A Letter to Frugal Dad Readers: The Last Three Years

Dear Readers,

Today marks a significant blogging milestone. FrugalDad.com just turned three years-old. In those three years we’ve seen 1,000 posts, 22,480 comments, and over 4 million visitors to the site. Frugal Dad has also attracted over 11,000 subscribers.

It’s been a fun ride, and for those who weren’t around in the beginning (about 10,095 of you), I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect a bit on how Frugal Dad got started.

Three years ago today, I sat down to build a little blog from scratch. I’d been writing online for several months, but up to that point, I’d been posting on other’s blogs and on article directories.

After stumbling across personal finance blogs like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, I thought, hey, if they can do it, I can do it. I just wasn’t sure what “it” was.

Three years ago there wasn’t as much material about blogging readily available. Many newcomers were still using Blogger and other free installations to host their blogs.

I made a decision up front that I would establish my own domain, buy a cheap template, and pay for an inexpensive hosting package. I asked a fellow blogging newcomer, Pete from BibleMoneyMatters.com, to design our first logo.

Over the years, we’ve tweaked the site theme and logo a few times, upgraded hosting, etc. But three years ago we were still deep in debt, and were just beginning our own personal finance turnaround. I certainly couldn’t afford to take on new business expenses.

However, I decided to gamble $100 on the business idea, the latest in a long string of unsuccessful entrepreneurial efforts. For less than $100 I was up and running with a domain, first month’s hosting package, a template and my new logo.

The first couple months were pretty quiet around here. I wrote an article every day, but few were around to read it. That all changed in March of 2008, when on a whim, I decided to document a project my kids and I worked on – building a square foot garden box.

The post got picked up by LifeHacker after getting a mention from another frugal blog (BeingFrugal.net). Then it was mentioned on MSN.com, and Digg, and several other social bookmarking sites. I went from just a handful of subscribers to over 500 in just a couple weeks.

That early success motivated me to stick with it. I also benefited from good timing, as summer and fall of 2008 were tumultuous times, financially. The things I wrote about (living on less, paying off debt, being frugal, etc.) went from being weird to mainstream.

Even national publications began covering frugality, since so many people were now clamoring for ways to save money instead of spend it. Over the years, I’ve been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Smart Money magazine, and the website has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Ladies Home Journal, and a number of other national media outlets.

I’ve even given a couple radio interviews. My favorite was for a California-based personal finance radio show whose host was convinced I was up to no good for “hiding money in my home.” I finally convinced him it was only a couple hundred dollars for bug-out money, not $10,000 stashed under a mattress.

Writing About the Highs and the Lows

Early on, I tried to set myself apart from other sites by sharing more personal details about my life. It was something I liked about The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly – I felt like I knew those guys after reading their blogs for a few months.

I wanted readers to be along for the highs and the lows, because for me, it was those experiences that often shaped how I spent money (emotional spending), and what I spent it on. It was my hope that readers could relate to these experiences and follow along, something you couldn’t really do with a “textbook” writing style.

Sadly, I lost my biggest fan, my mom, in September of 2009. She was only 54, and until her final year had been a strong, independent, successful, energetic individual loved and admired by many. She raised me as a single mom, worked insane hours to provide for us, and built her career without a degree in a male-dominated industry. She was an incredible inspiration, and my best friend.

I wrote about her illness and passing, not because it directly related to finances, but because that experience shaped my opinions on things like emergency funds, health care and overall financial preparedness. But I also wrote for selfish reasons. It was therapeutic for me to write.

People often asked how I helped care for my mom, then confined to a wheelchair, worked full-time, continued to be an engaged husband and father AND wrote for the blog. Well, the last part was my therapy. It helped to get those feelings out, and you helped by being there to read and give feedback.

Fortunately, Mom did get to share in the growth of Frugal Dad before she passed away. She always got a kick out of seeing her son’s work featured in those much larger publications.

The attention was exciting for me, too, and a bit nerve-wracking. After all, I’m just a husband and father who works full-time and writes a few articles early in the morning from his “frugal office.”

I didn’t graduate from a prestigious college. I don’t have any certifications or advanced degrees. And I’ve made just about every stupid financial mistake you can make.

This started out as a small post to mention the three-year mark, and as usual, I’ve rambled on longer. Again, I appreciate every single one of you who follow Frugal Dad. In the New Year, I hope to reach even more followers by being more active on our Facebook page, on Twitter, etc. If you happen to a part of those social media networks, I hope you’ll join me, and share the things you like.

I’m excited about moving into a new year, and I hope you’ll make 2011 the year you get out of debt, reach your savings goals, and accomplish your own personal finance turnaround. All signs are pointing to more rocky times ahead, financially, so I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your own household in order. Don’t worry; we’ll do it together. Chat again next year.

Stay Frugal!
Jason

Comments

  1. Happy three years! I think I was one of those who jumped aboard about the Square Foot Garden time :) Have surely enjoyed your blog, your ideas, and the online friendship! Best wishes for your continued successes!

    I especially appreciate the way your blog adapts and adjusts with the times – and how your are proactive, not reactive, and how if you aren’t familiar with something your readers ask about, well then you find an expert who is, and let them share with us. You not only make your readers happy, you help keep them informed!

    Thanks for a job well done!

  2. I failed to mention one of the best things about this space is the comments. Often, I refer people to the comments of a paticular post because it is a treasure trove of information – usually far exceeding what the original post offered.

  3. Congrats on three years! I just recently became involved with the personal finance blogosphere and yours is definitely included in my daily rounds. Cheers!

  4. Congratulations on three years :) That’s awesome! I’ve been following your articles now for a month and a half, and can tell you that I really appreciate your personal touch. I’m planning to sit down and read through your survival posts as well, as I feel these are important topics.

    Also 2011 IS the year I become debt free, but since it’s only student loan debt, it’s not too bad. Plus I’ve only been paying on it since July, but still, it’s a milestone I suppose. :)

  5. Congrats on your three years. Your an inspiration to me and my efforts. When bloggers teach good financial habits with real life situations in their life it really hits home. It’s the personal in personal finance that makes all the difference. Here’s to you and many more great years ahead.

  6. I distinctly remember the first day I started reading frugal dad. It was during the 4th quarter of 2008. (Probably around Sept time). My company was about to have some big layoffs, I was pregnant and both my spouse and I worked there. I was sure one of us would be impacted. Rather than whine about it, I decided to be proactive and do something about it and searched the web and found your site.

    It provided me great comfort because your tips gave me some direction on what I was going to do if poop hit the fan. It’s been great reading your articles over the years. Thank you.

  7. Thanks for all of your hard work and great info, congrats on three successful years, and here’s to many more. Happy New Year to you and all of your loved ones!

  8. I am so glad you shared this story. I have blogging less than a year, and I lose sight of the fact that even ‘the big guys’ started out small. You did get a break or two with the blog, but your consistent, quality writing is what has kept people coming back for more. Think of all the people you have helped over these past 3 years!

    Happy New Year!

  9. Congrats Jason. This is definitely something to celebrate. You have been an inspiration to me as I have now started my own blog. I applaud you for sticking with it as some days I feel like I should just give up.

    I think you desire to be a great father and husband really comes out in your posts. Your honesty and upfront nature is what drew me to your blog.

    Wishing you the best for 2011 and every other year to come.

    • Thanks! I continue to be inspired by others who have started their own blogs (or other side hustles) after drawing some encouragement from me.

      Over the years, I’ve used Frugal Dad as a creative outlet for my personal-finance-needs-more-common-sense rantings, and maybe more importantly, managed to capitalize on it monetarily to help get my family out of debt.

      Blogging is in many ways a war of attrition. Many others will start up new blogs, but they won’t last. If you have the perserverance to crank out quality material on a consistent basis, you will attract readers, and search visitors, and advertisers. Ultimately, you will float to the top as others drop off, or at least float to the top 100 or so, which is no small feat considering the thousands of blogs and established websites out there in any given niche.

      In the spirit of Dory from the movie Nemo, “Just keep writing! Just keep writing!”

  10. Congratulations! I remember the “Gardening” post! The reason I like your blog is you DO incorporate every day living. It is not all about finances and life is not all about finances. I love hearing about your family and everyday life. I now have a little container garden too partly due to your article, so for that, thanks. I wish you many more years of successful blogging! I will be here.

    • Great to hear about the container garden! Our family is gearing up for a full-size garden this year, now that we have the space for one. Can’t wait to get our hands dirty, and enjoy those summer veggies. Naturally, I’ll be documenting our progress here at FD.

  11. Congrats on making the 3 year mark, Frugal Dad! They say over 50% of businesses fail within the first three years, so you are most definitely a survivor!

    I’ve always liked your blog over other personal finance blogs (aside from Retire at 40) because you seem like a regular guy who balances this in addition to everything else, not overrunning the place with ads, programs that make no sense, or stuff that fails to be done with common sense. Nor are you a professional consultant, either – which is why you sound so genuine in your writings.

    Keep up the good work, I look forward to 2011!

  12. Although I don’t comment on every post I am always floating around and love your blog. Your personal style and useful posts will keep me and many more here for a long time.

    I am also proud to be the writer of 1 of those 1000 posts. Thank you for that opportunity.

    Here’s to 2011.

  13. Jason, Congratulations on three years of success and continued growth. I have quoted you a time or two on my own blog. Although I am a professional organizer I stress frugality. I love finding nuggets of useful information from your blog. Thanks.

  14. Cheers….you deserved it! i have been checking your site out for over a year now and will continually do so in the coming years. Great stuffs all the time. wish you the best for the years ahead.

  15. Jason, congratulations on 3 years. Your story has touched so many people, and I commend you on all you’ve done, including letting us, as readers, into your life. I think I speak for all of us when I say you’re truly an inspiration.

  16. Jason~

    Congrats on your accomplishments & best wishes in your continued success!! I’ve enjoyed reading your insights & implementing many of your suggestions…

    I know you have had some rough times in the recent past….may your future be blessed with peace & happiness…

  17. Jason, thanks for the mention and for the walk down memory lane. It seems like just yesterday that we both started our blogs – right around the same time. I think you started about a month before I did, I started my site in January of 2008. It’s amazing how fast the years fly by, and all the things that we’ve gone through in the ensuing years. The market crash of 2008, while it hurt the old retirement account, sure helped us personal finance bloggers to get some traction. There have been other tough things to go through – for me my wife having a blood clot that almost killed her – and for you losing your mom and at least one other very close family member. Your heartfelt posts about your mom especially really touched me very deeply. I understand, however, the therapy that you can get by writing, I feel the same way about it at times.

    Jason, you do have a way with words that is uncommon, and it’s no accident that you’ve got as many subscribers as you do. Congratulations on 3 great years, and here’s to another 10 years of frugal and heartfelt posts!

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