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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frugal, Income Potential, and Morals

It appears that I got more than one person annoyed when I included a paid post on my site, an advertisement for a "high end" store.
Before I explain the morals behind that move, I wanted to talk a little about frugality and how it really hinders potential income.

Frugal People and Their Jobs

I could never be a multimillionaire, no matter the skill sets I have. Why? Because no matter what good things I have to offer, I feel uncomfortable asking people to pay money for it, simply because I advocate non consumerism.
I am a do-it-yourself-nik, make-it-from-scratch-er gal who tries to encourage other people to both live within their means and to realize that consumerism is likely an antithesis to their values.

Let me put it this way. Because of the type of life I lead, it feels morally wrong to charge people for things they can do themselves or to charge enough to actually make a viable income. It also goes against my values for me to try to sell people items that can be had for cheaper, made at home, or simply done without.

Before I was married, I worked at a company selling teaching aids for children who were either not doing well in school or for kids who wanted to learn at their own pace. From a list of leads, I'd call up a bunch of moms and dads and try to convince them why spending 125 dollars on a math or English video would be the best thing for their child.
When the parents would (rightfully) say that that was too much money to be spending on such a program, my job was to guilt trip them and cajole them into handing me that credit card information and make that sale. I was required to make at least a minimum amount of sales each day, and if I did not, I'd soon find myself out of a job. It went against my better judgement, but I pulled my weight in sales in order to keep that job for the 6 months until I found something better.

At a different point in life, I was approached by someone doing a multi-level marketing program. For those unfamiliar with MLM, its basically a legal pyramid scheme, where you pay money to join a company and make sales for them, and whatever you earn, the people in the levels above you take a cut. I never once saw even the slightest return on my investment because I felt uncomfortable trying to convince people to spend money on the company's product and marketing scheme. Their product sits in my nightstand, but will be heading into the trash today.

A few months ago I hosted a Tupperware party at my house for a friend. A grand total of 2 people bought 1 product each, and as bad as I felt for the person trying to sell her wares, in a sense I felt relieved that no one bought anything because the prices were simply sky high. I could not and would not encourage my non well to do friends to spend hundreds on housewares when you can easily buy cheaper brands.

And one last example.

My husband worked with fish tanks and has a lot of knowledge in that area. He started a "business" cleaning people's fish tanks. Business in quotations because he never ended up charging a cent, as he felt bad asking people to pay him for something they could easily do themselves.

When you have a frugal mentality, its hard to make money in sales because you don't promote buying things, and its hard to make money in services because you feel bad taking money for something that people can easily do.
In addition to all that, you tend to undercharge, because you know that you do need to charge something, but you feel bad actually making a profit off of other people. That is why I babysat kids for 2 dollars an hour; I felt bad charging more money for a service than I would want to pay.

Because of this, people promoting a frugal and non consumerism driven lifestyle have a hard time making money. You can't justify taking money from people for things you don't think they should be spending it on.

The only way for a frugal person to make money in good conscience is to do a service working for someone else, someone who doesn't over charge but does know to ask for money. That way your boss can be the one insisting on getting paid and you don't end up pressuring people to part with their money, whether by sales or asking for high payments. Of course, working for someone else also entails lower salaries.

My Blog

Advertising
I started my blog for the sole purpose of making a profit. My income potential is low. I stay home with my kids and most ways of making money do not suit my available hours. The ones that do usually involve sales, and now you understand why I do not feel comfortable being a salesperson.
I am looking for advertisers for my blog because I want to be able to get something in return for all the hours I put into my blog. I have been writing one or more posts a day for the past 7 months and feel entitled to earn some money for this frugal service I'm providing for you.

When I look for advertisers for my blog, I do so with integrity. I only approach advertisers that have a product or a service that helps people save money. I've contacted various etsy sales people who sew cloth diapers, as this is a great product that doesn't cost much and allows you to save money. When I look for advertisers, I look for advertisers who'd benefit from advertising on a site such as my own, advertisers whose products will save readers money.
(If you have a product that can save people money, click for more information on advertising.)

Ads and Integrity
When it comes to companies contacting me, asking me to advertise on my blog, I assume they already are aware of my blog's purpose. I do not promise a certain amount of sales; I simply include links to their site, either in a post or from a banner. If a company whose product doesn't really suit my blog is interested in advertising here anyhow, I don't have a problem doing so. They can advertise; they may not get any sales. (Some people pay for links to improve their search engine ranking, not just because they want readers to buy from them.)

If someone contacts me and wants to advertise their consumerism related website on my blog, I do not feel there is any moral problem in my doing so.
Integrity is only promoting things you value. Including a paid link so another site has better search optimization is not promoting that site.

Yesterday I posted a paid link to Brookstone.com. People seemed to get upset that I was promoting such an expensive website, but in all honesty, I never did such a thing.

I never wrote "Buy from Brookstone" nor did I say "This is an amazing site" nor did I say "Their prices are great" or even "I was happy with a product from Brookstone." The only complimentary thing I said about them was "go to Brookstone.com to get a whole bunch of great ideas that I'm sure your spouse will love".
Go for ideas! Not products. I didn't say buy from them. Anywhere. Because I cannot promote doing such a thing because of their prices. I see nothing wrong with telling people that there is a large range of ideas for gifts there.
That's all.
I kept my integrity and I am doing nothing morally wrong.

I said no lies. I was honest. I didn't promote something that goes against my values and the values I try to promote on my site.

And even if no one buys from Brookstone because of my link, that is totally fine. It benefits them by improving their search engine ranking, even if it doesn't generate direct sales.

Also... yes, I would never buy from Brookstone because of the cost. However, I am not my readership. A good chunk of my readers are no where near as frugal as myself. Some self admittedly not frugal in the slightest, and just read my blog because they find it amusing. Who knows- that ad may actually generate sales from the less than frugal people who read my blog.
Keep in mind that some frugal people are willing to go all out when it comes to buying presents once or twice a year for their loved ones. Have you never spent a decent chunk of money for a present for your spouse? Have you ever gotten an expensive gift from your spouse? Even a "nonsense" and "useless" and "consumerism related" thing like jewelry?

I didn't say Brookstone is a place to buy your every need. I said it's got a variety of presents. If you're short of ideas and don't mind spending a little extra once in a while to show your spouse how much he means to you, then you might even want to buy from Brookstone.

In the future, I'll try to make it a bit clearer if a post is a paid one. If a company does not allow me to do that, I probably will pass up on the money, even though I do need the money tremendously.

If you're simply annoyed because you don't want my site overrun by ads, then I'm sorry. I have this site solely for the ads. The fact that you benefit is because I want you to enjoy coming to my site so that I can make money from ads. I do not have this site as a service for you; I have my site as a money making tool and feel fully entitled to do so.

I am not and will not ever be or strive to be an "Ad Free Blog". I think that that would be pure foolishness in my case, and if my choice were be ad free or shut down, I'd shut down. I do not put in all this hard work for nothing. I do it so I can generate an additional income.

My promise to you is that I will not compromise my integrity. I will not tell you to buy something that is, in my opinion, too expensive. I will not lie. I will tell you my honest opinion. And I will only actually seek out advertisers who's values are aligned with my own.
I will not let my site be overrun by ads- any advertisement posts will be much, much more infrequent than my usual posts. I will also try to post an advertisement immediately before posting another "real" post so that advertisements don't stare you in the face when you open up my site.
Happy?

If that doesn't suit you, than so be it. I can't please everyone, but I will try my best to keep this site the Penniless Parenting you know and love.

But keep in mind that I have so few ways to make money. Money is so tight for us, you can't imagine. So I will try to make money through my blog as long as it doesn't compromise my integrity or take over my site too much.

I'm sorry.

After reading all this, if you were upset by yesterday's post, are you still annoyed? Do you at least understand why what I did isn't a lack of integrity or morals? Or do you disagree with my premise entirely?
If you were I, and money is actually as tight for you as it is for me, would you refuse to post a paid link to a site that you personally would not buy from? Or would you do the same as I did?
Any ideas on how to let people know that something is a paid post without writing it straight out?

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