279: Financial Independence – How to Be Efficient with Your Money with Anna Rider

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An image of a notebook and a computer on a desk and the title of Anna Rider's episode on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast, 'Financial Independence.'

Welcome to episode 279 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Anna Rider from Garlic Delight about financial independence and retiring early.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Carrie Forrest about some of the SEO enhancement she has made to her blog this year. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Financial Independence 

This is a different kind of episode for us, but it’s about a topic that affects us all as creators, bloggers, and side hustlers: business and personal finances.

How do you manage your spending? Do you understand the value of the business and personal purchases you’re making? Can you calculate the expected value of a blog post?

Not only are you looking to maximize the return on the money you spend on your business, but you’re also probably working to save money for long-term goals. Understanding your finances is a crucial step as you’re working towards financial independence and retirement.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about budgeting, tracking your spending, and understanding the impact of the money you spend, this episode with Anna is for you!

A quote from Anna Rider’s appearance on the Food Blogger Pro podcast that says, 'How much life energy is it costing me?'

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Anna became interested in personal finance
  • What FIRE means and how it works for food bloggers
  • How to trim unnecessary spending
  • How to start tracking your spending and budgeting for purchases
  • How to understand the environmental impact of your lifestyle
  • How to evaluate whether your purchases are getting you closer to your goals
  • How to calculate the expected value of a blog post
  • Why blogging is a long-term game
  • Where you can go to learn more about financial freedom

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Learn more about joining the Food Blogger Pro community at foodbloggerpro.com/membership

Transcript (click to expand):

Alexa Peduzzi: Hello, hello, and welcome to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. My name is Alexa and I’m part of the Food Blogger Pro Team. We are so excited that you’re here today to tune into the episode because this episode is a bit different than ones that we’ve typically published in the past, but it’s about a topic that affects us all, as creators, as bloggers, as side hustlers, and that is business and personal finance. Do you know how to manage your spending? Or do you know how to understand the value of business and personal purchases that you’re making? Or do you know how to calculate the expected value of a blog post?

Alexa Peduzzi: We’re going to cover all of those questions and so much more in this episode because not only are you probably looking to maximize the return on the money that you spend on your business, but you’re also probably working to save money for long-term goals like retirement and other big purchases. Understanding your finances is a crucial first step. If you ever wanted to learn more about budgeting or tracking your spending or understanding the impact of the money that you spend, this episode with Anna Rider from Garlic Delight is for you. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Anna, welcome to the podcast.

Anna Rider: Hi, Bjork. Thank you so much for having me and I feel so honored having listened to this for years now to be a guest on the show.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s always so fun to have a conversation with people who are familiar with the podcast, familiar with what we’re about and who we’re about. Kind of the spirit of the work that we do, and so often we find that it’s kind of folded into then the conversation. Really fun to have that background, but also, really fun that you have a background that’s a little bit unique in the food space in that you have a really deep interest in finance and personal finance, this thing called financial independence. Also, there’s this realm called the fire, and we’re going to talk about what that means and break it down. It’s actually how we originally got connected.

Bjork Ostrom: There was an interview that we did with Beth from Budget Bytes and I think she mentioned it or I mentioned this idea of Mr. Money Mustache, this blog and creator, and kind of this idea of financial independence. Retire early and financial independence. We made that connection and that’s where we’re going to talk about today, so let’s here a little bit about your story. You have a food blog, but you’re also really connected in the finance world. You have some meetup groups and you know kind of the finance personal blogging world. How did all of those things comes together? Let’s hear a little bit about your story, Anna.

Anna Rider: Yeah, so it goes a little far back, so I’ll ask the listeners to have a little patience.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: Yeah, so I first started my career as a journalist and I met a friend who I remember told me, “You love food and it would be a gift to the world if you would have a cooking show or just teach people how to cook because it lights you up.” This was about 2012 as I was getting done and wrapped up in my Master’s in Journalism. At the time, I was really young. I had a pretty scarcity mindset, so I was-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: Like, “Oh, the journalism industry isn’t doing great. I’m going to get out of this and work on software where it pays much better and the industry is booming.” Fast forward about 2015, I was working on software, putting in really long hours as you do in Silicon Valley. At some point, I just had this weird slow back injury where I had a lot of back pain and it progressively got worse-

Bjork Ostrom: Oh-

Anna Rider: … so-

Bjork Ostrom: … that’s terrible. One of our best friends, I forget exactly what it is, but essentially it’s like one of his disks is out of place and he talks about it and it’s just the worst. It’s like all-encompassing and it’s all you can think about and it’s like you can’t really sit or walk or do anything without being uncomfortable. It hasn’t happened to me but it’s happened to somebody who’s really close to me and it’s terrible.

Anna Rider: Yes, that’s exactly what happened to me, actually. One of my disks got herniated. It was very scary and I could talk all day about this because I rehabbed myself back to health without having to do back surgery, even though the doctors are pushing opioids like nobody’s business. Really, what happened was it was the first time in my 20s I did not feel invincible and I was worried, “Am I going to be disabled for life such that I cannot work?” This is a very common story for people with FI. It’s often the death of a loved one that causes them to reevaluate life. It could be a layoff. It could be a really bad day at work, and in my case, it was a medical or a physical injury.

Anna Rider: I Googled, “What do you do if you can’t work?” Like many, probably hundreds, thousands of people I’ve met now, they were like, “I landed on this blog called Mr. Money Mustache and his writing was so captivating, I just started reading and it opened the rabbit hole.” That’s the same thing that happened for me. I landed on his post that was about the map of early retirement and at the the time I was like, “I don’t retire. I just want to know what happens to me if I can’t work,” because I was all worried about health insurance and all of these other things. My employer was super cool and unbelievably supportive, but nonetheless, it’s like, “I’ve still got decades to live,” right?

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Anna Rider: “What do I do?” Luckily, I don’t have the back problem, rehabbed it, but it opened this world of, “Oh my goodness, am I doing what I need to to even save for retirement in my 60s, let alone today?”

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Anna Rider: I wasn’t really thinking clearly about future and finances. I was very overwhelmed by the whole thing. Every time I listened to any kind of news report or CNBC, I would just switch it off and say, “That’s not for me. That’s for finance people. That’s for Wall Street types. I don’t know what a bond is. I don’t know what they’re talking about.” Of course, I had this driver behind me that was like, “What am I going to do if I can’t work?” I started trying to learn more and educating myself.

Anna Rider: That’s my personal story of how I ended up there and, again, this was about 2015, and so I started joining meetups when I got healthier and I could walk again and all of that stuff. I started going to meetups and meeting people who some of them were personal finance nerds, self-professed, and others were just normal people like me who were like, “Oh, I got divorced,” or, “I wanted to start a new career. I wanted to become a professional dog walker.” I met someone like that who was like, “I needed to figure out how to do this and not bankrupt myself, so then I started Googling it and Mr. Money Mustache popped up,” or another blogger. There’s many out there and so let’s talk about FIRE, then, right? I’ve been previewing it so much.

Anna Rider: Really, FIRE, it stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. It’s not a new concept, it just got new branding around the last Great Recession when a lot of people lost their jobs. They were reeling from that economic stress and just didn’t know what to do, but of course, we know people who have retired and we’ve heard about people who have retired very young in their lives before that.

Anna Rider: Really, what it was was a group of people who came out and said, “I’ve either been laid off or I’m exiting the rat race ad I want to know how to sustain myself financially so that this isn’t a catastrophic life event but actually I can have a better time post-corporate,” what they like to call W2 employment, W2 being the tax document that you get, “Post-W2 employment so I can do what I love and I’m passionate about without being anchored to a world where I don’t have enough money to cover my expenses.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that’s interesting, you said it’s technically not a new concept but just new branding, I think of, and I actually haven’t read this book, I need to add it to my list, Your Money or Your Life. From what I understand kind of from the life of that book, it kind of existed in some form in a way that it kind of was maybe collecting dust on shelves or on the Amazon shelves. It wasn’t really selling, but as this kind of FIRE movement started to increase, this book also was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s this book that talks about this idea, like Your Money or Your Life.”

Bjork Ostrom: It feels like that phrase and kind of some of the concepts of FIRE or financial independence in general really make a lot of sense were people are saying, “You know what? I’m giving my life to a thing that when I’m doing it, I feel kind of soulless, but I also feel like I have to do that in order to pay these bills that accumulated in my life and to keep this certain standard of living or lifestyle.”

Bjork Ostrom: There’s a couple of pieces that I want to dig into that because I think it ties into the decisions that we make around work, around the decisions that we make with the businesses that we’re building, but before I do that, I want to hear from you. Is there a difference between kind of the FIRE movement, because there’s definitely like a group of people, financial independence, retire early, there’s maybe some core elements, and like general financial independence?

Anna Rider: Yeah, that’s a great question, and I’m one person. I don’t speak for the movement.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: Just my-

Bjork Ostrom: Disclaimer.

Anna Rider: … opinion. Right. Meeting a lot of people, I would say that a lot of people are really into the financial independence concept as a whole and everybody in the community is very welcoming and very excited. I would say there’s a smaller group of people who are like, “I really care about the retire early piece of it.” They might spend more time getting in touch with each other to resolve some of the biggest challenges that do happen because of retiring early, and those-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … are things like, “What do I do with the rest of my life? What do I do with health insurance if you’re in the U.S.? How can I access money in some of my retirement accounts such as a 401(k) early?” They will sometimes get together and have almost like a deeper discussion-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: … so that they can flesh out some of these issues, and there are just retirement or early retirement-focused blogs and that’s all that they talk about. Sometimes it can feel as if the community is split off that way, but ultimately, we still really care about being efficient with our money, and so a lot of what we’re talking about is that general financial independence concept.

Anna Rider: Then, there’s other people who are high earners. Some of them are business owners. Some of them are self-employed lawyers or maybe physicians where they’re making hundreds of thousands of dollar a year and they just want to be efficient and know, “How do I save money? How do I make sure that I’m putting enough aside for retirement? Having enough money to put perhaps their children in college and still living my best life and doing that through financial independence?” I don’t know if I answered your question.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. I think that idea of financial independence, standing alone, is kind of being this category of potentially like what does it look like to be efficient, is the word that you used, or intentional or aware of your spending. So often as you have a certain level of success, your lifestyle can just kind of creep up with that and I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and there was this meal that we used to get at Perkins in Cambridge, the small town we grew up in, and it was like the best. It was such a luxury, and can remember back to how vivid that was to go out on a Saturday night with friends and get whatever, it would be lemon pepper chicken from Perkins.

Bjork Ostrom: Then, something happens in between where, and part of it is this is the space we’re in, so we start to understand how good lemon pepper chicken can be if it’s made right. Something happens where it’s like suddenly your lifestyle changes, things shift, or like hotels would be a good example. I remember as a college kid, if we’d go on a trip, just whatever hotel it would be, it would be awesome. Then, it’s like you do a conference and they have super nice hotel rooms and suddenly that becomes the standard, and you can see how your lifestyle can kind of creep up. Not that it’s not about having nice things, but just you can see how you can over time start to spend more and to be aware of that and say, “That doesn’t actually need to happen.”

Bjork Ostrom: I remember an interview that I watched with Pete from Mr. Money Mustache and he was like, “You know what? I eat really, really good food. I go to Whole Foods,” or whatever the like organic grocery store was that he went to, “But I don’t spend a hundred dollars going out for a meal,” that being a decision that he made. I think that piece makes sense and then to draw a line and then there’s like the retire early piece, and these people are oftentimes people who actually want to retire and to not work in the same way. I think that kind of makes sense. Where would you put yourself? If you look at kind of that spectrum of general financial independence and being efficient with your money all the way to, “Hey, I’m working to a place where I can retire early,” where do you land personally?

Anna Rider: I love that you asked this question because here’s the interesting thing. I’ve met a lot of people who have retired early and after they’ve had a break and they’ve traveled a lot and maybe even played a lot of video games and spent a lot of time on hobbies, they’re back to working.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Totally. Totally, totally.

Anna Rider: … and so there are very few people I’ve ever met through going to FinCon or going to meetups who are actually early retired. They’re always working on some project, whether it makes money or not. With the kind of energy that they’re putting into managing their blog or volunteering, I’m like, “Don’t count that as retirement. You sound just like a worker would be like I do working from time.” I would say that most people end up taking that break and really the difference is when they’re in that retirement phase, if you want to call it that, they’re working on projects that they’re not necessarily doing for money. It’s not a survival-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … mode job, if you will.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Yeah, and I think at its core, so much of what we talk about on this podcast kind of ties into conceptually, it’s not exactly the same thing, but conceptually the same thing, which is kind of these broad categories of opting into the work you want to do, doing work that you enjoy. Autonomy in the work, so not having maybe a super rigid schedule that you have to follow exactly, being able to be flexible in that. Getting to work with people you enjoy, that being a big piece of it, and so people having jobs that not only do they not enjoy the work but maybe don’t enjoy the people that they work with.

Bjork Ostrom: For the podcast, I think we focus a lot on this idea of, how do you build a thing that, as much as possible, you’re building a thing that you have a good relationship with? That you enjoy the work? Not that there will never be things that you don’t enjoy, there will always be that. There are things that I don’t enjoy about the work that I do and just have to get done, but it’s about building a thing that offers you some of that autonomy and flexibility and freedom, which I think is fun to see kind of the overlap there.

Bjork Ostrom: For you, how do you overlap the ideas of financial independence with your blog? You have a food blog, you have a site where you talk about food, you talk about some of the philosophies you have around food and eating and kind of this hybrid of meal prep. Does that cross over at all into that world of financial independence? Does that help in your journey as you think about what financial independence looks like for you?

Anna Rider: Yeah, that’s a great question and I love that we’re bringing it back to the food blogger community, just because I feel like it’s a really important point to bring up that a lot of bloggers I’ve met over the years, they don’t know about FIRE and they’ve never heard about a lot of the concepts in the financial independence community, but they’re absolutely living the same lifestyle that a lot of FI people live, if that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: I’ll meet bloggers who set their own schedule. They can work anytime they want and they can work from anywhere in the word and, honestly, that’s what a lot of people in the FI community are looking for. I feel like a lot of bloggers get that already and if they haven’t, they’re building towards that.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: You don’t have to be like in the community to enjoy the benefits of being in the community, and another thing I wanted to bring up was I was reading a post where recently someone was saying, “I feel like I am just a hamster in a wheel.” She said, “I am working as a freelance and I run my own food blog. I make three to four videos a month and I take the photos of about 20 like recipe posts a month.”

Bjork Ostrom: Wow. Oh my gosh.

Anna Rider: Yeah. She’s like, “I’m burning out. What do I do?” People said, “Why do you feel you need to do that?” She’s saying, “I don’t have time for even my own website, let alone meeting all of my clients’ deadlines.” I was thinking in my mind like, “I don’t have enough time to go through financial independence means,” in my comment back to her, but I was just thinking I probably easily would be one of those people who would push myself to the limit to see how much could I produce. Now that I have used these kind of personal finance principles in my mind, I started to think about, “Okay, if I were in her position,” and how many of us have not been? I’ve definitely-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, totally.

Anna Rider: … been in that situation where, yeah, I’m like, “I feel like a hamster in a wheel. I’m just producing, producing, producing for someone else and I don’t even get paid that much for it.” I was thinking if I could see myself in that position, I would start thinking, “Okay, what do I actually need to do to cover my basics? Then, I will do the client work to cover that.” Then, every other minute I have left, it’s going to be working on Garlic Delight because that to me is my exponentially-growing resource.

Anna Rider: That’s how I think about being very hopeful for food bloggers because it’s not just a concept for food bloggers. It could be anybody who is knee-deep in debt because they have too many car loans, or they have overleveraged themselves in their mortgage and they feel like they’re drowning. How many of those desperate posts have we read over the years? Right? Whenever I see that, I’m like, “It’s the same thing, just different name, different industry, different business,” right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: I started thinking immediately about, “How could all of us as bloggers be reminded about the concepts of, ‘Okay are we really able to pare back what we’re doing so that we can?’” Let’s just be more precise. In my own scenario at Garlic Delight, I have definitely burned out. Like I told you before, I used to do YouTube videos and I was like, “Why am I doing this? Is it necessary for my growth?” I looked at the numbers. In some ways, traffic to me is almost like money to me in the real world, if you know what I mean-

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: … where I was like, “It’s not necessarily pushing my numbers higher and it’s actually impacting the time I can assign to making really beautiful photos and writing long, detailed posts that help my audience. Is it worth it to me to be overextending myself or overleveraging on YouTube when I haven’t even solidified my presence on my blog?” If that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. There’s a James Clear quote, and so he’s the author behind Atomic Habits and I came across a quote of his. This isn’t going to be exact. This is like one of those friends who quotes movie quotes but then doesn’t get them entirely right. This is going to be me quoting James Clear, but, “The ultimate productivity hack is saying no.” I think of that as it relates to content creation in our businesses and I think some of us feel overwhelmed and feel like we’re not making any progress. I think a lot of times the answer’s just to say no to things in order to focus on the thing that truly does matter and to do it well and to do more of it.

Bjork Ostrom: It sounds like in some ways that was true for you where there’s this thing that could have been important or could have made an impact, but due to the resources that you have, in this case being time, it didn’t make sense, and so saying no allowed you to not overextend yourself, to focus more and to do the thing that really mattered and that being a really important kind of variable in your relationship with your work, feeling better about it, and kind of being able to dig deeper into it.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that you said was, “What do I do to cover my basics?” Using that as kind of a decision-making question as it relates to the amount of work that you’re doing, and not just working to work, but saying, especially when you’re in the early stages and maybe you’re doing that kind of freelance or job split and then working in your side hustle on the side, it’s really what Lindsay and I did. We kind of made this really slow transition. We were a hundred percent full-time employed and then doing our businesses on the side, and then it was kind of like 75%, so we were part time, and then it was 50%, and then it was like 25% employed. Then, working on the site and eventually made the transition.

Bjork Ostrom: How do people know what their basics are? What would your recommendations be for making sure that those basics aren’t actually like basics plus nonessentials? Any advice for kind of trimming down unnecessary spending?

Anna Rider: Absolutely, and that’s part of why I’ve always loved your and Lindsay’s story because it’s such a realistic and I would say low-risk way of approaching it because you’re not… It’s perfectly fine when people feel that they can safely just quit their job and go all-in. I know bloggers who do that and it works out, but I also know bloggers who have broke out into hives after doing that and there’s that panic, especially when I do have a family, and so it’s not always possible for some people to do that.

Bjork Ostrom: Uh-huh.

Anna Rider: I would say there’s two approaches. Just like anything in financial independence or even in life, there’s more than one way to do it, and so depending on your personality, I would steer you one way or the other. The first way I would say is you just cut ruthlessly on everything that is nonessential and see how that feels. Most people I know, they can do it for probably a month. It’s not sustainable, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Totally. It’s like-

Anna Rider: … but it-

Bjork Ostrom: … I’m going to cut back on all of this stuff and then it’s like, “Wait, maybe it is kind of nice to have Netflix,” or whatever it might be.

Anna Rider: Exactly, and then it allows them to see how their lifestyle feels and, what does it mean for them to be down at the bare essentials? Of course, they should be tracking their spending and their budgeting at this time so that they can see, “Okay, I’m actually spending like 3 or $4,000 a month before cutting and then for one month, I was able to get by spending 500 or a thousand,” or for some people it might be 2,000, 3,000. I don’t know how much it is, but that’s the minimum for me.

Anna Rider: You’ll hear a lot of entrepreneurs have done this. Apparently, I remember reading I think a Business Insider story about Elon Musk where he tried to live on a dollar a day. This was before he had started any business because he said, “I wanted to know if I reach rock bottom, could I survive?” He thought that in any developed country, he could make $30 a month, so he was like, “If I can live on a dollar a day, I know that no matter what happens to me, I’ll be okay.

Bjork Ostrom: Yep, yep.

Anna Rider: That’s kind of that approach, and then the second approach is less extreme, but it requires more tracking. That’s more of that Your Money or Your Life approach, the Vicki Robin approach where she writes, “You need to start thinking of your life and the money that you spend as life energy,” which means if I’m buying this sweater and I really like it and it costs me, let’s say, a hundred dollars, how much do I make in my job or as a professional blogger, how much do I make in income generation after taxes, after the expenses it cost to do the job? We have to sometimes drive to work, and so that means like a car costs is part of the expenses doing a job, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: After all of the expenses, how much do I make per hour? Therefore, how much life energy is it costing me to buy this sweater for a hundred dollars? That can be a less extreme way, but no less powerful way than the first method where it awakens people. It’s like people, you read about their weight loss journey and they’re like, “The first time that I understood what kind of ingredients were going into the fast food I was eating, it opened my eyes. It changed my life.” This is kind of similar except a financial Coco diet as opposed to actual food diet.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What a great concept and I think what it does is it shifts it from an intangible thing, which is money which seems tangible, but to me, the more tangible thing seems like an hour of my time or like life energy. One of the ways that I’ve been thinking about it recently is around decisions that I make is we have our two-year-old daughter Solvi, would I be willing to… Is this worth me trading an hour of my time with her? Using that as kind of the quantifiable value thing in my life when I’m making decisions. It’s like, “Great, there’s endless opportunities and you can work forever,” but realizing that at some point you’re trading your time, your energy for those dollars.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that helps not only on the earning side but also on the spending side. Is it worth it for me to buy a really great, huge TV if that means working an extra week in order to get that? It starts to impact how you think of things. How would you recommend that people track their spending and budget in order to understand that kind of, “Hey, an hour of my time is worth this much?” Do you have any recommendations for that?

Anna Rider: Yeah, and there’s whole books written about this topic, so there’s a lot of resources out there to help people. I did it really simply. I just started a spreadsheet and then looked in my bank accounts and saw, “How much do I get paid? How much does my husband get paid? Then, what are we spending on things like internet, rent, food? Then, just tracking our spending for a month just to get a baseline to see what we’re starting with. Then there’s lots of different tools that people can use if they want to get more automated or more advanced. There’s a lot of smartphone apps that will help you automate this process where you can connect them to your bank accounts and they automatically pull the data.

Anna Rider: I really like even something as simple as a pen and paper because a lot of it is really awareness and-

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, yeah.

Anna Rider: … a lot of understanding opportunity-to-cost, which again is one of those scary iconic words, but I love the story that you told because it’s a perfect illustration of that. It could be anything that’s the alternative choice for people, right? So-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: … bringing it back to food bloggers, one big example I had in the past was I was like a course junkie. I kept buying digital courses and I always thought, “Well, if this one thing helps me grow my business, it’s worth it,” and that’s to me sometimes even more insidious than the big TV because we can look at the big TV and say, “Oh, you know-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … “that’s just like entertainment or a status symbol.” There are some things that are either like a digital course where I’m like, “Oh, but maybe it would help me with my business,” or, “Oh, do I need a new camera? That would help me with my business.” Where suddenly if we could just say, “Okay, but I’m giving up this amount of time to spend either hiking or doing something else I love. Is it worth it to me to have to produce another post in order to pay for this course?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yes, right.

Anna Rider: I’m not saying courses are bad, but really it comes down to just a value judgment, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: We can’t all live like paupers and definitely I’m not advocating, but sometimes there are things where it is that trade-off, and so it really helps to get me in that habit of asking, “Would I actually enjoy this thing more? Or do I appreciate by spending more time with my husband more?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That’s great, and those are hard decisions to make and also hard ones to be methodical about and aware of. I think sometimes we’re so unaware of our decision-making. Do you feel like there are filters that you have in place or kind of mindsets that you’ve developed that allow you look at decisions with that understanding and kind of that framework before you decide on something?

Anna Rider: Yes. I have two, and then I can explain a couple of others that I know my friends use. One is I frequently ask myself, “What is the environmental impact of my consumption?” A lot of times I can’t actually afford it, and that’s the thing. It’s like you were saying about our creeping lifestyle. I can’t afford it, but do I want to afford it? What’s the environmental impact? For example, for the props, perfect example for food bloggers, right? Because it’s so-

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: … easy for us to spring on that one plate or get another tea pot or another cup, that we’re like, “This would be amazing.” The thing is, after a while, my shelf gets really big and I have to start throwing things out because I have so much clutter I can’t find the props I need for my next photoshoot. That goes to the landfill. That’s an environmental impact, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: I started to ask myself, “Hey, okay, I can afford it, but do I actually want to afford it? Do I want to bring it into my home? Do I want to clean it? Do I want to maintain it? Eventually, if I’m going to throw it out, can I find another home for it? Or does it have to go to a landfill? How do I feel about it sitting in the landfill with all of the other junk I’ve thrown out throughout my life?” That’s-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: … one way I do it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great, and I think it almost has kind of tie-in to… it’s not minimalism, but it’s our relationship to things as it relates to their impact as something that we need to care for and something that’s there, as something that’s potentially thrown away. I love that. What’s the other part of it? The second question that you ask?

Anna Rider: Yeah, so another technique I use really frequently is I ask myself, “Does this make me feel more or less like I’m getting closer to my goals?” That also is something that requires a lot of reflection. That’s why this is not really an overnight transformation. This is like a multi-year-long journey. Some people would say it lasts for your whole life, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: Where every year, I sit down and I figure out, “What kind of person do I want to be?” Some bloggers, I think it was The Frugalwoods, Mrs. Frugalwoods, she even said, “Go ahead and write your obituary and like ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for? What are your achievements? Then, read it once a year, on your birthday or on New Year’s Day or something, and ask yourself, are you further or closer to those goals? Right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: Or what you wrote about in your story and your obituary. That’s another filter where if I’m not sure about a purchase or I’m not sure about a big life decision, whether it’s related to finance or not, then more likely than not it is tied to finance because money touches everything in life, just the way like food touches everything in life. I would just say, “Hey, am I getting closer or farther?” That can sometimes be the filter because we’re all very wealthy living in a developed country like the U.S., right? It’s like-

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: … more likely than not, we can find a way to justify or we can find a way to afford something, but the question is, do we really want to?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: Are we willing to pay that price?

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think some of that intentional processing around those decisions that you’re making, whether that be things that you spend money on, activities that you do, things that you spend your time on. One of the things that I appreciate is there’s certain elements of that, and you actually referenced this as we had kind of some back-and-forth conversations before this podcast, certain elements of that that seemed like they kind of come from the financial independence community or financial bloggers. You actually mentioned somebody in the obituary example of writing that out. Do you find that your connection to the finance world informs some of the decisions that you make from a business perspective with your food blog? If so, what does that look like?

Anna Rider: Oh yeah, I have so many I can tell you about. Three already come to mind. One is the concept of F.U. Money. It’s a big thing in the FI community, which is, what amount of money do you need so that you can say FU to the situation? Or FU-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah-

Anna Rider: … to the boss.

Bjork Ostrom: … it gets kind of a mic drop moment of don’t need to take your feedback, don’t need this job. I can walk from it. In reaching that level of financial wealth, how do you get to that number? How do you know what that is?

Anna Rider: You know, I love that philosophical question you ask because now that I think about it, especially the way you framed it, it’s really more like a mindset than it is a fixed dollar for each person. I think everyone can reach that mindset where they feel enough security because of the money that they have to cover their needs that if someone is in an abusive situation or finds themselves in misery where they’re working on a project that they don’t want to, ask yourself, how much is it that you could step away from that scenario and feel safe?

Anna Rider: For some people, that could just be a three-month emergency fund. Some people, it could be a three-year fund-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: You know, to cover, again, those basic expenses like we talked about if you go through the process of budgeting and figuring out what your essentials are. I definitely find F.U. Money really helpful, and that’s also allowed me to start thinking more about, what kind of content do I want to make so I’m not constantly chasing trends? How can I figure out what my readers want to read, but also cover things that I care about and I don’t feel like I slavishly work towards things that I don’t want to cover.” Of course, within reason, because I need to write content my audience wants that sometimes…

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There really is a balance. Lindsay talks about that in the content that she creates for Pinch of Yum where there’s kind of a category of pure interest in the alignment, and then there’s a category of pure performance alignment, and then there’s a spectrum in between that. Lindsay talks about every once in a while, like maybe let’s say 25% of the content, it’s like, “Hey, I’m going to kind of think about performance for this. What’s the potential for this to rank to get traffic?”

Bjork Ostrom: If you do that all day long, it can feel like empty work, and so you have to have that right balance of content that you feel like is more compassion content. Maybe I doesn’t have the opportunity to rank really well on Google or to have a high-earning potential or be sponsored, but you know that it’s something you love and you want to do that. Lindsay talks about, “Hey, let’s kind of try and do like a 75–25 balance with that around content,” and I kind of hear you saying the same thing.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things you had almost mentioned was this idea of the expected value of a piece of content. This was a conversation that we’re having. What is expected value mean? How does that fit into the decisions you make the content that you’re producing?

Anna Rider: Yeah. Expected value, it can have a lot of math behind it, so for podcast reasons, we’ll skip that-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, sure. How to talk-

Anna Rider: … piece of it.

Bjork Ostrom: … math, but yeah.

Anna Rider: Actually, that’s not even how my brain works. My brain works in a more like storytelling way, so the way I like to interpret it is expected value is thinking about, “What’s the likelihood of something happening? Then, in financial terms, what’s the dollar value associated with that?” One way I could think about it is when I look at my post, what is the likelihood that I’m going to rank on page one of Google for this post? Approximately how much do I make from, let’s say, display ads for each post? It allows me to figure out, “Okay, well, if I’ve got this kind of recipe and I think I have a pretty good chance about ranking on the first page, I can calculate my expected value.” That’s value I expect to produce if I go ahead and do this action.

Anna Rider: What it allows you to do is start to think about different things in a more, as you would like to say, a tangible or like kind of metric-driving way so that I can start to make trade-offs easier in my current life. Let me give you a practical example, because I know-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I’d love to hear it.

Anna Rider: … we’re talking in a lot of abstract terms. I have a pretty clear idea of what my expected value is per blog post that I produce because I know approximately what my rankings are and what my RPM is for my ads. I ask myself, “Okay, that means that my expected value for producing one blog post is this.” Let’s say it’s $250 or let’s say for some people it might be $5,000.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: Now, if I want to invest a lot of time in a new social network that’s not proven but I heard it’s like the next big thing that’s going to be like as good as Pinterest, I can do the math on that probably. What’s the probability that that social media platform is going to take off? If it does, how much am I making on, let’s say, Pinterest right now or on ads? How much is that going to increase my traffic by?

Anna Rider: If that dollar amount is more, I’m going to spend my time investing on learning this new social media platform and not on producing post. If I figure out that I cannot have a higher expected value from investing time in that social media platform, then it makes sense for me to keep producing more posts because it has a higher expectation that is going to bring me more value, if that makes sense.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, yeah. I love the idea of building in some type of way to guide decision-making because I think one thing that can be so overwhelming in the content production world is knowing that you have a hundred different options and each one of those has positives and negatives, but putting together some type of framework to say, “Okay, if I spend my time here, here’s kind of if I’m estimating and thinking this might be the potential outcome, here’s what I could see from that.”

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s important to point out it’s by no means prophetic, like you’re not going to put that in there and it’s actually going to happen, but it allows you to get better at attempting to predict things and that, then, becomes a skill that you have. It’s similar to after doing a blog for 10 years, you kind of start to understand if a piece of content will do well just because you’ve produced so much content that you get a feeling that like, “Hey, in the past, I kind of have this inkling that this is going to do well.”

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s our brain kind of getting accustomed to certain things doing well or not as well, but what you’re saying is, “Hey, why don’t you actually put some numbers to that.” You can kind of calculate that. You could put a little basic spreadsheet together and make some calculations on the potential return of something. Is that something you’re kind of doing in your head? Or are you actually going through the process when you’re thinking of, let’s say, writing an article or developing a recipe and saying, “Here’s what I think the actual return on this could be?”

Anna Rider: I mostly do it in my head and I don’t necessarily even put really precise-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … numbers around it. I sometimes in a kind of lazy way just think like probably of success, like super low, medium, or sorry, super low, low, medium, high, or like absolutely it’s a no-brainer. You know?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Anna Rider: Then, I kind of put like a dollar amount approximately, but in a rough term like, “Oh, it’s probably about 200,” or something like that. What’s funny is that my husband’s a physicist and so he will sometimes explain things to me where he’s already done the actual math in his head-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … and I’m like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, right.

Anna Rider: “Can you please write this down?” Then, he will actually spreadsheet it for me and I’ll be like, “Oh, I get it now, that number for option one much smaller than number for option two. Yeah, okay, option two’s a no-brainer.” So for me, again, because I’m not very math-heavy, I like to think of it in more like categories and buckets, but he will sometimes do the math. It works as a great communication tool, but-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: … yeah, it’s a great… I think whatever works for the person is the best strategy, but the main point I wanted to take away is that I do think about things with this level of strategy.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure, yep, and it sounds like some of that comes from… You had mentioned this before, FinCon, the financial blogger conference, and picking up kind of some of the norms-

Anna Rider: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: … from finance bloggers. Are there other things that you notice that exist in the financial publishing world? Conversations that are happening in places like FinCon or in communities where it’s personal finance bloggers that you feel like could be applied to food blogging that you don’t really see happening in the food blogging space?

Anna Rider: Absolutely, and there’s two big ones that I really want to talk about. Number one is compound interest, and number two is the way that personal finance bloggers link to each other, and the SEO term, you would say backlinking. Let’s talk about compound interest. I most came to this concept as a reader of personal finance blogs, not really participating necessarily in FinCon and those personal finance bloggers. The concept of compound interest is hard for humans to grasp. We don’t really think in terms of exponential growth, and now we are actually having to learn to think like that because sadly COVID–19 has trained us to think like that the way the virus spreads in compound interest or exponential growth ways.

Anna Rider: What I mean is if you look at the exponential curve, some people call it the hockey stick, it starts off really slow, but then it just takes off, and it’s the same way with investments as it is with traffic. The first probably hundred thousand dollars of savings is the hardest for most people because it doesn’t feel like it’s growing very much and you’re contributing a lot, but you’re not seeing very much growth. It’s the same way for blogging. In the very beginning is the hardest to get traffic numbers because it also follows in an exponential growth curve.

Anna Rider: Understanding compound interest for me was really helpful because it allowed me to see that the same numbers are applying to my exponential growth on my traffic. Now, I look at Google Analytics and I’m like, “Hey, I see the hockey curve,” but when I first started, I did not. I saw every individual traffic number bump. I saw myself go from five to 10 to 50 and I saw myself growing. It fell like linearly and it wasn’t until quite a while that you actually start to see that exponential growth trend, and a lot of people quit blogging, they quite investing because the payoff doesn’t come for probably years-

Bjork Ostrom: Years.

Anna Rider: … you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: Not even months.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes. It is such a long-term game and it ties in well to the name of our company that we run, TinyBit, which comes from the phrase that we talk a lot about on the podcast, 1% infinity, just getting a tiny bit better every day. In essence, it’s a version of compound interest.

Anna Rider: It really is.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s 1% better every day. It can be applied to finances, it can be applied to traffic, it can be applied to your personal life. I think it was Albert Einstein who had that… let me pull it up here, compound interest quote where he said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it earns it. He who doesn’t pays it.”

Bjork Ostrom: It feels like there’s a lot of application in that in the finance world for sure, but also, with working on something improving and seeing the gains of that over time and seeing the true gains of that eight, nine, 10 years in where you make a 4% improvement and you really see it, whereas a 4% improvement in the first year, you’re not going to see it as much. A huge light to be pointed at sticking with it and patience and perseverance as being so important.

Anna Rider: I thinking that-

Bjork Ostrom: How about that second one?

Anna Rider: Oh.

Bjork Ostrom: The idea of backlinking? Or is there something else you wanted to add to that?

Anna Rider: Yeah. One thing I want to point out, too, about personal finance that applies absolutely to blogging when it comes to exponential growth is that eventually you will make more money from the growth than the actual amount you are contributing. That’s a very interesting concept and it’s very hard for beginners to believe because they think, “How can the amount that I’ve put it in the past actually start to earn me more money than I put in?”

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: For example, let’s say you’re putting in a thousand dollars a month, eventually your money will start to gain and grow more than a thousand dollars a month, so that’s actually more than you’re putting in. I find the same way with traffic. It’s like I’m fighting tooth and nail for every last visitor right now, and then once my traffic starts to grow exponentially, I feel like because Google rewards me and I’m doing well on Pinterest and all these other places, that I’m attracting more people than the people I’m actively trying to push to the website, if you know what I mean.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: Same with backlinks and so on.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting if you were to do like an investment calculator. You can see that. You can enter in… Like if I’m entering in here “Age 34, plan to retire 67,” and let’s say I have zero saved for retirement, contribute monthly let’s say a hundred dollars and 8%. I don’t know, you’d know better than I would if that’s realistic, but if you plug those numbers in, you can see if you contribute 39,000 over the lifetime, if that’s what you’re doing, but the growth, the stuff that you haven’t put in, is 153,000-

Anna Rider: Exactly it’s even more-

Bjork Ostrom: … that’s exactly what you’re saying-

Anna Rider: … than what you put in.

Bjork Ostrom: … is like you’ve only put in 39,000, but the compound interest, the work that’s been done by the money that you’ve put in, or in the case of traffic, the time and energy that you’ve put in grows exponentially, but you don’t really see that until the end, which is just such a great point. What about backlinks? That was something that you talked about being important in the financial blogging world. How does that look different than it does in food blogging?

Anna Rider: Yeah, and I’m going to make some gross generalizations-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … but one thing I really love about the FinCon community is that they have a rising-tide-floats-all-boats philosophy in life. They have very much focused on, “How can I have an abundant mindset?” Which means that they think that if they link more to other bloggers, and, hey, some of them are going to be competitors, they don’t see themselves that way. They think, “If I link more, then you’re going to grow in authority and you’re going to link back to me because we’re friends and we also think that there’s value in our audiences getting to know each other and learning advice from each other.”

Anna Rider: Suddenly, there’s this number of backlinks is part of the ranking factors for Google, and they all grow together. Sometimes when I have been at food blogging conferences and I’ve talked about, “Hey, do you do guest posting? What’s your backlink strategy?” Or like, “How would you feel if I guest posted with you?” I’ve literally heard answers of like, “I don’t want to post on someone else’s website because then they get the higher revenue and I don’t.”

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: That kind of zero-sum thinking to me was very surprising because after having interacted with so many personal finance bloggers who are more than happy to just say, “Hey, I went to FinCon and I talked to my buddy Anna and she’s not only a personal finance blogger, but she’s a food blogger. Check out her blog here. Looks yummy.” There’s nothing in it for them, but they just want to share the love and just generously link. Honestly, it helps their readers because, who knows, maybe they’re interested in my Garlic bread recipe?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: That kind of philosophy I am always trying to instill more in the food blogger community where I’m always trying to drop links to people. I will actively look for other bloggers who I respect but I know they’re beginners, so to me they’re up-and-coming, but they’re not like the biggest, biggest, biggest bloggers, who frankly don’t need my help anymore, you know?

Bjork Ostrom: Right, right.

Anna Rider: To give them a link, to like give them a boost, I really want to pay it forward because a lot of people have done that for me and I also think the more we link to each other, the more our industry will grow. Personal finance bloggers, they always see themselves as like, “We could always grow bigger,” and maybe that’s just the finance mindset and philosophy, but to them it’s like personal finance, it’s an industry, but FIRE bloggers specifically, they’re like the small fry in the personal finance industry as a whole. You’ve got like insurance and retirement accounts and stuff and there’s a lot under that personal finance umbrella that FIRE bloggers are not always the biggest group of people. They’re like, “Hey, the more we can grow each other, the more we can be a bigger and bigger thing,” so-

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting when you look at the overall market and finance being the example. There’s huge finance sites and venture-backed, a bunch of money, millions of millions of page views. When you stack that up against collectively a group of smaller in comparison finance bloggers, it’s like, “Oh, it makes sense for almost that group to view themselves as kind of a collective unit.” Not necessarily competing against each other, but definitely competing against these huge sites wit a ton of resources, so I can see that-

Anna Rider: Right, the big guys.

Bjork Ostrom: … making a lot of sense. Yeah, yeah-

Anna Rider: Absolutely.

Bjork Ostrom: … so-

Anna Rider: Absolutely, yep.

Bjork Ostrom: … so many takeaways here. I know that people are going to be really excited about different pieces of it and would be interested in connecting with you personally, Anna. Before we wrap up, I’d be curious to know, for those who want to get started specifically on the financial independence piece, if they want to take those first steps in saying, “You know what? I want to understand my finances a little bit more, I want to have a little more control.”

Bjork Ostrom: What does that look like? How do you move forward with that? I know you even have some meetup groups that you do. Obviously, probably not in person right now, but if somebody’s interested in learning more about other people they can connect with, what’s the best step forward for somebody who’s interested in learning more? Then, the second piece of that is, how can they connect with you personally?

Anna Rider: Sure, so if people want to do the meetup, I still host the meetup and it’s all virtual. We do it through Zoom. I would be happy to share the link with you and we could drop it in the show notes.

Bjork Ostrom: Great.

Anna Rider: Another way that I recommend people kind of understand personal finance is actually… You’re going to find it really funny. It’s not a FIRE resource.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: It’s a book I stumbled upon actually before I even landed on the FIRE community. It’s a really short like 14-page PDF and it’s called If You Can, and it’s written by this like financial advisor who wrote a book for Millennials to explain to them what they need to do to retire. The reason I like it is because it’s very clear. It’s not intimidating. It doesn’t have all of these acronyms and like all of this whole subculture you have to dive into, but it has the same tenets, which is, how do you save more? Don’t spend as much as you earn and what to do with the money. I find it super nonintimidating and it’s free, so it’s like, what’s better than free?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.

Anna Rider: I’ll drop a link for you for that resource and from that point, the book is really like, “Here’s five different books you should read,” and so-

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Anna Rider: … if someone is so inclined, they can do that. If they’re not, they can definitely look at some of the resources that I’m sure we’ll share in the show notes of my personal favorite FI bloggers that I think would really help get folks comfortable in understanding what is the first step to working on that journey to financial independence, if that’s what they’re interested in.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Yeah, and they can see that, if you can, you can get it on Amazon as a free Kindle if you’re part of Kindle Unlimited, or there’s the PDF. It’s like the first thing that shows up is a link to the PDF, which is so great that it’s free and available, so we’ll link to that as well, but you can also just search if you can. Anna, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Really, really appreciate it, and it’s fun conversation for me because it’s an area that I’m interested in and I know that it will be interesting for podcast listeners as well. Thanks so much for coming on.

Anna Rider: No problem, and if anybody has any questions, the easiest way to get in touch with me is actually through email, so you can email me at [email protected], and I pretty much respond to all of my comments and questions and stuff. You can ask me anything about blogging, food-related, or even personal finance, and I would be happy to email you resources or offer any advice.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Really appreciate that, Anna. Thanks so much.

Anna Rider: Great. Thank you so much for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s a wrap on this episode of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast with Anna from Garlic Delight. We hope you enjoyed it and we hope you learned something. I know I learned a ton. Finances is something that typically stresses me out to think about, but it’s such an important topic, especially as a business owner and as somebody who wants to set themself up for success in retirement age. I just was reminded of so many great things, and Anna mentioned a ton of resources, so we have all of those linked in the show notes for this episode and you can find that at foodbloggerpro.com/279.

Alexa Peduzzi: If you have any other questions, we would love to hear about them in the comment section of the show notes at foodbloggerpro.com/279, or on Food Blogger Pro on the forum. We’re always having discussions there about business development and growing your blog, so that would be a great place to drop any questions if have any additional ones.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s that. That’s a wrap for this episode and we hope you enjoyed it and we’ll see you next time and until then, make it a great week.

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