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Monday
Jul302012

The LTNE Report -- July 2012

July has proven to be an interesting month here at Live the New Economy-- a month full of real growth in a whole host of areas, though a few frustrations remain as well.  This month’s LTNE report will also feature some new charts and I’m also opening up even more detail on our personal finances.  That’s a bit of a leap of faith on my part-- as I’m not accustomed to radical and public transparency-- but putting more detail out there is probably a natural progression for our experiment anyhow.

A few other points about why we’re blogging all of this:

  1. Accountability.  Public accountability encourages our own progress.  If I put it out there, I’m more likely to meet our goals. 
  2. Inspiration.  I hope by achieving ours own goals that we inspire readers to achieve their own.  
  3. Expectation Management.  I’m showing all of the “new economy” portion of our experiment-- blogging, marketing, traffic, niche sites, etc.-- so that new bloggers can gain an appreciation of how at least one site is able to grow and monetize.  Too many sites out there are promoting “get rich quick,” when the reality for most is far different.   
  4. Community.  Having this blog has allowed me to connect with a whole bunch of like-minded people and to gain from their experiences.  
  5. Finding our Way.  I’m still convinced that getting “out there” will help illuminate our post-military path by allowing us to explore options that we might not even have known existed without entering into this community.
  6. Knowledge.  I hope to build and share a body of knowledge that is beneficial to the community.
  7. Intentional Living.  A large part of our documenting in such small detail all of these things is part of a larger project of intentional living, both in our financial and personal lives.

So, strap in for a long one.

First, though, will you help me with some Twitter publicity?  

Live the New Economy's July 2012 income and debt report is up!  (<-- Click to Tweet this!

Thanks.  Now let's get started:

Income:

First, we hit one of our interim targets with active income this month, taking home $7,002.05 after taxes, not including our military housing allowance.  This is an 8.24% increase from last month.  My wife has also polished up her resume and is ready for job hunt, so we’re hoping to get some real movement in active income within the next few months as she returns to the work force.

Passive income also increased, with our first returns on our small Lending Club loan arriving, as well as some affiliate income from a couple of sources.  (Note:  until our rental home's monthly rent exceeds our mortgage payment, I will not list it as a source of passive income). To give a sense of our broad affiliate efforts, I’m going to list our misses as well:

Affiliate Programs:

Amazon Associates:  $20.88

Market Samurai:  $0.00

Mint.com:  $3.00

Quicken Loans: $0.00

Live Strong Fitness:  $0.00

Audible.com:  $0.00

Prosper.com Loans / Prosper.com Investments:  $0.00

Squarespace:  $0.00

BlueHost:  $0.00

Withings:  $0.00

AWeber: $0.00

USAA Bank:  $0.00

Discover Debt Consolidation (18-month 0%) Card:  $0.00

Fitbit:  $0.00

Portenzo iPad/iPhone Cases:  $0.00

Non-affiliate marketing passive income:

Lending Club:  $3.01

Our top producing affiliate marketing site this month after Amazon.com was FlexOffers.  

I continue to be disappointed with cost-per-click advertising income, as I monetize my struggling niche site with InfoLinks and I reserve one banner on LTNE for Media.Net ads.  Both have yielded no earnings.  Even with my humble but growing traffic for the the LTNE site, my short history with Google AdSense demonstrated to me that I’m losing earnings by having had to make the switch from AdSense to other alternatives, which simply aren’t delivering the results that AdSense did.  Protect your AdSense accounts out there!  

Overall, passive income increases this month from $2.49 to $26.89, a 980% increase from last month!  Small numbers, to be sure, but what I’m continuing to hunt for is growth, and we have that in spades!

This also allowed us to hit our interim target of paying for this site's Squarespace hosting with affiliate income for the first time!

<If you want more information on adding affiliate marketing to your own sites, check out our tools page here>

Spending:  

We continue to try to live (better) the old economy, primarily through our efforts to become more frugal, and we saw gains here as well!

Once again, we were able to decrease spending slightly this month from last month, with a 5.93% decrease, though we weren’t able to hold the line on groceries.  I’m okay with this for two reasons:  1) grocery prices continue to rise noticeably, and 2) we hosted several dinner parties with 20 or more people this month.  Given those two things, I’m confident that we actually did a better job with our overall grocery spending.  I can’t sing the praises enough of pulled pork (pork shoulder) as a way to cheaply and easily feed a large number of people in a barbecue setting.  Send me a note if you want our recipe.  

All other spending (general shopping, home expenses, etc.) either remained generally the same or has decreased.

Spending will go down for us yet again next month for a few reasons:  1) We’ve cancelled cable television; 2) Summer expenses are over, including kids’ camps and we’ll have completed our frugal summer vacation; 3) I’m still looking at options for our expensive AT&T plans for our iPhones.  

Debt:

Debt reduction slowed this month as we used some of our gains to pay for a few day camps for the kids, as well as funding our frugal vacation plans.  We reduced overall non-mortgage debt by 2.25% and overall debt by 1.35%.  I expect debt reduction to accelerate again next month, though I’m happy with held the line and didn’t increase debt this month, which probably would have happened any summer prior to this one.

 

All of our credit card debt is rolled into this 0% APR for 18 months Discover card and we will have it paid off before the rate on the card increases.  


Net Worth: 

Our overall net worth decreased this month due to another decrease in the value of our rental home (Mint.com updates home values every two weeks through Zillow.com), as well as the depreciation of other assets like our cars (based upon private party sale value calculated at Edmunds.com).  Both of our 401k’s saw small increases in their values (.37%).

Site Statistics:

I entered the Yakezie Challenge on 14 July with an Alexa rank of 825,425.  Our current Alexa rank is 626,324 with a goal of less than 200,000 by 14 January to satisfy the conditions of the challenge.  More on the Yakezie Challenge here.  

Traffic for LTNE increased from 674 unique visitors in June to 1,422 unique visitors in July.  This is an increase of 111%.  

Daily unique visitors spiked from an average of 75 to a site high of 191 after a Twitter mention from Mr. Money Mustache.  Hopefully a high percentage of those new visitors will visit again.

The three most popular blog posts this month: 

  1. How I Saved My Family $214,292 This Week
  2. Lending Club First Month Review
  3. Income and Debt Report -- June 2012

The site currently has 1036 Twitter followers and 21 Facebook fans.  

Our one remaining niche site, www.adjustabledumbbellscenter.com continues to flounder in the SERPs, despite executing the backlinking strategy that I described here.  You can see my targeted keywords on this screen capture from Market SamuraiMarket Samurai now has a cloud-based rank tracker system, which essentially allows you to upload your keywords and sites into the cloud and then they keep track of your rank and send you weekly reports.  The new cloud-based rank tracker allows you up to 50 keywords for free with plans between $5 and $99 a month for keywords from 100 to 2,500.  If you are at all interested in tracking keyword ranking, this is another useful level of automation to free up time for other pursuits.  It is important to note that I've put no work into the niche site this month.   

<Are you ready to start your own blog or site?  I’ve posted a simple guide to getting started blogging here>

Other noteworthy events this month:

My wife’s debit card was compromised and someone fraudulently charged nearly $1000 on it.  I sent a note out last week to our newsletter subscribers describing the situation and some things that we learned from it, but we recovered from it quickly, mainly due to the fact that we noticed the fraudulent activity very quickly via Mint.com and also because our bank, USAA, fully reimburses for fraudulent activity.  I recommended to newsletter subscribers that they check with their own banks to ensure that their policy includes full reimbursement for fraudulent activity, because I discovered with some research that not all banks reimburse the full amount of loss in the event of credit card fraud.  If you’d like to sign up for the non-spammy LTNE newsletter, you can do so with the newsletter sign-up on the right side of this site.

I’ve added live chat to LTNE through Olark.com (free).  You can see the tab for live chat on the bottom right hand side of the site.  Feel free to chat me up when I’m online or leave a message when I’m not.  I’ve already had a few interesting chats with LTNE readers now that live chat is up and running!

In addition, we participated in Tim Ferriss’ birthday challenge with a loan and donation to Vittana.com to help fund the education of a future teacher in Paraguay.  For more on both the student that we helped to fund as well as Vittana in general, you can click on this link.  The coolest part about this challenge was that we asked our kids if they wanted to be involved in the loan.  They did and contributed some of their own savings to do so.  

We also participated in Nina’s birthday challenge from Shalom Mama with a small donation to Charity: Water, which supports improving access to clean drinking water around the world.  Check it out!

On to August!  Thanks so much to everyone for supporting our efforts here and for continuing to visit!

And, in case you didn't earlier, but want to help me get the word out on Twitter.

Live the New Economy's July 2012 income and debt report is up!  (<-- Click to Tweet this!)  

Now, for those of you who want to excel at supporting the site:

Please help LTNE grow!  If you want to recognize the work that we are putting into quality content here, you can have a direct impact on this site's success.  (1) Leave a question or comment below, and click the Tweet, Like, or Pin It buttons directly below this post to refer this article to your favorite social media sites.  (2) Like our Facebook page (3) Sign up for the recently launched LTNE email newsletter on the right sidebar and receive monthly (yes, weekly was just not working out!), non-spammy LTNE goodness via email. (4) Finally, if you'd like to help in a more direct way, please check out any of our site advertisers (links on the far right of this page) or, if you are an Amazon.com shopper, use this link where your purchase doesn't cost you anything additional, but passes a little bit of money back to this site!  Thanks!

 

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