money to get what I wanted, I felt that leading just a frugal life took a lot of enjoyment out of being young. This thought was the start of what I like to call “Frugal Decadence,” but it needed a medium to really develop.

After losing my job in 2008, I decided it was time to pair together my two passions — frugality + writing — and do something with it. I wanted to be a columnist. So I went to the library and checked out a book on how to pitch to newspaper editors. I created a column called “Frugal Confessions,” and submitted six samples to various newspapers around the U.S.

While I was rejected by each, one woman wrote a note back to tell me to keep going, and that I was headed in the right direction.

That fall, I found a job as an environmental investigator for the State of Texas. I met a great woman there, Helen, and we quickly bonded over how to save a buck. She put me in contact with someone she knew at the Houston Chronicle, and this man explained to me that anyone could start a blog there. While I didn’t want to be just “anyone” (and I did end up becoming a featured blogger, at least), I decided to give it a go.

This was March, 2009. By July, 2009, I decided to also open up my own blog Frugal Confessions syndicate my content from my blog to the Chronicle, and see which platform would work the best. I still have them both.

Blogging over the years allowed me to hone in on my true passion, what I call living in Frugal Decadence, where frugality and decadence play together so that you can both live today and save for tomorrow. What could be better than that?

What has been your greatest success so far with Frugal Confessions?

I was able to quit my day job as an environmental investigator in February of 2013 to pursue Frugal Confessions and my online business full-time. This was a huge step forward!

While I am still not making full-time income from my work, I am loving life, and have been able to pay our mortgage + escrow (insurance and property taxes) for the last year and a half from my business net income. This doesn’t mean every month by that month’s income, as small business income can be quite inconsistent month-to-month. It means overall. Since we have not had non-mortgage debt to service since 2010, this takes care of a decent-sized chunk of our bills.

I’m competitive with a twinge of perfectionism, so while I don’t consider this to be the end goal, when I sit back and let it sink in, I’m quite happy with how far I’ve come (note: sadly, this was not accomplished on a four hour workweek).

Given how competitive the personal finance niche is, I’m always interested in the answer to this question: What are you doing, or what do you plan to do, to really make your blog stand out? (I’ll add that I think you’re already doing a great job of standing out.)

I’ve spent the majority of the last year in self-employment figuring this out, so it’s definitely a relevant question. From what I’ve seen, there are personal finance bloggers who are quite frugal and want everyone to make their own laundry detergent (not a bad idea, by the way), and then there are personal finance bloggers who shun frugality and would rather pick up second jobs/promotions/side hustles and then manage that money well in order to live the life they want to.

On Frugal Confessions, I like to marry the results of these two types of lives — getting the things that you want and experiences that you want while paying a fraction of what it costs others so that you need not worry about bringing in extra moolah — without necessarily doing either (living in extreme frugality or getting a second job). My new tagline, “Financial Sensibility with an Epicurean Flare” is my way of saying that there is a third way to live, one in which you can have everything that you want as well as retire at a healthy age.

I pursue the third way in whatever I teach — whether it’s getting out of debt (my new course The Debt Manipulator 3.0 will be released soon), hacking the system with the Drugstore Game, or looking for ways to legally ditch cable while still enjoying most of the programming you already do.

Life is too short to sacrifice so much, but too long to spend all your moolah today, and I’m here to show you how to have your cake and eat it, too. It really gives frugality a purpose, all the way towards designing your own lifestyle like my husband and I have begun doing. What tremendous freedom and life satisfaction!

That sounds fantastic to me!  Can you give us one or two examples of “frugal decadence” that you think people can easily implement in their own lives?

A few ways you can easily implement some Frugal Decadence into your life:

  • Add Unlimited Talk to Your Smartphone Plan for Free: My current smartphone plan with unlimited talk/text/data is only $35 (and that includes taxes). This is because I got a plan with unlimited text and data, and then added Google Voice for free onto my phone to take my 300 minutes up to unlimited. Now when I am close to using my 300 minutes, I simply choose the Google Voice option on my cell when making a phone call.
  • Eat Out at the Hottest Locales for 50%+ Off: Purchase restaurant gift certificates on Restaurant.com to enjoy your meal at 50% less than what your friends will be paying. $10 will get you a $25 gift certificate, $20 will get you a $50 certificate. Sign up for their email, and you can enjoy exclusive clearance sales to bring the gift certificate costs down even more!

Even the most successful people stumble along the way. What do you consider to be your biggest failure with respect to blogging, and what did you learn from it?

Can I have two?

The first is waiting so long to reach out to other bloggers. I was blogging blindly and trying to figure everything out myself for over a year and a half before I joined the Yakezie (a group of personal financial bloggers). Becoming an alpha member to that group tremendously added to my knowledgebase, contacts, sanity, and friends.

Also, just last summer I joined my first Mastermind group. I attended FINCON (the only personal financial blogger conference) in its inaugural year (2011) and have not missed one yet. The value gained from meeting, networking, and talking to other bloggers in person cannot be overstated.

My second would be (and you hear this a lot with bloggers) not growing my email subscription base much, much sooner. It took me so long to do because I couldn’t imagine producing even more content while holding down a full-time job. In retrospect, I should have made the time.

Let’s take a step back and look more generally at blogging. If you had to take your best advice and put it into one sentence or phrase, what would that be? 

After writing something on your blog, always ask yourself, “will this add value to my reader’s life?” If not, go back and re-work it.

What are your favorite online resources? 

  • PicMonkey to easily create Pinnable images for free
  • LeadPages to easily create great opt-in pages, sales pages, etc.
  • Coffitivity to mimic the background noise of coffee shops that so many of us find productive locales
  • GoDaddy Bookkeeping to easily set up your bookkeeping needs for free

For someone who is just starting out creating a blog, what advice would you offer? What do you wish someone told you about when you first started?

In order for you to grow and gain momentum, you need to work on both the short-term stuff (writing blog posts, sharing them on social media, etc.) as well as long-term stuff (creating a free opt-in offer to attract email subscribers, writing a business plan, creating a customer avatar, creating a product that can be sold without you for sustainability, etc.).

I worked a full-time job for the first four years of blogging, so I understand the desire to salvage some sort of a weekend (i.e. gleefully shutting down the laptop after doing the short-term stuff). But if you can just work on one long-term thing at a time until you knock it out and then move onto the next hairy-scary item on your list, your business will grow much more quickly.

Finally, where can people find you online? 

Twitter is @FrugalConfess, and blog is www.frugalconfessions.com.

I linked to this above, but my eBook is The CVS Drugstore Game: Strategies to Turn Pocket Change into Thousands of Dollars’ Worth of free Products with 4.4 out of 5 stars, and the second in the series is The Walgreens Drugstore Game with 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Thanks Amanda!

What’d you think of today’s interview? Do you have any good examples of “frugal decadence” in your life?

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