A Letter to Frugal Dad Readers: The Last Three Years

Dear Readers,

Today marks a significant blogging milestone. FrugalDad.com just turned three years-old. In those three years we’ve seen 1,000 posts, 22,480 comments, and over 4 million visitors to the site. Frugal Dad has also attracted over 11,000 subscribers.

It’s been a fun ride, and for those who weren’t around in the beginning (about 10,095 of you), I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect a bit on how Frugal Dad got started.

Three years ago today, I sat down to build a little blog from scratch. I’d been writing online for several months, but up to that point, I’d been posting on other’s blogs and on article directories.

After stumbling across personal finance blogs like The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly, I thought, hey, if they can do it, I can do it. I just wasn’t sure what “it” was.

Three years ago there wasn’t as much material about blogging readily available. Many newcomers were still using Blogger and other free installations to host their blogs.

I made a decision up front that I would establish my own domain, buy a cheap template, and pay for an inexpensive hosting package. I asked a fellow blogging newcomer, Pete from BibleMoneyMatters.com, to design our first logo.

Over the years, we’ve tweaked the site theme and logo a few times, upgraded hosting, etc. But three years ago we were still deep in debt, and were just beginning our own personal finance turnaround. I certainly couldn’t afford to take on new business expenses.

However, I decided to gamble $100 on the business idea, the latest in a long string of unsuccessful entrepreneurial efforts. For less than $100 I was up and running with a domain, first month’s hosting package, a template and my new logo.

The first couple months were pretty quiet around here. I wrote an article every day, but few were around to read it. That all changed in March of 2008, when on a whim, I decided to document a project my kids and I worked on – building a square foot garden box.

The post got picked up by LifeHacker after getting a mention from another frugal blog (BeingFrugal.net). Then it was mentioned on MSN.com, and Digg, and several other social bookmarking sites. I went from just a handful of subscribers to over 500 in just a couple weeks.

That early success motivated me to stick with it. I also benefited from good timing, as summer and fall of 2008 were tumultuous times, financially. The things I wrote about (living on less, paying off debt, being frugal, etc.) went from being weird to mainstream.

Even national publications began covering frugality, since so many people were now clamoring for ways to save money instead of spend it. Over the years, I’ve been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Smart Money magazine, and the website has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Ladies Home Journal, and a number of other national media outlets.

I’ve even given a couple radio interviews. My favorite was for a California-based personal finance radio show whose host was convinced I was up to no good for “hiding money in my home.” I finally convinced him it was only a couple hundred dollars for bug-out money, not $10,000 stashed under a mattress.

Writing About the Highs and the Lows

Early on, I tried to set myself apart from other sites by sharing more personal details about my life. It was something I liked about The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly – I felt like I knew those guys after reading their blogs for a few months.

I wanted readers to be along for the highs and the lows, because for me, it was those experiences that often shaped how I spent money (emotional spending), and what I spent it on. It was my hope that readers could relate to these experiences and follow along, something you couldn’t really do with a “textbook” writing style.

Sadly, I lost my biggest fan, my mom, in September of 2009. She was only 54, and until her final year had been a strong, independent, successful, energetic individual loved and admired by many. She raised me as a single mom, worked insane hours to provide for us, and built her career without a degree in a male-dominated industry. She was an incredible inspiration, and my best friend.

I wrote about her illness and passing, not because it directly related to finances, but because that experience shaped my opinions on things like emergency funds, health care and overall financial preparedness. But I also wrote for selfish reasons. It was therapeutic for me to write.

People often asked how I helped care for my mom, then confined to a wheelchair, worked full-time, continued to be an engaged husband and father AND wrote for the blog. Well, the last part was my therapy. It helped to get those feelings out, and you helped by being there to read and give feedback.

Fortunately, Mom did get to share in the growth of Frugal Dad before she passed away. She always got a kick out of seeing her son’s work featured in those much larger publications.

The attention was exciting for me, too, and a bit nerve-wracking. After all, I’m just a husband and father who works full-time and writes a few articles early in the morning from his “frugal office.”

I didn’t graduate from a prestigious college. I don’t have any certifications or advanced degrees. And I’ve made just about every stupid financial mistake you can make.

This started out as a small post to mention the three-year mark, and as usual, I’ve rambled on longer. Again, I appreciate every single one of you who follow Frugal Dad. In the New Year, I hope to reach even more followers by being more active on our Facebook page, on Twitter, etc. If you happen to a part of those social media networks, I hope you’ll join me, and share the things you like.

I’m excited about moving into a new year, and I hope you’ll make 2011 the year you get out of debt, reach your savings goals, and accomplish your own personal finance turnaround. All signs are pointing to more rocky times ahead, financially, so I can’t stress enough the importance of getting your own household in order. Don’t worry; we’ll do it together. Chat again next year.

Stay Frugal!

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