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Friday
Aug312012

The LTNE Report -- August 2012

This is me after 30 days of the Whole30 diet, simultaneously crushing our debt!What an August it has been!  We’ve made strides in every single metric:  active income, internet income, debt elimination, cutting spending, health and wellness, website analytics, and more!  To celebrate, I’m raffling off a hardback edition of Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup to one lucky winner.  Enter here!

A few things up front about site design before I begin the report.  First, I deployed my mad Pixelmator skills (Pixelmator is an inexpensive but powerful Photoshop-like program for the Mac) to create a new banner for the site.  Seriously, the banner you see just about maxed out my abilities at this point, but given the lack of a professional designer, I’m pleased with it for now.  Why a tank?  Mainly because I spent the earlier part of my career in Abrams tanks, and this site ultimately is at least partly about my eventual transition from the military to the civilian world, so I thought “why not.” Should the tank stay?  Let me know in the comments.

I’ve also added a blog roll to the site, which I will continue to update, but I want to pay special attention to all the new sites like mine-- there are a lot of great bloggers and site owners out there that deserve increased traffic, so go take a look at their sites.  Along those lines, I encourage you to also hit the affiliate links of small sites for affiliate purchases that you might make anyway.  An “A list” blogger like Pat Flynn deserves every bit of the $30,000 monthly he makes from his affiliate sales, but peeling a little bit of that away for a small blog might keep that promising writer in the business a little longer.  Also, if you are going to shop at Amazon anyway, find a blog with an Amazon affiliate link and use it.  It costs nothing more to you and it kicks a little to the blog.  Put a note on your monitor so you remember-- that's what I do.  

Finally, I’ve added a mini-blog dedicated to health and wellness topics, where I’ve blogged about Jen and I taking the Whole30 challenge.  I’ve lost over 10 pounds so far and two inches off my waist, so go check it out if you are interested in that sort of thing.

I posted this last month, but here’s a few other points about why we’re blogging:

  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.

Ready to read this month’s report?

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

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

Thanks.  Now let's get started:

Income:

My wife returned to the work force this month, and she was able to squeak in a couple of days of her new income in time to make this month’s report, so we were able to increase our active income 2.36% this month.  More next month as she gets her first full two week paycheck!


Passive income once again increased this month, with our second month of returns on our small Lending Club loan arriving, as well as some affiliate income from a couple of sources, including our first affiliate sales from our niche site!  Piecing together the sales, I discovered that they were driven by one of my YouTube video reviews, which drove traffic to the site, facilitating someone’s purchase via Amazon.  There really is some important things to learn from this, which I’ve posted hereOverall we experienced 59.91% growth on our internet-derived income this month, our fifth month of consecutive increases!

As I mentioned last month, until our rental home's monthly rent exceeds our mortgage payment, I will not list it as a source of passive income.  Here are our hits and misses this month:

Affiliate Programs:

Amazon Associates:  $38.36

Market Samurai:  $0.00

Mint.com:  $0.00

Quicken Loans: $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:  $4.21

Our top producing affiliate marketing site this month remained Amazon.com. FlexOffers didn’t produce this month.  

And what is this surprise?  LTNE actually generated $.43 in cost-per-click advertising this month with Media.Net ads!  I’ve been so thoroughly disappointed with CPC advertising income that I had nearly cut it off altogether, so imagine my surprise when I finally generated some income!  In my enthusiasm, I once again gave Media.Net ads some banner space on the front page!  As I pointed out last month, my current page views almost guarantee I’d be making more if I still had Google AdSense. As I like to remind you all too often, protect your AdSense accounts out there!  

Internet-based income also allowed us to hit our interim target of paying for this site's Squarespace hosting with affiliate income for the second month!

<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, but this month was only a modest success, as my wife had to spend some money to get a professional wardrobe for her new job, I had to invest in some parts and services to get the car ready to sell, and we rescued a stray cat that had been attacked by an animal, and the vet bills were fairly substantial.  We also spent too much at restaurants, including one spendy night at Ruth's Chris for an overdue date night (yes, Ruth's Chris, but we did forego wine and we stuck to the Whole30 plan with our choices there!).  In addition, our Whole30 diet drove up our grocery costs slightly (though increased food costs in general due to the drought might account for most of the increase).  Hopefully back to better austerity next month!

 

As I mentioned here, we cut cable this month and I reduced my iPhone plan, though I have a more radical plan to cut cell phone costs that I plan to execute in the near future when the timing is right!  We’ve sustained all the other cuts we’ve worked at over the last few months as well.  Just last night was home haircut night, for instance, saving us $45, and Jen doesn’t even need to use a Flowbee.  She’s that good.   

Debt:

Debt reduction this month was absolutely incredible and we were able to slash our non-mortgage debt a whopping 76.55% and overall debt, which includes our mortgage, by 10.90%.  I anticipate that we will have our non-mortgage debt vaporized within six months, if not earlier.  

How did we do it?  If you’ve been reading this site for awhile, we’ve already been aggressively paying off debt for months, but this month I sold my car, payed off the lien, and then took the remaining profit from the sale to more aggressively pay off another debt.  All told, this amounted to a $36,916.30 reduction in debt in one month.  

We are now a one car family, which presents its challenges, but my trusty Trek 800 is working out just fine taking me back and forth to work!  I'm saving on gas, insurance, repairs, and I'm getting even more exercise everyday!

 

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

Net Worth: 

Our overall net worth increased 7.53% this month despite 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 remaining car (based upon private party sale value calculated at Edmunds.com).  Both of our 401k’s saw some increases in their values (4.29% and .60%).

Site Statistics:

I entered the Yakezie Challenge on 14 July with an Alexa rank of 825,425.  Our current Alexa rank is 451,796 (from 626,324 last month) and the goal of the challenge remains a rank of less than 200,000 by 14 January.  More on the Yakezie Challenge here.  

Traffic for LTNE increased from 1,422 visitors in July to 4,305 visitors in August, an increase of 202.74%Thanks for helping us spread the word about the site!  And thanks again to Mr. Money Mustache, whose Twitter mention last month continues to push at least a portion of his sizable audience over here for a visit.  Keep visiting Money Mustache’rs and watch my own money mustache continue to grow!

The three most popular blog posts this month: 

  1. Health and Wellness Journal Entries
  2. How I Saved My Family $214,292 This Week
  3. Summer Recap (Part One):  Tuning Out -- Our Four-Day Challenge
  4. Build a Blog Guide

The site currently has 1240 Twitter followers and 28 Facebook fans.  

Our one remaining niche site, www.adjustabledumbbellscenter.com has completely fallen out of the SERPs, despite executing the backlinking strategy that I described here, though as I mentioned earlier, YouTube links are providing a valuable lifeline to the site!  You can see my targeted keywords for the site on this screen capture from Market SamuraiIt is important to note that I've once again 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:

Newsletter sign-ups continue to stack up.  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’m continuing to provide 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. 

Our Vittana loan to help a future teacher in Paraguay was fully funded and she is going to school.  Our kids, who invested some of their own savings into the loan, have decided to invest the repayment into other Vittana loans for other students around the world.  

On to September!  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 August 2012 income and debt report is now live!  (<-- Click to Tweet this!)  

Did you like this article?  If so, use the social media buttons below to share it with your followers.  If you want to be really heroic, a link or mention from your own site is very much appreciated.  

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