My Favorite Money Saving Apps

Top 10 Money Saving Apps

Your smartphone can be a very powerful tool if you know how to use it for more than just surfing social media and posting memes. There are so many money saving apps available that can help you save large amount of cash every single year! Here are my favorite money saving apps and the ones I tend to reach for on a daily/weekly basis.

If you have a smartphone, you know that there is an app for darn near everything. Type in “money saving apps” and the huge array of choices can be a bit overwhelming. It is hard to know what is legit? What companies will actually pay out? Some of these companies require you to enter sensitive information. Who can you trust?

Some of these we use on a regular basis. Some of these money saving apps are on our “2019 to-do list” to set up. Some of these are used daily! I hope you’ll enjoy our list of money saving apps, and please comment below with some of the apps your family enjoys using to help save money and meet your financial goals!

Ibotta

One of my faves and super easy to use! Simply scan this before you head out the door to shop and you can add offers to your account. Then go shopping and afterwards, just take a pic of your receipt and Ibotta will give you credit!

This is definitely one of those “small trickles make a big stream” apps but it can really add up over time!

Click here to sign up for Ibotta (this is my referral link FYI!).

Target

The Target app makes me so  happy. Not only is it now a one stop shop for all Target Cartwheel offers and coupons, but it also offers a built in price checker AND you can pay via the app!

As you peruse Target, pull out the app to scan items to see if there are relevant coupons/Cartwheel offers that you can apply to your purchase.

Are you a Target RedCard holder? You can actually link your card to your app so that you can pay with your phone at checkout!

This app saves me so much money because it makes finding the great deals at Target so easy!

Coupon Sherpa

This app saves my butt every single time I leave the house to go shopping and forget to bring my retail coupons! Standing in line at Sally’s Beauty supply? I quickly open up this app to see if there are any relevant coupons I can use!

I love the interface of this app over other retail coupon apps and I have found that if there is a coupon out there, Coupon Sherpa usually has it available.

Groupon

I love Groupon. You can save on products, services and travel! I have Groupon on my phone and try to check it on a daily basis to see if there are any deals that will help my family.

You can also use Groupon if you intend to travel. You are not limited to only buying deals in your local area. Say you are traveling to Branson, just plug Branson into Groupon and see what deals you can find! This can be a great and frugal way to travel for less.

Sign up for Groupon here if you have not already!

Cozi

This one might seem a bit strange. This is a calendar/family organizer that you can use to organize basically your entire life. My family uses the Cozi app and I have a full review planned for later this month about how much we love it (well, I’m not sure the kids love the chore lists…but it’s better than us barking orders at them!).

This app is a money saving app for me because it includes meal planning and from your meal plan, you can make grocery lists! Meal planning and never going to the grocery store without a list are HUGE money savers for me and my family!

We pay for the Gold version of Cozi, which is a bit pricey, but we more than earn that money back in our annual savings.

Gas Buddy

This app will do just what you think it will! It will help you save money on gas! Tell Gas Buddy where you are and it will find the cheapest gas around town for you!

If you are going on a road trip, you can even plan your trip based on where you can find cheap gas along your route!

My Grocery Store Apps

I’m not sure what grocery stores you have near you, but all of my local grocery stores have an app. Their apps all have coupons available that I can either add to my store loyalty card, or I can at least see the weekly ad. In my area, most grocery stores have stopped mailing their weekly physical ad, so I find this super helpful!

Restaurant Apps

Do you frequent your local Starbucks? Are you a Chili’s regular? Regardless of where you tend to spend your eating out cash, be sure to see if that restaurant has an app! Often times, chain restaurants will have apps that link to loyalty programs. The more you frequent their establishment, the more perks you get.

Here are a few of our faves:

Starbucks

Buffalo Wild Wings

BJ’s

Acorns

Acorns is a way to make saving and investing basically effortless. It works by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then adding that difference to your Acorns account.

Then, the money will be invested in your portfolio and you will earn a return on your investment.

It takes 5 minutes to set up and is a super easy way to increase your savings with minimal involvement.

You Need A Budget

This app works by going off of last month’s income. The theory is that if you are only spending money that is over 30 days “old”, you will relieve yourself of the neverending paycheck to paycheck cycle that most of society tends to live in.

FYI, you work your way up to this level. They don’t automatically assume you can just stop spending/paying bills this month to free up your income for next month.

This app does require you to hook up your bank account info for it to work effectively. It is highly rated and has great support if you have any issues. This app can be tried for 34 days for free, but afterwards you will have to pay a $6.99 monthly fee.

I have several other apps I use, and several others that I am interested in checking out.

For now though, these are the money saving apps that I am personally most excited about!

Do you have any apps that you love to use to save money? Am I way off the mark on my top 10 list? Let me know in the comments below!

Legitimate Work from Home Opportunity from Amazon – Part Time & Full Time

Are you looking for a work from  home job?

Right now, Amazon is actually hiring part time and full time workers in Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, West Virginia, Delaware, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Virginia for seasonal customer service positions.

Requirements:

  • In order to be considered for this position, your home residence must be in one of the following states; Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Delaware, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia
  • High School Diploma or equivalent 
  • Basic typing, phone, and computer navigation skills
  • Ability to navigate the Internet, email, and Instant Messenger tools 
  • 1+ years in a service environment dealing with the public
  • Distraction free workspace

For more info, click here.

Good luck!

5 Things I Do Daily Online To Earn/Save Money

You might not realize it, but every time you log into your computer you have the potential to improve your finances. Maybe you are already doing these things daily…maybe you are not. Either way, all 5 of these tasks are so easy to build into your daily computer time, that you’ll soon be doing them on autopilot!

Pull up my email using Swagbucks

Every single morning, the first thing I do is check my personal email account. I have a hotmail account and I could easily bookmark my inbox if I wanted to. However…I added one simple step to my morning routine about a year ago and I’ve never looked back.

Instead of bookmarking my inbox…I bookmark the search results page for Hotmail on Swagbucks! This way, I have the chance of getting Swagbucks first thing every morning (I’m going to let you in on a secret…about 70% of the time I get swagbucks for that very first search each day!). I do this throughout the day as well. If you don’t know much about Swagbucks, you can head on over and read my tutorial (I NEVER pay for diapers anymore! I use my Swagbucks to purchase Amazon Gift Cards and use those to buy my diapers using Amazon Subscribe & Save!).

*I know also click the Super Lucky button over on Superpoints a few times! I’ve been able to redeem several high value Amazon Gift Cards through Superpoints. Sign up here. 

Check my email for Paid Surveys and Paid Emails

I have really pulled back from paid surveys and emails, but there are three companies that still get my attention daily. Inbox Dollars, Toluna and Synovate . If there is an email in my inbox from one of those 3 companies that I can get paid for…I jump on it! Maybe those aren’t your cup of tea. Here are some survey/product review/paid email companies preferred by FFF readers:

  1. Synovate Global Opinion Panel
  2. Opinion Outpost
  3. MyPoints
  4. Inbox Dollars
  5. National Consumer Panel
  6. Valued Opinions
  7. Toluna
  8. MySurvey
  9. Vocalpoint-Does not provide monetary compensation. “Vocalpoint is a community for women that provides valuable and interesting insights about new products as well ascoupons and samples you can share with those you care about. These surprising gifts are certain to brighten your day. Membership is free and privacy is guaranteed. While you are able to keep the samples or coupons you receive from us, membership is completely voluntary.”
  10. Send Earnings

I never spend too much time on surveys or paid emails because time is money! I won’t spend 30 minutes on something that is going to pay me $.25. But $10? $5? Sure! Emails take seconds as well…totally worth it!

Check my bank accounts

This is super important. I’m not even the finance person in our family. We’re a team, but my husband handles most of the financial stuff, so luckily I don’t have to pay bills 😉 . However, I always like to be in the know when it comes to our bank accounts. We have our standard checking account and several savings account and sinking funds over at ING (I HIGHLY recommend ING…love them!). I go over the numbers and I make sure they seem like where they are supposed to be. We budget pretty much based on a zero balance budget (meaning every dollar has a name, even the dollars that go into savings), but every once in awhile something will sneak up! It’s good to be in the know!

I also like to make sure I don’t have any payments outstanding. Late charges and overdraft fees were once upon a time WAY too common in my life. So nowadays, we really try and keep on top of those things. Don’t let a stupid mistake result in a big fee!

Check out My Favorite Daily Deals Sites and Amazon Gold Box

Okay, maybe this is the blogger in me! But I always check these places to make sure there is nothing that I need/want that passes me by. I’m a big fan of stocking up when a price is hot, and I love finding awesome deals! As a result, we have a fully stocked gift closet and we never have to scramble last minute to find gifts. Come Christmas time, we aren’t out with the mad rush of shoppers unless we just want to be, because we shop all year long!

Here are the sites I frequent most often:

In some cases I am looking for my specific city, but I also try to hunt down nationwide/online deals as well.

Finally I head on over to Facebook

Facebook…where good deals and happy coupons live ;). I follow a handful of blogs that post deals to their fan pages. You see many of these deals pop up here on Family Friendly Frugality throughout the day (with credit to the originating source of course!). The truth is, the internet is wide and vast and you can’t expect to find every deal or coupon that is HOT on your own. So make a habit of following a few select pages and follow up with them throughout the day!

You might see some overlap…if something is hot we all want to tell our readers about it! But you’ll find different gems on different pages so it’s worth following a few (this coming from a blogger who wants to keep your readership and your like on Facebook…YES I do suggest following a *few* other frugal deal blogs on Facebook!).  I find deals on my own that the other pages you follow might not have been able to tell you about. Likewise, I have 2 kids and a husband and a home and a life of my own, so I’ll never be able to keep up with every deal that’s out there.

In conclusion

Basically I hit my inbox, my banks, facebook and a few shopping sites and that’s it. All over my morning coffee. How much have I saved/earned doing this daily? I couldn’t even begin to calculate it!

Chances are, you do these things already, but you might think it’s all just mindless surfing. Trust me, it’s not. You can make/save good money by keeping on top of these things, and I encourage you to work into your routine anything that you aren’t currently making a habit of.

What do you do online to save money daily? 

 

 

How to Set Up A Test Site for Your Blog (Self Hosted WordPress Blog)

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Lately, I’ve been tinkering with my site a bit more than usual. Playing with those dangerous files under the hood and driving myself and probably everyone else crazy.

I’ve broken my site several times and thankfully learned how to bring it back up again all by myself.

Today I learned how to set up a testing site for my blog, and I was really amazed by just how EASY it was. I had Googled my little heart out to find a tutorial for setting up a test site for my blog and honestly, I came up empty-handed.

Today, I headed out to the bookstore and found this book:

WordPress All-in-One For Dummies

This IS available in Kindle format.

But that would be a HORRIBLE idea.

For the process of setting up a test site for my blog, I flip-flopped throughout the entire book from front to back…this would not be easy in an e-reader (but I do love my Kindle!). This book is about 4 inches tall.

It’s an enormous book, but it contains a TON of awesome information.

I digress though, let’s set you up with a test site for your blog!

Set Up A Test Site for your WordPress Blog

Difficulty: Medium
Time: Several hours. Most of it you can walk away from, but be sure to copy down where you are at in the process so you don’t get confused.
Requires knowing how to use your FTP client.

WARNING: You can absolutely positively screw up your entire site by messing with these files. If you do EXACTLY what I say, you won’t actually be modifying anything on your actual site. However, if you mess up and delete something or hit the wrong key…permanent type stuff can happen.

I recommend backing up your site before you get started and making sure the backup is successful. Once you have your backup…you should proceed with caution. I’m not trying to scare you.

IN FACT, by helping you set up a test site for your blog, I’m trying to empower you.

With a test site you can start trying to learn how to modify and alter your site through trial and error, which in my opinion, is the best way to learn. I’m not going to lie though, if you don’t know  how to do much more than write a post and hit publish (and there is NO shame in that), you probably shouldn’t attempt this.

Note: This tutorial is long and it is involved. I recommend scanning it through before you start. That said, it’s one of those things that you might not fully understand until you are following along with it. Step by step. I might try and make it available as a printable PDF if anyone is interested. Tell me in the comments if you are interested.

Finally, I take no responsibility if you blow up your blog. I went so far as to double check this tutorial by setting up a SECOND testing site (which I don’t need) to ensure this tutorial would work. It works. If it doesn’t work for you, I’m so sorry but I can’t take responsibility. Okay…let’s go!

Part 1 of setting up a test site for your blog: Setting up the subdomain & creating your MySQL database

Step 1: First you’ll need to log into your CPanel where you host your site. I host my site through WiredTree (I love it there!).

Step 2: Now you’ll scroll down until you see Subdomains icon. Click on it.(note: You might find yourself stopped in your tracks right here. Not all hosting companies offer subdomains. If you don’t see this icon, contact them. They might be able to set you up from their end, or unfortunately, they might let you know it’s simply not possible. In which case, you COULD just buy a random domain name, and start this tutorial with installing wordpress. It’s more convenient though if you can just use a subdomain.)

Step 3: On this next screen, you’ll name your subdomain. Just type in what you want to call your subdomain.

Next to Domain Root, choose the name of the domain you want to assign your subdomain to in the drop down box (if you only have one blog hosted, it will be the only option in the drop down for you).

Step 4: Click Create

Step 5: Now you are going to go back to the home screen of your CPanel and scroll down to MySQL Databases

Step 6: Click MySQL Database. On the next screen, enter a name for your new database (Jot this down under Database Name somewhere)

Step 7: Now go down to MySQL Users on the MySQL Databases page. Choose a username and password. (Jot these down under Username and Password) Click Create User.

Step 8: A Message will appear to let you know you were successful. Click Go Back.

Step 9: In the drop down under Add Users to Databases, choose the user you just set up and in the database drop down list, choose the database you just created. You’ll be taken to a new screen. Assign ALL Privileges to the user (you). Click Make Changes. Go back.

Part 2 of setting up a test site for your blog: Installing WordPress via FTP

Step 1: Now you’ll need to install wordpress onto your subdomain. To do this, you’ll need to log into your FTP client. I use Filezilla.

Step 2: Log into your FTP (you’ll need your host {which is a bunch of numbers. Example: 111.111.111.111}, your username and your password…if you don’t know your host name you can ask your hosting provider. You were given this info at installation though and you should also be able to find it in your cpanel)

Step 4: Click on Public HTML and choose your testing domain from the dropdown. Yours should be empty right now.

Under Remote Site
Click the + sign next to public_html
Find the name you assigned to your testing site. Click the + to open.

Step 5: Go here and download the latest version of WordPress onto your computer. Once it’s downloaded, extract the files (not sure how? For me, in Google Chrome, I do the following: 1. Show in folder 2. Right click on file and choose Extract All Files 3. Designate the folder I want the files to end up in)

Step 6: In your FTP client, you’ll now grab the files in the FOLDER (not the whole folder) and upload those to your testing folder. (this takes a bit…there’s a lot to upload!)

Find the WordPress download on your computer and open it so it opens in the window below.
Open the folder
JUST the files. Not the whole folder.

Part 3 of setting up a test site for your blog: Getting WordPress Up & Running

Step 1: Now, in your browser, go to your test blog’s url. So if you called your test blog “testing123.myblogname.com”, type that in.

Step 2: You’ll be shown a screen that tells gives you the option to create a configuration file. Click that button.

Step 3: Click the Let’s Go button at the bottom of the page.


Step 4: Now you’ll need to pull out the info you jotted down earlier:

:: Database Name: The name you used when you created your MySQL database earlier. You might need to add your name as a combination of your username and the database name separated with an underscore (_). (I did)

:: User Name: This is the username you just created earlier just prior to creating your database.

:: Password: Use the password you used when you set up your MySQL database.

:: Database host: I was able to leave it as localhost. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to contact your hosting company.

:: Table Prefix: Left as wp_

Step 5: Click Submit.

Step 6: Click to install WordPress.

Step 7:    Site Title is what you want your testing site for your blog to be called.

Username is whatever you want to use as your WordPress login (don’t use admin for security reasons).

Password is whatever password you want.

Email is…well I’ll let you figure that out 😉

Allow your blog to appear in search engines? I’d rather my test blog NOT be indexed…so I unchecked this box.

Step 8: Click the Install button.

Step 9: When it’s done you’ll get an email to log in. Go for it! You did it! Dance like Dora!

(Possibly OPTIONAL) Part 4 of Setting Up A Test Site for Your Blog: Exporting/Importing Your Blog Content

FYI…here’s where things get a bit tricky. If you have a blog with any decent amount of content…it’s going to be BIG. I’ll tell you what I did, but I’m not convinced this is the correct or easy way to do it. If you find an easier way, please tell me in the comments!

***It dawned on me AFTER I did this whole thing that you probably don’t HAVE to do this step. You might want all your pages on your test site, but you really have no need to have all your posts on there.

It does also bring over your navigational menus and some other important items (specifically: “This will contain all of your posts, pages, comments, custom fields, terms, navigation menus and custom posts”), so you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Honestly on my second go round, I tried to skip this step and it didn’t work out. So I went back and did it and was once again successful. So I’m going to go ahead and say DO IT…but it you are smarter than me and you can figure out how to NOT do it…well that’s okay too 😉 .

Step 1: Go into your MAIN BLOG. The blog you are making a testing site for.

Step 2: Scroll down to Tools in your dashboard and choose Export.

Step 3: Choose to Export ALL CONTENT

Step 4: You’ll have an XML file downloaded to your computer.

Step 5: Here’s where things get tricky. My file was huge. WordPress’s importer will only import files 8MB or smaller so I had to find a way to make my XML file smaller so I could upload the files to my testing site. I downloaded this free program here that I found by searching the WordPress.org forums. It worked well and split my huge XML file into…wait for it…17 files.

SO yes, I had to import each file in separately.

If you want to do it my way, head on over here and download WXRSplitter. Once the program is downloaded, use it to split your XML file. Hopefully you have less files than I do! You can attempt to make them into 8MB chunks, but I had read in my googling that people were having issues importing anything over 2MB, so I made mine all 2MB.

Move the resulting files into an easy to find folder on your computer and head on over to your TEST BLOG now.

Step 6: Go down to Tools and Click Import. Now you are going to import each file one at a time. Be sure you don’t try to import your large file…it simply won’t work.

Choose WordPress:

The first screen you’ll see will ask if you want to assign new authors to the posts made by unregistered users. I ignored all of this. You are being asked this because the authors of the posts you are importing are not users on your test blog. There’s no need for them to be, so just ignore it.

I also did not check Download and Import File Attachments.

I just clicked Submit. For every file, that’s all I did on this page. Clicked submit.

Give it a bit and you’ll come to a screen that probably looks a bit alarming. Filled with a bunch of warnings that items failed to upload.

Don’t let it alarm you. Remember you are uploading bits and pieces of your site…it will eventually all end up up over there.

Step 7: When you finish…take a look at your site (it’s also fun to watch it as you upload the smaller files. It’s cool to see it slowly taking shape!)! You aren’t done yet though.

Part 5 of Setting Up A Test Site for Your Blog: Bringing in your Pictures, Theme and Plugins

Step 1: We’ve only brought in our content so far. We still need to bring over our theme files, our media files and our plugin files.

Step 2: Let’s go back to our FTP Client and log in once again (if you aren’t still logged in).

Step 3: Go into your main blog’s files and you’ll want to download the following files (they will all be under public_html->wp-content):

/wp-content/uploads

/wp-content/plugins

/wp-content/themes

Just an FYI…these can take a LONG time. Specifically the uploads file if you have a lot of media files on your site (which I did). You might choose not to upload the media file onto your site. It’s up to you.

Then you get to do the whole thing again in the next step (when you upload the downloaded files onto your testing blog). This is probably the most time-consuming but minimally hands on portion of this whole process.

Step 4: Once these are downloaded, go BACK into your testing blog in FTP and upload these files to the correct folder (wp-content). Since you installed a fresh WordPress install in there…you’ll get a warning that you already have some of the files and do you want to override them?

Yes you do. And to prevent having to do this a million times,  you’ll need to tell it to Always Use This Action and I’d suggest also checking Apply To This Que Only because you likely don’t want that to be the default for your FTP client in the future. 

Step 5: Now it’s just a matter of going into your test blog and setting things live. Everything you uploaded won’t be activated, so you’ll have to activate your theme, your menus and your plugins. In addition, any settings that you put into your theme (font size/color/etc) will need to be set by you on your test blog as well. This is a great time to play with different colors and fonts…since you are now on your TEST blog!

A few things to be aware of:

  • Your widgets won’t be in place. If you want to set up a true testing  environment, you’ll want to make your test blog as similar to your real blog as possible. So maneuver your widgets to be as identical as possible to your main blog.
  • Likewise, you’ll realize that some plugins and widgets require steps (api keys, can only be installed on one site, etc) that are unnecessary for a test blog. In that case, you can make place holders. For instance, for a 300×250 ad sense ad, just create a colored square and write “Ad Sense Ad 300×250” in it. Upload it to your site as media and use HTML to put the picture in the appropriate widget (like the picture below):
  • This is a testing environment. Which means that breaking stuff is okay! Remember, you can wipe this baby clean and re-install wordpress and your site files at any time. This should encourage you to try things that you probably wouldn’t try out otherwise!

I broke my testing blog when I started turning on my plugins. I got sick of turning them on one by one, so I turned them all on at once. BIG scary mistake!

Or it would have been if it was on my actual website. Since it was on my test blog, it was simply time to learn.

I ended up finding out that you can actually disable ALL your plugins via FTP by just renaming the plugin file “plugins.hold”. Then I was able to go in and one by one delete plugins until I figured out the problem. It was awesome!

I know this is LONG. And I know it seems like a ton of work. It will be SO worth it though. I’m so excited to play with my new test blog!

3 Myths About Making Money With A Blog – Yes, You CAN Do it!



Guest Post by Tonya (bio end of post)

If you haven’t heard already, the blogging world has absolutely exploded in the past couple of years.  There’s a lot of talk out there about people successfully making an income from their blogs.

Have you ever thought that YOU could be one of those people?

Well, I’m here to tell you, as a blogger making a full-time income from home with my blog – that, yes, YOU can!

Let’s take a look at three reasons most people think they can’t successfully blog for money.

Not Enough Time

I’m not going to lie to you – blogging does take some time and effort in order to be successful.  If it didn’t, would you even believe it was true?  How many “get rich quick” schemes have we all heard of these days?  Most, if not all, are a complete lie.

While blogging does take a time investment, particularly as you get started – it can be so much fun that it doesn’t even seem like work at all!  If you have a topic that you’re really passionate about – something you already talk to people about all the time anyway – why not start putting that information on a blog and potentially earn an income from home while doing it?

As a stay-at-home mom to little ones, I’m living proof that it IS possible to make the time to have a successful, money-making blog.  Here are a few things that I’ve done that help with balancing life at home and running a profitable blog:

  1. Schedule your time.  Decide what chunks of time you have throughout the day to blog.  Then set “blogging hours” – and stick to them.  I don’t like to blog while my kids are awake so I know this leaves me early mornings, nap times, and the occasional evening.
  2. Plan your blogging time in advance.  At the end of each week, plan what you need to get done the following week. At the end of each day, plan what you need to do the next day.  I’ve found that having a plan already in place when I get up in the morning saves me the time of groggily trying to remember where to even start (I’m NOT a morning person!).
  3. Blog ahead of schedule.  Everything about my blog that I can schedule in advance, I do.  I write several blog posts at once and then schedule them out over the course of several weeks.  As much of my Facebook and Twitter interactions as I can, I schedule in advance.  This frees me up throughout the weeks – just in case those unexpected little things come up and I can’t get to my blogging that day.

Can You Really Make Money From Blogging?

Yes, you can!  With the right information, the right resources, and the right motivation, it’s amazing what can be done with a blog! In the first year of my current blog, we grossed over $30,000.

Nope, that’s not a typo – read that number again.

While I will tell you that this isn’t necessarily the norm in blogging, it does show a bit of the possibilities there.

If you’re looking to start a money-making blog – or you’ve already started and need to see some change in your blog’s success, here are three tips I’ve found helpful:

  1. Blog about your passion.  You have to absolutely love your topic.  You love it so much you talk about it even if people aren’t going to pay you.  You love it so much you want everyone to be excited about it, as well!
  2. Get help from those who have gone before.  Don’t try to start out on your own – that’s what I did in the beginning and I wasted so much time trying to find all the answers and fit everything together by myself.  Once I finally learned that I should be learning from those who were seeing the success that I wanted, and I started applying what they were saying, then my life got a lot easier.  There is SO much information available out there.  Find someone who can help you stay on track doing what’s important.
  3. Find a need and fill it.  Take a look at the blogs that interest you – what piece of the puzzle are they missing?  What service or product or information are they leaving out, that you could provide instead?  Find your special perspective on your topic – then reach out and really start helping people by  meeting their needs.

I need to know too much technical stuff.

Maybe in the beginning, blogging required a lot of technical know-how – you know, like HTML coding and CSS, etc. – things I’m not even sure what they stand for, actually.  But, not anymore.  Blogging platforms and hosting companies with support teams are making blogging easier for the average person.

The three things you need to start your blog:

  1. A Hosting Plan – where your blog content is stored.
  2. A Domain or URL – your blog address
  3. A Blogging Platform – I highly recommend wordpress.org as the options for your blog are limitless!

That’s it – those are the basics you need to start publishing your blog!

What Are Your Blogging Questions?

Share in the comments below – I’ll do my best to get you the answers you need.

Tanya is the blogger behind Blogelina.com.  She loves blogging – and also enjoys helping other stay-at-home moms learn how to make money working from home.  Her popular Profitable Blogging for Beginners Online Class (which you can take right now for free!) has helped hundred of bloggers see more success with their blogs. 

 

P.S. Have you heard about our 10-Week Blog Mentorship Program?  It starts February 1st – space is limited so be sure to check it out!

How To Monetize A Blog Without Selling Out

I get emails on a regular basis from other bloggers that aren’t in the coupon/deal blogging niche. Maybe they have a recipe blog, a crafting blog, an ed blog, or just a stream of consciousness journal of sorts.

They know there’s money to be made from blogging, and they would like to make some but they don’t want to “sell out”.

There are those that feel very strongly that if you are providing enjoyment, education or a service for others for free, it somehow becomes less if you stand to profit off of it. Even if you aren’t actually asking your readers for a single nickle, they feel that your information is less honorable because you have sold out.

I’m not one of those people. 

I give the information I give on Family Friendly Frugality freely. I do not require my readers to pay for any service I offer that is related to my website. Free emails, free phone apps, free coupon database, etc. All of these cost ME money or time, but I do not pass those costs on to my readers.

I do however, monetize my website.

I am in a niche that is very conducive to monetization. In fact, if I didn’t make money off of this blog, there’s simply no way I could keep it up. A frugal living blog with a deal focus requires constant updating, which means that in any given day, anywhere from 8-20 hours goes into the production of Family Friendly Frugality (don’t worry, I do have help). Not to mention, the traffic alone requires more than just your average $10 hosting plan.

However, what if you have a blog that isn’t so labor intensive? Maybe you update when you want and you have very little overhead?

Can you even monetize a blog like that? 

Should you even monetize a blog like that? 

The answer?

Yes you can, and if you want to, well then yes you should.

How though? How do you monetize a recipe blog? How do you monetize a journal or picture blog?

Here are some options for advertising on any blog within any niche:

Become an affiliate

Utilize Affiliate links naturally

Just about every company that has an online website has an affiliate program. They know that to get noticed on the web, lots and lots of people have to be talking about them. So they start affiliate programs and in exchange for linking to them, you earn a commission off of what your reader purchases.

How do you use affiliate programs in your content without turning into one big commercial though? It’s actually quite easy.  Think about how often we mention brands, products, services etc on our blogs. Maybe we link to them so our readers can learn more, or maybe we don’t. These mentions aren’t forced. They are natural and flowing and they fit right into our content. These mentions would have a place in our content whether we cared about making money on our blogs or not. Therefore, why not make some money off of them!

Here are some examples:

Journal Type Blog-

“Jimmy and I are just really having a rough time right now. My friend suggested we read this book, (Insert Name of Book here…linked to Amazon with an affiliate link), because it really changed the way her and her husband get along.”

Food Blog-

“Next you are going to want to add all of these ingredients to your slow cooker. I use this (insert affiliate link to slow cooker on Amazon, Sears, Target, Walmart, etc) slow cooker and I find I have to add a bit more water to bring the liquid level up to about 3/4 to the top. “

Mom Blog-

“Then we realized we totally left (insert affiliate link to treasured toy) at the dr’s office! I KNEW he wouldn’t sleep without him so we rushed back. He was gone when we got there, so I raced to Target (link with affiliate link) in hopes of finding a duplicate. Thankfully, they had one left!”

Using affiliate links is really the easiest and least invasive way to monetize your blog content. Many affiliates are actually part of bigger affiliate networks, so when you join one network, you actually have access to several (although you will likely have to apply to each individually).

Here are some affiliates and affiliate networks you can consider signing up with:

  • Amazon Affiliates-All Amazon, all the time. Certain states can NOT participate in Amazon Affiliates. For you, there’s Skimlinks. Use Skimlinks to monetize your Amazon affiliate links if you are in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Commission Junction-Gap, Old Navy, Disney Store, Woot, Ulta, etc
  • Linkshare-Walmart, iTunes, Crocs, Sephora, etc
  • GAN (Google Affiliate Network)-Kmart, Sears, Lane Bryant, Target

You will need a disclosure and privacy policy in place if you choose to use affiliate links. It needs to be at least linked on your home page. Anytime you might receive money for any link on your blog at all, you must have some kind of blanket disclosure policy advising your readers. You can get a fill in the blank disclosure policy here. Be careful not to incentivize your links as well. You don’t want to encourage readers to click through your links because you’ll make money.

Ad Placement

Place ads strategically on your blog

Do you ever feel like you are just being assaulted by ads everywhere you go nowadays? So why would you want them on your blog?

When integrated into the flow of your design, ads can be a unobtrusive and logical way to monetize your blog.

The key is knowing where to place the ads and knowing how much is too much.

Also, you need to know that there are two main types of ads:

  • PPC – which pay per click
  • CPM – which pay per 1000 impressions

In most cases, you will have more luck with CPC ads unless you have a high volume of traffic. This means that someone has to actually click on the ad for you to actually make any money.

There are many ad networks out there that you can work with to serve ads on your site, or you can privately sell ad space on your website. 

Privately selling ad space is a great idea if you are a well trafficked blog within your niche. Other members of your niche might wish to advertise on your site because they are looking for a similar reader base. Advertisers for products and services might want to advertise on your site because your demographic is actually the demographic they are trying to sell to as well.

There are some cons to private advertising though. It can be time consuming. You have to collect the payments, keep the ad space full (which in some cases might mean contacting companies asking if they are interested) and please your advertisers. You also have to come up with what you think would be a fair advertising price within your niche. A good way to do this is to go to other bloggers within your niche and ask what they are charging. It varies due to traffic and ad size, but if someone with your traffic  in your niche is charging $25 for a 125×125 ad and you try charging $75 for the same ad space, you likely won’t get any takers!

If you decide private advertising is not for you, or you want to do both, you can also join an ad network and place their ads on your blog. Mostly this is plug and play. They give you the code, you stick it in your sidebar and they take care of the rest. Very easy and not much upkeep for you.

The cons with this approach is that you don’t have complete control over what ads are showing on your website. Which might not seem like a big deal, until it’s political season and a candidate you can’t stand all of a sudden has an ad serving up on YOUR blog. In most cases, you can contact the ad network and tell them if you don’t want an ad showing, but first you have to catch it!

The easiest and most profitable ad network I’ve worked with is Google Ad Sense. I’ve worked with a few other ad networks and the income varies. Be careful going to ad networks that ask you to sign a contract. In some cases, you could end up losing out on a lot of money because you contracted out that ad space for low performing ads.

Some big things to remember when monetizing your blog with ads:

  1. Do NOT click your own ads. That’s cause for termination with many ad networks. Many of them will shut you down immediately if they think you are clicking your own ads.
  2. Try to work the ads into your content naturally. Check out this hot spot diagram from Google. These are spots you want to focus on, but make sure it fits in well with your design. A poorly placed ad not only won’t perform well, it also might turn off readers.
  3. More ads equals more money. But many ad networks limit how many ads you can have on each page. Be sure you follow their recommendations as well as their guidelines. Remember that you need to put aesthetics for your reader first, and the money will come. Same goes for private advertising. Just because you CAN sell 50 125×125 ads on your sidebar for $30 a pop doesn’t mean you should.
  4. Vary it up. Test different ads in different placements to see what works best for your site.

More traffic = More Money. So don’t fear if you aren’t making much on ads at first. Over time as your traffic increases, so will your ad revenue.

Product Reviews & Sponsored Content

Use Product Reviews & Sponsored Posts to generate income. Remember to always disclose.

Okay, here we go. Product reviews and sponsored content are probably what a lot of us place the blame on when we notice that a favorite blogger of ours has really strayed from their roots. Now, instead of thought provoking posts or tasty down home cooking recipes, every post reads like a Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercial. What happened!?

To be honest, as of this moment in time, making money from sponsored content and product reviews is actually probably the easiest money a blogger can currently make. Why?

Well first off, you are paid regardless of whether your readers are interested or not (in either product or cash). This takes some of the burden off the blogger.

Most likely, the company asking for the sponsored post or product review has already looked over your site and decided that it’s a good fit for their advertising dollars, which can be pretty flattering. Especially if it’s a BIG well known brand.

Finally, advertisers understand that (for now) blogs are a worthwhile place to sink their marketing teeth into. Advertisers know, if they get in good with bloggers, they can have a slew of social media savvy writers talking up their newest product to an established and loyal audience. This means that if you have the numbers (traffic) and the clout (or Klout as the case may be), you can be guaranteed a steady stream of product reviews and sponsored content opportunities for as long as this fad lasts (and I think it will last a good long while).

This isn’t all bad.

Relationships between brands and bloggers are beneficial for all consumers. Bloggers provide valuable feedback and can help get good products out there into the general population, but they can also make real change to products and services that need it. Bloggers who adopt a policy of honesty &  integrity first can review products and post sponsored content without sounding like a commercial and without selling out.

Product Reviews & Sponsored Content can have their place on your blog and earn you a good deal of income as long as you remember a few key points:

  1. Don’t lie. If you don’t like a product, please don’t say that you do. If you feel uncomfortable posting a bad review, let the company know you didn’t like the product and if you did post a review, it wouldn’t be favorable. In some cases, advertisers will still want you to post the review. In others, they’ll thank you for your honesty and ask you  not to post the review. However, if you didn’t like the product, and you feel your readers need to know, tell them. You are never under any obligation to post a good review. Likewise, if you think a company stands for all that is wrong in the world, don’t put their sponsored content on your site. You can review products you are interested in and write for companies that you believe in (for pay) and still make good money without ever having to compromise your morals or ethics.
  2. Be careful that what you are posting is relevant to your readers. The readers of your recipe blog don’t want to know about Joe Schmoe’s campaign for Governor. They might be interested in what you think of that snazzy new Kitchen Aid appliance though. Don’t post a catnip review on a blog about dogs. If it’s not relevant, I don’t care how much they want to pay you, it doesn’t belong on your blog.
  3. Make sure your original content outweighs your sponsored content heavily. At all times.

In many cases, these opportunities will come to you as you grow and become known within your niche. They might actually come sooner than you think. I was offered my first review when my blog was only 1 month old!

However, you might need to seek them out. Here are some ways to find sponsored content and product review opportunities:

  • You are in LOVE with brand x. Email them and let them know! Tell them your audience and ask if they might be interested in working with you. Cold contacting advertisers typically just involves tracking down the PR contact on their website.
  • See a product being reviewed on other blogs in your niche? If you know the blogger, it’s okay to ask for the contact. They might not be able to give it to you (and they might not want to!) and you have to be okay with that, but it never hurts to ask. If you can’t get it from them, check out the website for the brand and see if you can track down a PR contact.
  • Join Social Spark, or other blogger friendly groups/services that link up bloggers and companies.

You must ALWAYS disclose if you received money or products in your posts. It’s the law. You can get in big trouble. Don’t risk it.

Example:

DisclaimerI received a free X from Company ABC to facilitate my review. I have provided my unbiased opinion of Product X and was not compensated to write this review.

Time To Make Money?

You can make money from your blog. You can make money from any blog!

The main thing to remember is that your readers are what matter most. Above anything else. 

You will not make a dime if you alienate your readers. 

In addition, in order to be effective monetization, it  has to be a Win/Win/Win for everyone involved. Your reader has to benefit, the advertiser has to benefit and you have to have to benefit. Take one of those wins out of the equation (yes, even taking yourself out of it) and your efforts have become unbalanced and ineffective. If you receive an offer, but it’s not a good fit, you owe it to everyone involved to turn it down.

I hope this helps some of those bloggers in niches that aren’t easily made profitable. If this helped you, I’d love for you to share it with your blogging friends!

How to Link a Clickable Image to A Document or PDF?

How to link a clickable image to an online document?

I’m going to teach you how to do it really quickly, it’s actually very simple!

This is a question I get asked quite often by newer bloggers. Even veteran bloggers will ask me about it if they notice I’ve done it on a recent post!

Disclaimers:

First off, if there is a way to “embed” the document itself into your content, I don’t know about it. This is just how I personally link to a document using a small image of the document.

Secondly, the process is pretty similar for Blogger or WordPress, but my directions will primarily be from a WordPress point of view.

How to make a clickable image link to a document online

    1. First off, I’m going to assume you have your document or PDF uploaded to the internet already. If not, you can upload to Google Docs or you can actually upload PDF’s (not the documents) onto your own site using the Add Media tab (WordPress only?).
      :: For Google Docs, make sure you grab the Share URL.  (Go to Share in the upper right hand corner. Choose your privacy settings. You’ll need to either choose “anyone with a link” or “public” for  your readers to be able to access the document. Then you’ll be taken to a page with the link you need to use to share the document. Do not use the url you see in your browser. That won’t work. You have to use the sharing url.)
      :: For Media uploaded to your website, you’ll just use the link to the media after you upload it. This is the link to the PDF shown above: https://www.familyfriendlyfrugality.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/2011-Goals-Wrapped-Up.pdf

       

I usually have to hit Control A and then Control C to grab these links
  • Next you want to take a screen shot of the image you want to be clickable. I use either Snagit (costs $$$ or use the free version) or Awesome Screenshot (free extension for most browsers) to get my screen shot.
  • Now, just re-size the image to the size you want. Tip: I don’t necessarily want the image to be readable within the blog post. Why? Well because in the past, when I’ve made it readable on the blog post, sometimes people think that the image is NOT clickable (despite the caption “Click to Print”) and they mistakingly believe they have to print the entire blog post to print the document. I know, it sounds a bit crazy, but seriously? Just ask me how I know this.
  • Here’s where the magic happens 😉 . Upload the image to your blog post the same way you upload any other image. In the link field, put the link to the online document. In the caption field, write out Click to Print. (for Bloggers users, I think you have to upload the image first, then click the image and then click the attachment link to add the link).
  • Voila!
  • Super easy, and it looks really great too.

    Now you can offer your readers PDF’s and documents and make them even more attractive by linking to them via clickable images!

    Enjoy!

    Here are some posts where I have linked to documents with clickable images:

    Blogging Resources All Bloggers Should Have

    Being a blogger sounds like an easy gig, right? Especially if you already have informally blogged in the past. Maybe you have a blog about your family, your job or your hobby. I had a blog for years before I started Family Friendly Frugality. It is a learning experience and here is a few blogging resources that I have used over the years.

    My first blog was my pride and joy, but to be perfectly honest, I was horrible about updating it…but it was pretty easy. I moved that blog around a bit, it spent some time on Blogger and WordPress.com (both free blogging platforms) so I had experience with both content management systems. The paid versions of these platforms are really not all that much different navigation-wise from their free counterparts.

    The day I learned that people actually made an income (and in some cases…supported their entire families!) from blogging…

    My.mind.was.blown.

    I had been an avid blog reader for years and for some reason never realized that many of those links I clicked on, or ads that caught my eye were actually earning my favorite bloggers an income.

    You can call me naive, unobservant or even blissfully ignorant and you would be right.

    In fact, my first impression upon learning that one of my favorite bloggers was earning an income off of ME was disgust. Luckily, I quickly realized that I was being incredibly selfish.

    This blogger had saved me so much money, made me laugh, made me cry…made my life better. Also, she actually didn’t hide that she made an income off her blog at all (which in fact would be illegal), I just had never paid attention (I actually thought those ad spots on her blog were just blogs she liked, LOL).

    I never had to pay a penny for the information she gave freely.

    She also never endorsed anything that seemed like a scam. I never worried that I would sign up for a deal from her blog and deal with telemarketers spamming me for weeks on end.

    Once I realized she was making an income having a blog, I figured why not me? I knew how to blog, I had some free time…I could do this!

    Blogging for business is hard work.

    It didn’t take me long to realize that blogging for fun/hobby and blogging for profit are not even in the same ballpark. In fact, I’m not sure they even belong in the same universe with each other. To keep this blog running, I work more than a 40 hour work week. You don’t even want to know what that currently breaks down to as an hourly wage.

    When I think back to what I didn’t know then…and compare it to what I know now…I’m shocked I didn’t close up shop within a month. I made a LOT of mistakes. I was a mess! Thankfully there were a handful of bloggers that reached out and supported me in that time frame. I’m not going to call them out here…they know who they are!

    I was still left finding out a lot of things on my own though.

    You see, it’s not that bloggers aren’t friendly (well I’m sure there are unfriendly bloggers out there, I’ve just been blessed that they have stayed away from me!), it’s just that everyone does things a bit differently.

    Laws regarding certain aspects of blogging (affiliations, disclosures, etc) even vary from state to state. Don’t even start trying to compare notes with someone that is outside your niche. They might have entirely different blogging philosophies, organizational systems, guidelines, etc.

    So you use Google. Google is a bloggers best friend, but honestly it turns up a lot of junk. There are so many blogging “gurus” nowadays, that you really can’t trust that someone knows what they are doing just because they claim to be a blogging expert. Shoot, I have been blogging for over a year now and I am convinced I know more than some of these people (and to be fair…the amount of blogging knowledge I have gleaned over the past few months could still fit on the head of a pin)!

    So where do you start?

    Well, I can tell you what has been helpful to me in the past few months…and hopefully these resources will help you as well. None of these are niche specific. They are all very general, and that is purposeful.

    To learn more about your niche, I encourage you to reach out to likeminded bloggers. Send them an email, tell them you are the newbie in town and ask if they wouldn’t mind answering questions from you when you come up against a wall (and really mean it. Do your own research and only email them when you have hit a dead end. You don’t want to overwhelm or push them away!).

    Helpful Websites:

    • Problogger-You had to know I’d include this one. The ultimate go-to source for blogging. He’s actually not my favorite, but there is some great info in the archives. Specifically his 31 Days To A Better Blog series. Now, you could purchase the eBook, or you can just go to this link here because it is all available for free on problogger.net!
    • Blogging With Amy-You might know Amy as Crystal’s go-to person on Money Saving Mom. She has her own blog called Blogging With Amy all about setting up your own money making blog from scratch. I refer EVERYONE to her (seriously, I should be getting a kick back for it! Just kidding…sort of.). More specifically, I refer everyone to the links on her sidebar where she step by step gets you started on a self hosted WordPress blog. I can vouch for those steps. I used a few of them to set this blog up on WordPress (my blog was already established so I didn’t need all of them), but I have set up a few other from scratch blogs using her steps exactly and never hit a wall. She even has videos for some of the more complex steps. I’ve also reached out to Amy in the midst of a blogging crisis on Twitter and she was more than willing to help (but I had already used my mad blogging skillz and figured it out on my own).

    Helpful Books:

    • Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way To a Six Figure Income-Don’t let the title fool you, he pretty quickly lets you know that the odds of anyone earning a 6 figure income from blogging (like he does) are stacked against you. Some great info to be absorbed within this book though. More for the newbie blogger, or at least the blogger that is just starting to monetize.
    • Blogging for Dummies-This book was pretty good. Once again…more of a newbie book. Still, I definitely have some parts bookmarked and highlighted for future reference.

    Helpful Twitter Hastags (use these when you have a question and want to ask the masses…for more on how Twitter works click here):

    • #blogchat– A chat that goes on on Sunday nights filled with great knowledgable bloggers. The conversation extends all week long though, so use this hashtag and you should get a pretty quick response.
    • #wordpress-Got a wordpress fire to put out? Use this hashtag and I promise you’ll have no less than 10 responses in a matter of minutes. Consultants and blogging gurus follow this hashtag closely in hopes of helping bloggers and getting their attention.
    • #blog, #blogging or #bloggers-Pretty generic hashtags, but just like the above #wordpress hashtag, you will be more likely to receive a quick response.

    Helpful links:

    • Monetize My Blog: This is my personal series about monetizing my blog and gaining traffic. I’ll be adding more to this in the coming weeks and updating some things.
    • Google Analytics-Great way to measure what works and what doesn’t. Companies also tend to use this as a standard of measuring your traffic and how effective your traffic will be at advertising their products.
    • Website Grader-This can get addicting! Still it’s a really good way to see any areas you might be lacking in. Right now my Grade is 99….but that could drop if I don’t keep up my quality control and keep building backlinks!
    • Host Gator-This is the hosting service I use for my website and I have to admit that even though it causes me issues from time to time, I have a fraction of the issues I see other bloggers deal with with their hosting providers. I recommend for Host Gator for any blogger who is looking to self host their blog.
    • Feedblitz-Feedburner is great, but it’s limited functionality (inability to deliver my e-book mainly) made me switch to Feedblitz which has been a great solution.
    Ways to Make Money:
    Many bloggers ask me how I monetize my site. I am not the type to put all my eggs in one basket, so I actually use a wide variety of affiliates. This also enables me to bring a wider range of content to my readers. Many of the companies I am an affiliate with send me previews of great sales and deals, so I can let my readers know about them ahead of time or at least right when they begin. Here are some companies you might want to sign up for to monetize your own site:

    Finally, feel free to contact me about any questions you might have. I cannot guarantee that I know all the answers, but I might be able to point you in the right direction. You can contact me in the following ways:

    Perhaps most importantly, make friends with fellow bloggers. I know I mentioned earlier that bloggers outside your niche might not be very helpful for your specific niche based questions. That doesn’t mean that community and variety are not essential. In fact, the bloggers I spoke of earlier who helped me so much were not frugal bloggers at all.

    Now that I am a bit more rooted and a bit more knowledgeable, I am looking to branch out in certain areas (most notably reviews and giveaways) and these bloggers have been essential in helping me learn the ropes and get my feet wet.

    Let’s face it, blogging as a business takes most of us into uncharted, lonely waters. Utilize the resources I have mentioned above, reach out to fellow bloggers and pay forward what you learn whenever you can.

    Blogging is all about community, come join us.

    What resources have helped you as a blogger? Any other great resources I should have included? Tell me in the comments!

    Please Read: Important Info for Facebook Fans

    Update: The facebook profile in this post was re-instated luckily. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still have a back up plan!

    Today something really cruddy happened. Some blogging buddies of mine had their Facebook account pretty much taken away from them in an instant.

    They had a sponsor (for a giveaway), that did not make good on their prize and they called them out publicly.

    Apparently that sponsor complained to Facebook and now both owners of that page AND an owner of another page that was a “just in case” admin have been totally banned from Facebook.

    They had 17,000+ Facebook fans and the other page owner had over 32,000 facebook fans. 

    This has taught me a valuable lesson. I have been focusing on building up a community on Facebook because it’s fun and because I LOVE my Facebook fans. However, this is also incredibly dangerous! So many of you rely on Facebook to get your daily Family Friendly Frugality fix…and honestly, Facebook could rip that all away tomorrow. I’m already marked as spam over there…who’s to say they won’t take away my posting rights entirely?

    Facebook doesn’t care about it’s users. Why should it? It’s the 2nd largest site in the world with virtually zero competition (c’mon Google Plus!). If Facebook demotes you to persona non gratayou have NO recourse. 

    And if they did? If Facebook did shut me down?  I would not rebuild. It’s taken me a year to build the amazing community I’ve built over there and I just would not have it in me to do that all over again.

    So I am begging you.

    PLEASE my wonderful Facebook fans, stick with me over there…but also make sure you have a back up. 

    The ideal alternative is to subscribe to my blog by email. One email once every 24 hours with every post made here on the site.

    Alternatively you could follow me on Twitter.

    Bookmark the site in your browser.

    Stay with me! 

    Without all of you, this blog is just me chatting to myself, and that’s not really all that fun ;).

    I am working on getting a forum built into FFF, but it’s a really expensive undertaking and I have to admit, I’m nervous that I’d build it and no one would come 😉 .

    For now though, just have a back up plan!

    I highly encourage you sign up by email…it’s the easiest way to have a daily reminder of FFF each day and to make sure you grab all the great deals and other goodies I post each day.

    I’m a bit sad tonight. Knowing the work that goes into building what those ladies built is just gone…potentially for good…makes me want to cry.

    Thanks.