Blogging income, too-tall bread, and entertaining spouses (Yup, it’s Q&A!)

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Before we get started with questions, I just wanted to say thank you! to all of you for your great input on where to buy quality shoes. To help me keep track of all the good brands you mentioned, I put together a little Pinterest board.

Good Shoe Options on Pinterest - Mozilla Firefox 3312014 72204 AM

I think I’m kind of partial to the Ecco ones at the moment, but I’m still waffling.

 A close friend of mine and I recently started a blog. Could you just give me a little advice? We were accepted into Commission Junction, but were declined a lot of the applications to different companies within Commission Junction. Do you have any advice about that? I know we’re just getting going, and so far we’ve earned pennies on coupons. Is this typical earnings when you first start? Any advice you have would be great, and thanks for your blog!

Marissa

Well, when I applied to Commission Junction, I’d already been blogging for quite some time and had built up a bit of a following.  My guess is that the various advertisers with Commission Junction prefer to accept blogs that aren’t brand new and that have some consistent traffic.  Many blog ad networks are the same way and won’t even accept applications for blogs that are less than a few months old.

My advice is to focus more on building your blog and community than on monetization at first.  If you have a good blog following, you’ll be much more successful at monetizing, no matter what type of monetizing you decide to do.

Sonia on the laptop

(I have a serious lack of pictures to illustrate blogging. I had to go back to 2004 to find this…baby Sonia playing with a dead laptop.  ;) )

It IS slow going at first!  I earned almost nothing from my blog for the first year…it was just enough to pay my hosting fees and that was it.  Since I didn’t start my blog with the express purpose of earning money, though, I was totally ok with barely breaking even, and when I started to move slightly past breaking even, I was pretty over the moon about that (Yay for low expectations!)

Also, I noticed that your blog has a lot of deals on it, and I just want to throw out that it seems like there are eleventy thousand or so deal blogs out there.  It’s a pretty saturated niche, which makes it very hard to stand out unless you were one of the originals from 2008-2009.  So, you might want to consider focusing more heavily on non-coupon/deal types of money-saving content so that you can distinguish yourself from the crowd.

Speaking from personal experience, a great thing about non-deal blogging is that you don’t have to churn out 15 posts a day AND most of your posts won’t become irrelevant in a day or two, which means that they can keep generating traffic for years to come.

I have a quick question for you about making bread.  I have started making bread and I love doing it, but my problem is that it rises pretty high–a bit taller than a store bought loaf of bread.  I’m having a hard time storing it.  I saw your idea for using old bread bags, but I think my loaves might be a little taller than the bread bag is. I wondered if I was letting the bread rise for too long, or maybe letting the yeast sit for too long to dissolve.  Do you think either of these could be the reason why? And can I reduce the amount of time that I let the dough rise without hurting the bread? 
Thanks for your help!
Tiffany

This is a good problem to have, girl!  Most of the time when people write me about bread problems, they’re having the opposite issue.

homemade hamburger buns

Yes, you can definitely reduce the amount of time the dough rises.  There’s nothing set in stone about it-if you’re happy with the amount it’s risen, go ahead and put it in the oven.

You can also feel free to reduce the amount of time on the first rise.  If it looks doubled in 30 minutes, you don’t need to leave it for 60.

I want to ask how you keep your husband entertained on frugal budget? My daughter is young enough that anything entertains her. My husband on the other hand is a busy body! Any ideas?!

Thanks and keep up the amazing work — your page is a staple for me!

Savannah Frank

Our relationship is a little bit like yours, in that Mr. FG likes to get out and about more than I do.  I’m a serious homebody!

I don’t know exactly how things are for you budget-wise, but one thing I highly recommend is keeping open lines of communication about money.  If he’s a spender and you’re a saver and you’re desperately trying to keep him happy on a budget, that could be very exhausting for you.

(It’s like trying satisfy a wine connoisseur on a beer budget without him knowing.)

mini golfing

So it would be good to make sure that both you and he know exactly how much money is coming in and going out each month (Mr. FG and I use a monthly money email to help us with that.), and maybe you guys could decide together how much money to spend on entertainment.

If you are a saver like me, it is so, so helpful to have money set aside for extras like entertainment.  If it’s not set aside, I just want to save it ALL!  Having it earmarked for something fun helps me to spend it cheerfully and without resentment.

bowling balls

Earmarking entertainment money is also helpful for the spender.  If you’ve agreed upon the amount and he wants to spend more, then you can gently point out that the agreed-upon entertainment money is gone for the month.

To help stretch your entertainment dollars, it would be helpful to find cheaper versions of the entertaining things he wants to do.  Could you catch a matinee instead of a prime-time movie?  Could you get takeout instead of eating at a restaurant?  Could you host a get-together instead of going out with friends?

Living Social and Groupon could also help. They’ve always got restaurant and entertainment deals going, and since the deals are usually 50% off, you could effectively double your entertainment budget that way.

Also, have you checked out gathr.com?  They’ve got some great packages that could help you to get more mileage out of your entertainment money.

(And until tonight at midnight EST, you can enter to win a free six-month Gathr package of your choice, so go do that if you haven’t already.)

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Readers, do you have thoughts to share about these questions?  Leave a comment!

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Joshua’s 365 post: Budding (He can’t resist photographing my adorable basil plants either.)

Comments

  1. Brooke says

    I have a question I’ve been wanting to ask, and this seems like a good place to post the question, since it’s related… sort of. It goes back to the storing of bread in bags. Have you heard anything about storing homemade bread in linen bags? I’ve seen these around and am considering buying one or two for my homemade loaves (which don’t fit in regular bread bags, either, by the way, haha!), but I don’t want to spend the money unless there’s a good reason to. I’ve read that the linen keeps the bread fresh and allows it to breathe. (Does bread need to breathe? Does that keep the texture nice?) Any help would be appreciated!!

    • Kristen says

      I usually freeze two of my loaves, and I don’t think those bags work for freezing, unfortunately.

      My inexperienced thought is that in a linen bag, the bread will get too much air and will dry out. My loaves seem to do just fine in a plastic bag.

      Hopefully someone else has tried it and can share their thoughts!

    • Liz says

      In France, the baguettes are kept in linen bags. But a family of 4-5 will go through a baguette in about a day or two, so I can’t vouch for the long-term effect of linen storage. :)

      (I do not recommend storing crispy baguettes for too long, anyway, as they get way too hard. Must be the reason for pain perdu – you have to soak them in milk and eggs or you’ll break your teeth!)

    • says

      Well… I can’t eat bread, so you might want to take this suggestion with a grain of salt because I’ve never tried it. But I have heard that the old fashioned bread box is one of the best methods for storing home baked bread. No clue if that’s true or not.

      • WilliamB says

        The plural of anecdote is not data, but my experience is that this is true, old fashioned bread boxes work well. I have no idea why this is the case because the box just encloses regular air at ambient temperature, but there you have it. I’d be interested to know why, if anyone could suggest a mechanism.

        • Kristen says

          That IS really weird. If I had counter space for one, I’d give it a try. As it is, I’m sorely lacking for counter space, and I think a bread box would make me crabby when I’m trying to cook.

        • EngineerMom says

          I saw something about storing bread on an anti-plastic blog.

          Basically, “stale” bread is what happens when starch molecules within the bread crystallize while incorporating moisture present in the bread. This process happens (faster? more frequently? more efficiently?) in cool temperatures, which is why storing fresh bread in the fridge isn’t a good idea – it will retard mold, but make the bread grow stale more quickly. Freezing bread works because it basically sequesters the water in the form of ice, removing it from the potential staling process.

          The ideal breadbox would be one that is fairly well-sealed with a couple of small holes to allow excess moisture to escape while protecting the bread from bugs or vermin. Apparently unglazed ceramic crocks with lids are good, and the bread does better wrapped in a cotton bag to help remove moisture from the surface to avoid mold.

  2. Susan says

    Blogger Marissa: there are so many blogs out there to read. I started out with Frugal girl years ago and somehow added about another 20 blogs. It gets to the point that there are so many of them out there, my email box was constantly full and I needed to delete most of them. I decided that I couldn’t read more than a few a day. The first ons I deleted were the deal and contest blogs. If I don’t have time to read them, I certainly don’t have the time to spend tracking down deals (easier just not to buy it at all) The blogs I read have some personal connection to me. Write about what you love and the readers will follow. Good luck.

  3. WilliamB says

    I have a couple of thoughts about bread that rises too much but keep in mind that I’m but a journeyman breadmaker – maybe someone with a fuller knowledge set could chime in on these as well…

    1. How warm is the area where you let your bread rise? Warm area = faster rise. If your area is only averagely warm (midpoint is 68-72F), could you find a cooler spot?

    2. Are you using too much yeast, or using rapid rise yeast when the recipe was designed for regular? There’s been a veritable proliferation of yeast types on the market in the past few years and the most significant is rapid rise yeast. Rapid rise yeast is designed to rise faster/be used with hotter water/let you add the yeast directly with the flour rather than having to proof it in warm water first.

    • Kristen says

      Related to (1)-in the summertime I have to significantly decrease rising times due to the warm house temperatures. If I’m not careful, I end up with way over-risen breadstuffs!

  4. Lori Durham says

    Totally off topic, but you’re a wealth of information so I thought I’d ask. One of the things I love about Charleston, SC are the ceramic house numbers. I’m looking for ceramic number plaques for my house number address. Do you know of a website that has reasonably priced, good quality products?

  5. says

    I don’t know if someone already suggested this for your shoe search, but Tieks are supposed to be amazing shoes!! They’re real Italian leather, great quality, etc, etc, I know women who have them and swear by them because they literally last forever. They are quite pricey though – their classic black ones are $175 and some styles go up to $400/pair!! However I assume it goes along the lines of, “you get what you pay for!” So just another suggestion to add to the mix! :)

    • Kristen says

      I had heard of those, and at the time, I was like, “Whaaa? $175 for a pair of flats???” But you’re right…it could be worth if it they really do last forever.

  6. Linda Sand says

    We gave each family member, including adults, an allowance. Each person was then free to use that money any way he/she wanted. So we could each get treats or save or whatever without any feelings of guilt attached. I got this idea from friends–he bought photography equipment and she saved up for a trip and both were happy.

  7. Alice says

    For entertaining on a budget, I’d also look at Entertainment Books and restaurant.com – if you’re OK with the restrictions that they have on their deals, they can be a great way to save $ when going or eating out. With the Entertainment Book, def. look at it thoroughly, though – it was worth it for us where we used to live, but not here (the things we like to do don’t tend to put deals in there.)

  8. says

    In terms of bread rising too much – I don’t know the first thing about baking bread, but I do know that high altitudes cause all sorts of issues with it rising – and I think that rising too much is the classic symptom. So Tiffany, if you happen to be significantly above sea level, you might want to do a quick Google search and see how the altitude might be playing into the whole thing and what suggestions are out there.

  9. Katie says

    From the post title, I thought it was the spouses doing the entertaining… like, a little soft shoe routine after dinner, maybe a little stand-up… Heehee!

  10. EngineerMom says

    On too-tall bread (a problem I’ve dealt with a lot!):

    My experience with too-tall bread is that you might have too much dough for your pans. If you’re making two loaves at a time, try dividing the dough between 3 pans instead, or reduce the amount of dough you’re making (if you’re using 2.5 c. total of liquid, reduce it to 2.25 or even just 2 c. of liquid, and of course reduce the amount of flour as well – I never measure flour, just knead it in until it “looks right”).

    Second possibility: Put your dough in the oven just when it barely clears the top of your loaf pan. The dough will continue to rise in the oven before it “sets”, so if you put it in when it’s the size you want, it’s going to “finish” too tall.

    Happy baking!

    • says

      This is what I’ve discovered as well. I used to have a problem with loaves that were too large to fit into bags and too big for the toaster so I simply started making the loaves smaller. My wheat bread recipe makes 2-3 loaves but I’ve had the best success with making 2 regular size loaves(approx. 8 x 4 pans) than making a small one or two in mini pans. That way the regular loaves are still large enough for nice loaves of bread but not too big! It may take a little trial and error but you’ll figure out what works best for you!

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