Curious about how we make our living? Here’s the scoop on how we keep the bills paid, while doing this crazy job that we love.
Let’s start from the beginning, so you can see how things have evolved over the years …
When our oldest daughter was born 16 years ago, my husband and I both agreed that I would stay home with her for a year. But, I was determined to find a way to stay home with her full-time, so as soon as we brought her home from the hospital, I got to work building a freelance writing career.
I used her naps to send out article pitches to editors; and I soon made my first sale. It was a story for Pregnancy Magazine. The pay was terrible, but it gave me the street cred I needed to secure more writing gigs.
In those early days, I wrote parenting articles for regional and national magazines, as well as craft projects and quizzes for kid and teen magazines.
It was a part-time income at best, but it grew a little each year.
When I finally noticed the underlying money-saving theme that ran through all my articles, I began to pitch frugal living publications. That was back when The Tightwad Gazette and Dollar Stretcher offered paid subscriptions to mailed newsletters. Remember those?
I become a regular contributor to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter, and from that point on, I focused on writing about frugal living.
As the Internet grew in popularity, I wrote for more websites, and began to gain some recognition as a frugal living expert.
Four years after launching my career, I was hired to write the frugal living topic for About.com (then owned by the New York Times). From that point on, I earned a full-time income from my writing.
In those days, I essentially had full editorial control over what I wrote; so I wrote prolifically, and after lots of hard work, I succeeded in growing my site into the number one frugal living website in the world.
Eventually, the culture at About started to change, and I decided it was time to go out on my own. So, I bought the My Frugal Home domain, and three months later, I launched this website.
Since I still had my gig at About, I didn’t worry too much about monetizing My Frugal Home the first couple years. I just threw up some Google ads, and focused on creating the best content I could. I didn’t want to rush into monetizing this site, and have it come across like I was trying to sell my readers a bunch of stuff. Because I recognized that people were coming here for tips on how to better manage their money, and they didn’t need me (or anyone else) tempting them to spend.
So, I focused on the writing, and trusted that the right way to monetize this site would emerge.
And it did eventually.
About a year in, my husband quit his job to come work with me. (I was making enough from my About gig to cover our bills, and I needed the help). He started by taking over many of the day-to-day operations (development work, site maintenance, accounting, etc.), which freed me up to spend more time writing and growing the website into what I envisioned.
As the About money became less reliable, we turned more of our attention towards growing My Frugal Home into our full-time income. And by this point, we’d had plenty of time to think about how we could do that, while staying true to our readers and ourselves.
Today, our full income comes from our work on My Frugal Home. And while we aren’t getting rich, we are keeping the bills paid (and paying some things off). Here’s where our earnings come from:
The ads that run on our website are an important part of our income. Whenever an ad gets viewed or clicked on, we earn a small commission. By the end of the year, it adds up to a full-time income. I should note that that’s one “normal person” income. We can’t stand when websites have ads and pop ups everywhere, so we’ve placed a lot of restrictions on what our ad network is allowed to run on our site. That means less earnings for us, but we’re okay with that.
When I write how-to articles, I sometimes include Amazon links in the supply list. This allows me to direct you to the right item, and if you decide to buy it, we earn a small commission. If it’s a super common item, or something that would be cheaper to buy locally, I don’t link it. Because bottom line: I don’t want to steer you towards something more expensive just to make money.
We also use Amazon affiliate links in the Erin’s Favorite Things post and the Aaron’s Favorite Things posts. Since these are our genuine product recommendations based on what we use and love, I feel good about these.
So, how much do we make off of Amazon links? Not much. Most months it’s between $100-$200. More often than not, we use that money to buy supplies for upcoming projects, so it just gets reinvested back into the website.
We occasionally use affiliate links for other businesses (like the ones on our blogger resources page), but we mostly stick to Amazon links.
Our Product Line
This is the source of our second full-time income. As I built up a library of how-tos on the site, we began to have people tell us that they loved a particular idea, but wished they could buy it from us, instead of having to make it themselves.
So, we started to offer that as an option, first with our carpenter bee traps, and with more and more things over time.
As our product line expanded, we began to look for other venues for our products. That led to selling at craft shows and in local shops. Now, we’re five years in, and we have a growing retail and wholesale business that we run alongside the website. My husband and I still make everything ourselves, but we’ve had to scale up our operations considerably in the last year to keep up with demand.
Occasionally we earn money by doing workshops. This isn’t something we actively pursue, it’s just something we do when we’re asked. Last year we did a workshop on how to make honey soap and whipped body butter for a group of beekeepers, a soap and lip balm workshop for a Girl Scout troop, and a junk journaling workshop for a historic site.
While sponsored posts (getting paid by a brand to write about that brand) are a big income source for many bloggers, they aren’t one for us. In the six plus years that I’ve been writing this site, I can only think of one sponsored post that I’ve accepted, and that’s when the “Beef It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign paid me to write about ways to save on beef. Since it was the kind of post I would have written anyway, I felt comfortable accepting.
But the bottom line is that my husband and I care more about being genuine than we do about making money, so we don’t try to squeeze every penny we can out of this website. We want My Frugal Home to be a place that you enjoy coming to, and we want you to know that you can trust what we say, so that’s at the core of every decision we make.
We know how lucky we are to be able to make our living this way, how special it is that we’re both able to be home with our daughters, and how truly remarkable this community is. Without awesome readers like you, none of that would be possible. So, thanks for coming here week after week and year after year.