Blogging, Goals, and How the Things Change

When I first started blogging (back in the mid-2000’s…well over 10 years ago 😱), it was to share bits of my life and to rediscover writing after the baby years. Eventually I learned that there were some crazies actually making money doing this thing and so I figured that should include me. After all, I am a blogger and I just might be crazy. Along the way, I tried a variety of topics trying to find my passion because all the blogging experts were telling me that’s what I needed to do. Focus, Vicki, focus!

Here’s the thing. I’m not really good with focus. I’ve always been a daydreamer and as an adult, I’ve always been good at anxiety and worry. Those two things usually leave my mind constantly trying to figure out what I’ve done wrong in this moment and how I’m pretty sure I’m screwing things up overall. This leads to me chasing squirrels and overplanning just about everything. Because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, amiright?

Then the panic attacks happened, relationships in my life went haywire, and I sort of mentally imploded and stopped everything. Except buying washi tape and books, let’s not get crazy here. I walked away from a position in my church, blogging, and anything else that was causing stress to our family. Let me say this, the problem I was having was me and how I was handling things, not necessarily the things I walked away from. Other people handle these good things just fine. I just wasn’t one of those people at that point. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. This rarely helps things.

Time went on as it does and my life got busier in other ways. I taught several classes at our homeschool co-op (including a two hour kindergarten class last year 😬). Our kids joined activities and had the audacity to develop social lives outside of our home. I took on a cleaning job with my oldest daughter so the kids could have the chance to earn some money (and I would have a bit for books…). My husband jumped jobs a few times, took on an assistant pastorship, started leading worship in a church plant, and generally got busier in addition to his full time job.

I’d like to tell you that I handled it all much better than I previously handled the busy, but I’m not certain that is the truth. In some ways, I did handle it better and my family was able to do the things they wanted and needed to do without much added stress from me (at least I think so, ha). The bad thing is, I basically alternated between internalizing it all or ignoring how overwhelmed I was feeling. Which brings me to now.

Where am I now?

To be honest, I’m not even sure. I know this time of year usually brings me to a place of reflection and this year has been no different in that regard. But what I am finding different is the kinds of goals I am setting and how I am going about it. In times past, my goals have looked a lot like tasks to check off my never ending to do lists. There are a few of those, but this year, my goals for 2019 overall are a bit different.

A couple months ago, God really started opening my eyes to some things and the recurring theme has been habits. So when I sat down to write my goals for this year (well, the first time, it took me a couple weeks to actually get them settled), I knew I had my One Word for the year. I didn’t bother with it the last couple years, but this year it was an obvious choice.

2019: The Year of Habit

It’s really simple, the goal is to break some bad habits and make some better habits. But I can’t just leave it there because that isn’t really quantifiable and I need quantifiable to be able to track myself. So here is my master list of habit goals for 2019 (and beyond):

  • improve my bible reading habit
  • establish a planner habit that actually works for me
  • establish a workout habit
  • improve my reading habit
  • decrease my phone habit
  • increase my writing habit
  • improve my sleep habits
  • improve my housework habits
  • improve my money habits
  • improve my food habits

It feels like for the first time, I actually have goals that makes creating to do lists, prioritizing, and getting things done actually possible. From this list, I went to on to start a “Habits I Would Like to Build” list. This list is not conclusive. I hope to add to it as I start conquering things. My current list:

  • making my bed first thing – to tell my brain that we are done sleeping for the day
  • getting dressed first thing – to better define my days, build more structure, so a day of rest is earned and valued
  • a set laundry cycle/schedule
  • get back to consistently meal planning and cooking dinner at home – planning ahead and using my slow cooker for more of those busy days
  • one on one time with each kid at least 1-2x’s/week – help my older ones learn to set up goals, make plans, and to hold them accountable
  • a morning time routine 3-4x’s/week – build a family culture to give my kids a more intentional foundation
  • a regular exercise habit

I stopped myself there because I have SO many habits I know I should have, but I am really trying to not overwhelm myself…again.

Armed with my prioritized habits list, I set a few goals for specifically for January. There are couple “themed” goals that will make an appearance on my goal list each month this year. For example, I’d like to read through the New Testament in addition to our bible study readings this year. So I will pick a book or books to read for that each month. I’m wanting to write out more scripture, so that is there. I’m also trying to stick with the habit tracker in my goal planner, I want to work up to using that daily so I’m starting with a small step.

  1. Read New Testament – Matthew
  2. Write Scripture – James
  3. Good Habits – Hit 40% of the days for my habit tracker
  4. Finish 10 Books
  5. Finish 4 Projects
  6. Maintain use of my planners – specifically my small daily and my goal planner

I set a goal to read 52 books for 2019 over on Goodreads. However, I didn’t make last year’s goal (same) and I have several books already in progress. I want to finish those and read a couple new ones before the year gets really busy.

The four projects is from a master list of things that need to be done at our house. They range from small (reorganize the junk drawer) to big (repainting the wainscotting), but there is enough on the list that finding four that I can complete in January should be pretty easy.

So what does blogging have to do with all this? Well, I’m going back to my roots. I’m sharing my journey. Occasionally you will get some other resources, but mostly I look for this year to be a bunch of sharing my planners, my new routines, my broken bad habits, and lots of books. Oh how I’m hoping for lots of books!

If you have stuck with me this long, bless you. Seriously. BLESS YOU. If you want to here more about these things, you can sign up for the email list and I will try my best to let you know when there is new content to be read. Or you can use a feed reader, which may be the better option for staying on top of things, to be honest.

Next up, a list of the books I’m most looking forward to reading this year!

Photo by chill’in on Unsplash

How to Save Links on Facebook

Have you ever had this happen? You are on Facebook and a friend shares a recipe that looks totally awesome, but you don’t have time to pull it up and check it out now? Or have you ever shared a recipe to your Facebook wall to save it and then forget all about it?

I have a solution that should help you…and it is right on Facebook. It is one of my favorite features (you’ll see in one of the photos below) and I think it could be one of yours eventually, too.

How to Save Links on Facebook - It's as easy as 1-2-3!

This is super easy and if you didn’t know about it before, you’ll likely be like me and wonder how you got along without it. Well, maybe not. Maybe you don’t use Facebook as much as I do. But, let’s not worry about that right now. Back to me showing you how to save links on Facebook…

How to Save Links on Facebook

When you come across a link that you want to save, you will need to click on the little “arrow” (I don’t really know what you call that thing, but it is #1 below.) and a menu will pull up. Then you simply click “Save link” and it will give you a little “link saved” message.

Your dropdown menu may look a little different depending on where you are on Facebook. I took this screenshot on an actual page, it is organized a bit different when I click on it in my newsfeed. You still click “Save link” to save a link. You can also do this on Facebook mobile.

How to Save Links on Facebook - It's as easy as 1-2-3!

How to Find Your Saved Links on Facebook

When you pull up Facebook, look at your sidebar. Scroll down until you see the little blue icon next to the word Saved. Click on that.

How to Find Your Saved Links on Facebook

This will take you right where Facebook keeps your saved links. It looks like this:

How to Find Your Saved Links on Facebook

As you can see, you can save videos this way, too. You can probably also tell that I use this feature pretty heavily. I haven’t found a way to save photos on Facebook like this, but if I ever see it, I will update this post to show you how to do that, too.

How to Use the Saved Links Feature on Facebook

I wanted to take a quick minute to tell you how I use the saved links and videos feature on Facebook.

  • A bookmark for things I want to read later. Sometimes I will come across a link to a post that I don’t want to miss, but I’m just checking Facebook before heading to bed or out the door (you, too?). I’ll save it to read later.
  • If I want to pin something to a Pinterest board, but I’m on mobile or in a general hurry. I’ll save it for when I am on the laptop and can take the time to put it on the correct board to find when I need it. Facebook links aren’t able to be organized, so I use them for short-term bookmarking. I use Pinterest for long-term, visual bookmarking.
  • To keep track of things to share on my Facebook page. I schedule posts to share on the Simply Vicki Facebook page and this is where I store the things I find on Facebook that I want to share in my next scheduling session.

So that’s it. Short and sweet. Did you know how to save links on Facebook before this post? If you did, how do you use the feature? I’m a fan of comments, so talk to me! 🙂

Blog 101 – What Are Affiliate Links?

Blog 101: What are affiliate links? Why do bloggers use them? Here are your answers.

Disclosure of Affiliate Links

At long last, here is my post explaining affiliate links! The FTC recently changed some of the rules of disclosure for bloggers. What it means for readers is they are seeing terms like affiliate links and sponsored posts on the blogs they read more often. When I shared a link on Facebook and disclosed that it was an affiliate link, it dawned on me that other people may have no clue what I mean. So I asked. And, yep, most non-bloggers had no clue.

As bloggers, we are now required to inform our readers in each post, in an unavoidable way, before they reach any link that we may profit from. In other words, if we are getting paid, we have to tell you. It doesn’t matter how much we earn, we just have to tell you. Keep reading to see what I mean by “it doesn’t matter how much we earn”.

So What Are Affiliate Links?

An affiliate link is a link to a website that has been encoded with a tracking cookie. What that cookie does is note if you make a purchase after you clicked on the link. The website you bought from keeps track of the dollar amounts purchased, organized by the unique codes. The “owner” of those codes will then receive a commission for referring the sale.

Two things I want to note right away: 1) no one but the website you buy from sees any of your personal information and 2) this does not cost you anything extra.

I will give you an example. When you click on an Amazon link (like on book list posts) on my blog, you will see be using my affiliate link. When you hover over one of those links, you will see “tag=behthebeawitl-20” at the very end of the link. That is my tracking ID. When you click through that link, Amazon puts a cookie in your browser that stays there for a few days (unless you delete your cookies) and gives me a commission for anything you may purchase.

Here is where I tell you the gobs of profit I am making off these links. I earn anywhere from 4-10.05%. Amazon’s affiliate system is tiered so the more sales you send, the higher your commission percentage. So if you buy a $2 dollar ebook through my link and are the only one to do so that month, I will earn 8 cents. You can see how this get rich quick scheme is really working for me now, right?

Tell Me More About These Affiliate Links

Are all affiliate links the same? No. Every website has it’s own affiliate program and they are all set up differently. Some cookies are set to count orders for only the original click and some count for days, weeks, or months. The commission rate is different with each program. There are affiliate programs that pay a set dollar or cents amount per click or sale; some pay only 3%; while others may pay 50%.

If they only pay pennies, why bother with them? It’s a numbers thing. If I only have a sale or two each month, it will take me a very long time to reach the payout level. For example, I joined Amazon’s affiliate program in 2008 and am just now reaching their $10 payout threshold. Not exactly a good ROI for my time. The thing is, with blog posts, these links are there until I delete them so as my traffic grows, so do my clicks/sales.

Why do affiliate links exist? Because it is a win-win situation. Websites only have so much advertising money to work with. With an affiliate program, they get more advertising that they don’t have to pay for until AFTER they actually sell something or otherwise benefit. It gets their name, logo, and website in front of more eyes, more often, and is more effective when coming from a personal recommendation.

Please note I am not saying that every affiliate link is a personal endorsement. I pass along resources that I have not personally used as a service to those who may be looking for those resources. For example, we have not read every one of the books on the composer study list, but I know that many homeschool families do composer study and might appreciate my taking the time to put the list together.

It is a win-win situation for bloggers like me who want to bring in “extra” money to support their family’s goals, but don’t want to leave their children or homes to do so. There are bloggers out there who make a full-time income from their blogs, BUT they are putting in full-time hours to do it. In the beginning, it can be more than full-time hours. The benefit most see is the flexibility to be home with their family and set their own hours.

So you blog for money? Well, yes and no. I blog because I enjoy it. I enjoy sharing my journey, encouraging others in their journey, and I LIKE social media. Except Pinterest, I LOVE Pinterest. 😉 It takes time to write good blog posts. It takes time to review products and share them with you. It takes time to pull together resources (yeah, this takes a LOT of time). It takes money to blog, too. While my costs are fairly minimal, they still exist.

This is why I use affiliate links: it is a way to financially support this blog (and my family’s goals) without costing my readers anything extra.

So the next time you see a disclosure from a blogger using affiliate links, you’ll now know what they are and why they use them.

Do you have any other blog-related questions?

Leave them here in the comments or contact me via email.

Giveaways on the Internet – What, Where, and Why?!

Are Giveaways Worth It?

Occasionally on Facebook and Twitter, I will share links to giveaways I come across and/or enter. I have even hosted a couple giveaways. I realized that some of you may be wondering why, whether these giveaways are worth it, or even legitimate. About that…yes, yes they are. There are a variety of ways to enter these giveaways, but first let me explain something.

Giveaways vs. Sweepstakes

Technically speaking, most of the giveaways you see on the internet are actually legally defined as sweepstakes. Meaning, not everyone who enters will receive something and the winner(s) are chosen at random. Most people have an aversion to the word sweepstakes (thinking rip-off or scheme…) so the commonly used word is giveaway. It fits because something IS being given away, but it is not the legally-defined term. Clear as mud? Yep, like most things the government regulates, it can be confusing. So for this post, when I say giveaways, I mean a random drawing where you might win something if you enter. Okey dokey?

What Can I Win?

Just about anything under the sun. Here is a list of items I have seen given away recently:

  • hair accessories, shoes, clothes
  • books
  • movies
  • CD’s – music, audio books
  • complete homeschool curriculum sets
  • cloth diapers and baby gear (carriers, strollers, car seats, etc.)
  • all expenses paid vacations (You better believe I entered that one!)
  • gift cards to just about everything under the sun (including Amazon)
  • cash – via PayPal or through Visa gift cards (varying from $25 to $1000)

How to Find Giveaways {or Otherwise Get Free Stuff}

  • Twitter & Facebook parties – These are hosted by various groups, brands, or bloggers. Details vary, but for the most part they are simply a set-aside time for everyone to talk about the same topic at the same time. Questions are asked and answered, important announcements are made, and stuff is given away to those who participate. The way you find out about these is through your news feeds. Follow brands or blogs that interest you and they will alert you to upcoming events.
  • Giveaway blogs – Some blogs specialize in giveaways. They run them weekly or even daily. You can find those that are topic specific (like Homeschool Giveaways) or those that are very general (like The Adventures of J-Man and Millerbug). The way you enter the giveaways will vary based on what system the blogger is using, but most are rather simple to enter (because the point is to get as many people to enter as possible…more on that later).
  • Blog post round-ups – Some bloggers don’t host their own giveaways regularly, but have a regular posting of giveaways going on around the blog-o-sphere. Homeschool Survival hosts a link up each Friday where other bloggers can link up their giveaways. It seems a lot of these have moved to newsletter status, a service the bloggers provide to their email subscribers.
  • Deal blogs – These blogs focus more on freebies that everyone can get. They find free resources or “limited-time free” offers from around the web and share them with you. Again, these range from topic specific (like Free Homeschool Deals) to more general (like Money Saving Mom).
  • Pinterest – There’s a board for that. I have my own Giveaways board that I and several friends pin giveaways to. I am also a pinner on a couple of my friends’ Giveaways boards. These are great resources if you don’t want to follow a bunch of people or brands on Facebook or Twitter. Bookmark the boards (or better yet, follow them) and then check them as you have time.

Giveaway Focused Pinterest Boards

Speaking of Pinterest, here is a short list of some great giveaway boards to follow:

Why Do Bloggers Offer Giveaways?

What’s in it for Them?

I’m glad you brought that up. I will be very honest here and say hosting giveaways is a good way to bring people to your blog. People like free stuff. For some bloggers, this is a job. Unless you’ve done it, you don’t know how much time it takes to research, write, and edit good blog posts (not to mention taking photos, making graphics, and then promoting). Most bloggers blog because they enjoy it, but it does take time to create a good blog. How does traffic help a blogger? Well, I will delve into that when I cover affiliate marketing for you all next week. Make sure you don’t miss that (you can get my blog posts sent directly to your email by signing up on the top of the sidebar).

Do You Really Win These Things?

Yes. Here is a photo of items I have won recently. Not included is a registration to Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention because you can’t really take a picture of that. I won these from Facebook & Twitter parties and giveaways on individual blogs. I have won subscriptions to websites (List PlanIt), hair accessories, and a printable planner before, as well.

Are giveaways worth it? Here are few of the many items I have won. Hint: I think they are. ;)

Is it Worth It?

Well, that totally depends on you. If you are spending hours each day entering every giveaway you can find, probably not. If you follow a few places and just enter ones you enter as you come across them, then yes. Most take just a few moments to enter

So that is the basic gist of giveaways on the internet. I would love to answer any specific questions you have about them, too. You can either email me OR leave a comment with your question below. And be sure to follow my Giveaways board on Pinterest!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Giveaways on Pinterest.
I’m linking this up to Everything Frugal: The Ultimate Frugal Link-Up because, what is more frugal than free?

 

Reading Blogs 101 – Other Ways to Follow

reading-blogs-101-other-ways-follow

Maybe you don’t want to start with Google Reader. Maybe you want to do something different. First let me tell you this, using Google Readers really is easy. Second, let’s move on to some other ways you can follow your favorite blogs, shall we?

Email

Most blogs have an email subscription service. That said, I don’t yet. Oops. Here is an example of one from another blog:

email-subscribing-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Arrows

If you don’t see a spot to fill in your email address, look for an email symbol like this one:

email-subscription-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Penny has both covered.

Once you’ve signed up, you will receive each new post in your email inbox. If you are not receiving new posts, check your spam folder.

Facebook

This is not as reliable as it once was. With Facebook’s algorithm, you are more than likely not seeing everything the pages you have “liked” are posting. Make sure when you click on the like button, you hover over it and “Show in News Feed” is checked. It will help with this, I’m told. You can also choose to receive notifications from pages you like by checking that option. I am going to experiment with this for a while and then give you a post on how to utilize Facebook better.

facebook-pages-help

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter

Most, not all, bloggers also share their links on Twitter. You could try to follow there. Just know that you may not see all of the posts you are interested in. However, you will also be seeing any pins, updates, or other blog posts that the blogger finds interesting in your feed. If the blogger you are following doesn’t tweet their new posts, moot point. (Related note: I do.)

twitter-following

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browser Bookmarks

You could create a bookmarks folder and store the links to your favorite blogs there:

bookmarks

 

 

 

 

Then, simply navigate to that folder and click the “open all in tabs” link (or equivalent):

open-all-tabs-bookmarks

 

 

 

 

 

This way you don’t have to type in an URLs and can check each blog for a new post. This option would probably work best if you only follow 3-5 blogs. Any more than that and you will have too many tabs to be opened, only to find the ones that have updated since you last checked.

Honestly, the best and easiest way to follow multiple blogs is a reader. I promise you that it isn’t scary and can be fun. I will even show you how to really work Google Reader to your advantage in a few posts.

Personally, I use Google Reader, follow bloggers on Facebook and Twitter, and even have a couple sent to my email inbox (though this is probably going to change…way too much email coming in). So feel free to mix it up or try something new.

Do you follow blogs another way not listed here?

Using Google Reader – Blog Reading Made Easy Peasy

I use Google’s Reader to keep up with blogs that I’m most interested in seeing new posts. It is super easy to use. In the next post, I will cover other ways you can follow your favorite blog(s). I use a combination of them.

Here we go.

Go here – http://www.google.com/reader/ You will either create a Google account, if you don’t already have one, or sign in with your Google login.

After you login, you will see a welcome screen. Now you start adding blogs you want to keep up with.

Click on the orange subscribe button.

Once you click on it, a little box will pop open. Type the URL address of the blog you want to add (it starts with http://).

(By the way, I did see the typo below after I did the screenshot and clicked Add. Oops. Make sure you get the whole thing.)

Click Add.

Congratulations, you are now following a blog. Now each time the blogger adds a new post, it will be sent to your Google Reader.

The great thing about this is, you do not have to keep checking for new updates on each page. You can pull up your Reader box and check them all in one spot. Time saving win.

Next we will cover other ways to keep up with your favorite blogs. Until then, have fun adding to your reader!

Find the rest of the series linked in the Overview post.

Won’t you join me?
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Reading Blogs 101 – Why in the World?

reading-blogs-101-why-bother

I read blogs. I like reading blogs. I kind of even like writing blogs. So it is kind of important to me that you like to read blogs to. And since I’m on this mission to rule help the world out…ha ha, I jest. I’m not out to rule the world, just the internet.

Anyways.

Some people don’t understand why people read blogs so I’m starting this series out with a list of reasons why people actually like to read blogs. I’m going to toss in a few reasons why people actually like to write blogs, for good measure. Basically, I’m justifying this series by proving to you that I’m not alone in reading blogs and thinking others might like some tips to make it a better experience for everyone. Or crazy.

  • to keep up with friends, family, or people going through similar life situations (food allergies, developmental delays, cancer, homeschooling, divorce, etc.)
  • because they like or know the blogger (hopefully both!)
  • humor
  • information on projects
  • inspiration for taking the road less traveled
  • encouragement for hard days
  • to learn something new
  • entertainment

Why do bloggers blog? I shared my reasons already, so I thought I’d ask a few of my blogging friends to share theirs, in a nutshell.

  • “I blog because I have a insecurities and fears about writing. I don’t want my kids to inherit my issues, so I’m trying to develop my writing skills. I also blog to keep myself accountable with our school lessons and other short term challenges I give myself.” – Becky Marie, For This Season
  • “I blog to save time and money. Does that sound silly? I was “publishing” a family newsletter several times a year and it got to be way more than I could handle and way too expensive to mail to over 100 people. The blog is so much more flexible. I can post anytime and the subscribers get it automatically. I have a few elderly ladies who don’t have internet, so I do print out posts and mail to them occasionally.” – Paulita Jo Fogleman, Fogleman Forerunner
  • “I started my deal blog to share good buys with my family because I was sick of sending and getting a bunch of texts….next thing I knew I had 10,000+ facebook fans and a “job”! I love that I get to work from home saving people money!” – Jessie Alonzo, Moolah Saving Mom

Tomorrow, I’m going to share my favorite blog reading tool with you.

Reading Blogs 101 – Overview

If you are like me, you come across great blogs often. You think the content of a blog is interesting, helpful and/or funny and you would be interested in what the blogger may be talking about in the future. There are a few ways you can keep up with a blog, share information with your friends and support a favorite blogger in the process.

Or maybe you don’t know why people bother reading blogs. A quick answer to that is that I read blogs for the same reasons I want to blog. I’ll share more later.

There are many resources out there for bloggers related to blogging (um…duh), but I haven’t really seen many resources for readers of blogs. I’ve been a reader of blogs for a few years now (I read more than I write…). I’ve learned a thing or two, so I thought I would share.

Here’s the great info coming your way:

Which topic are you most interested in?

Won’t you join me?
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