Image shows 10 different pros and cons of debt consolidation

If you are dealing with a combination of debt types such as medical debt, payday loans, and credit card debt, you may be considering debt consolidation.

In short, debt consolidation is where you are consolidating multiple debts that have payments associated with one debt and one single monthly payment. You can consolidate debt that has a monthly payment or one lump sum payment.

As someone who worked as an executive at a debt consolidation company for many years, I tend to think that I have a more insider, exclusive via of the pros and cons of debt consolidation.

Two types of Debt Consolidation

Before jumping into the advantages and disadvantages of debt consolidation, it’s important to understand that there are two types of debt consolidation: 

  1. Debt consolidation loans
  2. Debt consolidation programs.

These are vastly different, but it’s important to understand the differences because some deceptive companies may attempt to say, “you don’t qualify for a debt consolidation loan, but you qualify for a debt consolidation program”.  A debt consolidation program is where you would enter your debts into a program, let the accounts go past due, and then the program would try to settle the debts. You can be sued in a debt consolidation program because your debt goes behind and your credit score will be negatively affected.

We will cover debt consolidation loan pros and cons in this article, but I plan to write another article covering a debt consolidation program

Quick summary: Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation

Pros of Debt ConsolidationCons of Debt Consolidation
You can receive a lower rate and save money You will have to pay an origination fee
You have one payment instead of multiple paymentsYour monthly payment can be high
You can get out of debt fasterYou may not save money on all of the debt you consolidate
Your credit score may improveYou may not have addressed the root cause of the debt
You will have a fixed interest rate instead of a variable interest rateYou may face lower payment flexibility if you face financial hardship
Your credit report will have a new hard credit pull

Pros of Debt Consolidation

You can receive a lower rate and save money

One of the biggest draws of a debt consolidation loan is that you can receive a lower interest rate than your credit cards, saving you money in the process. 

Let’s look at an example:

  1. Credit Card 1 = 27.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000
  2. Credit Card 2 = 20.99% interest rate, Balance = $10,000
  3. Credit Card 2 = 14.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000

In this example, let’s say you qualify for a debt consolidation loan of $20,000 at an interest rate of 12.99%. 

Instead of paying higher interest rates on all of your credit cards, you will have just one payment each month at an interest rate that will save you money.

You have one payment instead of multiple payments

In the above example, we are looking at 3 credit cards that are consolidated into 1 debt consolidation loan payment. With debt consolidation, the more payments you are consolidating can simplify your life drastically.

Let’s look at the following example where a debt consolidation loan may be more appealing.

  1. Credit Card 1 = 27.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000
  2. Credit Card 2 = 20.99% interest rate, Balance = $10,000
  3. Credit Card 2 = 14.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000
  4. Debt consolidation loan 1 = 19.99% interest rate, Balance $3,000
  5. Medical bill 1 = Balance = $4,500
  6. Medical bill 2 = Balance = $700
  7. Payday Loan = 200% interest rate, Balance = $1100
  8. Car Loan = 19% interest rate, Balance = $8,000

As you can see, with a debt consolidation loan of around $38,000, you would consolidate 8 monthly payments into just 1 monthly payment.

So, a debt consolidation loan can simplify your life through fewer monthly payments.

You can get out of debt faster

Paying the minimum payment on your credit cards each month means that it can take years to payoff your balance. Many people make just minimum monthly payments, and according to one study, only 1% of credit card accounts adopted the suggested payoff plans offered by credit cards to get out of debt in 3 years instead of many more years.

Thankfully, a debt consolidation loan is often on a 3-5 year fixed payment plan, so you now get the accountability to payoff your debt faster than if you would make minimum payments.

Your credit score may improve

Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your credit score, which is the diversity of the types of credit in your portfolio (loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc.). So, a debt consolidation loan can help your credit score.

Also, when you pay off all of the balances from your debt consolidation loan, that shows positive behavior. 

And, as you pay off the balances faster, you’re over-credit utilization will decrease, leading to a potentially positive credit outcome.

You will get out of debt in a fixed amount of time

One of the biggest advantages of a debt consolidation loan is that it is an installment credit instead of a revolving credit. This essentially means that there is a fixed period of time when your debt will be completely paid off.

As stated above, you could make a credit card minimum payment that takes over 10+ years to get out of debt, and a personal loan that doesn’t allow new credit to be added can be 3-5 years.

The above scenario is assuming you do not take out additional debt on the credit cards that you consolidated, and we will cover that in the cons section later.

You will have a fixed interest rate instead of a variable interest rate

Debt consolidation has a fixed interest rate at the time when you take out the loans. With the interest rates increasing in 2022, you could see many banks issuing credit cards following suit by increasing the variable interest rates on credit cards. With credit cards, your credit issuer is not even required to provide a 45-day warning of the increase.

So, a debt consolidation loan can be extremely helpful because you lock in the interest rate when the loan originates, similar to a mortgage loan.

Cons of Debt Consolidation

As someone who worked in debt consolidation, I believe I have a detailed understanding of the cons of debt consolidation that many people may be unaware of.

You will have to pay an origination fee

A loan origination fee can range between 1 and 8% of the origination amount. The fee is basically the cost of the loan provider to originate the loan. This can include the costs of doing underwriting, pulling credit reports, etc. The fee may depend on what type of loan you are taking. For example, a mortgage origination fee can have an origination fee between 0.5 and 1%, and a debt consolidation loan origination fee can be between 4 and 6%.

While the fee is often necessary, it’s important that you understand that it can be a high cost and is also removed from your loan amount.

For example, let’s say you took a debt consolidation loan of $10,000 with an origination fee of 5%. You would get $9,500 in your bank account, but pay off the loan as if the balance was $10,000.

Please be sure to review the truth in lending disclosure to confirm how the origination fee is taken from your loan. For example, I have heard of lenders that may add the origination fee on top of the loan amount, which may not be in your best interests.

Your monthly payment can be high

One of the challenges is that the debt consolidation monthly payment may be more expensive than your minimum monthly payments.

Let’s say you have a total of $50,000 in credit card debt and are paying 1% each month for a total of $500. Your monthly payment on a $50,000 36-month loan could be well over $1,500 per month, which is $1,000 more than what you were paying off on your credit cards.

You may not save money on all of the debt you consolidate

This disadvantage is one of the least understood cons of debt consolidation. Let’s say you have debt that has a mix of interest rates, so a debt consolidation loan may not save you money on all of your debts. 

Let’s take a look at the following example.

  1. Credit Card 1 = 29.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000
  2. Credit Card 2 = 22.99% interest rate, Balance = $10,000
  3. Credit Card 3 = 18.99% interest rate, Balance = $5,000
  4. Credit Card 4 = 12.99% interest rate, Balance = $10,000
  5. Credit Card 5 = 7.99% interest rate, Balance = $10,000
  6. Credit Card 6 = 0% introductory interest rate, Balance = $5,000

Let’s say you qualify for a debt consolidation loan for $45,000 at an interest rate of 13.99% with an origination fee of 5%. 

Unfortunately, you may not save money on all of the debt if you take this option because the 13.99% interest rate is higher than the credit card with a 7.99% interest rate. You would also need to consider the origination fee will decrease some of your savings.

You may not have addressed the root cause of the debt

A debt consolidation loan can save you money, get you on a fixed payment plan, and get you out of debt faster, but it may not solve the original root cause of debt if you got into debt because of spending habits.

For example, I have seen time and time again when an individual takes out a debt consolidation loan but doesn’t pay off all of the debt and then continues to accumulate debt on credit cards, leading the individual to financial hardship and potentially bankruptcy.

That being said, many people accumulate debt for unforeseen circumstances such as job loss or medical challenges, so spending behavior is not a problem.

You may face lower payment flexibility if you face financial hardship

When many individuals take out a debt consolidation loan, they do not consider they will face financial hardship. If a financial hardship such as a job loss or divorce happens, a loan provider may be less flexible than a credit card issue as a debt consolidation loan is fixed installment credit. Thus, it can be more difficult to extend the life of a loan. As such, many credit counseling agencies will not take personal loans when helping individuals. 

Your credit report will have a new hard credit pull

While your credit score could ultimately improve, your credit score could decrease in the first month due to the creditor pulling a hard credit check. A hard credit check is one of the factors that contribute to your credit score and is seen by other lenders whereas a soft credit check is not.

While this is not a major con, it is an important factor to know when considering a debt consolidation loan as many lenders pitch that your credit score will not be affected when checking your rate. That said, your credit score may be negatively affected when you accept the rate presented.

If you for whatever reason accept the loan and then do not end up taking the loan, your credit score may keep the negative effects of that hard credit pull.

Let’s Summarize

A debt consolidation loan can provide an avenue to get out of debt faster and save money in the process. That said, you have to consider that you’ll pay an origination fee, your monthly payment may be higher than your credit card minimum payments, and you may not have addressed the root cause of the debt. 

When deciding whether to get a debt consolidation loan, hopefully, this list of pros and cons of debt consolidation can help you make the most informed decision. Please comment if you have any questions or anything. Thanks!

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Business leaders face a myriad of challenges in today’s work environments. Some are fairly easy to identify and resolve, but others might be more challenging. Being deliberate in your strategy, prioritizing the development of other leaders, can serve you well. Staying on top of these trends can help your business remain on the cutting edge and ahead of the competition.

Being More Responsive and Adaptable

The pandemic has shown many business leaders that they need to focus on staying both adaptable and responsive. That’s because someday you may have to make a change to your processes to stay on top of emerging trends. Flexibility is the key here. Think of the unique skills your staff members bring to the table. Many companies are more diverse now, which means their staff members likely have a range of different perspectives. As your team grows professionally, their thinking will be shaped in a way that can benefit your organization. Both respect and trust play a big role in team members’ ability to feel supported and safe. Building good relationships allows there to be a safe place for risks to be taken and opinions to be given. It allows you to work through challenging situations with your employees.

One aspect of being adaptable is being able to change up your leadership style, depending on the situation. Being flexible like this can help you more quickly overcome challenges. Getting your degree in a relevant area, like business leadership, will expose you to a variety of leadership styles, each of which can come in handy in various situations. While it can be expensive, looking to personal loans can help you cover some of this expense to finance your next big move. Personal loans can be leveraged for a variety of situations.

An Investment in Diversity and Inclusion

An increasing focus is being placed on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at many companies. Prioritizing it can unlock employee potential, helping them stay engaged and keeping up with work. This can increase your earnings as well. Focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts can help your business be more robust, setting it up for success. That’s because when there is a greater representation of a diverse range of people, performance will be better. Focusing on DEI can help with recruiting and retention, as well as performance.

Fostering Leadership, the Right Way

It is easy to become burned out in business, and it is caused by factors that impact leadership, like unclear instructions or high workloads. The pandemic has only made burnout more likely, especially since working remotely can interfere with a good work-life balance. Employees who are more engaged are less likely to burn out, and they will be more productive and better off overall. However, if employee wellbeing and engagement start to decrease, they are more likely to burn out. Consider fostering empathy in your leadership, encouraging them to be more compassionate toward their employees. They might keep in contact with in-person and remote employees to make sure they can handle the workload. Or they might ask for feedback on instructions to make sure everything is clear. 

Encourage leadership to check in with how employees are doing emotionally as well. Making sure an employee’s mental health is not being negatively affected can prevent burnout. Leadership should know when to encourage an employee to take a mental health day. Employees are also focusing more on their mental health. They may be comparing their job responsibilities with personal health requirements, and some have even walked away from jobs that require too much from them. That’s why it is so important for leadership at all levels to be able to address employee needs.

Leading Multiple Generations

Today, people of all ages work together toward a common goal. As the workforce has become more multigenerational, there has been a range of working styles and values in one workplace. People are living longer than ever, so they might be inclined to work longer as well. There might be an age gap of 50 years or more between employees, so leadership will need to be able to adjust their style depending on who they are managing. Every generation has its own way of viewing the world, so a range of management styles will need to be used.

Another benefit of having multiple generations working together is that they will be able to learn from each other. This creates a culture of teaching, collaboration, and a better understanding of the work. No matter your approach to leadership, encouraging collaboration of teams will help them learn from each other. Younger employees can learn from older employees’ experiences, while older ones can learn from younger ones’ unique experiences.

Prioritizing Female Voices

Today, more female leaders are in the workplace than ever before. However, while this shows an improvement, there is always room to do better. More women and people of color have been elevated to positions of leadership. You may push harder in your own organization to make sure that everyone has a chance to become a leader and develop professionally.

A Focus on Authenticity and Accountability

In the past, organizations had strict hierarchical structures, making it challenging to see career growth. It is more important for leaders today to be authentic, allowing employees to have open, ongoing conversations about issues in the workforce. That is the key to helping everyone thrive in the workforce. Investing in leadership development skills will improve the productivity of employees, plus boost trust between management and employees. By focusing on authenticity near the top, you can ensure the team communicates well.

Accountability is also important, especially with the rise of remote teams. Remote work can reduce office expenses, allowing the company to take advantage of a large talent pool, but keeping the team transparent and accountable is always key. Of course, leadership is ultimately responsible for keeping staff members accountable. Managers can keep themselves accountable to lead by example, and the team will then be able to follow the values set by the upper leadership.

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priority

Note: This is a post from Joan Concilio, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

Since I shared my report from the three-year mark of my battle against debt, I’ve been amazed at the kind words from so many members of the Man Vs. Debt community. From comments to Twitter messages to emails, it’s really reaffirmed my commitment to pushing forward and – even if it’s more eventually than I’d like – ending up debt-free and staying that way for life.

That said, opening up about my slower-than-expected progress has also forced me to re-evaluate where I am, and whether what I’m doing is really in keeping with my truest desires financially and personally.

As I was preparing to write today’s Man Vs. Debt post, I kept finding myself drawn to a post of Baker’s from several years ago, Discovering Your Financial Priorities. I hope you’ll make time to read that, because it’s really the basis for what I’d like to do – and challenge you to do – today.

I need to refocus on what matters most to me. I’m making progress, but sometimes it’s not in the areas that really hit home with me. I’m hustling for extra money, but that cash is just going toward the bills and odds and ends of needs here and there, not really packing the punch I’d like.

I’m doing the right things, but not quite with the right mindset. And from the comments I’ve received since admitting how much I’m struggling, I know that I’m not alone in feeling a little adrift.

So let’s take the first step toward changing that. Let’s set some financial priorities, Man Vs. Debt-style. I’ll list mine, and I hope you’ll be thinking about your own so you can jump in and share in the comments!

1. Keep the bills caught up.

This has not been a problem in years for me, and I’m more happy about that than I can say. HOWEVER. I’ve been there, the juggling-late-bills dance, and I need to be sure not to forget how awful that felt. I need to make sure that this stays an articulated priority, so that I don’t get back to the really behind point. For us, this means not only having enough money to cover our regular expenses, but also having a decent buffer in the checking account for when “paydays” – sometimes irregular in freelancing – don’t line up with due dates.

2. Provide for needs and moderate wants for my family.

For us, most of this comes by way of food. I will tell you flat-out that we spend more on groceries than we “need” to. My husband, Chris, is a vegetarian; I have several food allergies; and we have other dietary considerations for other family members. Some of these are needs, while others are just preferences, but they’re preferences that are my personal priority to meet. This also stretches to include things like our Netflix subscription, occasional restaurant meals and movies, trips to the arcade, and so on. They’re wants – not large-scale ones like a 90-inch TV, but moderate ones that we value enough to include in our budget. Our house is another related area. It’s not the tiniest, but it works for our not-the-tiniest collection of humans and pets, and it’s a priority in our budget to keep it.

3. Have all the healthcare.

I don’t have much to say about this, except that I took a full-time job that pays LESS than I was making freelancing full-time so that I could have health insurance. It’s a priority for me. This also extends out from the needs/moderate wants category; for instance, I choose to spend a relatively small but not insignificant amount of money on fitness, because it’s important to my overall health and well-being.

4. Maintain an emergency fund.

In the past six months, this fund has meant the difference between “yes, we can afford to live in our house” and “no, we really can’t.” It’s vital. And we’ve managed to replenish it every time we’ve knocked it down in the past few years, which is amazing. But it needs to remain a priority that I remind myself of, because it sometimes feels like it’d be so easy to use that cash for something else.

5. Pay down debt and avoid new debt.

Interestingly, when I think about my real feelings about debt, I realize that fifth place is just the right spot on my priority list. It is a priority – but it isn’t THE TOP priority. I sincerely want to become debt-free, and I intend to stay that way for life. At the same time, there are tradeoffs I know I would make. I would go into debt to get medical care for myself or my family (and, actually, that’s the cause of about 90% of the debt I brought into our marriage anyway!) I  would just pay the minimums on my credit cards for a while to keep the bills current. I would take on a car payment temporarily to ensure that I have a working vehicle. At the same time, any money I have once the goals above are met WILL go toward debt repayment, and the end result, no matter how long it takes, is going to be the flexibility that comes from being truly debt-free.

What these priorities have made me realize

Here’s the thing. When I stopped and wrote down what REALLY matters most to me, I’m actually making more progress than I realized!

It turns out that while debt repayment is still a priority for me, it’s not my top priority – and so, while I’ll continue to push at it, I’m going to take a step back and celebrate the fact that, despite a drop in income in our family of more than 50% for the past five months or so, I AM meeting my financial goals!

Because I was hung up on just one goal – the debt-payoff progress, and my frustration that it hasn’t been going faster – I had been feeling defeated. Because I was only “holding steady,” I wasn’t finding anything to celebrate.

Now, I realize how thrilled I am to look back at the past few months and realize, “HEY. I kept food on the table! I kept a roof over our heads. And I did it without increasing my consumer debt!”

I AM making progress.

I AM meeting my financial goals.

I AM living in keeping with what my true priorities are (once I bothered to make them clear to myself!)

What about you? What are your priorities – and once you’ve listed them, are you actually using them as the scale you measure yourself against, or are you trying to compete in a different race?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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How To Blog - Push HereIt’s been a freaky journey up to this point since starting Man Vs Debt many years ago.  I feel like I swallowed both the red and blue pills in one big gulp.  I rarely try to blog about blogging, however I thought it would be fun to reflect on what I’ve learned in these first 6 months.

Before we get started, let me make something very clear.  I didn’t title this post ‘How to be an awesome blogger’ on ‘Blog your way to success’.  First of all, those titles aren’t me.  Second, I don’t think I have the knowledge or authority to tackle the subject from that angle.

I don’t claim to be an expert, however I have been able to build what many would consider a thriving community within a relatively short amount of time (in blogging terms), so I hope to share some insights on how you can start blogging as a beginner and potentially make money along the way.  So, while you may debate it, I honesty feel I’m somewhere between sucking  and success.  In other words, I feel I’ve crossed over the sucking hump.

And yes…  I just coined the phrase ‘sucking hump’.  It’s mine.  Don’t touch it.

As with any post I do, this will be based completely on my own experience and perspective.  I’m not charging you for it and it’ll be worth what you pay for it.  I’ll be reviewing the big picture stuff that inspires me, as well as trying to reveal some specific, tangible nuggets you may or may not already know.

Let’s start with the beginner’s guide to how you can make money blogging.

Blogging for Money – Beginner’s Guide

When I first started blogging, I knew that I wanted to make money blogging, but I did not know exactly how I would make money. The purpose of this guide is to help you start to understand how to make money.

If you are interested to start a blog and haven’t done so already, stop and check out this guide, “how to start a money making blog” as it will help you figure out what niche to target, get you setup on Bluehost for a ridiculous deal and then help you get started building a money making blog.

1. Guest Posting

Selling guest posts is frowned upon by Google if you do not mark the post as sponsored, but many people still sell guest posts on their blog. The price per post can range from $5 to thousands of dollars, and it often depends on the domain rating or domain authority of your blog. The higher the domain authority may yield you a higher cost per post or link insertion.

Again, this is called a grey or black hat SEO strategy, so I am not going to recommend this option, but it is a common way beginners make money guest posting.

2. Advertising (Banner Ads and Ads in General)

Many people use AdSense or another ads publishing platform to advertise with banners on their website. For this option, it’s all about how many users you have reading your website each month. If you have a lot of readers, you can make more and more money through different publishing networks. That said, some people don’t like this option as it can clutter the blog that you worked so hard on.

3. Affiliate Links

Affiliate links is where an advertiser would pay you on a per click, per acquisition or per lead basis. For example, let’s say you found a blog post covering dog toys, and clicked on a link and made a purchase. The publisher may have received an affiliate commission for that purchase. This is an extremely common way that beginner bloggers make money.

4. Sell a Product

If you have a knack for building a product, you can sell that on your blog. For example, let’s say you have a blog covering cartography, and have an Etsy shop where you are selling specific things related to your blog. This is a less common option for new bloggers looking to make money.

5. Sell a Service (eBooks, Courses)

When you start to get a following, some bloggers sell services or eCourses. On Man Vs. Debt, we have an ecourse covering how to sell your crap because many people do not realize how you can sell your stuff most efficiently for the biggest dollar amount. I would say that this is not a common option for beginner bloggers because you have to have a following before you get this started.

6. Become a speaker

Some of the biggest blogging names are also public speakers. Being a public speaker can yield thousands of dollars for an appearance fee, but if you are a beginner blogger, I wouldn’t focus on this option as this may come years from now.

7. Write for other blogs

If you write amazing articles that get Google’s attention, you may be asked to write blog posts for other blogs. A friend of mine paid a fellow blogger under $1000 to cover the previously popular, Personal Capital, on a blog post. He stated that the blog post the blogger wrote yielded potentially over $100,000 in revenue over the years.

Now that we covered how you can make money as a beginner in blogging, let’s talk about resilience in blogging and how you can really make it a long term, sustainable side hustle for you.

If you aren’t 100% passionate, you will fail miserably.

Every successful blogger I’ve talked to has said the same thing.  Every. Single. One. If you aren’t completely passionate (borderline obsessive) about your topic, there is no way you will put forth the enormous amount of effort it takes to succeed.

All the resources provided throughout the rest of this post come back to this one point.  Look for it in each one.  It’s there.  If your number one reason for blogging is income generation… well…  everything I’ve experienced and everyone I’ve talked to indicates that you are destined for catastrophic failure.  I’m sure there is an exception, however you’re probably not it.

So what’s the solution? Work all this out before you start.  And DON’T start until you are convinced beyond any doubt that you absolutely adore your topic/business model.  If you only do one thing in this whole post, watch the following video:


[External link to video]

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve watched this Gary Vaynerchuk video once a week since I found it back in late April.  Most of you have probably already watched it.  Watch it again, anyway.  Here are some of the parts/topic that continue to inspire me:

  • No non-sense follow your passion.
  • Giving a shit about your readers.
  • Stop crying.  Keep Hustling.
  • Legacy is greater than currency.
  • The nature of the game is changing. [still is]
  • “Stop watching f***ing Lost”

I can’t say enough about the impact this video had on Man Vs. Debt, so I’m going to stop trying.

After you are done watching the video, download Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days to Overnight Success.  For me, it was the print version of the video above.  I stumbled into it sometime during my second month and it has been my blogging bible ever since.  Here are the parts of it that most affected Man Vs. Debt so far:

  • Shattered my model of what blogging could be (especially within my niche)
  • How to be remarkable and leverage your personal story
  • Building Flagship content (which I call ‘pillar’ content)
  • Balancing being authentic with “fake-it-until-you-make-it” (super important)
  • Chris’ Adsense perspective (on page 43) confirmed what I thought, but was afraid to say

When I launched Man Vs. Debt, I was set-up for failure from the beginning.  Luckily, within the first two months I was able to find and latch onto these two resources early.  I was very lucky.  If you haven’t watched or read both of these recently, your blog NEEDS you to.

Realize that it’s difficult to make money

Seriously, let go.  I’ve seen so many new bloggers poison themselves with a constant quest to monetize.  They are so addicted to tweaking Adsense or finding ways to pitch affiliates that they end up doing nothing else.  They have no time to create stuff that inspires.  They have no time to really connect with their readership or find their voice.

Do you know anyone who has been monetarily successful in the first 6 months of blogging (without a pre-existing platform, etc…)?  I don’t.  Not a single one. If you do, I’d really like to know.  In fact, I can count the number of people who I know who made full-time money in the first year on two fingers.

I don’t know everyone, but I know a decent amount of bloggers now.  Their stories are all the same.  They worked their ass off with very little money and very little reward for a very long time.  They lived and breathed their blogs for months and months before they made any significant money.

I honestly believe one of the keys to Man Vs. Debt’s early growth was that I never got trapped in the monetizing loophole.  I tried to trap myself many times, but luckily I surrounded myself with people who would pull me out of it and inspire me to focus on much higher-leverage activities.

I’m not saying you should not plan ahead.  Plan out and work towards how you will eventually feed your family through you blogging endeavors.  When you are just getting started, though, stop trying to actually do it now.  You’ll just be discouraged, frustrated, and distracted.

Expose yourself to ALL the possibilities of blogging.

There is no one way to blog.  Heck, there is no right way to blog.  It depends on the topic, niche, community, and individual blogger.  But don’t let yourself be pigeon-holed into only one business plan or one method of blogging.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Several of my pf-blogging friends make fantastic income with Adsense.
  • Chris Guillebeau primarily supports himself on his own information products.
  • Ramit Sethi leveraged his blog to catapult his book launch and solidify his personal brand.
  • Leo from Zen Habits had public success accepting donations to help him become a full-time writer.
  • Pinyo from Moolanomy was offered a killer job based on his success with his blog.
  • Clay Collins trains people on how to build and market very specific niche products.
  • Other bloggers end up selling their sites to pursue other passions.
  • Jonathan Mead coaches individuals on how to  ‘get paid to exist’ based off his own story.

The moral of the story?  The possibilities that come from blogging are endless. I truly believe there is something for everyone.  There is a model out there (or combination of models) that is perfect for you, but you got to be able to expose yourself in the first place.  For me, this search is a continual project.  I suspect it’ll always be that way.

Be the “something”-guy (or gal)

Brand yourself intentionally. This is yet another area that I’m still figuring out.  My theory is that you start by trying to attach your name to certain “somethings.”  For example, early on I tried to be the “debt”-guy.  I quickly realized that wasn’t me.  I didn’t want that role, nor am I fit for that role.  So I’ve tested out being some other things.

Honestly, I want to be known as the “transparency”-guy.  Or the “authenticity-and-passion”-guy.  That’s a lot of hyphens.  You get the point.  Your branding will be a million times more effective if you are pumping out a consistent message.  I haven’t found my sweet spot, yet, but that doesn’t keep me from knowing this will be essential moving forward.

The step after that? Is to flip the scenario.  When people lead with the term you want them to think of you.  Search engine?  Google.  Anti-credit card?  Dave Ramsey.  Social Media news?  Mashable.  This is the where you should always be headed in my opinion.

Don’t squander 6-months in this area like I have.  Experiment early on.  When you find a “something” that feels right… drive it home.

Be as transparent as possible

This has been HUGE for me.  Now, I know not everyone is able or willing to be as transparent as I have been with this blog.  That’s the “as possible” part.  Set your limits early on and then reveal as much as possible up to those limits.  I only follow a couple blogs that I don’t feel like I personally know the author.  That doesn’t mean I’ve met them, but rather I feel like we’ve met.

The blogosphere is crowded. You will be very hard pressed to find a niche that isn’t already saturated.  The only way you can stand out is with your personal story and your personality.  That’s the only reason I start following new blogs.  What about you?  Do you stumble across a newer blog and add it just because it has a cool design?  I don’t.  A cool design might catch my eye, but only for long enough for me to search for the About page.

I’m an awesome fan to have on your side.  I’m super loyal and super loving.  If you hook me, I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth and sing along the way.  To be honest, I’m the type of fan I want.  Are you still with me?  I want raving fans. And raving fans are tough to inspire if you aren’t letting your personality and/or your story lead the way.

Stop f***ing with your design and your plug-ins

Hammer out your design and blog set-up early and then leave it alone.  I wasted so much time on this crap early I actually don’t even want to think about it.  I constantly see newer and/or smaller bloggers shoot themselves in the foot by focusing WAY too much time and energy on this stuff.

When in doubt, go with the simple option. Use WordPress.  Unless you have previous background in programing or web design, buy a theme.  I bought Thesis within the first two weeks and it was one of the smartest things I did for the blog.  I’ve been able to do most of the minor changes myself by searching the support forums.  When in doubt, I’ve asked one of the other 102988512319 bloggers that use it.

For less than $100 bucks you can have your pick of the 3-4 most popular themes.  Get your design all pretty and set-up your plug-ins.  Search the three sites and tap into the resources below to get a feel for whats going on.

Once you get to the point you are 80% satisfied… LEAVE IT ALONE. Seriously.  That last 20% is the biggest waste of your time.  Once again, I don’t want to think about this anymore.  Gives me nightmares.

Resources to help you in this area:

You only need to subscribe to three ‘blogging’ blogs.  But, in my opinion, all three are essential because they focus on different areas.  I never miss a post from:

Unfortunately, I don’t personally know these three guys.  They aren’t my friends.  They are simply the best at what they do.  Each has been ridiculously valuable to my development in different areas of my blogging.  Using all three sites you can find the answer to ANY question you have about blogging.


[Source for video]

This next resource is a long one.  It’s roughly an hour, but it’s a good one to get out of the way as soon as possible.  This video came at perfect timing for me, because I really was about to give up.  Tim Ferriss packs this full of useful tidbits.  Some of my favorites include:

  • Why do you blog?
  • Income is not the only currency
  • Only measure what matters
  • Passion over polling
  • Creating a writing system, set of habits, or ‘zone’
  • How to handle comments
  • Tons of Q&A about random, specific topics

This isn’t a video I watch every week like the first one.  Doing that will only cause you to obsess over the details of your blog (which I’ve ranted 500 words about above).  This is one of those that you make a big cup of coffee, click play, and take notes.  At the end, spend one big burst of time adjusting your blog and then LEAVE IT ALONE again.  :-)

If you’re really new to the blogging scene, I suggest you also download Erica Douglass’ new free e-book.  Erica’s book does a great job of providing small, actionable tips to help you get the details ironed out.  Since this was just released, I had already figured the majority of it out the hard way.  If you’re just starting to get your feet wet, though, this will save a ton of time.

Once set-up, focus 80% of effort on creating content

Content is king.  That’s all I got.  Nothing I can say here will help you.  Write passionately.  Make creating a priority.  There, I tried.  This part is up to you.

Build relationships BEFORE you need them

Spend the other 20% connecting with your peers.  By the way, genuinely connecting with others IS marketing.  My experience is that they are not separate activities.  It seems to be the nature of the blogging beast.  I’ll dig much more into the details of this below in the ‘Getting On The Map’ section.

Seek out mentors (whether they are willing or not)

Early on I had several mentors.  Some knew it and some didn’t.  Some saw something in me early and stepped up to the plate.  Some are taking chances on me now.  While I won’t name them all, I want to point out a couple.

  • First, there was Leo.  Zen Habits was the first major blog I passionately followed.  Before I was interested in personal finance, before I had an obsession with simplicity, and before I knew what Twitter was.  For a long time Zen Habits was the only blog I followed.  And it was his journey out of debt that led me to research other bloggers that discussed personal finance.  It was all downhill from there.  Thanks, Leo…  I think.
  • Once I had started the blog, there was one A-list personal finance blogger who reached out before any other.  His name was Wang…  Jim Wang.  For some reason, Jim thought it was worth his time to answer all my retarded questions early on.  He made himself unusually accessible and I’m still looking forward to the day I can return the favor.  This was a huge benefit to me early.  If someone with experience and success makes themselves available.  Don’t let it slip by.
  • As I mentioned earlier, sometime towards the end of the first month, I stumbled upon Chris Guillebeau’s 279 Days manifesto.  It really rocked my world.  I remember going back and reading nearly every page in the archives of the Art of Non-Conformity.  At this point in time, Chris had no idea he was a mentor.  Regardless, he was shaping my approaches to marketing, community, and transparency.  He continues to inspire the direction of Man Vs. Debt, although these days he knows it.  😉
  • Lastly, I have to mention Jonathan Mead who was the first non-personal-finance blogger to actively reach out to help me.  Jonathan has literally spent hours talking with and helping me work through blogging-related issues.  He’s constantly pushing me to pursue the highest-leverage activities and cut out all the rest.  He single handily convinced me that the world would not stop revolving if I didn’t post everyday and has talked me down from quitting more than once.

Search out people like the ones above in your own blogging endeavors.  If you are desperate enough, search out me.  That’s an open invitation.  If I can pass on any help that I’ve been given, nothing would make me happier.

Find a Blogging Buddy

This is another specific area that has been invaluable to me so far.  I think it’s important to find someone that has similar goals, is at a similar point in there journey, and who you can trust to be honest.  While I have many blogging friends in the community, the one I trust more than any others is Matt Jabs.

Matt and I talk frequently (not always productively!) about a wide variety of topics.  We help keep each other in check by bouncing ideas of each others, allowing the other person to rant privately, or helping each other define our goals.  Matt’s support has been a huge motivation for me to stay committed.  Next to Courtney, Matt has been the single most supportive influence for my blogging so far.

Darren Rowse of Problogger had a great post on the benefits of a blogging buddy earlier in the year.  Check it out and go find a buddy!  :-)

Getting on ‘The Map’

So you are inspired.  You’ve set-up the blog.  Your new blogging buddy says your content is awesome.  How do you get it out to people?

Simple… put it in front of influential people.  There are several ways to do this.  But I can tell you from experience that a relative link from a major blog in your niche will do more for your growth than anything else.  I’d rather have a link from Trent at The Simple Dollar then hit the front page of Digg.  I’ve had both and it’s not even close.  One gives me exposure to a highly-receptive, pre-targeted, and passionate group of followers.  The other crashes my site, leaves a ton of negative comments, and averages .0324 seconds per visit.

That’s nice, but how do you actually get it in front of people?  Here were the top things I did:

  • Leave Passionate Comments. No matter how big the blogger, I’ve never heard of one that doesn’t read his/her comments.  It’s just sort of a given.  I feel this has been the #1 way I’ve connected with influential bloggers.  My suggestions for comments:
    • Only comment when you can genuinely be passionate.  Don’t fake comments.
    • Pick a single part of the post that you connected with and relate it to your life.
    • Don’t be afraid to disagree, especially with a specific part of the article.
    • As a side benefit, you can get some serious traffic from these.  On several occasions, I’ve received over 100 referrals from a single passionate comment on larger sites.  Good comments benefit everyone.
  • Focus Your Guest Posting. This might not go over well with some bloggers, but I would advise you NOT to guest post on small to medium size blogs.  For example, it’s rare that you’ll receive a big benefit from guest posting for me.  I’m just being honest.  Rather than use a shotgun approach, try a laser.  Focus on guest posting for a major A-list blog at a time.  Investing the time to make one GREAT post for an A-list blog, outweighs creating 20 GOOD posts for C-list blogs.
  • Support influential blogger’s pet projects. Even the big guys have side projects they do.  Support them.  When Jim Wang and J.D. Roth started the Personal Finance Hour, I thought it was a dream come true.  I was just getting started and here I had the chance to call in and talk to two of the top pf-bloggers.  Early on, it turns out, other bloggers were just too busy or too scared to call-in and support the show.  For the first few weeks, I was the only personal to call-in.  Supporting that show put me on the radar of both Jim and J.D. and both relationships have proven extremely valuable to me in these first 6 months.  This is only one example of several relationships I built through side projects like this.
  • Submit to Blog Carnivals. Some niches have more of these than others, but seriously, it’s not hard.  There are at least 15 in the personal finance community alone.  Not only are these good for incoming links, but they are a great way to get in front of other bloggers and bigger audiences.  Take the time to check who is hosting the bigger carnivals.  Submit your best posts on the weeks the carnival is hosted by a large blog.  Several months ago, I saw that WiseBread was hosting a personal finance carnival the next week.  I saved my best article at the time to submit to them and left a detailed message.  It ended up getting chosen as and editor’s pick and then picked up by LifeHacker.  Think LifeHacker would have saw it on my blog?  Think again.  Check out the link, they even mentioned seeing it on WiseBread.  If you are too lazy to submit to blog carnivals, scroll up and watch the first video again.
  • Create extensive link round-ups. Feature blogs you want a better relationship with in cool link round-ups.  I can’t imagine a better example then the recent, Top 25 Badass Personal Finance Blogs.  Simply brilliant what they did.  Early on, I did exhaustive link round-ups, sometimes featuring over 25+ links where I commented a little on each link.  It was genuine, though.  At one point I was following and reading over 150+ RSS feeds.  This was a great way to initiate relationships and get my own writing in front of the bloggers I was targeting.
  • Tweet. Twitter was one of my top referrals for the first 2-3 months.  I used twitter directories to find anyone who was related to personal finance and followed all of them.  I looked forward to Follow Friday and spent hours finding out who was active and respected on Twitter.  I interacted with bloggers I wanted to follow me and supported people with detailed (not just generic RTs).  It was a ton of work, but I was able to deepen the connection with a lot of influential bloggers using this medium.  As many of you know, I’m still super-active on Twitter and it continues to be of amazing benefit in building relationships.

That’s it as far as specifics go.  The last thing I’ll add on the topic of reaching out to influential bloggers is… The answer is always ‘NO’ if you never ask. Take initiative and put yourself out there.  Give them all the information they need in one spot (don’t make them click through).  If you are genuine, people will respond.  That’s what has worked for me.

Last bit of random crap…

  • Delete negative comments. If you get a comment that isn’t constructive or is abusive, just delete it.  Don’t respond.  Don’t even finish reading it.  Don’t waste another second with hate-mongering trolls.  Leave a constructive comment on this site and I’ll love you.  I appreciate people who expand the discussion and help me grow.  Leave a whiny rant and I will delete you.  It’s my blog.  Deal with it.  [Learned this the hard way]
  • Use good pictures. I’ve received a lot of feedback on the fact that I generally have great pictures.  It’s surprising because it’s not hard.  I forgot where I first read it, but here’s what I do.  Use this link to search FlickR, type very specific keywords, and sort by most interesting.  Don’t say I didn’t provide anything tangible. 😉
  • Thank first-time commenters. I’ve done this from day one and the results are amazing.  I’m utterly convinced it drastically increases the number of repeat commenters.  Either way, the conversations that it has started over e-mail with some of my readers have been fabulous.  I don’t e-mail everyone on every comment, of course.  Just the first one people leave (the ones that need to be approved the first time).

Bonus Video!

This was a more recent find, so I can’t say that it inspired Man Vs. Debt over that last 6-months.  However, I think it’s valuable, especially for the sections on ‘thrashing’ things out at the beginning.  [The first couple of minutes are slow… it picks up quickly.]

Seth Godin on the ‘lizard brain’.

Hopefully, at least a couple of these 4,000 words (or videos) have been helpful.  Most importantly, I’d love if you’d add your own tips and suggestions on not sucking below.  I’d like to continue to build on my momentum and make the jump to “successful” blogger (whatever that means) and will be looking for your best tips to help me!

Please take the time to share your thoughts below! (At least congratulate me for surviving for 6 months) 😉

photo by Jason Gulledge

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number-3

Note: This is a post from Joan Concilio, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

It’s official: I’ve been tracking my debt for exactly three years.

While I didn’t post my first financial update on Man Vs. Debt until a year later, I first sat down and wrote my detailed list of debts – the one you see listed on my Joan’s Finances page – on April 14, 2011.

Taking inventory and facing what I owed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the effect it’s had since then has been nothing short of amazing.

[So what’s our total paid off, three years in?]

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wrestlemania-29

Note: This is a post from Joan Concilio, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.

You guys are going to think I spend my Sunday afternoons watching America’s best not-exactly-a-sport sports, between today’s post and the one from last month about 4 Personal-Finance Lessons from NASCAR!

I spent THIS Sunday watching… you guessed it… WrestleMania 30, thanks to my roommate’s subscription to the WWE Network, which I admit I watch with rather startling frequency.

The funny part is, while I’ve enjoyed professional wrestling since I was in high school, I’d never spent any time – or money – on it since. Until WWE Network came out in late February.

And now, even more than the wrestling itself, I’m fascinated with the business decisions behind the plan. The WWE Network business model is forward-thinking, audience-focused and designed for growth – key lessons that entrepreneurs and side hustlers can really learn from!

[Is your business doing what makes WWE so awesome?]

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