Blogging seems to attract a lot of cheapskates.
Full confession: I’m a cheapskate myself. I used to interrogate my wife if she bought Honeycrisp apples at $3.99 per pound out of season. Did you double-check the Gala? Were the Red Delicious on sale? (I’m not proud of this, but I’ve come a long way!)
So I understand the fluttering heart palpitations and sense of impending doom you feel when you click that “Buy Now” button.
But I also firmly believe you have to spend money to make money.
Phrased as another Wall Street truism, there’s no reward without risk.
But so many beginning bloggers refuse to spend anything on their beloved baby!
Can You Start a Blog for Free?
Sure, you can.
It’s a dumb idea.
What would a 100% free blog look like?
- A template-based design theme with no originality
- Slow site speed on a shared, crowded server
- Intrusive ads (that you have no control over)
- Limited scalability (both in URL architecture and traffic)
- Difficult to monetize through CTAs and
- Limited aftermarket customization and service
- A gmail email address (or no address at all)
Free blogs are for cute cats that have their own social media following and people who want to write romance novels, not for business entrepreneurs.
Being a Blogging Scrooge Kills Your Growth
A reflexive fear of spending money handicaps new bloggers.
Blogging is, to some extent, a numbers game. It starts exponential and ends logarithmic (once you’ve dominated the market). The quicker you hit your growth, the more money you’ll make.
It’s the exact same advice you hear about retirement: Invest early! Take advantage of exponential growth and compound savings.
When you delay investing in your blog, you’re just protracting your time in the flat no-growth zone. And that’s just disheartening. No one has the drive to work nights and weekends for five years without seeing a return!
Which is why new bloggers should invest in tools for content productivity and user experience.
It sounds reasonable (which is why you’re nodding your head). But this isn’t an economic problem – it’s an emotional struggle.
That’s why I advocate treating your blog like the business it can become! Think of expenses as just the cost of doing business, the same way you spend money on gas to drive to your day job.
Why Are Bloggers So Afraid to Spend Money?
I think most people are just afraid of throwing money away.
Most people would rather spend $7 for an overpriced latte than feed $4 into a paper shredder … even though you’re actually losing more money on the latte. You could make it at home for $1.50!
People want to know they’re getting something, anything, in exchange for their hard-earned cash.
But blogging doesn’t offer any cash-back guarantee.
And the sooner we accept that, the better.
Because the moment you’ve accepted that financial risk, you’ve rocketed ahead of 10 million other “bloggers” who truly (and mistakenly) believe a penny saved equals a penny earned.
And math is on your side!
Let’s say you spend $100 a month on your blog. And let’s say that $33 of that is wasted, spent on a software or project that never makes you a dime. Lifetime ROI: $0
But the other $67 goes to a good use! Lifetime ROI: 3x (which is a super low number, but you get the idea) = $201.
You spent $100; you made $201. You were wrong 1 out of every 3 times, but you still managed a 100% return! That’s amazing!
Yes, I Practice What I Preach
As of today, my monthly blogging overhead is about $220.
- Managed Cloudways and shared Bluehost hosting
- Domain name registration and renewal
- Premium Ezoic ad network fees
- Google Workspace email and office tools
- Elementor Expert page-builder software
- Canva Pro and a few smaller design apps
- A few paid WordPress plugins, like ShortPixel
- Tailwind Pinterest scheduling software
This doesn’t include other costs of doing business, such as paying for freelance content, e-commerce store transaction fees, bank transfer fees, etc.
And guess what? I’m profitable. I don’t make that much money yet, but I could buy a decent used car every year!
- I launched my first website with cheap Bluehost hosting. Nothing wrong with Bluehost for a beginning blogger! But once my site[s] gained significant traffic, shared hosting couldn’t keep up. Google cares immensely about user experience, such as site speed. By switching to managed hosting, I significantly improved my Core Web Vital cores. (Although I keep Bluehost for new websites, still).
- And rather than mucking around with creating Pins on Microsoft Publisher (shoot me now), I subscribed to Canva Pro and Tailwind. When I say that I can create Pins 50x faster than before, that’s not an exaggeration.
- Same story with Ezoic. When the network offered me a Premium membership, I jumped on that bandwagon! I pay a couple hundred bucks a month in fees, but I get way more than I give. And it takes literally zero extra effort on my part.
Some time in the future, I’ll write in-depth reviews of my experiences with Bluehost, Ezoic, etc. Right now, I’m just trying to illustrate this idea of Return on Investment (ROI): If you don’t sow, you don’t reap.
You gotta ante up! No bet, no jackpot.
In my former life as a cottage small business owner, I could easily spend $2,000 in a week just on the costs of doing business. So to me, spending $100 a month was a no-brainer. I had faced much bigger dragons, much bigger bills.
A Spending Spree Isn’t a Silver Bullet
If you’re on the opposite side of the spectrum, I don’t want you to use this post as justification.
I think most new bloggers struggle to open their wallets. But a few have the opposite problem: Shotgun-style spending without a ROI target.
If you think spending $499 on a comprehensive blogging course is a good investment in your professional education, go for it!
… but if this is the third blogging course you’ve taken … then might I suggest you’re guilty of procrastination?
Let’s apply an IRL test.
Imagine a financial income statement.
As a beginning blogger, don’t expect a profit. Expect crickets and zeroes for at least 6-12 months!
So profit isn’t the measure of financial health for a new info blogger.
But there are different kinds of expenses, yes?
There’s a big difference between a blogger/business who invests thousands of dollars in R&D expenses (with the expectations of future sales) versus a blogger/business who spends thousands of dollars in administrative fees. The former is focused on future revenue, and is willing to sacrifice now for growth later. But the latter is just frittering away dollars on bureaucratic frivolities.
Think of your blogging expenses as future investments. A blogger spending money on office productivity software is no different than a woodworker purchasing a new table saw.
If you strongly believe (with evidence) that spending more money on hosting/email/plugins/theme will have a positive ROI, go for it!
What’s Worth Spending Money On?
What’s worth paying for as a new blogger, you ask?
At a bare minimum:
- Self-hosted blog and domain name. Don’t EVER set up your website on someone else’s subdomain. That’s like leasing instead of owning. Buy your own domain! And yes, buy domain name privacy protection, or you’ll be spammed out of your mind.
- Email and office productivity tools. I won’t open a single B2B email from a gmail address. Popular options include Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and Zoho. Make your email info@yourdomain.TLD. Store all your documents in the cloud!
- Site backup. Most premium hosting plans already include site backups, but if not, make sure your ENTIRE site is being backed up at least once a week!
At some point in your first year, you may be interested in these tools, too:
- You’ll either want a page-builder software or advanced WordPress theme (although WordPress Gutenberg might soon be powerful enough as-is).
- If you use lots of photos, you might want an automatic image compression and optimization software/plugin. Doing it yourself takes a lot of time!
- Once you get 5,000 page views on a website, upgrade to a better dedicated hosting plan.
- I don’t really recommend people run on the social media hamster wheel until the blog itself is up and running, but if you get involved with Pinterest, a WYSIWYG graphic design program like Canva Pro works wonders.
- Maybe a course? I’m not anti-courses. I like to reverse-engineer things, myself, so I rarely pay for courses (I taught myself calculus in college to save $2,000, for instance). But if you like to learn through teaching, then there are LOTS of e-courses and VIP programs like Income School, Elite Blogging Academy, Stupidly Simple SEO, etc.
Each of these recommendations is worthy of its own article, to be honest. So I’ll pause here.
It’s not very much money. For a single website, you can get all of these tools for $25-$50 a month.
* * *
If you really want to jumpstart your blogging engine by spending money, then here’s a link to my $299 “How to Start a Blog in 30 Seconds or Less” course!
You don’t even have to watch anything! Just put in headphones and play the videos while you sleep.
But seriously, don’t be a Blooge.* Treat your blog like the business it can become. Don’t starve your business – feed and water it!
*Blooge = blogger + Scrooge. I made it up. And it’s such an awful word I have no worries anyone would ever want to steal it.