Hi! Welcome to my A Final Note series.
If you’re new here, in 2017 I’m sharing a monthly goal post that I’m calling “A Final Note”. I’m calling it A Final Note because that’s how I end a lot of my other blog posts, so it’s already a phrase I use. I’ll write “A Final Note” on each month to review and reflect how the month went. You can read more about why I’m doing this in my January 2017 post here. I will post A Final Note on the first Friday of the following month.
The categories that I break down are what I call the “main eight life categories” that I consider for life planning, and they are: health, relationships, finances, career, personal/spiritual development, recreation/fun, environment, and service.
As you’ll see below, I don’t follow these categories strictly — I break up personal development and faith and I keep my blog and my day-job separate. I just like the list of categories as a starting point.
So, let’s take a look at how my March went…
The progress I made on my blog in March was really good.
Here’s what I did in March on my blog…
- I published 4 regular blog posts and my February 2017 Final Note post. The four regular blog posts I published are:
- Side note – if there’s anything you want me to write about, let me know! I’m open to ideas.
- I wrote enough blog posts on my blog to stay 2 months ahead. I’m about 1-2 weeks ahead for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have a pretty consistent system working now, so I hope to maintain it in the future.
- I’m active in my Facebook Group for bloggers called #SocialHack.
- Last month, I created a blogging eBook called How To Go From Zero To Profitable Blog In One Year. I updated my eBook this month because I’ve learned so much about SEO and wanted to include it there.
- I created a monthly budget spreadsheet and net worth statement you can now download in both printable and excel formats. I’m obsessed with these!!
- I wrote two guest posts for other bloggers, and I’m working on a third. Stay tuned – I’ll post on social media when they’re published in the next couple of months. I’m really excited about these. I always make it a point to do my best work for other bloggers.
- I spent a toooon of time updating SEO on my site. I swear SEO was super duper impossible and foreign to me until now. I got most of the information from: 1) SEO 2017 by Adam Clarke, 2) Backlinko, and 3) Chase Reiner. Here are a few things I did this month with SEO:
- I made all images in every single post “medium” size and to the right. I’m using my Pinterest images for this most of the time. The reason being that people stay on your page longer if your images don’t span full width, even though that may look pretty.
- I removed any duplicate content.
- I adjusted meta descriptions that were too short.
- I edited the intros of a lot of posts so the sentences were shorter in order to increase readability and time on page.
- I continued to redirect any pages now being found by Google when it crawls my site so I don’t have any errors.
- I am making all content at a minimum of 1,800 words going forward (and I’m adding to old content that I want to rank higher).
- I will keep posting only once a week – I thought I needed to post more, but that’s the old way Google did things. With all the new updates, there’s no need to increase quantity – only quality.
- I’m focusing on “keywords” that I want my posts to rank for in Google. I finally setup an AdWords account and am using that. It’s working well, and I think I’ll see a really big increase in traffic in the future from it once I start writing more posts with keywords people are actually searching or.
- I re-took Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I needed this. It’s amazing that in three months my blog has changed so much. I know a lot more about blogging than I did last year, and that’s why I needed to re-take the course knowing what I know now. It took it up a level for me.
- One tip I picked up in particular was to include one affiliate link in every single blog post or a link to another post with an affiliate link. I’m not doing this (not even close). So, I plan to go back and add affiliate links to my most popular posts, and maybe even all of them where it makes sense.
- I ran two Facebook ads for my budget spreadsheets this month. I decided to get some Facebook coaching! I start April 10th and it’s for one month, so I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s specifically for Facebook advertising. I’m a huge proponent of diversifying your traffic and Facebook is one huge source that I want more traffic form, so that’s my goal. I’m starting this process at about 6k likes on Facebook right now, so we’ll see how it looks in a few months!
- I wanted to re-take Elite Blog Academy, but March came to an end! It’s next up on my list for April.
All the stuff I do on my blog is in the name of making money so I can repay my student loan debt. If I didn’t make money blogging, I would be -$1k in my budget every month because my student loan payment is at a minimum $1,500/month. Crazy, I know!
One cool thing I realized last month was that I can look at the past two years of income and expenses in a graph in my accounting software. Here’s a look:
There are so many ups and downs in this graph, but it’s so awesome to see that overtime, it is going up and to the right. This graph shows how I’m actually making more income overtime. The really cool thing is that a lot of that money in the beginning was from freelance writing (writing for other blogs) and now none of it is. Pretty awesome!
Since people always ask how I make money blogging, here’s a look at how I do it…
First, I make money from advertisements on my blog. I have an ad agency that does the placements for me (called Ad Thrive), so I don’t have to worry about the logistics (this is so nice!).
Second, I make money through affiliates. This is becoming huge for me. Here’s a look at some of the affiliates I make money from…
- Bluehost (from my How to Start a Blog post)
- How I Made $40k My First Year of Blogging (an eBook by Chelsea Lordes)
- Your Way to VA (a course that teaches you how to make money at home as a Virtual Assistant)
- Making Sense Of Affiliate Marketing (a blog course that teaches you how to make money with affiliate marketing)
- Elite Blog Academy (a blog course that shows you how to create a profitable blog)
- Real Life Money Plan (a money course that teaches you how to budget)
- Personal Capital (an online budgeting tool)
A third way to make money blogging is freelance writing. I don’t do this anymore because I want to focus on my own blog instead of writing for other people’s blogs.
For a deeper explanation about how to make money blogging, read 6 Ways Bloggers Make Money.
As far as stats go, my traffic in March was down and right now is only hovering only 120k/month. I definitely want to double this number by the end of the year. I’m constantly trying new strategies to increase my traffic.
Overall, the effort I put into my blog in March was great. I’m making sure I do something (even if it’s small) every day to help me get a little bit further ahead with my blog because then I can pay off my student loans faster.
Up next for my blog is to retake Elite Blog Academy, get Facebook training, and try to do some videos.
If you are interested in started a blog, I highly recommend devouring as much free content as possible to learn how to start a blog. There’s so much good stuff out there!
Health was just about awful in March.
In March, I was actually pretty active, but the food.. oh, the food! I am eating too much.
Like they say, “you get fit in the gym and slim in the kitchen.”
And I was in the kitchen too much! 😉
- I ran 1-2x week for about 30 minutes at a time. The days I didn’t run I did yoga or went for a walk. I probably had some form of physical activity 4-5 days per week. This is great as far as exercise goes, but the eating was just too much.
- I stayed on top of my cooking goals. One of my goals (or habits) in 2017 is to cook one new meal every Sunday evening. I pin all the recipes I make on my Pinterest Food Board. And I also snap when I’m cooking on Sunday nights (@NatalieRBacon on snap). In March, I cooked
- Chicken and dressing sheet pan supper (loved this one)
- Caprese chicken
- Mini meatball Casserole
- Crock pot chicken and dumplings
- I didn’t lose any weight. 🙁
With summer right around the corner, there’s only two months left to get in shape. The biggest challenge I have is that I’m not prioritizing my health. And I really don’t have time to. I have a money problem, errr a student loan problem. So, I am choosing to prioritize my money over health, and I don’t want to change that. If I eat less, I’ll lose weight, but I am such a big snacker! Clearly, I lack discipline in this area. We’ll see how that plays out in April…
Money was good in March!
- I forgot to mention this in January, but in 2017 I upped my retirement contributions to 10% into my company’s 401(k) plan (specifically a Roth 401(k)). This is making cash flow pretty tight, but I think as long as I’m still doing fun things and enjoying life, there’s no excuse for not contributing this much. Plus, I’m not really saving outside of this amount (I have a small emergency fund), so it’s forced savings for me.
- I paid $2,300 to my student loan debt, which was amazing. My student loan debt stands at $106k. One thing to note here about student loan debt is that I sort of had a moment of gratitude this month with my debt. I had the opportunity to talk with some older people who were actually pretty wealthy but were also drowning in student loan debt. Their attitude was “no one told me it was going to balloon like this; they just said pay $200/month.” The situation specifically was they were paying $200 on $70k of debt that had now (years later) turned into $160k of debt. The worst part, in my opinion, wasn’t the actual debt owed – it was the attitude. It was as if someone did this to them and they had no choice. In that moment I was so thankful I learned everything I did now, while I’m still young and don’t have a family to support yet. I’m paying off my debt the right way and avoiding huge problems later. If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan, please be careful!! If the payments are too good to be true, they probably are.
Overall, finances were good, steady, and par for the course. I’m hoping my blog income increases significantly so I can repay my debt faster. That’s the focus of my money right now. I’m keeping my expenses low (I live in a crappy apartment) and I don’t use a credit card so there’s no temptation for consumer debt. The only problem I have is the student loan debt. So, that’s my focus. In a perfect world, I’ll have it paid off in 1-3 years (a girl can dream!).
Personal development is always fun for me. I focus on reading, listening to podcasts, and doing other activities (like practicing gratitude and journaling) to keep growing. I really believe the Jim Rohn quote “your level of success can seldom exceed your level of personal development”. So, I plan on keeping this up as a life practice.
I set a goal to read one book every month in 2017. Whenever I set the goal of reading one book per month for the year, I always exceed it. I set a habit of reading at least one hour per day (usually during lunch), and I’m always surprised how much more I read during this time than I think I can. In March I read 2 personal development books.
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
- The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
I’ve actually already read these books, but it’s been years and Tyler (my boyfriend) wanted to read them. So, we re-read them together. It was so awesome to reread my faves. I highly recommend both of these books if you haven’t read them!
I keep a list of books I’ve read in Evernote every year. So, this year, I’m tracking my “2017 Book List” in Evernote. I highly recommend this list-tool (I’m sort of obsessed).
- Kept up with my gratitude jar. Every Sunday I write down something I’m thankful for from the prior week and put it into my mason jar. The idea is that you re-read these at the end of the year to remember and reflect on how much good came from your year.
- Started journaling every week. I have always journaled, but have done it only when I feel like it. The problem with that is, I only journaled when I wasn’t feeling that great, and lately, that meant I wasn’t journaling much at all (kind of a good thing). But I was missing the habit of journaling and the benefits that come from it. So, I’ve started journaling every Monday evening.
I listened to great podcast episodes this month. Here are some of my faves…
- Knowledge For Men epi 317 with Ajit Nawalkha called Life a Value Based Life and Achieve True Success. It was a huge game-changer. I’m writing a post about this soon!
- The School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes epi Tony Robbins: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Success and Happiness
Organization and productivity also fall into the personal development category. I’m constantly asked how I stay focused, get so much done, and achieve my goals. For me, it’s all in the planning. Some things I do to keep myself organized are:
- I keep a blog to-do list for the upcoming week on a post-it right by my computer. I cross each item off as I complete them that week.
- I keep a detailed list of everything I plan to do on a given day on my gCalendar. I usually plan for one week at a time. For example, I have blog from 5:30am-6:30am on my calendar as well as gym from 4:30pm-5:30pm. Then, I fill in the 6pm-9pm timeslot with whatever I have that night, whether it’s more blogging, time with friends or Tyler, or something else. I almost never leave it blank.
Personal development was great steady this month. It’s hard to keep up with because I always want to do other things, but I always come back to the quote “your level of success will seldom exceed your level of self development” by Jim Rohn. So, I keep going! 🙂
Faith was good in March.
- I attended church 3 out of the 4 weekends.
- I listened to Andy Stanley’s Your Move Podcast every week. This podcast is a modern Christianity podcasts, and it intertwines personal development with Christians. His motto for the podcast is that by listening to this 30 minutes every week, you’ll make better decisions and live with fewer regrets.
- I prayed every night for Lent. I did this instead of giving something up. I thought it was more meaningful for me even though it wasn’t a sacrifice, it made me more mindful of my faith.
Overall, faith went really well in March.
Relationships were good in March!
I want to focus on deepening my relationships in 2017. Meaning, I want them to be less transactional and more heart-felt. I want stronger connections and more meaningful conversations. To do this, I’m being careful to invest in the relationships I want to maintain and grow and not waste time in relationships that aren’t brining anything positive into my life.
Here’s a look at a few pics from March.
Tyler and I out at Bakersfield in Columbus.
The view from Tyler’s family’s barn on their farm looking across the street.
Megan, Kathleen, and I at Bodega on a Saturday night.
So, yea, March was fun! Since I don’t post a lot of personal photos on my blog, I am going to share a few in this series.
Here’s a closer look at a few things that I did in March…
- My boyfriend and I had date night at Basi Italiana – I looooove this restaurant, so that was really nice.
- I had a birthday party at a friend’s house. It’s sort of weird going to house parties that your friends own now and not their parents ha. #thisIs30
- I went to my boyfriend’s family’s for the weekend. They are farmers, so it was really nice to get away from the city and be in the country. We even got to ride 4 wheelers! Can’t wait to go back when it’s warmer for this.
- I had dinner with my mom when she was in town for work, which was nice (it’s about 2.5 hours for me to go home).
- I took Friday off for St. Paddy’s Day just for fun! I nevvvveer do this, so it was a great feeling just to take a day off to enjoy. No studying. No traveling. Just good, ole fashioned fun! (snaps @NatalieRBacon if you want to follow along!)
- I had some nights out with girlfriends. A couple of brunches and happy hours, too. I love this time and work so much that I refuse to give it up. My friends are so important to my sanity! Yes, this costs me money. No, I don’t mind. I’m not a frugal blogger. I don’t mind spending money on experiences with the people I love.
Overall, relationships were good this month. I felt like between work and blogging, I didn’t get a lot of down time, but looking at the list above, I definitely did. It just felt very busy at some points.
That’s A Wrap!
That about does it for March. Overall, it was good. I have so much to be grateful for. My blog is good, my job is good, my money is improving, my faith and relationships are good.
I would’ve liked more down time and more weight lost. But I got to spend a lot of time blogging, which is always good. At one point I just spent one Sunday laying around until 2pm and it felt sooo nice. I never do this! It was refreshing.
Going forward for 2017 my biggest goal is to increase my blog income (to pay down my student loan debt). Second, would be to lose a few more lbs. At this point, I don’t think I’ll prioritize the weight loss enough because I care more about prioritizing my blog income and getting out of debt. But, we’ll see.
How did your March go? Do you have any questions for me?!