The last two months have been tough. While crafting my dissertation proposal and beginning to finish my Ph.D., I’ve tried to maintain Frugaling and prepare for career plans. Balancing everything has been difficult; thankfully, writing on this site has been a wonderful respite from my normal obligations.
Frugaling has always been for fun. See, I established this site as a creative outlet, break from academic writing, and source of additional revenue. It was never a charitable writing endeavor; albeit, I wanted it to be for good. In the process of writing about my journey to zero debt, I did pretty well for myself. I hustled and was rewarded for it. I paid off five figures of debt in no time.
Eventually, as the site aged and my debt waned, I started to question my values and decision to advertise. With the release of my new book in August, I thought it might be an opportunity to censor the ads. I took a gamble and deleted them.
In the place of ad revenue, I decided to rely on donations and book sales. It never made up for lost ad revenue, but it made a difference. Without those pesky intrusions, I felt free to talk without shame, fear, or question. Heck, I even wrote some scathing critiques of advertising since then!
Cleaning up my site from advertising made me feel good. I felt like I was honoring a value to reduce the urge for consumption. Unfortunately, revenue soon petered out. Despite growing traffic to the site, the revenue continued to plummet. What used to be a stable side hustle, which helped me save and earn despite a tiny graduate student income, was now non-existent.
Over October and November, I paid careful attention to the earnings, and now felt pigeonholed. I had railed against ads, and yet the business might be unstable and unsustainable without some extra revenue from visitors. Perhaps I had gone from one extreme to the other too rapidly?
This week, I reached out to other bloggers and friends to talk about this revenue problem. Most all of them recognized the need and importance to earn something for all the writing and extra work. Simultaneously, they seem to empathize with the wonderful ideal of going ad free. I admire people like Joshua Becker, who go without ads and potential revenue. But I entered an unstable level of revenue for Frugaling. Deleting these felt freeing and exhilarating in a new way, but the revenue loss didn’t allow me to save and earn.
Recently, I talked with a blogging friend of mine about this conundrum. I finally expressed the crux of the matter: I have two values, which are precariously unbalanced right now. One states that I should go ad free and resist anything that potentially encourages consumption. The other focuses on the very real need to earn some revenue from what I do here. Despite trying, donation buttons and book sales haven’t filled the gap.
One value is fulfilled while the other wanes. What’s the solution for this imbalance? This puzzle has led to a surprising number of doubts, questions, and nerves. I’ve felt guilty thinking about backtracking and placing the ads back on the site. I’ve felt nasty about engaging in affiliate marketing. And I don’t have time to create a class, campaign, or course that could potentially bring in additional revenue. School must take priority, but Frugaling shall be an integral, secondary part of my life.
For now, I’ve decided to bring back the ads. They’ll be basic Google ads, which won’t distort my voice or manipulate what I decide to promote. These ads aren’t my favorite, but in an effort to strike a balance between making money and reducing consumption, I’m taking the middle path.
Because of this backtrack, I’ve refunded and repaid everyone’s donations, too. Although their support was deeply appreciated over the last two months, I would feel slimy keeping them. As readers of Frugaling, I’d love to know what you think about this decision. Your support and readership is what keeps my site going. Thanks for listening.