Did I Mention I Re-Purchased Get Rich Slowly?

I was browsing through the archives here at Foldedspace today and I realized that I never shared my biggest news from 2017: I bought back Get Rich Slowly!

Eight after I sold the site, the company that bought it from me dropped me a line. “Would you like to buy it back?” they asked. I told them that if the price was right, I would. The price was right.

We started discussions on the deal in late March, but for a variety of reasons, we didn’t actually close the deal until October. I published a few articles in October, and have been writing full time at Get Rich Slowly for two months now. I love it! It feels great to be back.

So far, reader response has been fantastic. People love the site almost as much as I do, which is edifying. In the two months since taking control again, I’ve managed to double traffic (although it remains a fraction of what it was at its peak). About 1000 people have subscribed by email (joining nearly 5000 Money Boss subscribers — I’ll merge the two lists soon). And during the month of December, I’ll make about $1500 from the site.

Now, $1500 isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things. But when you consider I’m putting minimal effort into monetization, that’s actually a terrific number. It makes me believe that Get Rich Slowly can absolutely provide a sustainable income going forward. That’s yet another margin of safety so that I don’t have to rely solely upon my investments.

Now we can add some more data points to my timeline of twenty years of blogging. Let’s expand things to 25 years and hit the bullet points:

What does the future hold? For now, my sole focus is on re-building Get Rich Slowly. That’s where all of my attention is being directed. Assuming I can build it into an actual business again — and I think that’s doable — then I’ll be smart this time and hire people to help me do the things I want to do. That’ll then give me time to build other websites. But for now? For now, I’m all about GRS.

Anyhow, I suspect many of you brave souls who still hang around here at Foldedspace — despite the lack up updates — are actually former Get Rich Slowly readers. If that’s you, you may want to check out GRS 3.0. I love it — and I hope you will too.

Building My New Writing Studio

Kim and I moved into a new house on July 1st. Well, it’s new to us. The house itself was actually built in 1948 — or before. According to neighborhood gossip, the house survived the 1948 Vanport flood, was sawed in half, moved here, then put back together. (I’m not sure why somebody would haul this house twenty miles and up a massive hill, but maybe they got a great deal on it?)

Anyhow, when we moved in, we knew we were downsizing. The condo we’d lived in for the previous four years had 1550 square feet of space. We each had individual offices. This new place only has 1250 square feet, and there isn’t room for both of us to have an office.

After some thought, I decided it made sense to construct an outbuilding to serve as my writing studio.

Picking a Building

First, I had to research zoning laws in our area. Because we’re in unincorporated Clackamas County (and not inside any city limits), we don’t need permits to put up any building less than 200 square feet in size — as long as the average height is less than ten feet. (The building can’t have wiring or plumbing either. Those also require permits.)

With those basic parameters, I began doing some research.

First, I emailed my friend Pete (a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache), who recently built a fancy studio of his own. Because Pete is handy — carpentry is his hobby! — he did everything himself. Having seen his studio first-hand, I can tell you it’s awesome. “That’s probably outside your skillset,” he told me. “I recommend you order a pre-fab building from a place online.”

Pete recommended a company in Colorado. While their buildings were indeed awesome, they were also expensive. I wasn’t willing to put $25,000 into my writing studio. But I might be willing to spend half that amount!

Further research online revealed even more awesome custom sheds, but always at custom prices. I was frustrated.

Then one day while at Home Depot, I noticed they had a bunch of garden sheds in the parking lot. Most weren’t really suitable, but a few were. I took home some propaganda. I also stopped by other hardware stores to see what they offered. Turns out there are lots of options. Most of these building are suitable only to store Christmas lights and garden gear, but some could be converted to use as a writing studio.

After a few days of research, I settled on buying from a company called Tuff Shed. I spent several hours on their website, playing with their custom design tool. (Fun fun fun!) In the end, this is the building I created:

Tuff Shed design

In retrospect, I could have saved some money (and headache) by reducing the number of windows, not choosing the sloped ceiling, and electing to paint the shed myself. But at the time I designed it, all of these things seemed awesome and right.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

After designing my Tuff Shed, I placed the order. And waited. And waited. I knew in advance that there’d be a lot of waiting, so that’s not the issue. The issue was that it was tough for me to be patient. I wanted the building now.

Ultimately, it was good that my shed wasn’t delivered until the end of September. Up until that time, our attention was wholly focused on remodeling the house. If the shed had arrived any earlier, there would have been some serious logistics issues. (We don’t have a big driveway, and there’s no place to park on the road. We would have had contractors colliding!)

While I waited, I leveled the spot I had picked for the shed to be built. We live in a very slope-y neighborhood. There aren’t any flat spaces anywhere for hundreds of feet. Our lot is no different. Because Tuff Shed requires a flat area to build the building, I had to spend several hours using a spade to dig things to level. It was actually kind of fun.

Tuff Shed prep

Finally, on a morning at the end of September, two young men pulled up with a pickup and trailer. While one guy hauled the pre-fab pieces to the bottom of our property, the other guy started putting them together.

Tuff Shed delivery

Tuff Shed base

When they were done hauling and piecing things together, I had an empty shed that looked more or less like this:

Tuff Shed construction

Now it was my turn to get to work.

Finishing My Writing Studio

I am not a handy fellow. Or, I should say, I never have been before. But the older I get, the more I enjoy trying to figure out stuff like this. I’m cautious with wiring and plumbing because there’s just so much that can go wrong, but I’m happy to tackle other aspects of home improvement. And when the “home” in question is a writing studio, the pressure is especially low.

First up, I knew I had to insulate and install some sort of moisture barrier. This is Oregon, after all. I spent a day stapling pink fiberglass insulation to the ceiling and the floors. While it wasn’t tough, it was a bit itchy and nasty. Next, I installed some rigid foam insulation in the floors. The stuff doesn’t have a high R-value, but it’s better than nothing.

Tuff Shed insulation

After the insulation was installed, it was time to put up the ceiling, walls, and floors.

For the ceiling, I opted to use a thin plywood. If I knew then what I know now, I would have made sure to cut the plywood to stud lengths first so that it looked good. But this was my first time doing anything like this, so I just nailed it up in 48×96 sheets. “It’s all wavy and warped,” Kim said when she saw it. She’s right. Next summer, I may go back and re-do the ceiling so it looks nicer. It’s not a high priority at the moment.

While hanging the ceiling, I sustained my first injury. I was using a utility knife to cut the thin plywood to size. I didn’t think my circular saw would handle the stuff well. While pulling down against the straight edge, the knife jumped up and sliced into the tip of my thumb. Oops. Bloody mess!

Next, I nailed sheetrock to the walls. This I did cut to fit the studs. I had learned my lesson with the ceiling. Hanging the drywall wasn’t tough — only time-consuming.

Tuff Shed drywall

At this point, I had to make a decision. Most folks would opt to tape and mud the drywall so that they could then add texture and paint. This sounded like a long, tedious (and messy) process, so I fished around for other options. My brother suggested using a type of panelboard with a faux distressed wood look. I drove 45 minutes to the only store that carried it, but ultimately decided it wouldn’t work for my application. But I liked the idea of a rustic wood look.

On the way home from this distant store, I remembered that I’d seen a bunch of cedar fencing in my local Home Depot. “I wonder if that would work for the walls?” I thought. I stopped to take a look. Sure enough! The cedar was just what I wanted. I crunched some numbers while standing in the aisle, then loaded up 960 linear feet of cedar fencing. I spent the next eight hours cutting the wood, then nailing it over the top of the drywall. In the end, it looked (and smelled) awesome.

Tuff Shed cedar walls

The next problem was the floor. What should I use? Carpet? Raw plywood? Something else? I had already nailed plywood over the insulation, but I decided I’d like something a little more “finished” to make the studio look better. In the end, I opted for laminate flooring with a hickory finish. Last weekend, Kim and I spent all Saturday (and many beers and curse words) installing the floor. It was frustrating, but the end product was worth it.

Tuff Shed unpacking

Finishing Touches

After the floor was installed, I could finally start shaping the space to be an actual writing studio.

  • When we moved into the house, the previous owners had left a corner desk from IKEA. I unmounted the desk from our guest room, then installed it in the corner of my shed.
  • I had planned to build custom bookshelves for the space, but eventually decided this would be both time-consuming and expensive. Besides, when I did the math, I realized I had exactly twenty feet of shelving already. The heights weren’t quite what I wanted, but it seemed foolish not to use my existing bookshelves.
  • Kim and I debated whether or not we should put a futon in the shed. In the end, I decided I wanted the easy chair and ottoman that I bought in 1993. The colors seem garish by modern standards, but I’ve read and wrote a lot in that chair. It’s a sentimental piece.
  • Lastly, I chose to move a small table into the center of the room. This IKEA table has been my writing desk for the past five years, but now will serve as a place for me to write by hand — or to play games when people come over.

These finishing touches really pulled the room together. It feels cozy and warm. I like it. The cats like it. The dog loves it.

Because I’m trying to keep things legally unpermitted, I didn’t run electricity to the building. So, how do I power my computers? A big-ass extension cord. I chose a cord that’s rated for outside use and which can provide sufficient power. My electrician groaned when he saw what I’d done, but after a private email exchange, he seemed resigned to my choice — as long as I’m careful about everything. (I turn everything off when I’m not in the studio. I’m going to get a cover to protect the joint where my two extension cords meet. And I’m going to get a low-power wall heater that my electrician recommended as a safe option.)

In the end, the Tuff Shed cost me about $10,000 to have built, delivered, and installed. I spent an additional $2500 to finish the inside. It cost me a total of $12,500 to build my writing studio, which is exactly half of what it would have taken to order from the place Mr. Money Mustache had recommended. That seems reasonable to me.

And best of all? I love the space. It’s awesome. It’s the perfect place for me. I look forward to many years of writing about money from my Tuff Shed writing studio.

I bought Get Rich Slowly! (or: The return of J.D. Roth)

Why, hello there. My name is J.D. Roth, and I’m an accidental personal-finance expert. Eleven-and-a-half years ago today — on 15 April 2006 — I started a little website called Get Rich Slowly. This website.

I ran this blog as a one-man show for three years. Then, for a variety of reasons, I sold the site. I stayed around for another three years, acting as primary writer and editor-in-chief until the middle of 2012. Then I “retired”.

For the past 5+ years, I’ve been busy — just not here.

  • In 2010, I published Your Money: The Missing Manual, a compilation of everything I’d learned about money while writing this site.
  • From 2011 to 2014, I wrote the “Your Money” column for Entrepreneur magazine.
  • In 2013 and 2014, I wrote and published the year-long Get Rich Slowly course with my pal Chris Guillebeau.
  • In March 2015, my girlfriend and I left Portland, Oregon for what turned out to be a 15-month RV trip across the United States.
  • In October 2015, I launched a new personal-finance website: Money Boss, which is all about managing your household finances as if you were managing a business.
  • This year, Kim and I purchased a run-down 1948 “English bungalow” on an acre of land just south of Portland. We’ve spent the past few months fixing up the place. (And there’s still tons more to do!)

Meanwhile, I’ve continued to write for other outlets, speak at various events, and (as always) meet with readers from around the country — and the world.

Today, everything changes. Eleven-and-a-half years after starting Get Rich Slowly (and eight-and-a-half years after selling it), I’m pleased to announce: I’m back. I’ve re-purchased Get Rich Slowly, and am returning as the site’s owner, manager, and editor. Continue reading

Twenty Years of Blogging

Twenty years ago today, I started blogging.

I didn’t know I had started blogging, of course. Back then, “blog” wasn’t even a word. The other folks who were writing for the web — and there were plenty — called what they did “web journaling”. So did I.

At first, my web journal was solely about my weight-loss journey. I documented my daily exercise routine and wrote about what I was eating. I didn’t really have an audience in mind other than myself. And that was fine. Though it might be hard for younger folks to believe, in the olden days there weren’t that many people reading the web!

Although I didn’t start my first blog (or web journal) until 16 August 1997, I’d actually been creating websites for several years before that. My first page went up sometime in 1994. I was constantly posting new stuff but none of it would be what we would now consider a blog.

After tracking my fitness for a little more than a year, I decided to start a proper web journal, which I called Great Expectations. That lasted for about a month before I gave up. You see, writing and publishing entries to my web journal was just too tedious. I had to code everything by hand. This wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. I didn’t like it. So, I let Great Expectations lapse.

Time passed.

Foldedspace

Sometime in the spring of 2001, I discovered a service called Blogger. This cool tool — although very buggy — automated a lot of the process behind creating and maintaining a web journal. (The downside? If you composed in the Blogger software itself, you were liable to lose your work because it’d crash. I soon started writing my material in a text editor, after which I’d cut and paste to Blogger. That remains my method to this day!)

I launched my first official Blogger blog in June 2001. Foldedspace was a place for me to write about cats, computers, and comic books — and anything else that crossed my mind. Again, my audience was mostly myself. I was okay with that.

Something strage happened though. In time, more and more of my family and friends began reading Foldedspace. We had some great discussions in the comments section, debating things like politics and religion and how awful the new Star Wars movies were.

Then, on 26 April 2005, something very very important happened. I published a post about personal finance. The article summarized several money books I’d recently read and it came to this conclusion: There’s no reliable way to get rich quickly; however, there’s a proven method to get rich slowly.

For whatever reason, my article about the basics of smart money management garnered a lot of attention around the web. It went viral — or what passed for viral twelve years ago. “Neat,” I thought — and I moved on.

Starting Over

On 11 October 2005, another important event occurred.

I had long ago moved from the clumsy Blogger software to a program called Movable Type, which I loved. But unbeknownst to me, Movable Type had a fatal flaw: it was buggy. So buggy, in fact, that after years of use it decided to corrupt the database that contained my entire blog. Without any warning, hundreds of articles suddenly became inaccessible.

To be fair, the articles didn’t become completely inaccessible. While I could no longer log into my Movable Type account to manage Foldedspace, my old articles were still there. Unlike modern WordPress, which creates pages dynamically, Movable Type created static pages. Once you published an article, it was there on the web. All of my old articles are still there, twelve years after losing them. But I just can’t access them via an automated method.

One of my long-term plans (and I’ve had these plans for a decade) is to write a script that converts these static pages to a format that can be imported to WordPress. Then I can republish all of my old posts!

Meanwhile, I was starting to turn my financial life around. I was on a quest to conquer my debt. As part of that, I wanted to make more money. I was already doing some computer consulting on the side, but I wanted to make even more money. To that end, I decided to start a blog with advertising. (I was steadfastly against advertising at Foldedspace.)

At first, I tried to write a blog about comic books. It seemed like a natural fit. I liked comics, and there were folks willing to advertise on comic blogs. The problem? I didn’t like modern comics, and nobody wanted to read about the old stuff.

On a whim, I decided to start a blog about personal finance. “People really liked my article about getting rich slowly,” I thought. “Maybe I could start a blog about money.” And so I did. On 15 April 2006, I launched Get Rich Slowly. I had no clue what I’d unleashed…

Get Rich Slowly

Get Rich Slowly grew quickly. Within days, I had a thousand regular readers. Within six months, I had over 10,000 subscribers. By the end of its first year, Get Rich Slowly was receiving over 250,000 visitors each month. It was crazy!

As the site grew, so did its revenue. Get Rich Slowly only made $8.29 in April 2006. But in May, it earned $85.03. In June, it earned $473.22. In October, it earned over $1000. By July of 2007, I was earning more from Get Rich Slowly than I was from my day job! Thanks in part to this new stream of income, I was able to pay off the last of my debt in December 2007.

In March 2008, I quit my job at the family box factory in order to blog full time.

A funny thing happened about this time: Whereas blogging had been a fun hobby, once it became my job, that job seemed onerous. It was just the same as any other job. Plus, as the site’s revenue grew, so did the pressure. I didn’t increase my spending, so there wasn’t any added stress there; nonetheless, I felt a drive to boost readership and revenue from month to month.

Before long, I wanted out.

At the start of 2009, a company approached me about buying Get Rich Slowly. I thought they were joking at first. After they submitted a formal offer, I realized this wasn’t a laughing matter. I recruited an investment bank to shop the site around and got an even better offer. On 01 April 2009, I sold Get Rich Slowly — but I didn’t leave the site.

For the next three years, I stuck around as the site’s editor-in-chief and primary writer. Eventually, in the spring of 2012, I decided I’d had enough. I retired. Sort of.

Money Boss

After leaving Get Rich Slowly, I continued to contribute the occasional article. Meanwhile, I wrote a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. I wrote articles for Time magazine’s money blog. Most importantly (to me), I started writing again here at this site.

In March 2015, my girlfriend began a 15-month RV trip across the United States. We documented our adventures at a blog called Far Away Places.

On that trip, while stuck for ten days in rural South Dakota, I realized I wasn’t done writing about money. I missed blogging. I missed interacting with an audience. Plus, I’d spent the intervening years developing a clear financial philosophy (as opposed to the piecemeal ideas I’d shared at Get Rich Slowly). In October 2015, I launched Money Boss. Today, that’s my primary focus.

What’s Next?

You might think that after twenty years of blogging, I’d be burned out on it. Truthfully, I do get burned out from time to time. My most loyal readers (and there are a few hundred that seem to follow me no matter where I go) have noticed that I go on hiatus from time to time. (Heck, I haven’t published an article here in nearly a year!) But make no mistake: I love to write — and I love blogging.

Even when things are quiet on my various websites, I’m often working behind the scenes in preparation for bigger, better things to come in the future.

Writing is in my blood. I can’t stop. It’s how I express myself. Plus, I love the spontaneous nature of blogging. I sat down at my computer an hour ago to write about my twenty years as a blogger; in a few minutes I’ll press “publish” and share this article with a couple thousand people. That’s amazing! Better yet are the discussions that arise in the comments section of this blog (and others). While many bloggers are killing their comments, I doubt I ever will.

So, what’s next for me?

I’m reluctant to commit publicly to anything because as you all know by now, my plans are subject to change. That said, I’ve been working this summer on developing a WordPress theme that mimics some of what Jason Kottke does at his site. You can see this new theme in operation at Animal Intelligence, one of my older blogs that I’m in the process of reviving.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll gradually roll out this template to a few of my blogs over the next twelve months. I want to be careful, though, not to take on too much at once. I have a tendency to way overcommit, then not follow through on anything. I want to take this slow and steady.

Meanwhile, after a slow summer at Money Boss, I’m ready to dive into that site full-time. And, believe it or not, I want to publish more often around here. (That should be easy. It’s not tough to publish more often than once a year!)

If all goes well, I hope to still be blogging twenty years from now. Who knows? Maybe on 16 August 2037, I’ll publish an article here entitled “Forty Year of Blogging”! A fellow can dream, can’t he?

Our new home: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I know it’s been quiet around Money Boss recently, but that’s because it’s been a busy three weeks in Real Life.

Kim and I spent the latter half of June packing the condo and prepping to move. Last Friday evening, we picked up the keys to our new place. We brought the animals over and spent the night. Then, on Saturday morning, we started a four-day marathon of shifting our household eight miles south.

Our new home

We’re still not completely unpacked — and probably won’t be for a couple of weeks — but we’ve made good progress. The kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room are all functional (if somewhat cluttered). All of our remaining boxes are staged in the back office (which used to be a garage). The internet is now operational. Mail has begun to arrive. The cats and dog have already learned to love the place. So have we.

After only five nights in the new house, Kim and I do love it — warts and all. And make no mistake: This place has some warts. Continue reading

The Year of Opportunity

Earlier this week, I wrote about the importance of tackling one thing at a time. When you have a long list of goals, it can be tempting to work on all of your objectives at once. This scattershot approach, however, tends be counterproductive. Over the past decade, I’ve learned that I can be much more productive — and happier! — when I exercise the power of focus, prioritizing one goal over all others.

One way this manifests itself in my life is through themed years or months. One month, I might make it a goal to get to the gym every day. Another, my aim might be to never eat alone, to have lunch with a friend or reader whenever possible. And sometimes, I stay focused on a particular goal for an entire year.

Starting next week, I’m going to take “theming” to a micro-level. Using the ideas of Mike Vardy (the Productivityist), I’m going to try using themed days to stay on task. Each week, I’ll have “administrative Monday”, “typing Tuesday”, “thoughtful Thursday”, and so on. I’m not certain getting this granular with theming will be useful for me, but I’m going to try it for a few months.

As a firm believer in being proactive, I’ve always chosen the themes for my years and months. That is, I decide what I’m going to do, and then I do it. I don’t let life decide what my weeks and months are about. At least, that’s been my approach until this year.

This year has been strange. This year, life has handed me opportunity after opportunity. I started January with a direction in mind, but I’ve had to make numerous course corrections as new circumstances arise. So far, 2017 has been the Year of Opportunity. It’s both exciting and scary.

Let me give you some examples. Continue reading

Saying Yes to Strangers in India

There I was, watching the Indian world go by. I was sitting on a small step beneath the famous Clock Tower in the middle of Jodhpur.

I’d forgotten to recharge the battery in my camera, so instead of having it up to my eye, capturing fractions of moments, I watched the scene like it was a movie playing out live right in front of me: wows wandering the square aimlessly, hawkers selling everything from bracelets to garlic, women sparkling with every step in their saris.

A man sat down next to me. I didn’t look at him. I’d read in several places that if you make eye contact with men here, they’ll think you’re interested in something other than eye contact. I kept watching the scene.

Then I heard him say “Are you lonely?”

I turned to him and quickly said “Nope.”

“Are you lone?” he asked again, with a slight turn of the word.

“No, not at all. I’m enjoying the view,” I answered.

I looked at him again and noticed large tufts of black hair growing out of both ears, which was enough to make me smile. Along with those tufts, I saw kindness in his eyes. “Are you with anyone?” The question again. “Where are you from?”

I relented. I said I was from the U.S.A., and that no, I was traveling alone. His eyes got a bit wider and the questions came faster.

“How long have you been in India? What do you do? Do you have a house in U.S.A.? Are you married? Do you have children? What was your salary? How much is that in rupees?”

I answered every question and ended up in an hour-long conversation with him. At some, point I noticed there was a woman sitting next to him who tried to listen intently, but clearly did not speak English. He finally introduced her as his wife.

Bhagwandas and Durga

“We come here every night,” he said. “Every night we come and we watch and we walk, and then we go home. Every night.”

I said that sounded lovely.

And then suddenly he declared “It would be my honor to have you to dinner at my house.”

I laughed and said thank you, but no. In my travels, I’ve learned to engage in conversation with strangers, but as a general rule I do not go home with them. We kept chatting and a few minutes later he again said, “It would be my honor to have you to dinner.” I looked at him. I looked at his wife.

“Did you ask your wife?” I responded.

“No. Please come.”

And for some reason in that moment, after again looking at his wife, I said yes. I said yes to dinner with perfect strangers sitting under the Clock Tower in Jodhpur, India.

Pretty much no one would have thought that was a good idea. “Single female traveler goes home with strangers and is never heard from again!” the headline would scream. But in my travels, I’ve also learned to say yes. Especially when my gut tells me to.

What followed was one of the most memorable evenings of the last fifteen months of travel, if not of my life. Bhagwandas Sharma and his wife, Durga, welcomed me, introduced me to his parents and their children, cooked for me, showed me every nook and cranny of their home.

Bhagwandas, showing the large barrels in which they store a year's worth of grain for 12 people.

Twelve people live there. They all dine together every night, though when there is a guest, the guest eats first and the family then eats later, meaning the guest — especially this time! — has a bit of an audience while eating. We all talked, laughed, and shared stories. I could not be more grateful for the experience, and now I have twelve new friends.

Durga Sharma making a delicious bread out of millet.

Was I daring fate by saying yes to this invitation? Maybe.

But as I’ve said before, I choose to believe in the inherent goodness of 99% of people on this planet. I’d rather find myself surprised by the exception to that rule than live my life in fear and trepidation of my fellow global citizens. For this, so far, and especially this week, I have been richly rewarded.

New member of the family

J.D.’s note: I’m drawn to this story because it highlights to values that are an important part of my philosophy. First, Tess chooses “to believe in the inherent goodness of people”. I do too. I think this approach to human interaction offers rich rewards. Second, Tess embraced the “power of yes”, which is the one concept that has had the biggest positive impact on my life during the past decade.