How I Became a Lifestyle Blogger
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I never planned to be a lifestyle blogger…until I did. You see I’m trained in community and urban planning, but I have a passion for helping others realizing their true potential. I went through my own journey of figuring out that I can achieve whatever I determine to be priority.
I started a blog to document my journey and have some accountability but I didn’t think I would putting my efforts on display for the world to see. All on my own I taught myself how to budget, how to stick to the budget, figured out how to pay off a bunch of student debt, learn to invest, boost my credit score, how to build wealth and diversity my income by creating a location-independent business. I learned that happiness was more important than money, and figured out what does make me happiest. I figured out what my dream job looks like, and how I can contribute to the world – by helping women see and act on their potential; to believe in themselves and stop selling themselves short.
My Career Story
I got my degree in Recreation and Tourism Management, leaving with a student loan debt and a job that paid about $10.50 CAD per hour. A year later my boyfriend graduated with his degree and was successfully able to bring in some cash over the summers but was laid off one September after the next. Not only that but the work he was doing required that he rent a suite out of town, and it wasn’t fulfilling for him.
He wasn’t in a place where his contributions were valued. I had finally settled on a job at a car dealership paying $15 per hour because it was the highest paying job I could find. A year later I enjoyed the work but disliked the work environment. Everything was “an emergency” and most people were rude. I applied to do my Master of Community Planning Degree at my local university. I applied to the program after the application deadline but it was the very first year the program was introduced and for all I know they didn’t have enough students…I knew I had to make an impression. I called the shuttle service driver and on my lunch break had him drop me off at the university. The school was built on a big hill so I marched my butt to the top as fast as I could to the office of the woman who supposedly started the program and reviewed applications. I basically told her I’d been applying for job in this field and not getting them (obviously not) and I was going to keep applying for this program until I got in so I hoped she would consider that in reviewing my application. She was super friendly and we got going about why I wanted to be in the program and the volunteer work I had done in previous years that contributed toward this field. Then I called the shuttle guy to come pick me up and back to work I went.
“I wanted to document my journey and have some accountability but I didn’t think I would putting my efforts on display for the world to see.”
A month goes by…we’re just in waiting mode and I received a letter that I had been one of 24 students who successfully received acceptance to the program…from something like 165 total applications. I was floored. I was so excited and I kept it a big secret for a few months, up until about a month before I had to leave my job to head to school.
So 1.5 years went by and I had obtained a student position at a small local government, and a permanent position five months later in a different municipality. In June I received my Master of Community Planning Degree with distinction and was gainfully employed.
Time to "Adult"
I’d heard about people who go away to work, make a bunch of money and then come home and spend it all. I had family that did work like this and it got them into a lot of trouble making large purchases. Now that I was gainfully employed I didn’t want to mess up my finances by over spending. That was my way of acknowledging lifestyle inflation…I just didn’t know exactly what it was called at the time. I didn’t want to sign up for a bunch of large purchases that take years to pay off or buy all the fancy toys we always wanted. I wanted to learn how to ‘adult’ and have my shit together.
My Partner Struck Gold
About half way through my Master’s program my partner accepted a temporary position with a local robotics company (outside his field of education) in the off-season when he was laid off. After six months they offered a permanent position. He absolutely loved the work, the people, the recognition for his skills and efforts, and the hours: 4 x 10-hour shifts with a 3-day weekend every single week. The pay wasn’t the main draw…is was that he finally felt like he wasn’t going to work every day, he enjoys it and is good at what he does, and he has 3-day weekends. I will be likely be working for a very long time before I can negotiate for more days off.
That time I didn't have a budget
Since I got my permanent position and my partner was permanently employed we had money coming in like we hadn’t before. We did buy a brand new vehicle that summer. We love the vehicle but if I were to do it again, I would buy a lightly used vehicle rather than a new one (based on my values around money). That took up about $285 CAD cash flow every two weeks not including the warranty. Yikes! However there was still money left over (keep in mind I had graduated one month earlier, and you are not required to pay back your government student loans for six months after you graduate…so I had no idea what my student loan payment might have been, nor had I even considered it.
I realized that we had purchased a brand new toy, which we loved…but I kind of hated how much we were paying into it each month. I decided I wanted any extra money (above and beyond our regular expenses) to go toward retirement. I had done a bit of research on financial advisors and the types of bank and investment accounts you can have. I had a high-fee mutual fund with RBC at the time but I wanted to take it more seriously. Also, I really didn’t like the conflict that financial advisors are commissioned for selling you different investments….and I’ve worked in sales so I know that you commission earned has nothing to do with product quality, so people are incentivized in a way that does not benefit the consumer…but your livelihood depends on it.
I interviewed one financial advisor I knew and left feeling dirty. It sort of felt like he was thrown off that I had done my research and he kept telling me not to worry about the fees and showed me how much I’d make in the long term (spoiler alert: much less than if I did DIY investing, or used a robo-advisor).
I set out to interview a fee-based advisor. I was much more satisfied with the quality of advice I received but again, he wasn’t able to explain to me a number of things so that I could actually understand what he was talking about….and I had done a ton of research at that point so it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Also, this was 2017…I don’t believe they have become much more transparent since then.
However, this fee-based advisor was willing to help be figure out a budget and come up with a plan of attack rather than just sell me things, and I appreciated this. He focused on debt and contributing to our RRSP’s (registered, tax-deferred, retirement accounts). I though this followed good general principles so I decided to invest with him. Before I decided to do this he made it clear that the money could be re-invested elsewhere if I ever chose to do so. This lasted a few months but I kind of hated that I had to email my advisor every time I wanted to contribute above my automated amount. I hadn’t actually budgeted or wrangled my spending yet so there was lots of money to be found as we ate out less and I bought less clothes. Despite this frustration I stuck to it, and emailed him every time I wanted to make an extra contribution.
My student loan payments kicked in (we had about $40,000 CAD combined) and I quickly became obsessed that we were paying $7 daily in interest on those loans. I HATED paying that interest. $7 per day are you crazy! I decided I would no longer buy take out coffee daily, and the odd scone I’d pick up at the same time. I’d see maybe an extra $50-60 per month out of that. It made me think with these Student loan payments and the car payment, I should really start figuring out where my money is going and see how much we have to spend with discretion each month. I thought it was really close and I was worried we over-extended ourselves.
Learning to Budget
Eventually I started budgeting on my own spreadsheet. It was in excel and actually a good friend (who was also my boss at the time) sent me the spreadsheet she uses.
I played around with it and just couldn’t get it right. I tried doing a bi-weekly budget, monthly budget, and then eventually I created a spreadsheet where I wrote down every day and just entered my daily purchases in there.
But, sometimes the bank delayed which day purchases were made, I had wayyyy to many categories and honestly I was so confused and hated it. It wasn’t a reliable system and at this rate, definitely not sustainable.
After listening to different podcasts, I discovered “You need a Budget” (YNAB) software and my life changed. I did the 34 day trial, and then decided I’d pay for it since my change in behaviour from trying to budget had afforded me a little breathing room. I think we paid around $105 CAD ($85 USD) for the year or something like that. At first I put in all my same categories and it was STILL hard. I eventually came across something that suggested I lump categories together. For example “our needs” could consist of haircuts, new shoes (if replacing), or new tire tube if hubby’s bike got a flat…things like that.
Figuring out where our money had been going
Once I got set up with simpler categories I felt way better and I was off to the races. I was all of a sudden empowered; in control. I could set a plan for how much I would spend and know how close I was to reaching my monthly spend.
The thing was that I started noticing all of the extra little purchases that had been made. How was I supposed to categorize all of these things I was buying that I never noticed before?
Cute work shoes (I didn’t need another pair), muffin from the grocery store (groceries or fun money?), this seasons nail polish colour (might wear it three times), or new weekly planner from Chapters because I need to hustle (usually gets documented for about a month)…I began to realize the chaos. Shopping had been my hobby and what I turned to when I felt at a loss. Who was there for me when I needed it most? Shopping (or ice cream). Not anymore. I found the culprit…it was me. And for weeks I’d been giving my boyfriend heck for walking to the gas station and spending our hard earned money on chips and iced tea. I needed a solution.
Freedom in Fun Money
Fun money – We now have a set amount per month dedicated to fun money. You can’t go over, and if you don’t use it, it builds up as “fun money savings”. Hubby is saving for computer parts and I have no idea what I’m saving for yet, but it makes my budget predictable. I can plan how much well spend in a month and mostly come in under budget. Occasionally we allocate something to our “unplanned wants” category, like a new tent just for hiking. Big ticket items that add to our quality of life, but we didn’t budget for. Mostly we try to keep those purchases in our fun money category. Now, I hardly spend. I am picky about how I spend my own personal money and it gets me excited to see how much is left over at the end of each month, which I put toward investing. Pretty much all discretionary spending comes from these fun money categories, except said “unplanned wants” category and sometimes we splurge on groceries. That includes liquor.
Knowledge is Power
Now that I saw where my money was going and made desired changes, we ended up with around an extra thousand dollars per month to play with. This is AFTER thinking we were over extending ourselves from purchasing our Subaru Crosstrek, among other things.
We bumped up our student loan contributions a bit, started investing in retirement accounts (with my advisor), saving for large purchases such as holiday gifts, auto maintenance/insurance and building our emergency fund.
The FIRE Movement
I started researching how to be good at personal finance and stumbled across these folks who got excited about being in control of their finances, and…savings rate. What? Okay…
I had downloaded some personal finance podcasts and listened to Jessica Moorehouse’s Mo-Money podcast episode with Gwen Merz about fire-ing in your 20’s. I remember this very distinctly, it must have been summer 2018 and I was on a walk on my lunch break and I was totally zoned into this episode….hearing about house hacking and doing this because you wanted to, not because it was a burden. I know it seems soon, but the fire had spread. I knew I was hooked. I heard that Gwen had her own podcast with a girl named J, called the Fire Drill podcast (Gwen has since left the podcast to pursue other adventures). I downloaded a bunch of Fire Drill podcast episodes and I was obsessed at this concept. At the time I had a net worth of about negative $70,000 and I felt like I had struck gold. How does no one else know about this?
After discovering YNAB and lumping a bunch of my categories together to create simplified categories, I started having extra money in my bank account and the momentum was building.
The Learning Curve and getting 1% Better Every Day
I was feeling really conflicted about having to have my advisor update my auto withdrawals every single time I was newly inspired with a different approach. It was frustrating…I wish I could have just moved stuff around on my own.
After diving deeper into Financial Independence and investing, I ultimately decided to go with Wealthsimple.
I had used a referral code, and set up a few things (like auto-deposits and two-step verification for increased password protection) to receive $11,200 managed free for one year. So when I signed up I figured, at the rate I was learning, I could at least transfer my account for free and then have a year of funds managed free until I figured out my ideal scenario.
Long story short, I still LOVE Wealthsimple and the app layout. It is so easy and informative.
I am so happy with the platform that I have encouraged some of my closest friends and family to also sign up. They don’t regret it one bit, and since they were nice enough to sign up with my referral code we both received $10,000 managed free for a year.
Mostly, the fees would be free for a while, and then low. Also, the user interface is awesome: super easy to understand and chart progress. Can you believe I actually had FUN reviewing my investments! Also, since my first year of management was free, the upward move in the market was amplified. I mean, I didn’t have too much money in there yet, but I could see it grow…with only a few thousand dollars…and it was so exciting!
Side Hustles & Increasing my Income
From there it was this continued rabbit hole of research, inspiration, planning and motivation. I discovered the idea of passive income and wanted to try to create it somehow. I also discovered how easy it is to do side hustles to supplement your income.
Over the winter months being a student I was in the habit of keeping busy working at the mall over the holidays. November was rolling in and I felt the itch. I love the holidays so working at a shop, which I had done in the past, allowed me to be surrounded by festivity through the season. Over the past month we decided to go down to one vehicle though, so I had to find something with that consideration.
Serving at the Bistro
I went to drop off my resume at a Bistro about a 5 minute drive from home and was hired on the spot. It was something I’d never done before, but it wasn’t too bad. However, it still ended up to be a lot of work to make it happen in our already busy life. Kev had to take a short lunch, so I could pick him up earlier to go right to the bistro without a chance to eat dinner.
Plus my mental bandwidth (mostly for happily serving the public) was already depleted by that time of day. Remember, I’m an introvert so quiet time recharges my batteries, and my day job is already in a public service role. The job was fun but they had a lot of staff turnover and wanted me to work way more hours in a week than I wanted. After discussing this with my manager, how I was wanting to work maybe 2-3 nights a week to help fill in for holiday coverage or busy periods, they still kept scheduling me for 4 nights per week. Needless to say this month and a half added stress to my life and it wasn’t worth it. It just brought tension home and it wasn’t adding value to my life. I was really cognizant by this point that if I was going to put my effort into a side hustle it was going to make my life better, not drain my energy so I can’t live the life I want.
I had been filling my coffee and lunch breaks at my full-time day job by taking walks and listening to podcasts. I really enjoy this ritual…walking while listening to a poddy. I had a number of favourites by this point. Fire Drill Podcast, ChooseFI, Listen Money Matters, Financial Freedom with Grant Sabatier, Afford anything, Mad Fientist, Mo Money Podcast, Coach Chad Carson, BiggerPockets and Sarah’s Day’s Health Code Podcast for professional development. I also loved journalism-esque podcasts that reported on true crimes, including CBC’s Somebody Knows Something, Serial and This American Life. I was NEVER running out of content to consume.
Social Media Community Manager for a Major Podcast
I ended up managing social media accounts for a major Personal finance Podcast on the side, which I still do and enjoy! This came to be in an interesting way. I am a huge fan of the podcast and they posted an ad looking for a “Senior Editor”. I responded to the ad. I emailed with a bit about my story, how I know I am in no way qualified for this position since I had never done any freelance work or writing for a blog before.
To be honest though…after listening to all of the above podcasts, I REALLY wanted to start a blog to document how far I had come. We had made a lot of BIG decisions toward bettering our financial situation and I wanted to keep the momentum going by tracking our progress. Plus, while it was hard to make these decisions, it wasn’t very hard to take action and change our habits. So, what if we could inspire someone to better their own life and finances? This resonated with me. I knew I wanted to start a blog, even to learn and try to figure it out.
At the time this podcast was “celebrity level” to me. I had been listening to this podcast every single week for months and what if I could help them and learn at the same time?
I offered to volunteer in exchange for their willingness to teach me some skills and mentor me. They told me to apply anyway and they would keep an eye out for my application. It took a few weeks and I was so excited but was trying not to check my email every couple hours. Eventually they offered to pay me if I managed their social media page and community. I was stoked! First of all, I even had experience doing this, and was so excited. I had my first side hustle that aligned with the work I wanted to be doing. I’m still learning how to engage and build great communities on Facebook. However, the job technically still wasn’t super blog-related.
Working for Myself: Blogging
I started writing on a WordPress-hosted blog (the .wordpress.com kind) because I still wanted to try out blogging and I had a lot of thoughts and ideas I wanted to jot down. It was hard for me to take this blog and creating content seriously when I knew nobody was seeing it.
My purpose couldn’t be achieved if I wasn’t helping anyone, or didn’t have the ability to educate people about their options and that they can take control of their life! I want people to feel empowered to take charge of their life. My blog wasn’t going to be able to do that if it wasn’t hosted, or able to be seen. I had been doing a bunch of research over a few months, on blogging specifically, and then took a bit of a break because, like I said, there wasn’t the same fulfillment knowing I was the only one looking at the content I was producing.
Some time passed, I got busy with switching to a new full-time job in the same industry, but closer to home on July 3rd, along with planning our Wedding which took place July 15, 2019. While all of this was going on our net worth was plateauing as we breached wedding time, but I was still consuming content like crazy (podcasts and reading email newsletters from blogs I loved). What seemed like all of a sudden a bunch of bloggers I loved and trusted started firing out emails and writing blog posts in support of this new “Blogging for Profit” course developed by Julie from Millennial Boss/Fire Drill Podcast and Cody from Fly to Fi. There are well-known and high-reputation bloggers, podcasters and overall side-hustlers in the world of media that I consumed regularly. Maybe it was a sign, maybe it was marketing, maybe it was FOMO but I felt like this opportunity was opened up just for me. The fact that I was getting married in two weeks aside, this was pretty much the perfect timing. I would have a bunch of time after no-longer having to coordinate everything from the wedding, I had funds received from my social-media side hustle sitting there waiting to support further “wealth building”. I was stoked. I started the course in July and its September 2019 as I write this post.
I am so glad I jumped on the opportunity to be in the first cohort of the Blogging for Profit course with Gold City Ventures. Cody and Julie are basically professional side hustlers, making a full time income off of their hustles. They walked us through how to get our blogs created and out into the online world so our content could be shared. I’m still not finished the course (it’s meant for you to go at your own pace), and I still have a lot to learn, but I am feeling more fulfilled and passionate about QS Creative than ever before.
These two, along with the team you get to be a part of when you join (on Facebook), will take you from dreaming of blogging, to setting up your site to profit from day 1. They discuss everything you need to know from technical set up, to how to kick ass at making money with affiliate programs. They make sure you hit the ground running and host weekly trainings, Q&A’s and/or Facebook Lives to keep you engaged. They are willing to put in the effort if you are…they set you up to succeed which is why I 100% recommend this course. It literally was the catalyst for this blog to even exist.
This course is inexpensive when you consider how much you can make within your first year of blogging, and pennies when you think over a ten year trajectory. They have paid professionals in their Facebook group who show everything about their own blogging journeys. They really don’t hold back, which is amazing to see and have that insight as a new blogger.
Its set up to let you work at your own pace, but makes you want to put your head down and not leave your computer until you are satisfied with what you’ve created. As someone who knows nothing about coding, and even less about how to create a website, this course was very user-friendly. Since WordPress is so widely used, there is TONS of help online to keep you going. And if there’s something you get stuck on, the Facebook group is there to back you up and help you figure out whatever you need help with.
“The course is set up to let you work at your own pace, but makes you want to put your head down and not leave your computer until you are satisfied with what you’ve created.”
I truly believe that if you are interested in starting a blog, this course has the potential to help you feel empowered to get it up and running with a team of support. If blogging is a part of your plan to gain passive income to replace or supplement your day job, for when you travel, or as a way of reaching others to fulfill your purpose, this course is easy to understand and will give you the results you are looking for.
If you have any questions at all about the course, send me an email or message me on Facebook or Instagram. I’d love to answer any questions you might have.
Simple changes can make drastically improve your life
Overall, I’ve been trying a bunch of new things to see what ‘sticks’ and adds value to my life. I realized there is opportunity everywhere, a lot of the things I was doing are super transferable for others, and I wanted to chronicle my journey. I want to educate and inspire others how thinking just a little differently can have a huge impact on your overall life satisfaction.
Living your best life is so much more than finances but I believe that by having an emergency fund and feeling secure opens you up to new opportunity. I’m in a place now where I see opportunity all around me. In fact, I need to ensure the opportunities I take advantage of, are in line with what I find absolutely essential, and say no to the rest.
I want to help others get to where I am now, if not to take action to improving their lives in many other ways. When I was a kid I didn’t have a lot of good mentors, yet, when I did it had a huge impact on my motivation and likelihood to take action.
I became a lifestyle blogger because I want to challenge, support and encourage you to reflect on your life, visualize big dreams, use available resources and recognize opportunity so that you can execute your ideal life.
We can do this, you just need to identify what your priorities are, have an open mind, and begin taking action.
Anything is possible if you decide it is a priority.