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MBP #4: How J Money, an Anonymous Mohawk, Became a Recognizable Money Blogger

j-money-finalPicture in your mind your average financial planner or money expert, what do you see?

Whether it’s a man or a woman, chances are they all look the same – corporate. Professional.

That’s what we’ve come to expect from our experts. Even the ones with personality, Jim Cramer comes to mind and that’s mostly an act, wears the uniform of a button down shirt and a tie. Of a suit.

Then you have Jay Monee, founder of Budgets are Sexy, and he doesn’t fit the mold. He’s a regular guy writing about personal finance with a lot of personality and even more entertainment. He’s fun, his blog posts get dozens of comments, and he works on fun projects all the time. If you were having a party and were forced to invite a personal finance expert, you’d probably invite him.

Jay Monee… the anonymous mohawk behind Budgets are Sexy, Love Drop, Rockstar Finnace, and too many other projects to name.

If you ever wondered if you could make a name for yourself even if it was a made up one, you’ll want to listen to this episode because we go into why Jay went with the name shared by a million different rappers.

In this episode, you’ll learn about how he got started (how he wanted to quit but actually found himself without a job after an ill-advised email!), why he’s anonymous, and how he thought to try to make budgets sexy.

We even discuss how being the Miley Cyrus of Finance might hold him back sometimes and how it doesn’t even matter to him!

I did have one flub in this podcast, near the end, I said that Edgar Allen Poe was born in Baltimore. He just lived a good bit of his life in Baltimore and died in Baltimore.

What will you learn in this episode:

  • How J Money used to be J Savings and how he got his site off the ground
  • How he tried to differentiate by bringing a little sexy back into personal finance
  • How he transitioned from having fun with a hobby blog and turning it into a business
  • How he expanded his blogging empire by acquiring another site for $4,000, and was up to 10 sites
  • How he “went pro” and the planning he did ahead of time (i.e. how he got himself fired)
  • The surprising reason why he chose Budgets Are Sexy as a name (because, honestly, budgets are not that sexy!)
  • What J does to get more comments (and what you should be doing too)
  • Whether anonymity has held back his business
  • Has his differentiation, being “sexy,” had a negative impact on his business when most every other personal finance blog is more “serious”
  • Why he started Rockstar Finance, a site that curates the best personal finance articles
  • How J has built up his network through simple techniques anyone can do

I’m pumped that J. was able to come on and do this recording given all the project he has going on, if you enjoyed our chat, could you click to tweet @budgetaresexy and tell him he kicked ass on the podcast!

Resources, links, random stuff we mentioned:

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Raw Transcript

Provided without much review:

Jim: This is the Microblogger Podcast, episode four.

Announcer: Welcome to the Microblogger Podcast. If you’re looking to
build a business you can be proud of, you’re in the right place. Here’s
your host, Jim Wang.

Jim: Hey everybody, welcome to the Microblogger Podcast. Today I have the
pleasure of talking with J. Money who’s most well know for “Budgets are
Sexy” but he does a variety of other things that I’m hoping we’ll be able
to get into. Hey J., how are you doing?

J: Hello, sir, thanks for having me in the microblogging tour.

Jim: Yeah man, of course. You are probably one of the most interesting,
interesting is not specific enough of a term. You’re one of the most
entertaining and personality forward type of personal finance bloggers and
that’s what I wanted to talk to you about that because it’s not very often
that you have so much personality within personal finance.

But before we jump into that, could you tell us your story, how you got
started, the whole origin story of J. Money.

J: Yeah, well I’ll start with something funny. My original name online
as you might recall was J. Savings. I thought I as pretty clever with that
name the first three months of blogging until my wife and other people
started making fun of me for it. And I wanted it to be cooler and I jazzed
it up and I switched out Savings with Money. Then yes, that was man almost
six years ago when I started blogging.

Anyway, but I bought a house at the peak of the market when I shouldn’t
have. I didn’t even have a budget. I mean, I was good with money but not
super good. And I started looking online when I was bored with work and
like, I’m going to see what help I can get. I kept coming across all these
websites that were like, “Here’s my net worth…” My Money Blog was one of
them. Here’s what I do… and I was like, what the heck is going on here?
These aren’t… here’s how to budget, they’re all personal stories.

And then I realized that they were called blogs. And I got addicted, I
started reading them ore and more, having fun. Never commented or anything.
And then I remember one day at work, I worked at a startup company and had
some busy days and then some days where I didn’t do anything. And on the
days I didn’t do anything I’d just sit on myspace all day long which kind
of dates me there.

Jim: Yeah, it kind of does.

J: So I said, what can I do with my time that is better than Myspace.
Then I thought, I like this money stuff. I’m just going to start a blog, I
don’t care, I’m just going to come up with a name, start typing my thoughts
out, I’m not going to edit it or anything. I’m just going to put it out
there and see what happens.

I was trying to be with the sexy and the budgets and everything, I was
trying to be a little spicy. And it was also to, the name also came from
Justin Timberlake’s “Bringing Sexy Back” which also dates how long ago this
started. And so I thought, all right, so I launched it.

I decided I’m going to do a post every day because that’s what I saw other
people doing. And so I’ve pretty much gone six years in a row and I still
haven’t missed a day of blogging. And here we are talking now. So it’s been
a fun ride, man.

Jim: Yeah. It’s, I mean, I went back and looked in the archives just to
see when exactly you started. And I think you might have done a little
revision as history going back and changing all the J. Savings into J.
Money.

J: I did, yes.

Jim: Because that first post you have an interview with yourself and you
said, “J. Money.” But it goes to show as you’re doing blogging, any sort
of business, as you find that niche, that little soft spot or where you
like to play in, you can always go back and change things.

J: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of things I’ve change. I’m sure some of
your questions will touch on it but, one of the biggest for me, like I
said, I would just write whatever I wanted to. I didn’t spell check, I
didn’t capitalize. Sometimes I’d be writing the first couple of paragraphs
on a topic and then I would just totally switch and start talking about
something else. And I remember, “Oh, I’m not going to go back and piece it
together.” I just put it out there.

It was just a hobby, I didn’t really know what I was doing. And as time
went on, I had cursed and stuff in there, and as time went on I kind of
realized, people would complain a little bit which was fine. But some of
the bigger sites would look at my site and be like, “Hey.” Like MSN Money
was like the number one that comes to mind. And they were like, dude, we
like your stuff, we want to pull it and run articles on our site but I
mean, it would take is 45 minutes to edit it and clean it up and it’s not
family friendly.

Jim: Yeah.

J: And they just kind of, as a courtesy. I think they were kind of
complimenting me but also like, keep this in mind if you’re trying to do
this long term. My initial reaction was, no screw them, I’m going to do
this my way. I don’t care, this is fun. But as I kept writing, I kept
catching myself thinking, “MSN doesn’t like this.” And so over time, going
back to your point of adapting and changing, I started paying attention to
some of these little details and that kind of helped skyrocket me faster
because I started doing those little things.

Jim: When you first started, did you treat it as a business or it sounded
more like it was a hobby.

J: It was 100% hobby. I didn’t even know you could make money on
blogging. And I have ADD and I’m so used to starting jobs and quitting
jobs, I get bored. So A, the fact that I lasted more than three months is a
big one. And then, probably around four or five month mark, people would
email me and say, “Hey I’d pay you if you put this link up,” or whatever.
And I was like, “What? You can get money?”

And then I started looking around at all these sites I used to read and I
was like, “Oh I guess there are ads there, that makes sense.” Or, “You
people keep talking about this credit card. This is so boring of an article
I don’t want to read that. But there’s got to be something else behind
it.” And so over time I started realizing that you could make money and so
I slowly went from 100% blogging, or as a hobby I mean, to now, six years
later I consider it 50/50. Fifty percent hobby and pleasure, 50% business.

Jim: Do you feel like there was a point in time that you can distinctly
point to where the switch kind of flipped for you?

J: Yeah, I would say when I started, when I hit $10,000 dollars that I
made from the blog. And this is back when text links were popular and all
that crap that a lot of people don’t…

Jim: Right, right.

J: But for me, I didn’t know, it was money and I could just blog and get
paid. When I got $10,000 I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is insane.” When I
would tell my mom she’s like, “I don’t even understand.” And I’m like, I
don’t either. And so that was number one.

And then one of my friends that was a blogger, this was a big turning point
for me. He said, “Look, I’ve been blogging for years, I can’t do it any
more. I’ve got a new job, I’m moving overseas. What do I do with this
thing?” And I thought, “I don’t know, it makes money, maybe try selling
it.” And so I kind of told him what I thought it was worth even though I
didn’t know what I was doing. And he’s like, “Well I don’t really want to
do all that, why don’t you just buy it from me.” I was like, “No way I’ve
got my own site.” I had a full time job, I got a site. I have a house, I’m
married, I have all this other stuff to do.

So eventually, we’d been going back and forth, back and forth. He gave it
to me for pennies on the dollar. He said, just take it off my hands, I’m
just going to shut it down, I don’t want to deal with. And so I said, all
right, and I bought it. I paid $4,000 dollars for it, which is a lot of
money but I thought it was 10 or 20, 15,000 dollars worth.

And so anyways, that one decision, as scary as it was, changed, because I
realized that if you had, just like real estate, the more property you
have, the more chances to make money and other opportunities. So an ad that
would go on Budgets are Sexy back in the day now had the potential to go on
another site and double my money. Right.

Jim: Right.

J: And then advertisers opportunities that hit the other site I bought
could then be displayed on Budgets are Sexy, too. So I started kind of
finding out that if you had more properties that people went to and
companies paid, maybe you could just keep buying sites and have a little
empire.

And eventually over the years I started acquiring some, I think at one
point I had ten sites running at the same time with Budgets are Sexy being
the only one I wrote for and my favorite and the only one I started. And
now I’m kind of going in another direction, but that was a turning point
when I realized, if I had one ad on one site but I had more sites I can
triple or quadruple the ads as far as business and money wise. But that was
the biggest mindset change for me.

Jim: About what year was that?

J: I started in February 2008 so this must have been, I want to say
early 2010? So maybe a year and a half?

Jim: A year and a half later. And you were still working a full time job?

J: Full time job, Budgets are Sexy was starting to take more time. I
spent half an hour a day, after two years I was probably up to five hours a
day on top of the job and then I took on another website. And eventually,
at the end of 2010, my wife was like, “You are miserable.” I was having fun
with the blog. She was like, you are working 40 hours at your job, well
granted, some of that was playing on the blog.

Jim: Right, right.

J: And then another five hours at night. I’d go to bed at two or three
in the morning, wake up at six and do it all over again. And she kind of
hinted, you’ve got to give one up, which is it going to be. And I thought,
no way in he** can I give this online stuff, it’s just exploding. And I’m
still interested. I just can’t imagine that. And my company at this point
has started paying paychecks late, it seemed like some shady stuff was
going on. It was all real funky. It was a startup so it’s always funny,
but something weird was going on.

So I told my wife, all right, I’m going to do this full time at some point.
And we came up with a plan that if I, I think it was $50,000 dollars. If I
could save up $50,000 as an emergency fund she’d allow me to go full time.
But after six months if it wasn’t working I had to start looking for a job.
So that was kind of the overall plan. And this was about October of 2010.

Come December, on the 15th I think it was. I thought, it was a Friday and I
thought, “This might be a good day to turn in…” I think I was at $40,000
saved up. And I thought, “This might be a good day to put in my two weeks.
It’ll be around Christmas, I can get some free paid vacation in there,
start the New Year right. I was mulling this over and really close to
pulling the trigger but it’s always nerve wracking quitting a job,
especially with the economy being crazy back then. Still is.

And so I get to work and I’m half an hour late and everyone at my job is
staring at me and it was a real eerie feeling. And I’d just got an email on
my iPhone, I was on the Metro in D.C. and it said, “Paychecks are going out
late.” I thought I was being funny, I was kind of pi**ed off about it.
And I wrote something like, “What’s wrong is the company collapsing?
Haha.” And I sent it out company wide.

Jim: Oh boy.

J: But I’d gotten away with it and I was friends with the CEO. I was
testing the borders. It was Friday and I was thinking of putting my two
weeks in. So I walk in and I get called into the office. And I see people
packing up stuff and I’m like, what the he** is going on. And the guy told
me, “Sorry we have to let you go.” And I was like, what? The tables were
turned. And he said, times were bad as you saw the email this morning and
kind of made a pi**ed off look at me, probably because of my comment.

So I got laid off and the first thing I thought was, awesome, I don’t have
to make the decision and wonder if it was stupid or not. And from that
point forward, it’s been three years now. Self employed blogging for the
most part and it’s been awesome, man.

Jim: Yeah, you’ve done very well. And one of the reasons why I wanted to
have you on is I think your strength is in branding. I don’t know if you
did it intentionally with Budgets are Sexy. Part of me feels like it
wasn’t you had this great, grand plan to have the edgy, funny entertaining.
I mean, that’s just your personality. And there’s no, you are J. Money and
it’s not like a front that you planned. But I never asked you, is this
something that you planned?

J: No. Like I said, I had no idea there was money involved or anything.
The thing I did plan was the name. I wanted something catchy and
different. And as we all know, reading finance blogs, 90% of them are
pretty conservative. And probably on purpose. You’re there to learn about
money. It’s not supposed to be funny.

So I was from day one trying to be a different person to stand out for
sure. But I had no idea, again, that it would last past a couple of months
or there was money involved or it would turn in… I mean, it literally
changed my whole life. All my friends are different, all my opportunities
are different… Hey. Someone’s calling me, let me turn off this stupid
phone.

Jim: That’s all right, we can edit that.

J: No, that’s fine, it’s a telemarketer of course.

Jim: Is this one of your side hustles?

J: Yeah. So none of it was really planned except for trying to be
clever. And honestly the reason I even had budgets in there which is funny
because now that’s how a lot of people think of me, was because it started
with a B, and back then this was when blog roles were everywhere. Everyone
had a blog roll and I loved it because you could learn all about what they
liked, you have trusted sites right there. I’m a big fan of blog roles on
the side. But anyways, I thought, “Well, B is higher, I’m going to get
higher on people’s blog roles.” That’s the only reason there’s budgets in
there.

Jim: You should have called it “A-A-A-A-Amazing Budgets are Sexy.”

J: I know, right? And obviously the game has changed and a lot of this
stuff doesn’t happen anymore but it’s funny looking back and what you
thought things were back in the day.

Jim: Yeah, but I think personality always shines through and a lot of
people connect and ten years ago, a lot of it was the SEO play was writing
key words and nowadays you see a lot of strength and people, who have a lot
of personality and are able to build a connection with readers.

I read your posts and you have a lot of comments. And it’s not just you
replying to your own comments, even though you do, people just want to
share their thoughts and they feel like they can do it with you.

J: Yeah, thanks man. And going back to business and pleasure and all
that stuff, that’s important to me. I do blog consulting, as you do,
actually, on the side. The first thing I usually ask people because, “oh I
want to make a lot of money and I want my blog to explode. Help me.”
Right?

And I’m like, that’s great but let’s go back and what is the purpose? Why
do you have this site? What are your goals? And it sounds lame and cheesy
but when you’re making money it’s a business but you have to figure out why
you’re there.

For me, I love connecting and networking and talking to people. At the end
of the day, that’s what got me going and why I’m still here. If I wrote
articles, even if I was paid a lot of money but no one ever commented, I
wouldn’t know what the point was. I don’t know, it’s good? Is it bad? Who
knows.

So for me that’s important. I’ve built a lot of stuff around that. I try to
be connected as a person rather than just informational and the whole SEO
thing. I ask questions. I respond to comments.

It’s funny, there’s a lot of sites I read that have some comments but no
one ever responds. And over time I notice that people stop leaving
comments. And it’s not because it’s not great content. It’s just you can
leave a question but no one ever responds, it’s like why even do it. Why
take the time to ask a question or to praise you or whatever the case is if
you’re not even going to acknowledge that I’m here.

And so that’s my personal thing. I’m big into community and connecting with
people. And so the comments and that kind of stuff is important to me.

But does it make money? He** no. If anything it takes more time. My
business partner Nate St. Pierre, makes fun of me because there was a time,
before nesting comments were around that I would literally sit there for
two hours every day and manually type out people’s names and try and
comment. And he was like, “You are just spending so much time and no one
has any idea what it takes.”

Jim: Yeah.

J: But that was important to me and that’s probably why people don’t
respond, because it does take time. And those two hours, could it go to
marketing, could it go to spending time with your family, could it go to
building something else, of course. So anyway, that’s why I’m 50/50 on
business and pleasure. Everything I do doesn’t necessarily relate to money.

Jim: Right. It’s interesting you say that it’s important for you to
connect with people. How do you feel the fact that you are essentially
anonymous plays into that.

J: Yeah so it’s funny, I’m anonymous by name. And there’s pictures of me
out there, too, of course. I don’t make them prominent usually. But I’m
that way so I can be more transparent, as odd as it sounds. I have my
financials up there. You can go and I have a thing that has my net worth,
its $440,000. And if you click on it every month, I say, hey here’s where
my money is.

And when you’re not anonymous, you can still do that but there’s still a
privacy and a security and a weird factor there. You know what I’m saying?
Not all my family and friends even read my blog or even know about it, on
purpose. I want to be able to say and be real on it. I don’t want any weird
funkiness happening.

And then a privacy thing now, especially as I have a family and I have
kids, it worries me to put this stuff out there if it was tied 100% to my
real identity. It’s still all me, it’s just my name is different. It’s J.
Money. And I think you and I have had some talks about this before, you
kind of poked fun about calling me J..

Jim: Yeah.

J: But to me, whether it was James or J. Money, it doesn’t really
matter. It’s just a name, it’s just what you call a person. So as long as
everything else is real, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter what you’re going
as. But still there is a point there, right?

And again back then, I had a job and I was talking about stuff going down
at the job. So I wanted to talk about company stuff, too, which I couldn’t
do under my real name. Because I could get caught and obviously fired or
sued or whatever the case is.

Jim: Right. What’s interesting is yeah, as you say that, J. Money is just
a name and there are plenty of bloggers that use pseudonyms or pen names.

J: Sure.

Jim: They just choose less obvious of a pen name. Like J. Money is, I mean
it’s a rapper’s name, as you’ve told me before.

J: Correct.

Jim: You are competing against rappers.

J: [inaudible 00:20:30] of rap, right.

Jim: And so if you were to say, James… I don’t know, I’m terrible at
coming up with names. You’d probably have the same effect. And then you
could even go around, not tell anybody it’s a pen name and they would still
call you J..

J: Correct. In our game, too, you have to sign contracts and do a lot of
stuff. And some of the ones that aren’t super important, I’ll just sign J-A-
Y M-O-N-E-E. And no one knows. No one’s going to ID you or anything like
that. You can’t be stupid about it.

But I have a friend who runs this huge site online. I don’t remember, his
real name is pretty common but he would always get interviewed and people
would always harp on him to give up his real name. So he just made
something, I don’t know what it was exactly. James Wilson, for example. So
no one every questioned him. But it was a totally made up name.

And he told me and it’s always stuck by me, “Look, if you get interviewed
and all this stuff, if they know you’re anonymous maybe they’re not going
to put you on camera or they can’t quote you in an article, whatever the
case is. So I just gave them what they wanted. I gave them a name that’s
believable. No one ever is going to check my ID.”

And that kind of stuck with me. And he doesn’t do it intentionally to be
shady, but now his LLC is whatever, James Wilson or whatever I said. So
everything is above board but it goes to your point. It’s just a name. It
doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

Now you’ll get people, and you see this at Fincon, too,
there’s even some presentations here and there where they’ll say it’s
always good to be your real self, you can’t tell stories or you can’t grow
your site if you’re anonymous. And I think to some degree that’s true but
overwhelmingly for me it’s not. For me, it’s helped me.

Jim: Right.

J: People go to Budgets are Sexy or J. Money because at least they’re
intrigued at first, even if they go and they’re like, “Oh this guy’s crap.”
At least it got them there. And that’s going back into marking and what we
were talking about early on. That’s why I did that kind of stuff. I wanted
you to at least give me a chance. But my site and my personality isn’t for
everyone. It’s very, there’s only a certain amount of people that can have
fun with that.

Jim: Speaking of your personality isn’t for everyone, do you feel that the
anonymity or just the topics that you pick aren’t your usual dry personal
finance stuff where you talk about a lot of side hustles that are
interesting and phone sex operators and what not… do you feel that’s held
you back? Or I’ll just ask you open-ended, how has it impacted budgets?

J: I used to say that it does not hold me back and that if anything it
propels me farther. Lately, the last few months I’ve been thinking about
stuff and now I kind of… it’s funny, I get people “Oh your site’s so big,
you’re so awesome.” And I’m thinking, I’ve been doing this for six years.
That’s a long time. If my site wasn’t where it was and I’ve been spending
50 or 60 hours a week, there’s something wrong.

Jim: Yeah.

J: So now I’m kind of the opposite. I feel like it should actually be a
lot bigger. And then I ask myself why, why hasn’t it grown. I mean it’s
been pretty level the last couple of years. It hasn’t grown too much. And I
start asking myself these questions and that’s where I’m, I bet you it is
if ten people come to my site that don’t know who I am, maybe only two or
three people stick around. Because again if you’re looking for money or
tips, I don’t really go in depth of tips all the time.

Today I happened to have a tip on my blog, a specific one. But usually
it’s like diary and what goes on in my life and how it applies to money. I
kind of just want to get you to think about money in general. I just want
you to pay attention to me. That’s my goal. And so because of that, I
don’t go in depth of why one IRA is better than another or whatever.

I think my personality does turn off a lot of people. It’s not mainstream.
And because of that I think it does hinder to a degree partnerships and
syndication. All that kind of stuff. And you go back to the site buying and
selling stuff I was talking about earlier.

For me to sell Budgets are Sexy, the end game… at some point I have to
stop blogging. Do I transition? Do I sell it? In a perfect world, you want
to sell it for a million dollars, or three million dollars for example.
Wink wink.

Jim: Random number you have thrown out there for no reason whatsoever.

J: Well the challenge is, it’s all me. I’m so intertwined in it if you
take me out, I’m sure it’ll be fine. You can get someone like Ninja from
Punched in the Face, right? He’s close to a personality like mine.

So there’s people who are obviously like mine in that style. But it
changes things. It’s not based on solid financial information. There’s a
community, there’s all this stuff that’s embedded in it. So that part does
impede me too as far as the end goal.

And there’s a lot of sites, even nowadays going back to MSN Money and all
these big sites that now aggregate content. It’s all evergreen solid
content. Here are three ways to save. Here’s how to budget. All
perfectly useful information.

Jim: If you want to fall asleep.

J: Right if you want to fall asleep. Or people for the New Years. That’s
why that’s all you see at the end of December and January. Because that’s
all people are searching for. You get millions of hits for that stuff.

Jim: Yeah.

J: So for the business behind it, I get it. I know it. Man, if I was
more broad and I wasn’t as crazy I probably could have a ton more views but
at the end of the day I would have just quit anyway.

So I feel like every person has a max they can do being the best them. And
then if they want to cross that into something bigger you have to start
changing stuff. And I’m at the point where I spend so much time online that
I’m trying to focus on what makes me happy and gives me more time with my
family, especially my babies than it is about the money like it used to be.

Jim: Do you feel like there’s anything you are actively trying to do right
now to make Budgets bigger or you don’t want to because it’s not you.

J: Right, so I know how to make more money on it. I know all the theory
of what to do but it’s not me or it just bores me too much. So what I’ve
kind of done is the last few months I’ve thought, what is the perfect job
for me.

Let’s say Budgets wasn’t here anymore. But I want to still do something
online because online, the internet is still so young and it’s fun. I’m
meeting people, my best friends are online, all my opportunities are
online. So I kind of made a list of what I like to do. I like to network,
I like to help people, I like to still talk and think about money. It’s a
passion of mine as many of you listeners are. And then also what am I good
at and what connections do I have.

And so I thought, well I’m in the community, I love the personal finance so
it has to be in there. But you know, I write every single day. Some of my
posts, while it looks like I just spit it out in ten minutes can take me
three hours to write. And so that’s where I came up with Rockstar Finance
which has been around for three and a half months right now. And pretty
much all I do is I just read the content that I do and every blogger, I
have 150 blogs I read every day.

I check them out and I pluck off the ones that I think are the best pieces
of article whether it’s entertaining, whether it’s informational, hopefully
a good combination of them. And I do three and every day I post up my
three favorites on Rockstar Finance and then I promote the crap out of it.
And that’s my goal. I’m helping my community, I’m still in the community.

And then what I kind of didn’t realize, when you’re promoting someone else,
it’s their stuff. Well then they go ahead and promote it for you because
it’s their own article. And it never clicked. I’m so used to promoting
myself to death and I suck at it, but you know, you can only promote
yourself so much until it’s like, all right, I get it, you have a new post
today.

Jim: Yeah.

J: It stops being effective. Whereas this, it’s new people that I’m
promoting, and they’re like, “Oh thanks for promoting me” and they retweet
or whatever. And then I email every single person I put up there and say,
“Hey, I have this site, I’m promoting you today, I hope it helps you.” And
that’s it.

And every day I’m meeting new people and the site’s growing. And as the
site grows, all the articles I’m featuring are getting more and more play.
The site’s tripled in traffic in three months. Which granted, can start
with nothing. But now the person I feature versus three months ago is
getting three times the amounts of eyeballs to the content that they wrote
that should be promoted. It’s quality stuff.

So yeah, so to answer your question, I know it’s kind of long, my end goal
is to do something, maybe Rockstar Finance full time. Something that I want
to spend a few hours a day, have the rest of the day to work on other
projects or spend more quality time with family and quit being a
workaholic. So Budgets are Sexy, I’m still writing for and doing my thing
but I’m not actively trying to make it bigger or better because those
stuff, it’s not fun for me.

Jim: And part of it’s also you want to get closer with your community and
doing what’s you as opposed to trying to get more people into the door who
aren’t necessarily on board with your whole style, your feeling and just
the whole community at large.

J: Yeah. There’s people, like companies that are like, “Post us up here,
I’ll give you $500 bucks.” And it’s like, $500? You can get $500 just to
put up an article? And then I’m like crap, is this worth $500? Is this
going to piss people off? It pisses me off just thinking about accepting.

It’s hard to balance how much money do you want to get versus what does it
do. And these days sponsored posts are getting real popular. And I’m not
going to lie, I’ve had them on my site before. I know people do it. A lot
of bloggers that you go to now, maybe you listening accept them. It’s all
great, but at a certain point it does affect your overall game plan.

You accept a lot of sponsored posts, it turns people off, they might stop
coming or maybe they think something weird is happening. You can tell,
obviously, it’s not written by you. So these kind of things down the road
start changing your ecosystem. So it’s just things to think about.

For me, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, I’m more jaded or whatever
the case is. I have my set what I like. And so when I go outside of it it
gets a little weird for me.

Jim: Yeah, it’s always finding that balance between, I mean, everyone’s
got to make money. You’re J. Money. Budgets are Sexy. You need income for a
budget to make sense.

J: Right. You know a lot of people don’t realize how much time, even if
your blog makes a dollar or a million dollars, it takes bloggers a lot of
time, hours, to write, to respond to email, to market, to do add deals then
tax season and you’ve got to account for everything and pay your taxes.
It’s a business. And it’s usually a one man show.

Every now and then you get, oh I don’t believe in advertising and people
that have ads on their site are stupid. And it’s like, come on. But for
them it’s just about writing or getting their point across and it’s a
different…

Jim: Right. So in looking back, one of the things I like to ask is, and I
know I’ve asked you this in the past. But if you were to go all the way
back to day one and give yourself some advice on what you’d change, what
would you tell yourself? What would you tell J. Savings?

J: Two things. Technically lies. I got on Blogger, or BlogSpot back in
the day. So I would have gone to WordPress first and foremost from the
beginning. I don’t know if that’s much of a concern because I don’t many
people that are still on there. So that would be the one thing I would have
done differently technologically wise.

But theory and everything else, I’m pretty happy with the way I did stuff.
The one thing I wish I would have done better and more of is marketing. I
would put stuff on social media and stuff but when you write every day it’s
like, you write, you put out there, you call it a day and then you start
all over the next morning.

And so for me, one of my daily habits that I’ve done, I think I’m on week
four right now? Is I email one person a day. Whether I know them, whether
I don’t know them. I just kind of get in the habit of emailing one person
to just network. And I never ask for anything. Usually I’ll just say, “Hey
I love your stuff” or whatever.

But then, what happens is you end up becoming friends, they end up
promoting you and you end up promoting them. And so I’m doing this with
Rockstar Finance right now and I’m seeing huge results. To give you an
example, one of the bloggers I reached out to, I featured her on my site, I
thought it was an awesome article, I told her. And she was like, “great,
how can I help you?”

And I thought about it and I told her, well I suck at marketing, and I’d
say don’t worry about it, I love your stuff. That’s what I’d always do for
five or six years I never asked for help for anything really.

So now my thing is, if someone says, “How can I help you?” I tell them,
well I’m trying to grow this site. If you do link roundups, if you have a
blog roll, if you think it’s helpful, if you like this site, maybe mention
it there. And then I do. And this one girl in question, she’s like, “I have
four sites, I’ll put your Rockstar Finance on all four of my sites.” And I
thought, holy crap. It all started from one email that took me two
minutes.

I’m not going to get millions of traffic from the sites but they’re links
back and I do see a couple every day. But it’s stuff that took me two
minutes of time that’s going to have a better output. If I go back I would
email more people. And I specifically do email because it’s the best way as
you know, to reach people. I usually compliment them, and it’s always
sincere. But I network. But if I do that, I’ve done it every day for four
weeks and I’m really seeing good results. So that’s the one thing I would
change.

Jim: Fantastic. So I wanted to do the rapid fire three questions or four
questions part right now. And I hope you’re ready for it.

J: Do I have time to think or am I supposed to just answer?

Jim: You can think. Don’t take too long. If you take too long we’ll have
to edit it down.

J: You need a gong or something.

Jim: I don’t have a gong. I think a gong might be a little too loud.

J: Okay.

Jim: But I wanted to ask, what’s your favorite book. I mean, it could be a
business book, it could be something that you…

J: I’m looking at my bookshelf. I just cleared all these books that I
had.

Jim: So those you probably are not going to want to say since you just
cleared them out.

J: Yeah, right. One of mine, it’s a long one, let me get it. It’s “The
Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time.” It’s like a guy, I can’t
remember, it’s been a while, he had, it’s not ADD, it’s some… oh, it was
obsessive compulsion stuff. And I actually have a little bit myself but it
was a cool story about this guy that just lives his life and trying to
overcome it. And so that’s one of my favorite books. And then “Finance
Lies” I like. “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” is probably my favorite one by
Ramit.

Jim: Yep.

J: So yeah, his personality, he’s a great, he’s like an amped up version
of me but he has way more balls and way more smarts.

Jim: How about your favorite website that you’re absolutely obsessed with.

J: Absolutely obsessed with…

Jim: Please keep this PG-ish.

J: Well, raptitude.com is the new one from this week… and I’m really
bad at not staying in one spot as I mentioned earlier. So that’s my new
favorite, I probably obsessed with that for a good month. The one before
that, and actually I still do is richhabits.net. It’s kind of like
millionaire next door kind of thing. He wrote this book about rich habits
but he does like a tip of the day every day. And it’s a fun little thing
and then you have some videos and stuff.

I like it because it reminds me that you’re on a mission, here’s all this
stuff. And even one of them you hear a lot is successful or rich people
wake up an hour or two early and work on something important to them. Now
I’ve started doing that for about a month now. I wake up an hour earlier
and it’s definitely helped. I just like hearing this over and over again.
Once I hear something a lot I start to actually pay attention to it.

Jim: I found waking up early helps me a lot. I like to wake up before the
kids get up. That way I get an hour and a half of solid work time.

J: Yeah and not a lot of people message you early in the morning either.

Jim: No one messages me in the morning. And it’s fantastic.

J: I’m going to start messaging you every morning now.

Jim: I will ignore you. I’m just kidding, I won’t ignore you. We’re
networking so it’s cool.

J: That’s right. You’ll be my email every single day. I’ll just go to
you. I’ll automate it.

Jim: That’s not very nice. Do you have a fun hobby that you like to do?
Maybe that relaxes you…

J: Yes, this might be real fast. Ready? Coins.

Jim: Coins.

J: It’s funny, personal finance, that and my personality doesn’t match
but somehow I like it. And the same thing with coins. I actually went to my
first coin club in our area and you talk about people standing out,
obviously I was the youngest by far. Everyone’s like 70, 80. One of the
dockets on the menu was someone that just recently passed away that was a
member.

So it’s kind of different but I love, I didn’t think I was a history buff
but seeing these coins and holding these coins from the 1800s, it’s like
man who has touched this? What presidents might have used this. It’s just
cool that something so small could be persevered for hundreds of years.

And I don’t look at it as an investment per say, but my basketball card
collection for example, coins is a huge, it’s probably the number one hobby
in the world, or number two. It’s way up there. So it has a big market for
selling and even if it has gold and silver, you can always transfer it into
cash. So I think the whole coin collecting hobby has kind of intrigued me
over the last couple of years.

Jim: How’d you get into it?

J: At a yard sale. I saw a guy, he had a little stand and he had some
coins and I thought, “Oh I like coins in general.” And he’s like, “This one
came from a shipwreck and this one was 100 years old.” And I thought, “Oh
my gosh this is awesome.”

So I’d pick up one or two coins and then the next week I’d come back and
see him at a different place. And he’d set up and I started asking him a
bunch of questions. And then finally he was like, “Can you watch my table
for me I’ve got to use the restroom” or something. So I became friends with
him. He’s in his 50s. He’s a hustler, he just buys stuff and resells stuff
all day long. And so that kind of got me started.

So it’s funny, then when talking to your friends about it, it’s like, “Oh
yeah my grandfather has this collection, you want to check it out?” And I
recently got tasked with helping sell my wife’s family’s coin collection
because no one likes it. They don’t want to do it. They said, “Hey, take a
look at it. Take the stuff you want. And then help me sell the rest.”

So it’s really cool once you start telling people what you do all of a
sudden there’s people that want to help you or ask for your advice or
whatever the case is. It’s been really fun.?

Jim: That’s crazy. I found a coin once in a field. It was a quarter and
it looked funny because it was one of those pre-1964…

J: Oh yeah, so it was made of silver.

Jim: Yeah, so it’s worth five bucks. And it’s sitting on my desk.

J: Well if it’s a certain year it could be worth $5,000 dollars even.

Jim: Oh, I looked it up, it wasn’t one of those.

J: Oh, okay.

Jim: But every time I see it I think of you.

J: Oh, awesome.

Jim: Every day.

J: [inaudible 00:41:54] coin, they do these magazines, they do themes.
And one was on Edgar Allan Poe. And I’m like, “What the he** does he have
to do with coins.” He’s not on one. But it was about the gold rush and I
guess he was against gold. But I was reading this and they were like,
“Obviously Edgar Allan Poe inspired the Baltimore Ravens.” And I was like,
“What?”

Jim: Yes.

J: “Come on, No way.”

Jim: He was born here. He was born in Baltimore.

J: Yeah, but I had no idea so I learned all about even football. Who
knew, and history, based on a coin.

Jim: That’s funny.

J: I went around and told everyone and they’re like, “Yeah everyone
knows that.”

Jim: Yeah, everybody knows that.

J: Right.

Jim: You’ll learn everything one day, J. and then…

J: One day.

Jim: Then you can tell everybody else, “Everyone knows that.”

J: Back in my day…?

Jim: Back in your, in our day, when we still had paper money.

J: Oh yeah, with Bitcoins now, right? Oh my gosh, crazy.

Jim: Yeah, it’s wild.

J: But that’s what I’m saying, even going back to the internet, even
when you started blogging, what was that ten years ago? Nine years ago?

Jim: Yeah, we had stone tablets, we would etch our blog posts.

J: Think how far and different the, web is now, I mean now is when
bloggers were like, A if they knew what it was they looked down on you like
journalists, right?

Jim: Yeah.

J: Like, oh those stupid bloggers they’re making everything bad and you
can’t, they don’t know what they’re talking about, right? And granted a
lot don’t. But you know, it’s just a different world.

And then now how it is and then now five, ten years from now it’s going to
be completely, well not completely, but it’ll be way different than it is
now.

Jim: It’s going to look different and it’ll be hard to predict what it’ll
look like.

J: Right. Yeah. And I figure, if we keep doing our online thing,
hopefully we’re smart enough to adapt as time goes on.

Jim: It’s true. At least that’s the hope, right.

J: That is the hope, right.

Jim: So J., I just want to, we’re getting close to the end of our time. I
just want to wrap things up and ask, if people want to find J. Money, where
do we go?

J: I created this site that has all of my stuff in one spot, so
J.money.biz. B-I-Z. Go there. That has all my projects, it has a way to
contact me. If you like Twitter you can find me at Budgetsaresexy. If you
like email you can email me at J.@Budgetsaresexy.com. But the J.money.biz
is good because I like having everything in one spot to see it and know and
then when you’re building stuff you can add to it.

Because you know, the thing with, let’s say I created a coin blog, for
example. Am I going to promote it across Budgets are Sexy? Maybe. But it’s
nice to have one spot or one portfolio. It’s like your online resume. It’s
like my online resume. I have everything there so that’s a good spot to go
if you’re interested in learning more.

If anyone has questions too about blogging about whatever, feel free to
email me or whatever. Obviously you know now that I like talking to people
so I’m happy to help whenever I’m needed.

Jim: Yeah, help him reach his one new person a day quota. If you email him
do you get the not have to email out?

J: No, actually my rule is checking email doesn’t count. I have to go
out of my way to email you. But actually I did because I had blogged about
one of my habits, that was one of them. And that day I emailed someone. And
she wrote back and she’s real friendly and she was like, was I your one a
day today? I was like, “Oh crap.” It’s funny, she called me out on it.

Jim: That’s awesome.

J: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.

Jim: J., thanks again, this was fun.

J: Yeah mean, thanks so much and I’ll see you on the interwebs.

Jim: All right, take care, buddy.

J: All right, man, bye-bye.

Jim: Hope you guys enjoyed hearing from J. Money. He’s one of the last few
anonymous personal finance bloggers left and really the only thing
anonymous about him is his name. He comes to all the events, he’s a really
big figure in all of personal finance and if you go check out his site,
Budgets are Sexy, you can see he gets a ton of engagement. So he’s doing
something right.

We’ll include all the links to his various projects including Rockstar
Finance which I absolutely love in the show notes. To get the awesome show
notes for this episode you can go to microblogger.com/4, that’s the number
four.

Finally I hope you guys enjoyed this podcast. If you did, please leave us a
review on iTunes, it would really help me out. Thank you so much. All your
friends, and if you need to reach out to me you can find me at
microblogger.com, email me at Jim@microblogger.com or find me on Twitter as
Wangarific. All right, thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.



Thanks for listening!

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

2 responses to “MBP #4: How J Money, an Anonymous Mohawk, Became a Recognizable Money Blogger”

  1. Forest Parks says:

    I love the way J just went at it full on and doesn’t seem to have slowed down one bit! Takes a special personality to do that but we can all learn something from it.

    • Jim says:

      Definitely special hahaha but he’s just being himself. I liked how he was honest about how maybe it held him back in some areas, but it propelled him forward in others.

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