I’ve been a bit quiet around here lately, but for good reason. Over the weekend, I attended the Savvy Blogging Summit in Breckenridge, Colorado. This gathering of roughly 65 women (and three men) is a new event designed to help participants build better blogs. I was honored to give the keynote talk (“My Life as a Blogger”) on Thursday evening, and to present workshops (“Building Community” and “Effective Monetization”) on Friday and Saturday. During the past two weeks, much of my time was spent preparing for these presentations.

I didn’t really know what to expect before I reached the conference; I’ve never been to a blogging conference before, and most of my contact with other bloggers has been by e-mail. But these women blew me away. They embody the “other half” of personal finance.

The Other Half of Personal Finance
All of personal finance is built around a simple equation:

[CASH FLOW] = [WHAT YOU EARN] – [WHAT YOU SPEND]

If you spend more than you earn, you have a negative cash flow; you’re losing wealth and in danger of falling into debt. (Or you’re digging a deeper hole.) If you earn more than you spend, you have a positive cash flow, which will allow you to climb out of debt and build wealth.

This may seem obvious, but it’s important. This concept is the core of personal finance. Everything else is done to improve your cash flow so that you can build wealth, so that you can get rich slowly.

Most people — and most personal finance blogs — focus on one half of this equation; they focus on cutting expenses, and for good reason. Frugality provides easy, quick wins, and lets you develop skills that can be used for a lifetime. But as effective as thrift can be, you can have far more success by focusing on the other half of personal finance: increasing your income.

Most of the women at the Savvy Blogging Summit were masters of both parts of the personal-finance equation. That is, they’re:

  • Thrifty. Most (though not all) of these savvy bloggers are frugal, and many are frugal zealots. They do whatever they can to cut costs on the things they buy. You know those stories I share about extreme couponing? These bloggers live that lifestyle.
  • Entrepreneurial. Most (though not all) of the conference participants aren’t just frugal — they’re resourceful, too. They’re building blogs as businesses. They’re supplementing the family income with $50 or $500 or $5000 extra per month.

When most people work to improve their financial situation, they focus only on frugality. They begin shopping at thrift stores, learn how to cook, and discover they can walk for most of their errands. But the folks at the Savvy Blogging summit also pay attention to the other half of personal finance. They work to increase their earnings. In many ways, these women are financial role models.

Financial Role Models
The best part of the conference was meeting and talking with dozens of new people and hearing their stories. I used to be too shy and introverted to do this sort of thing, but I’ve found that by stepping outside my shell — by harnessing the power of yes — I’m having more fun and learning more about life.

I spent more than an hour on Friday evening, for example, talking with Andrea from Mommy Snacks, a site devoted to practical tips for saving while shopping. Andrea and her husband Paul have been paying off debt with the Dave Ramsey baby steps. She started her blog to demonstrate just how powerful couponing can be. For a year, she kept a spreadsheet to track how much she saved by finding the best deals. In the end, she’d saved $6500, which was enough to pay for a surgery her son needed.

Note: Andrea’s personal couponing spreadsheet inspired her to try something bigger: She’s put together an online coupon database (and video tutorial) to help everyone find great deals.

Cutting costs helped Andrea achieve a financial goal. “But you know what?” she told me. “It’s boosting our income that really made a difference. That’s what has let us pay of our debt more quickly. I try to tell that to people, but sometimes I feel like they just don’t hear.”

I feel the same way. I wish I could make it abundantly clear to everyone: Frugality helps you keep your head above water, but boosting your income lets you fly.

I also spent some time chatting with Alex and Cassie, The Thrifty Couple. Alex and Cassie racked up over $100,000 in consumer debt during their first few years of their marriage. After a few weak attempts at digging themselves out of a very deep pit, they finally found success by working a variety of side jobs (such as delivering phone books and newspapers). The increased income — combined with a thrifty lifestyle — allowed them to become debt-free this past April 3rd. Outstanding!

Savvy Bloggers
Blogging is no way to get rich quick. Sure, a few of us are lucky and are able to make full-time incomes doing what we love. But most bloggers work long hours for very little return. Still, that small return is something. It’s additional income. It’s money that will help these women get out of debt, or pay for their children’s college education, or let them buy the home of their dreams.

Here are a handful of the other people I met this weekend, and the ways they’re earning extra money:

These women — these savvy bloggers — are entrepreneurs in a very real sense. They’re building businesses. They’re marketing. They’re working with advertisers. They’re building a customer base. I often preach about trying to turn your passion into money; here’s a group of women who are managing to do that, and I think it’s awesome.