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Blogging is an awesome hobby, but unfortunately very few people actually make money doing it. It’s not exactly the best side hustle. It’s really more of a creative outlet.
But of course, because it’s such a huge industry, there are so many things you could spend money on. From basics like web hosting to fun services that are “guaranteed to increase your sales,” it can get pretty overwhelming!
And unless you’re one of the lucky few actually making money off your blog, chances are your blogging money is coming out of your personal budget. Which means you probably don’t have that much available to spend on it.
So when you’ve got a small blogging budget, what should you actually be spending that money on?
Hosting & a Domain Name
Unfortunately, the first place you should be allocating your budget is also one of the most boring… your website hosting and domain name.
You can absolutely get a free domain name and hosting from a site like WordPress.com or Blogger. If you have literally no money to allocate to your blog, start there! It’s a great way to get practice and decide if you actually want to blog in the first place.
But once you’ve got a little money to allocate to your blog, I highly recommend paying for hosting and a domain name. You get more customization, and the URL is a bit more professional.
I personally use Siteground for my hosting and have never had problems. Keep in mind that the $3.95/mo starting price is for the first bill, no matter how long of a time slot you sign up for. It jumps to $11.95/mo after your first bill. So if you pay up front for 3 years, you end up paying way less over those 3 years than you would if you paid up front for 1 year.
Privilege, man. The more money you have available to spend, the less you end up paying.
However, don’t get fooled into signing up for a big hosting plan before you’ve tried them out. You don’t want to get stuck in a giant plan with a shitty hosting company.
Again, I’ve never had issues with Siteground, but everyone has different needs and experiences!
A Website Theme
Once you’ve got your hosting taken care of, I recommend investing in a WordPress theme. If you’re not using WordPress.org, you can go ahead and skip to the next section!
A website theme is basically the look and feel and the functionality of your website. Your theme can really make or break your site (sometimes literally!).
Before you decide to invest in a theme, spend some time poking around the WordPress theme library, which you can find by logging into your WordPress dashboard and going to Appearance > Themes and clicking the Add New button at the top. Preview ones that catch your eye and see if they’ll work for you.
If you find one, great! You’re all set and haven’t spent any money. If not, there are definitely great options out there, but keep in mind they might cost you some money.
The next place to visit would be Creative Market‘s weekly Free Goods section. They give out 6 free items each week (starting on Mondays), and every once in a while they have website themes in there.
If you don’t find any for free, you can probably find some relatively inexpensive options by poking around the Creative Market WordPress Themes section. One of the first themes I used was only $18 on Creative Market!
Keep in mind that when you first start blogging, you’re still learning, and will probably want to change up your theme a few times as you get the hang of things. I think I went through 5 different themes before landing on the one I currently use and love. So if you’re just starting out, try to go with an inexpensive theme until you find your groove.
Once you get the hang of blogging, I highly recommend getting a Genesis theme, because it’s easier to change up the look later. However, it’s definitely more expensive. You have to get the parent Genesis theme, which is about $60, plus the child theme on top of it. I love Coded Creative for Genesis child themes and am pretty much committed to using those themes for the rest of my life. (Kory please don’t ever stop making WordPress themes.)
A Plugin or Service that Will Save You Major Time / Anxiety
This one is a little less straightforward, because it’s going to be different for everyone! Because blogging is so often a hobby instead of a side hustle or career, you don’t want it to cause you major anxiety or take up a bunch of your time. You’ve already got a job, you don’t need your blog to take up another 40 hours of your week!
(Unless you love it, in which case, you do you!)
If, after you pay for hosting and a WordPress theme, you still have some money left over, invest it in whatever plugin or service will save you the most time or anxiety.
For example, having CoSchedule saves me major time and anxiety, so it’s absolutely worth the $25/mo I currently pay for it. I’ve tried free options that are similar, and they just don’t work as well for me.
You might be totally fine with a free editorial calendar and social scheduler, but you can’t deal with having to build your own popups and landing pages, so you want to invest in Leadpages. That’s totally cool! Go with whatever will save you time and anxiety.
(Another prime example of privilege at work. If you have money, you can trade it in for more time and less anxiety. But if you don’t have money, you’re SOL.)
When deciding which apps would save you the most time and anxiety, I highly recommend utilizing free trials. Throughout the entire free trial, commit to really utilizing the service, and once they’re about to charge you, evaluate whether or not it saved you time or anxiety. Maybe it added a bunch of time or anxiety to your life—in which case, cancel! At that point you’ve only invested your time, not your hard-earned money.
Of course, in my opinion these purchases should come third, because hosting and a website theme are more important. I’m not saying that your blog should be taking up a bunch of time and giving you anxiety. If it is, it means you should probably be cutting back on parts of it! And typically, the problems these services are “fixing” are things you can cut back on.
If you can’t afford Leadpages and don’t want to build your own popups and landing pages, don’t offer them, or really simplify that strategy with a single resource library.
If you can’t afford CoSchedule, use a good old paper calendar, or try posting without a specific plan.
There are free workarounds for these services, but that isn’t necessarily the case with website hosting or a theme.
Blogging should be fun, but it shouldn’t be putting you into debt! Prioritize your budget and you can definitely find success, even without those expensive “need-to-have” plugins and services.