Last year, I gave the keynote address at the first-ever Savvy Blogging Summit, a gathering of about 65 women bloggers, most of whom write about deals, shopping, and couponing. I didn’t know what to expect before attending the conference, but if you read my wrap-up last July, you know I was impressed. These women blew me away with their attention to both sides of the personal-finance equation.

Ten days ago, I flew to Colorado Springs for another long weekend at the Savvy Blogging Summit. This year, the conference had grown to about 100 attendees — some of whom were men. But mostly, it was filled with the same women I met last year: stay-at-home moms who, in their spare time, blog about coupons, shopping, and other domestic concerns. They call themselves “dealbloggers”.

This topic may sound mundane, but more than any group I know, these savvy bloggers live the ideals I espouse everyday at Get Rich Slowly. Meeting these women is like seeing the Get Rich Slowly philosophy in action.

  • They actively work to keep their household expenses low.
  • They’ve found creative ways to boost their income. Most make money — sometimes a lot of money — from blogging. But I also talked to folks who earn income as spokeswomen, radio broadcasters, brand representatives, graphic designers, mobile app creators, and more.

And they do this all while raising families. In some cases, large families. These are stay-at-home moms who do a whole lot more. They aren’t just savvy bloggers; they’re also savvy entrepreneurs.

Savvy Blogging Organizers
Andrea, Crystal, Toni, and Erin — the brain-trust behind the Savvy Blogging Summit

Beyond Rice and Beans
Amy Allen Clark, the keynote speaker at this year’s conference, is a perfect example. In 2004, Clark started MomAdvice as a way to share frugal tips and tricks. She couldn’t find the info she wanted on the web, so she decided to start her own site devoted to the subject.

In the early days, Clark didn’t make money from MomAdvice. Eventually, she decided to approach potential advertisers. She sold a few ads, made a few bucks, and things have grown from there. Now Clark works 20 hours a week and makes a full-time income. “If I went back to work now,” she told me, “I’d be making less than I do from the blog, but working twice as many hours.”

Clark’s story isn’t unique. When I mentioned at the conference that I wanted to talk to folks who make full-time incomes from their blogs, I got far more responses than I could process. Many were tales like mine: Somebody deep in debt, forced to live frugally, who used her blog to dig out, and now is able use the income to meet other goals.

There was plenty to learn even from those who don’t yet make full-time income from their sites. One day at lunch, Mindi Cherry (from Moms Need to Know) said something I really liked: “What people don’t understand is that yes you eat rice and beans and live frugally, and yes you boost your income, and you do this to get out of debt. But once you get out of debt, my god, it’s wonderful.” Why? because now that money can be used for the things you love, for the things that are important to you.

The conversation turned to the things that are important to us, and that led us to talk about how large our homes are, and how some of our siblings have a different perspective. (They think our homes are small.) We talked about how easy it is to get caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses”. Carrie Isaac (who runs Grocery University and many other sites) noted how pointless it is to compare yourself with anyone else. “Everyone has different ideas of what’s normal,” she said. For one person, an 1800-square-foot house might be a mansion; for somebody else, it’s a shack.

Amber Rutledge, the Coupon Cutie, agreed. She shared her personal tale of woe. “I went from living an extravagant lifestyle to having absolutely nothing,” she told us. She and her husband made a very high income, which allowed them to spend on luxuries and indulgences. It also allowed them to save for the future. They used half of their take-home pay, but they saved half too. When her husband lost his job, though, they had to eat through their savings to live — to maintain the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. By the time they realized they needed to cut back, it was too late. They lost everything. Things are better now, in part because Amber has landed a radio gig talking about frugality and couponing. (And because she’s started a blog on the same themes.)

We all win when we build relationships with each other. — Toni Anderson, the Happy Housewife, unintentionally giving a fantastic definition of social capital

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Like all conferences, the Savvy Blogging Summit included lectures and workshops. I attended sessions on building an e-mail list, becoming a better photographer, and working directly with brands. I plan to put this info to use in the future. (In fact, I was able to put some of the skills to work immediately. On Friday, I sat in on a class about giving better television interviews. On Saturday, I gave a television interview!)

For me, though, the real value came from spending time with my colleagues, from seeing the myriad ways they’ve managed to make a living by writing on the internet. I don’t know why, but it tickles me to find other folks who don’t just have one blog — but sometimes two or three or ten.

VineSleuthI met Amy Gross, for instance, who writes Mom’s Travel Tales, a blog about traveling with kids. Gross also has a new wine blog over at VineSleuth, a Bible blog, and probably others she didn’t tell me about. Plus, she’s working on a cool secret project outside the blogging world.

Or there’s Carrie Schaeffer and her husband Seth. Together, they’re Short and Hat. Carrie and Seth sold most of their Stuff, bought a Subaru Outback, and have been driving across the United States. They chronicle their adventures on their blog and in a charming series of YouTube videos like this one:

Carrie and Seth don’t make much money (if any) from blogging, so they’ve found other ways to generate income while on the road. She’s a writer and copyeditor; he’s a videographer who runs a video production company in Colorado. Together, they manage to make ends meet.

In fact, Carrie and Seth combined their talents in a novel bid to make more money: With the help of Carrie’s grandmother, they entered a video contest for a laundry detergent. They made a commercial for the product, which is now one of 25 finalists for a million-dollar prize. The catch? The final round is a popularity contest with voting on Facebook.

It’s awesome to see real people pursuing a dream like this, so I’ve been voting for them every day. If you feel so inclined, why not help them out?

Back for more
Before I left for this year’s Savvy Blogging Summit, I had a Twitter exchange with GRS reader Tyler K. “Savvy entrepreneurs they may be,” Tyler wrote about these bloggers, “but Christian mommy is one eye-roll inducing demographic to market towards.” I took Tyler to task for this, but to be honest, I sometimes joke about it too. I shouldn’t. It’s condescending and unfair, and I need to stop. These are strong, smart women. They have my deepest admiration and respect. I’m completely devoted to them, and eager to see them succeed.

On the last day of the conference, the organizers pulled me aside. “J.D.,” they said, “would you be willing to speak again next year?”

I hate public speaking, but I didn’t hesitate. “Of course,” I said. “Absolutely.” So, I’ll be in Atlanta in October 2012 to lead a workshop at the third annual Savvy Blogging Summit. And I hope that once again I’ll be awake until the wee hours every night helping folks find new ways to build better blogs. If there’s anything I can do to help these women achieve their goals, I will.

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