You've probably spent massive amounts of time writing content and promoting your blog, which could easily equal hundreds of hour's worth of work. You've branded the internet with your content, and it is accessible to the world.
You might even have dreams of making money from your blog. There are personal finance blogs out there that have done so well they've been able to quit their day jobs and focus full-time on their websites.
We have no problem spending our time making our blog content as good as possible. And yet, we become unwilling to open up our pocketbooks to take our blog to the next level. Can anyone say “cheap ass?”
I Get It: Spending Money is Hard
Especially if you run a personal finance blog and have become a FIRE freak (like me), spending any money becomes like pulling out teeth.
This is probably the thought process you are going through with spending an additional $50/mo on your blog:
- $50/mo equals $600/year
- Over ten years, this amounts to $6,000
- Over 30 years, this becomes $18,000. When we factor in the 7% yearly interest rate, that comes to $62,176.
So you begin to think, “ugh, $50/mo is not worth sacrificing $62k in 30 years.”
But you see, that mentality is not looking at the full picture.
Do you really want to succeed?
Maybe you run your blog without any expectation or hope that it will generate future income; if that's you, great! Don't let me or anyone else make you feel guilty for not making money from your blog.
But I think most of us like writing content for our blog, AND we would love to see it take off and earn money. And why not? If we enjoy what we are doing and can make money simultaneously, that is a killer combo.
By not being willing to spend a little money on our blog, we are putting ourselves at a disadvantage compared to our competitors.
Money is Not More Important Than Time
I want to make sure I am clear on this point. I'm not saying that you should reduce the amount of time you are spending on your blog and try to make up for it by spending more money, because that is not a good combo either.
You want to spend money on a blog that has solid content. If you don't focus on the content piece as the top priority, the money will most likely not be worth it as your retention rate might be non-existent.
Spending Money on Your Blog Amplifies Great Content
The more you can bring in new visitors and increase your visitor retention, the more likely your blog is will exponentially explode. The key is finding balance in what is worth the cost.
Spending money on your WordPress blog should be considered as investing money into your business because that is what you are doing.
If we look at other types of businesses that you would start, it's kind of crazy to think that we could get a successful business going without some monetary investment. But somehow, we are led to believe that starting a blog is different.
But you might say, “But Chris, I can start a blog for next to nothing! Why would I want to spend money unless I have to?” Because if you have great content, why not increase your chances of success? If you fail, not a huge deal. At least you know you did everything you could.
What to Spend Money on For Your Blog
Deciding to open up your pocketbook for your blog is a significant first step. But that doesn't mean we can justify throwing massive amounts of money on everything we can purchase for our blog.
But deciding on what is worth the extra cost, especially when you are just starting, can be hard. I suggest making a list of the things you think you might want to purchase, and then prioritize the essential items at the top of the list. That way, you can decide what you end up getting now or later.
Here are a few things you might want to invest in sooner than later. I tried to order this list in what I consider the most critical elements, but don't feel like you have to start paying for all of these right away. I tried to be extensive in what I ended up purchasing, so you have an accurate idea of what I do for Money Stir.
#1. Reliable and Fast WordPress Hosting
I would highly suggest spending extra money on good website hosting or making sure you do proper research to narrow down the best options. One of the worst feelings you can experience is when your blog post goes viral, and you find out your site is down or incredibly slow.
Below are two WordPress hosts I recommend:
- WPEngine: This is where Money Stir is hosted. Their lowest plan is $35 a month. You can take a look at my WPEngine review for more details.
- SiteGround: I haven't used them personally, but I've heard great things about their hosting service.
Some may disagree with prioritizing having a solid logo, but it can make a difference in solidifying your brand in your readers' minds. At a minimum, you want something that is attractive and clearly defines the subject of your site. A crapy logo can make a site with excellent content look amateur.
Designing a logo will probably be the largest upfront expense, but the good news is that it is a one-time fee. Once you have a logo you love, viewing your site will be a joy as a great logo stands out.
For the Money Stir logo, I paid about $300 to go with 99 Designs. This service is a design contest site where you set up a contest, and designers submit designs. You can make requests and communicate directly with designers to get the best logo possible.
You might even receive designs that are better than what you were hoping to have developed! Please take a look at a previous post where I describe my experience having the new logo designed.
#3. Premium Theme
You might be able to get away with using a solid free theme. But it might take more research to find something that has the options you need.
Going with a premium WordPress theme usually ends up giving you more choices for layout and theme options. But keep in mind some premium themes have so many options that it can take a while to configure them to look the way you want. If you do land on a premium theme you like, you find a demo that gets your blog close to what you want and makes tweaks from there.
Premium themes will vary at different price points ranging from $30-$200, and each of them will have different options. There are lots of people who love Studio Press themes.
If you want more options, you may want to look at what is available at Theme Forest. Remember that not all themes on this site are high quality, so make sure you spend time reading reviews and seeing what others say about the theme.
I personally have used the Soledad WordPress theme and was impressed with the options and the power of the theme.
#4. Email Marketing Software
At a minimum, you should signup for Mailchimp and find a WordPress plugin that integrates with their service. Last I checked, you can signup for a free account and get set up quickly.
I found Convert Kit to be a lot easier to use, especially when segmenting users and creating newsletter campaigns. However, Convert Kit is more expensive at $29/mo. The faster you can increase your email list, the more you can grow your normal blog readership and traffic.
#5. Premium Plugins
This area has the most flexibility, as the premium plugin market for WordPress is massive and thriving. Quality varies greatly from plugin to plugin, and you might find others that provide value.
But keep in mind that a plugin could get many positive reviews and still not be very good. If you can test out the plugin before purchasing, I highly suggest doing so. Some plugins will destroy your site's performance or have bizarre bugs that are hard to track down. In some cases, free WordPress plugins might work better for your needs.
These are the plugins I use and recommend:
- Yoast: The free version might work fine for you. But their premium option does provide some useful features. I especially love how the plugin will ask if I want to create a 301 redirect when deleting an article or post that was already published (this prevents a 404 Page Not Found error). Yoast premium costs $89/yr.
- Akismet: For $5/mo, you can purchase a WP Plugin to help block spam comments. I found it to be beneficial thus far at preventing spam comments.
- MailOptin: This is a WordPress plugin I integrated as part of my website redesign. But keep in mind there are many other solid lead generation plugins out there that will connect with your email marketing software. Find one that has great reviews and the options you need. I especially like how MailOptin will store the email signups on your WordPress site, in addition to sending them to your email marketing software (works as a backup). MailOptin costs $69/yr.
Depending on the type of blog you run, there might be other things worth purchasing. You want to spend time thinking about what you will use and what will take your site to the next level:
Here are a few other things I've decided to purchase to invest in Money Stir:
WordPress Caching Plugin
There are some solid free caching plugins out there, but none of them gave me the same website performance level as WP Rocket. The plugin is easy to set up and configure, and I haven't found anything that handled JS/CSS caching and aggregation as effectively as this caching plugin.
WP Rocket costs $49/yr. If you wanted to save some money, you could probably get away with finding a solid free alternative. But I feel it is worth the cost of having the site load as fast as possible. They also provide an image lazy loader that you can use throughout your site.
Many sites provide stock images but keep in mind these images get used much more frequently on other blogs (since the photos are free). If your site displays images for blog posts, I suggest spending money on a more premium service that will give you access to more and better photo options. I recently switched to using Depositphotos, and I'm pleased with the photo quality and quantity on their site. Their flexible plan costs $29/mo, which allows you to download up to 30 photos per month (you can download more for $1/download).
I would say that I don't think purchasing access to a premium stock photo site should be at the top of your list, but it can really amp up the quality of photos attached to your blog posts.
If your site uses images, and if those images are not properly optimized, your site performance could take a massive hit. Image file sizes can get huge. And in most cases, you should be able to properly optimize your images to massively reduce their file size, with little noticeable difference in your images' quality.
I've seen images go from 300 KB down to 80 KB. When you multiply that by loading several of these images on the same page (like on your home page or category pages), this could end up making your site load at least 2x slower (if not more).
There are many image optimization services and plugins out there, and depending on who you host with, you might have limited options. For Money Stir, I ended up going with EWWW Image Optimizer. I use their cloud optimization option, which costs $0.003/image (keep in mind this cost per image optimized, so if your theme/site has five image sizes, you will get charged for optimizing each one). The cost vs. benefit of a service like this is huge.
Creating Images + Social Media Graphics
Especially if you want to get into marketing your WordPress blog on Pinterest and are not a graphics designer, I suggest looking at a service like Snappa. This service provides an easy to use the web interface for creating simple graphics. It costs $15/mo if you pay monthly, or $120/yr. I've used it quite a bit, and I may end up switching to something else, but I think it will work for the time being. They integrate with a free stock image service directly in their user interface (and the images are high quality).
If you only create a few graphics per month, their free option might work for your needs.
Custom Email Address
Having a custom email address that uses your blog's domain name looks professional and sleek. It helps solidify your brand, as well as segregates your business email address from your personal email. I signed up with G Suite for $5/mo. This service not only provides a custom email at @moneystir.com, but I also have access to google docs and other services that are available to standard Gmail accounts.
I would probably place this towards the end of your priority list, but I'm glad I set it up initially.
So if you went with all of these options, or something similar, this is how the numbers break down:
- Total Initial Investment: Around $1,000
- Total Monthly Investment: Around $110/mo
- Total Yearly Fees (assuming I continue to use these plugins/services): Around $500/yr
Some of the yearly fees cover additional services I didn't mention in this article (but I may cover later).
Now I realize these numbers might be shocking. But keep in mind you don't have to go with all of these options to have a great blog. But if you really want to take your blog to the next level, I suggest at least considering some of them to see if the investment is worth it for your website.
In closing, there is one resource that has excellent articles on starting and managing a blog.