My no-shopping experiment (part two) ~ Get Rich Slowly

This guest post from Kamie is part of the “money stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all stages of financial maturity. Today, Kamie shares an update on her resolution to break her shopping habit in 2018.

Hello again, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since I started my no-shopping experiment, and it’s time to give you an update on my progress.

The first week of not shopping was very interesting for me. I found myself wandering around, trying to figure out things to do when I wasn’t working. Shopping used to be a hobby for me, an escape, a way to fill the time. Eventually, I found productive ways to use my free time.

Productive Use of Free Time

One of the things I did was clean out our cupboards and drawers. As I did this, I realized just how much stuff we obtain over time. By the third day, I had three garbage bags full of junk and garbage. I also found items that were brand new that had never been used. I realize that is not okay, but that’s how it is.

For some of these things, I created a “present box”. This is a box with all of these things I have never used but are actually pretty cool. I can give them as gifts in the future. (I guess this sounds like re-gifting, but I actually purchased these items a while back for myself.) This helps me in a couple of ways:

  • First, I’m getting rid of unused clutter.
  • Second, I won’t have to violate my “no shopping” goal by buying gifts.

I hope to have every drawer cleaned out by spring or earlier!

Next, I had to figure out what to do when I was out of the house. As I said, normally I would go shopping. Instead, I’ve been substituting the gym.

I’ll admit, the gym is an added expense, but I already have an existing membership, so why not use it? If you were doing a no-shopping experiment, this might violate your definition “shopping”. For myself, I’ve decided this is within my rules. Going to the gym has proven to be a very logical and healthy decision. It gives me somewhere to put my extra energy and get out of the house at the same time. I’m loving the exercise. It’s a great way to stay focused!

But here’s the big question: Have I purchased anything?

Conquering Coffee

Unfortunately, people make mistakes. Yes, I goofed up. I bought a song off iTunes. No big deal, right? Wrong! I realized right after I had done it that it wasn’t a necessity. It was a habit! You don’t realize just how many little habits you have when you are trying to be achieve something. [J.D.’s note: I have an iTunes habit too. It’s something I’m working on.]

I was really bummed when I realized that buying songs from iTunes would violate my “no shopping” rule. I love to get new music! To fight this, I took time to make some new playlists out of the music I already have. This way, it sounds new to me! (Secretly, I’m crossing my fingers that my husband will buy music and I can steal it because we have a joint account! Is that cheating?)

As I mentioned in my first installment, one big issue I’ll have this year is Starbucks. Normally, I spend a lot at Starbucks. And I’ll confess that I’ve bought coffee there a couple of times this year. I have cut down a lot, no doubt, and I’m trying to steer clear…but it’s difficult.

To fight my Starbucks habit, I’ve started taking coffee with me from home in the morning. I’ve also made sure that I have everything I need to make coffee and tea at work.

These changes have had some unexpected side effects. Not only am I saving money, but I’m also saving time, especially since I’m no longer driving to Starbucks on my breaks. Plus, I’ve started bring my lunch to work too. I’m saving time and money two ways with this plan.

I don’t think I’ve licked my Starbucks habit yet, but I’m making progress.

Revising My Rules

Next, I decided to update my list of what I can purchase. When doing something like this, you have to decide what’s important and a necessity for you. Everyone is different. Something that’s necessary to me might not be necessary for you. Over the past month, I’ve had to re-evaluate my own definitions.

For example, I added hair products and face creams to my list of acceptable items — but only when I run out completely. (No shopping for the sake of shopping!) Healthy hair and skin are important to me, a part of basic hygiene. I don’t think buying personal care products counts as “shopping” as long as you’re not over-indulging.

This is a fine line, right? I really had to think about this one and break it down in my mind. But I’ve found that setting limits on when and how often I can purchase items has helped immensely.

When Free Isn’t Free

I had my next realization while watching TV one night.

A commercial came on with two women who were talking about earning cash back from shopping. “That makes sense,” I thought. “It’s like getting a gift with your purchase. You’re getting something for free.”

Then it hit me. It’s like my husband is always trying to tell me: “If you’re spending more money in order to get something for free, then it’s not free. You’ve just spent another $50.”

The same thing was happening in the commercial. The women were spending more money to get more money back…but it was only like two percent. “Why would they do that?” I thought. “It makes no sense.”

But the most exciting thing that’s happened since I started this no-shopping experiment is the support I’ve received from my family and friends. (Full disclosure: J.D. is my brother-in-law.)

In fact, my mom is now doing this challenge with me! Having somebody to do this with actually makes it fun. I don’t feel like I’m on my own, struggling with the ups and downs.

The first few weeks of this have been interesting. Despite a couple of slips, I’m determined to keep going. I’m learning to be logical about how to accomplish my goals. Plus, I’m saving money and time too! But the best thing is having my mom and husband on board. We’ll see how it goes from here…

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be nice. After twenty years of blogging, I have a thick skin, but it can be scary to put your story out in public for the first time. Remember that this guest author isn’t a professional writer, and is just learning about money like you are. Unduly nasty comments on reader stories will be removed or edited.

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Back to normal (mostly)

Hey, everybody. Just a quick note to let you know that Get Rich Slowly is ready to resume normal operations…sort of.

I took the past week off to work on business stuff behind the scenes. Turns out that there’s way more to do than I had expected — and I had expected a lot. My attention really does need to move from the editorial aspect of this site to the business aspect.

Having said that, I’m not willing to just abandon you, the readers. Besides, I made an audacious goal of publishing 500 articles at Get Rich Slowly in 2018!

After talking with some trusted advisers, I think I’ve found a solution.

  • I’ve assembled a small team to help me work on the business stuff over the next couple of weeks (or months). Kathleen and Michael are both long-time friends and GRS fans. I’m bringing them on as paid consultants to help me tackle some of the biggest issues.
  • To relieve some of the burden on the editorial side of things, I’m going to severely curtail new material. It won’t vanish completely, but it won’t be the focus for the next few weeks.
  • Rather than leave this blog barren, I’ll accelerate the process of migrating my Money Boss articles to GRS. I had been moving them at the rate of about one per week. That’ll jump to 4-5 articles per week. If you’ve read through the Money Boss archives, you’ll have seen this material before. If not, it’ll be new stuff.

So, that’s the plan: Reduce new material, but fill the gap with articles moved from Money Boss. Meanwhile, bring on help so that we can take care of the business stuff more quickly.

One side effect of all this is that I’m currently much more interested in guest posts than I usually would be. If you have a guest article that you believe would be beneficial to GRS readers, let me know. (And, as always, if you have a question for the readers or a “reader story” you’d like to share, feel free to submit it!)

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Why Netflix Is Winning at Digital Marketing

Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, Altered Carbon, House of Cards, 13 Reasons Why…should I go on? I could.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that Netflix is killing it in the streaming world. They’re the king of original video content and they’re still bringing enough outside options to not seem too selfish.

But what can a marketer glean from Netflix’s marketing success? Can we emulate their tactics?

Let’s take a look at how Netflix brought in and kept subscribers with their billion dollar marketing campaign last year.

Where Netflix Was and Where They Are Now

The age of Netflix as a DVD delivery service seems like a dream. While the company began as, Inc. in 97′, it actually took off in 2001-02 when it partnered with Best Buy, went public, and changed their name to Netflix, Inc.

The next year, they hit one million subscribers and became truly profitable. And they’re competing against traditional rental companies like Blockbuster (who eventually became another Netflix-like DVD delivery service before disappearing entirely).

Four years later, the internet is finally fast enough for video streaming and Netflix launches their second game-changing ploy. While they weren’t making their own content yet, they offered more film and TV content than any other streaming service at the time.

In 2011, Netflix hit $300 a share right before they made their first major blunder. CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would become two companies, Qwikster (DVD delivery) and Netflix (online streaming). The backlash was intense and Netflix shares dropped 75%.

The world wasn’t ready to go full digital yet. And Netflix certainly didn’t have the online content to make such a move.

But they didn’t give up. They slowly pivoted and gradually increased the burner on streaming. It worked — Netflix removed all mention of DVDs from their landing pages and by 2013, everyone knew them as an online streaming service and not a DVD delivery service.

2013 was a monumental year for Netflix. House of Cards became their first original show, launching what was effectively their future in film and TV production. The show was a monumental hit and subscribers came flooding in just to see what the nefarious Frank Underwood would do next.

The rest is essentially history.

Netflix’s Cutting Edge Marketing

Netflix is now a household name. I know few people who don’t subscribe to their service. But how did they continue the magic of House of Cards?

Wouldn’t people subscribe for a month each time a new season of House of Cards arrived? Netflix refused to rest on their laurels, however, and began producing more and more content of their own.

Netflix Originals became the first wave in an invasion of Netflix marketing genius. House of Cards was a quality production. And Netflix continued to be a powerhouse of video content when they released Orange is the New Black.

They contracted with independent production companies to produce films. They acquired contracts with Disney’s Marvel and continued shows like Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Arrested Development. Their fingers were in everything and people loved them for it.

But outside of the brilliant move commissioning their own content, what else has Netflix done to stay a step ahead of other services like Hulu and Amazon?

Gorilla Marketing Through Apps and Other Products

I’ve talked about gorilla marketing before on Shoemoney, but Netflix takes the cake when it comes to this concept. Netflix’s Black Mirror is our generation’s Outer Limits and it creepily embodies the zeitgeist of our culture. And Netflix knows how to use the meta of Black Mirror’s near future freak factor to their advantage.

RateMe is an online and mobile app inspired by the pilot episode of Black Mirror. Netflix created the app to promote the show’s third season. It’s a creepy homage to the pilot episode’s plot where the main protagonist can’t get an apartment because her social rating is too low.

The app is kind of a silly and useless gag where you can ask it to rate you or you can rate others on a 5 point scale. But it’s still creepy and interesting enough to remind subscribers of the addicting new show.

Other products Netflix used in their gorilla marketing campaigns include a Stranger Things font tool and a guide on how to make your own Netflix pausing Netflix socks.

Netflix Leverages the Metrics like No Other

Talking about Black Mirror-like things, Netflix is watching you. Well, not in a 1984-esque way. More like a clerk in a small shop.

Netflix gathers data on their subscribers and watches the market like a hawk. Of course, they have a whole team dedicated to this kind of analysis. But they’re using it to run email campaigns, text campaigns, ad campaigns, and make huge ROI on all of them.

Netflix mastered the art of reducing the bounce rate in email marketing. Their emails are simple sales funnels or updates on new content. They don’t bandy about with spammy techniques and their email design is excellent.

While their outbound marketing is a polished machine, their internal marketing is where they shine the most. Keeping subscribers is the game and if subscribers run out of shows to binge watch, that’s a problem.

Netflix has become king at showing you what you would love to watch (unless you share your Netflix with your entire family). They track user behavior. Things like pausing, rewinding, and fast-forwarding (thank the data for the “skip intro” button!).

And it’s no accident Netflix shows hit home 90% of the time. They’re crafted from the data. What you, the subscriber, love to binge watch. They know their audience and they find out everything they can about them.

If you want to hit your marketing campaign out of the park every time, know thy audience better than your lover. Netflix does and they’re winning the streaming content game.

The Netflix Marketing Well is Deep

Netflix’s marketing campaign is massive. And with enough time, I could write a book about their efforts and how their success could inspire millions of marketers to action.

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Status Update

Just a quick note to let you all know that my “work vacation” is going well. I’m in the middle of 7-10 days off from publishing new money articles here to focus exclusively on the business side of the blog. So far, so good. I’m getting tons done because I know I don’t have to worry about writing new material.

As part of this, I’m working on some of the behind-the-scenes infrastructure around here.

  • We’re going to change the way Get Rich Slowly URLs display, moving from the old date-based format to a more modern title-only format. In theory, this should be straightforward — but you never know. Things may be a little messy now and then.
  • We’re also going to move GRS to a secure server so that URLs will now start with https: instead of http:. Again, this should be easy but we also realize there may be some bumps along the way.
  • Yes, re-implementing the forums are also on the task list. We’re having some issues with the database. Hang in there!
  • Now that I’m back at GRS, readers are once again sending me tons of links, videos, and story ideas. To reduce the mess in my main inbox, I’ve created a new email address for this sort of thing. If you want to send in something for me to write about, use editorial at getrichslowly (.org not .com).

Those are some of the front-facing changes, but there’s also tons of work under the hood too. For instance, I just got a notice from Google this morning that they believe GRS has too many broken outbound links in old articles. Fixing those is a colossal task, and it’s but one example of the kinds of repairs we’re making.

At this point, it’s looking to me as if my “time away from publishing” is going to be on the longer end of my estimate. I may post an occasional article now and then, but regular publishing won’t resume for at least a week (March 1st), and there’s a chance that I won’t be back until Monday the 5th.

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What ‘Black Panther’ Means for Superhero Marketing

As the credits rolled on Black Panther Saturday night, I turned to my friend and said, “There’s really no way to create a trailer for this movie, is there?” He agreed. The trailers we had seen in the prior months were lackluster and silly featuring random action scenes and shots of downtown Wakanda.

But if you watch the film, you’ll quickly realize there’s a reason for that. Zero fluff exists in the rockin’ superhero film Black Panther. From start to finish, it’s a polished film that leaves literally no plot holes.

But what does this mean for the future of superhero marketing? What could other projects learn from this mysterious door-buster of a movie?

1. How Did Black Panther Smash Opening Night With Such Crummy Trailers?

While Black Panther isn’t the first Marvel film to feature a black man as the lead (we’re looking at you, Blade), it’s the first MCU film with a black lead and a black director. The film was putting notches in its spear handle long before any trailer hit the screen.

But the Black Panther writers, producers, and director had a challenge before them yet. They had to hit the mark or their movie would go down in infamy. The film needed an airtight script while maintaining the excitement of the superhero genre.

This meant a major headache for marketers as well. How do you build a marketing plan that gives nothing away when almost every moment of a film will give away something about the plot?

You focus on the set.

Wakanda became the buzzword during the Holiday season. So much so, that some even criticised people for caring more about the fictional Wakanda than actual African countries that need real aid.

While the Marvel version of Themyscira is central to the plot of Black Panther, there is nothing you could glean about the plot from its existence.

Since introducing otherworldly characters such as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor into the mix, world-building has been a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it’s never the central aspect of a film’s marketing.

The trailers became the smallest part of Black Panther’s marketing.

A Grassroots Campaign

Positioning and timing is everything in the film world. If you release your film in the wrong month, you’re screwed. And traditionally, the worst movies come out in February.

But for a film about and by people of color, there is no better month than February, at least in the United States. It’s Black History Month.

And Black Panther is making history.

Create something for people and people will carry you over the finish line. That’s exactly what’s happening with this movie.

SuCh Charles’ movement in Denver is a great example of this. A singer-songwriter who, when she saw that Black Panther was to hit theaters in February, began to organize a small movement of people to support the film in Denver. If her people were represented well in a film, it was important to support that film.

At a time when movements like Black Lives Matter hit a controversial note, it’s important that positive and celebratory images of people of color receive a solid backing. And hundreds of groups across the country latched onto that idea, packing out theaters on opening night.

Doesn’t Come Without Criticism

The fact that a bunch of executives at Marvel Studios will make bank on the black community’s enthusiasm isn’t lost on some. People like Diamond Teeth Boy blasted on Twitter about Marvel’s marketing tactics.

And while, yes, this is true, films like Black Panther would not exist without the deep pockets of Disney and Marvel. And the chance for actors of color (there are only two white actors in the whole film) to get the exposure of a blockbuster film is huge.

2. What Marketers Can Learn from Black Panter’s Marketing Success

Black Panther is slated to be one of the most successful superhero films to date. And if you’re looking for blog ideas, right now Black Panther is a hot topic.

But what can we learn from this incredible success?

Create Excellent Content First and Foremost

Neil Patel says “write blogs for people, not search engines.” And he’s absolutely right.

While SEO is extremely important, it shouldn’t be your first consideration when creating content for your blog or your website. Find out what people want to see first.

Of course, Marvel spent billions over the last ten years figuring out just that. If you look at the average critical score of each film, Marvel is obviously getting better at giving audiences what they want.

Do your research and know thy audience. If you don’t know where to start, begin by thinking of what you would want to read.

If you’re curious about something, it’s likely someone else is as well.

Plug Into Current Trends

Marvel is shameless about riding current political waves. And while you should be careful how you follow trends, look at the world around you.

Use the tools at your disposal. Popular forums like Reddit and Facebook are the perfect places to start. There is literally a Reddit for anything you could want to know about and Facebook tracks its own trends openly.

As long as you balance perspectives, don’t be afraid of controversial topics. If your content is excellent and well researched, you’ll be able to defend it.

Go to Wakanda

If you haven’t been to Wakanda yet, it’s time to get out there and see what the hype is all about. This is probably the best superhero film of all time.

And if you need a model marketing platform, Marvel’s handling of Black Panther takes the cake. Not only did they plug into a current movement, they created something worth seeing over and over again. And the numbers already back that up.

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Miss ‘Mad Men’? Relive the Nostalgia with These 1960’s Ads

After watching Mad Men, your office life was probably pretty droll in comparison. You don’t have a liquor cabinet behind your desk. You might not have a secretary at your beck and call. And you’re certainly not Don Draper (nobody can be Don Draper, not even Pete Campbell, am I right?).

Mad Men was a show unlike any other. One part soap opera, one part historical recreation, once it grabbed your mind (and heart) it wouldn’t let go. But what made Mad Men unique in my estimation was its ability to instill nostalgia for an era most people watching the show never experienced.

The 60’s was a unique time in history that penned an indelible mark on our collective memory. We can blame much of the rapid political and cultural changes of the sixties for this. And today we’re going to learn how to plug into that same nostalgia.

1. If You Don’t Like What’s Being Said, Change the Conversation

There is one thing we certainly learned from Mad Men. Marketing changed during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. While the ad market slowed in the 50’s, it garnered a creative revolution.

Suddenly humor, irony, and a shade of irreverence were allowed in marketing. This was an effort to connect with younger consumers. Advertisers were also attempting to overcome a distrust of corporate messages (sound familiar?).

It’s no coincidence that we see large corporations like Coca-cola featured heavily in Mad Men. These were the corporations trying to bolster their brands at a time when large brands were being maligned and anti-establishmentarianism was at an all-time high.

Social activism also began to work its way into the ads of the time. And we can see this clearly in every Mad Men era starting with the campaign against cigarettes.

The US census is the last thing that changed the marketing world for good. Through the 1960 census, marketers suddenly had segmented research at their fingertips. Lifestyles were included in this data and marketers were able to target specific demographics through image campaigns.

Throughout it all, some epic campaigns went down. Let’s look at some of the most iconic campaigns of the 60’s for some inspiration.

2. Think Small

Volkswagen had a problem in the 50’s and 60’s. It was a car company founded by the Third Reich during WW2 and its cars weren’t very pretty. They were small, ugly, and cheap.

None of these facts compete well against the popular USA-made cars rolling out of Detroit at the time. And yet Volkswagen wanted a market share in the U.S. This was a job for the (M)ad men.

What sold the Volkswagen to the American public wasn’t a flashy ad. It was honesty. And Carl Hahn, Volkswagen’s point man in America, chose Bernbach at DDB due to his apparent advertorial honesty.

And the ad that changed advertsing was brutally honest about the Volkswagen Beetle. The tagline was simple. “Think Small.”

Using a minimalist design, Bernbach places a photo of the Volkswagen Beetle in the upper left quadrant at a slight angle as if it were far away and driving toward you. The car looked tiny on the empty white background.

It wasn’t just about the image. The type font was unique, san-serif Futura instead of a typical serif font. And the full-stop at the end of the title forced people to think about what they just read.

Lastly, the Volkswagen logo wasn’t in any typical “professionally placed” location. It sat intruding on the third paragraph like an elephant barging in on a crowd. And contemporary creative agencies recommend this technique even for web design.

Everything about the ad subverted audience expectations. Most car ads at the time appealed to the car’s ability to elevate your status. This ad eschewed this model and focused on the car’s ability to minimize the effect on your pocketbook just by being small in every way.

3. “It’s Toasted”

One iconic ad in the Mad Men series actually has a counterpart in the real world. In fact, many of the ads in Mad Men were inspired by real-life ads.

In the show, Lucky Strike was one of Sterling Cooper’s most important clients. The whole first episode is about the intrusion of campaigns against smoking and how Draper must find a way to distract people from the fact smoking was bad for you.

The men from Lucky Strike stand at the door ready to leave, Don Draper has a realization. He stops them. He asks at one point in the resulting pitch, “How do you make your cigarettes?”

The head man from Lucky Strike explains the process of planting and growing and toasting. Don stops him at “Toasted.” “It’s toasted,” he says and writes it on a chalkboard.

The men don’t get it. Don explains how advertising is happiness and it helps them understand something. If people focus on how Lucky Strike is “toasted,” unlike other tobaccos who don’t claim as much, they won’t focus on the fact it’s poisonous.

The real-life ad does something similar for Lucky Strike. In an era when you couldn’t lie about health benefits, you had to focus on taste or nostalgia.

The ad showed a man in a classic 60’s overcoat holding an overflowing stack of Lucky Strike carton boxes in his arms. Below it said, “Remember all your friends who remember how great cigarettes used to taste. This Christmas give cartons of Luckies.”

The nostalgia of “how great cigarettes used to taste” distracts the audience while subtly telling them that Lucky Strikes still taste just like that.

Change Your Perspective to Change the World

The Mad Men series is full of nods to the real world successes of marketers during the 60s and 70s. And the world in which they lived changed dramatically because of them.

If you’re wondering if your work won’t be remembered, think again. The most influential people are the ones who change their perspective and follow their passion.

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GRS is on winter vacation

Hey there, GRS fans. Just a quick note to let you know that I’m taking a short break from the blog.

In part, this is because Kim and I (and the dog) are in the middle of a Real Life vacation to the Oregon Coast. It’s been too cold and windy and wet to spend much time outside, but we’ve all enjoyed hunkering down at our AirBNB, watching the Olympics, playing games, and reading books.

But this break is also because I’ve been so focused on the editorial side of the site that I’ve been neglecting the rest of the business. And make no mistake: In the nearly nine years since I sold Get Rich Slowly, it truly has become a business.

Instead of writing about money, for the next week (or two) I’ll be:

  • Fulfilling requests from my web designers. They’re dutifully working on the GRS redesign, but I’ve become a sticking point. They can’t proceed until I get them some info, and that’s going to take several hours.
  • Working with my tech guy to reinstate the GRS forums. I was under the mistaken impression that nobody used the forums here any more. I was wrong. There are several die-hard fans who have been pleading with me to bring them back. (I had to kill them when I moved the site to a new server after re-purchasing.) We believe this is a non-difficult task, but it will take some brainwidth.
  • Monetizing the site in a variety of ways. At the moment, Get Rich Slowly is generating about $1500 per month. That’s fine for a hobby, but not for a business. I can’t hire help at $1500 per month. Fortunately, most sites of this size generate much more income, and I believe GRS can too — without compromising the reader experience. But it’ll take several days of time and energy to get this sorted. My goal isn’t to make a boatload of money but to have enough cashflow to pay people to do the stuff I don’t want to do. (All I really want to do is write.)
  • And so on.

Plus, there are tons of other unfinished tasks behind the scenes. When I re-purchased this site in October, I should have taken a couple of months to work on the non-editorial stuff before announcing I was back. But I’m impulsive. As soon as I took possession, I went full-bore into writing mode. It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong, but my single-minded pursuit of publishing new material has seriously hampered every other aspect of the site.

I hope to be back publishing full-time by March 1st. If I’m especially productive, that’ll happen sooner. (I really want to be back by next Sunday, February 25th.)

All of that said, I know myself. I can’t possibly keep silent here. Instead of full-fledged articles, expect lots of short tangentially-related material over the next seven to ten days.

It’ll be frustrating for me to keep (relatively) silent for a week or two, but I know that the long-term rewards will be worth it. For now, thanks so much for reading Get Rich Slowly and thank you for your patience.

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Super Business Girl ~ Get Rich Slowly

Long-time readers know how much I love child entrepreneurs. This probably stems from my own experiences having kid-sized businesses when I was young. Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough stories of kids who build their own businesses and learn to take charge of their lives from a young age.

Here, for instance, is a 2014 story about Asia Newson, an 11-year-old girl from Detroit, Michigan. She runs a company called Super Business Girl.

Asia, who must be fourteen by now, has help from her parents but she’s the driving force behind Super Business Girl. Together, they manufacture and sell what their website describes as “the world’s best candles“.

Asia’s poise and entrepreneurial savvy have garnered a lot of attention. The founders of one Detroit start-up incubator believe she has a better understanding of business than most adult entrepreneurs. They’re helping her develop her skills. In return, Asia is teaching what she knows to other kidpreneurs.

Here’s Asia’s January 2015 appearance on Ellen, which sheds some more light on this young businesswoman:

“My daddy was a candle salesman,” she says. “He also made candles. He taught me and I loved it, loved it, loved it.” More than making candles, Asia loves selling them. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I wish that when I was a salesman for so many years, I had loved it the way she loves it! I might have been better at the job.

Asia has grand ambitions. She wants to go to college, become a lawyer, become mayor of Detroit, and then become President of the United States. I think she just might meet all of those goals. I wouldn’t bet against her!

For now, though, if you’re in the market for some candles, go check out Asia’s online store at Super Business Girl.

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What Does a Website Administrator Do?

Webmasters used to be a complete mystery to me. They seemed like the Wizard of Oz sitting behind his curtain pulling levers and creating a huge visage. I had no idea that the web wasn’t run by geniuses.

Sure, there are plenty of geniuses out there running websites. The geniuses get the most money probably. But the fact that people like me could run a website and make a profit was completely foreign to me.

Now I understand what a website administrator does and I’m not so afraid of the hologram anymore. In fact, I now know that I can be the little man behind the curtain.

Want to know how you can be the little man behind the curtain? Let’s talk about what a website administrator does then.

1. What The Hey is a Website Administrator?

A web administrator isn’t just someone who writes personal narratives on their blog no matter how much we want to be. It’s someone who understands and can fix websites from the bottom up.

An administrator is someone who is in charge of making sure back-ups happen. They’re also in charge of web content, software applications that handle emergencies, and they keep all things internal up to date and running smoothly.

They’re your website mechanic that gets to constantly monitor a website to minimize downtime and data corruption or loss.

In essence, you’re IT on that company or person’s website. But it’s highly specialized compared to most IT positions.

It requires a degree in computer science or some related field of study. And if you’re wondering how much a web administrator will make, it’s enough. Ok, $85k isn’t a bad deal really.

2. But What Do They Really Do?

When you ask someone what they do, you usually get a title. The only time someone actually asks, “But what do you really do?” is when they have no clue what your title describes. As a writer, I get this all the time.

Website administrators are probably one of those classes of people that have to explain their profession to the layman. And if you’re here, you’re probably still curious. Let’s check out the nuts and bolts of this job.

Web Security

This is the most important aspect of a web administrator’s job. They ensure that the website is absolutely secure from both viruses and malware. They also make sure the website isn’t exploitable by hackers.

If the website administrator fails at this part of their job, not only could a hacker steal client information, they can turn the website into a weapon or a tool for their own use. They could end up spamming and infecting hundreds of people through a website or steal even more information.

A web admin must be vigilant. They can be assured that any hacker who wants access will also be vigilant, waiting for an exploit to open up.

If you’re a web administrator for a new website or a website that changed hands, you can be sure that someone will try and probe that site for weaknesses. A website administrator must know about every kind of bot and malware attack possible and have the tools necessary to combat those attacks.

User Accounts

The only contact most users have with an administrator is when they create an account on the website. And the website admin is involved only because creating a secure website account isn’t as easy as pressing a button.

The web admin’s role in this is basically to enter the information you give them and then create the account. Not all websites use a website admin to create user accounts. Large domains like Facebook use automated software to securely create accounts.

Small websites don’t have the money to build this kind of software. They either have to use a website admin or outsource to other companies to create user accounts.

Some hosting services will supply user accounts and automated setups. But they often charge a higher price for their services.

For a seasoned web admin, it’s a fairly simple yet thankless task. And while you may not interact with a website administrator most of the time, you will eventually need them for something bigger. Don’t treat them like the basement IT crowd.

Traffic Monitoring and Other Web Software

You web admin isn’t going to be your marketing guru. He typically deals with the nuts and bolts. But the nuts and bolts include APIs.

Your web admin will be able to monitor things like web traffic for you. And if you buy web visitors and increase your traffic, your admin will have good news for you each time.

Other server-side software analyses are equally important. Active server pages, database software, JSP, and various coding and HTML tools and software.

Log Analysis

If you’ve ever had a problem with your computer, your IT specialist will ask you for a computer log. A website runs on a special kind of computer called a server.

Every action on the server, whether done by a human or the server itself, is recorded in a server log. Data such as download and upload times, network bandwidth, and user habits are all in the log files. A web admin must know how to analyze these files.

What’s the reason? The admin can figure out where any slowdown or glitch is appearing and fix the problem. They essentially increase and improve the website’s performance.

Conclusion: Treat Them Well

Your web administrator is important. Treat them that way. And if you don’t have one, you will probably end up doing half of these things yourself.

Check out the rest of for more web guru information.

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Should you give money to your adult children? ~ Get Rich Slowly

This week’s reader question is an example of why I love the “ask the readers” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. I get to write about situations that otherwise would never occur to me!

Karen writes because she’s having trouble with two of her kids:

I keep getting sucked into helping two of our children who can’t seem to get it together. I don’t want to see them on the street but they keep making dumb mistakes. What do you do when faced with a kid going to prison for lack of funds to pay fines? What about a different kid who is at risk of becoming homeless? This is tough to watch. (I really prefer dogs!) When does helping a family member financially become enabling? Or is it always enabling?

I find this situation fascinating because there’s a disconnect between my general advice about giving money to adult children and my specific advice for Karen.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Money to Adult Children

My standard advice is: Don’t help your kids financially. Doing so harms both you and your kids. A decade of reading about money and hundreds of conversations with parents have brought me to this conclusion: Giving adult children financial support is, generally speaking, a bad idea.

Some people don’t want to hear this, especially coming from me. (I have no children, so that disqualifies my advice in the eyes of some folks…as if it’s impossible to recognize that a person has a broken bone if you’ve never had one yourself!)

But it’s not just my opinion. In The Millionaire Next Door [my review], authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko devote two entire chapters — 69 pages! — to “economic outpatient care”, the substantial financial gifts some parents give their adult children (and grandchildren). Their research indicates that “the more dollars adult children receive, the fewer they accumulate, while those who are given fewer dollars accumulate more”.

The authors note that some forms of economic outpatient care, including subsidizing an education and funding business ventures, have a strong positive influence on the recipients. (They teach the children “how to fish”.) But most financial assistance simply creates a cycle of dependence:

What is the effect of cash gifts that are knowingly ear-marked for consumption and the propping up of a certain lifestyle? We find that the giving of such gifts is the single most significant factor that explains lack of productivity among the adult children of the affluent.

Stanley and Danko write about four specific ways in which cash gifts to adult children create problems:

  • Giving encourages more consumption than saving and investing. In particular, Stanley and Danko warn about gifts of house down payments.
  • Gift receivers in general never fully distinguish between their wealth and the wealth of their gift-giving parents. They believe they are entitled to the things their parents have, and feel resentment if the wealth is given to somebody else.
  • Gift receivers are significantly more dependent on credit than are non-receivers. They use credit in order to sustain their lifestyle of consumption between gifts.
  • Receivers of gifts invest much less money than do non-receivers. The authors claim that gift receivers are “hyperconsumers”, only thinking of now. They have come to expect that their financial needs will be met by their parents, so they don’t plan for the future.

I’ve known people who received financial assistance from their parents or grandparents. Most of these people have struggled with money in some way. They spent too much. They didn’t feel the need to take a job. They put off making financial decisions because there was no need to do so. One time, for instance, I had an affluent friend who received a $25,000 gift from his grandparents. Rather than invest the money, he bought himself a new car. (There was nothing wrong with his old car.)

Obviously, not everyone who receives financial assistance from their parents will fall into this trap. But accepting such gifts often leads to trouble.

Note: There’s another downside too. When parents give money to an adult child, they’re compromising their own financial health. They’re sacrificing saving for retirement (or other goals), which means they’re hurting themselves as well as their kids! In my own life right now, I’m watching as two different sets of parents struggle to make ends meet because they’re giving up money they need for themselves in order to help children who are perfectly capable of providing for themselves — except they were never encouraged to leave the nest.

What If Your Kid Will End Up Homeless?

Now, having said all this, what about Karen’s situation? She has one child who is at risk of going to prison because she (or he) hasn’t paid some fines. The other is at risk of ending up homeless. Should Karen simply sit back and allow her children to suffer?

I’ve had two weeks to think about this question. Some days, I feel as if there’s no way Karen should let her kids go to jail or end up homeless. Other days, I feel like she should absolutely let them experience the consequences of their actions. Most of the time, however, I feel like this is a tough call and not something a stranger can decide.

So, I tried to practice some financial empathy. I ask myself what I would do if I were in Karen’s shoes. What if I did have kids? What if they made some stupid-ass choices? (That’s how Karen described her kids when she wrote to me, which cracks me up.)

Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do. I have no clue what the right decision is in this situation.

What do you think? Is it always a parent’s duty to protect their children, even when they’re adults? If you ended up in jail because you did something dumb with money, would you expect your parents to bail you out? If you were at risk of becoming homeless, would it be your mom and dad’s responsibility to help you? What’s the right choice here? Is there one?

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