How To Start A Blog on a Tight Budget: A Cheapskate’s Guide

on April 21, 2018

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As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, I am a cheapskate. I prefer to get as much as possible for free and HATE paying more than I think I should.

I started this blog as a hobby over three years ago on a super low budget. I’ve managed to keep my blogging expenses low and I now earn a full-time income from the blog.

In this post, I’ll share my strategy for blogging on a shoestring budget, and if you are a cheapskate like me, don’t worry! It’s totally possible to start and grow a money-making blog without much investment and I’ll show you how.

Start a Blog on a Budget Step #1: Pick Your Blog Name

Good news! The first step to starting a blog is totally free and just requires some imagination and research.

The first thing you’ll want to do is pick a name for your blog and domain. I suggest brainstorming a big long list of options and then narrowing it down. Much has been written on this topic, but I’ll give you some quick tips:

  • Pick a name that’s easy to remember and type into the browser bar. Avoid any potential tricky spellings.
  • Check to make sure your business name is available in your state. Search for business name search and your state. You can then search the records of the Secretary of State to see if it is available.
  • Make sure the domain is available for your name by searching for the domain here. But don’t pay to register it now – wait until you pay for hosting to save money (I’ll get to that in the next section!)
  • Keep it as short as possible. My first name for my blog was “Frugal Living Southeast” which was too long and complicated. The Frugal South is much better!
  • Check to see that the name is available on all of the social media platforms that you want to use. I’m @thefrugalsouth everywhere which makes things so easy.

After you’ve picked a name for your blog you’re ready to find a home for it on the web.

Start a Blog on a Budget Step #2: Get Your Domain & Hosting

The number one thing I spent money on when I started my blog was hosting for my site. Hosting is basically just paying rent to keep your website on a company’s servers.

Because I was a newbie to blogging, I went with a mega hosting company (think GoDaddy, Bluehost, and HostGator).

While my host was fine for the first year (because I basically had no traffic, LOL) once I actually needed support and was getting some traffic, it let me down. My site was offline frequently and customer support was hit or miss.

A few years in I moved to A2 Hosting, a US-based hosting company that specializes in WordPress hosting and I am SO GLAD I did! A2 costs only slightly more than the mega hosts (plans with A2 start at $3.92 per month) and I’ve have had the best experience with A2’s customer support.

Here’s some cheapskate insight about hosting… when you first sign up, the monthly rate will be the lowest if you sign up for multiple years of hosting. I foolishly signed up for only one year when I started because I wasn’t sure I would follow through with it.

Well, guess what? My hosting cost per month tripled after my one year ran out! I went from paying under $5 per month to over $15 (which is A LOT to a cheapskate). Looking back, I wished I had:

  1. Done some research and found a solid hosting company such as A2
  2. Paid for the first three years upfront to save myself HUNDREDS of dollars down the road!

I know it’s a tough pill to swallow but if you really want to blog on a shoestring budget pay for 2-3 years of hosting upfront since it will save you so much in the long run! And you might just stay more committed to keeping up with your blog if you have made an initial investment.

If you are starting out you’ll just need the Lite Web Hosting from A2, which for 24 months of hosting will cost $94.

You will also have to register your domain name which shouldn’t cost you more than $15. I suggest registering your domain with your hosting company to simplify your life tremendously. You’ll be able to register your domain and set it up easily when you sign up for a hosting plan with A2.

Start a Blog on a Budget Step #3: Get a WordPress Theme

The next step to staring your blog is to install WordPress on your hosting account. It usually just involves a few clicks and you are ready to go! (P.S. There is really no reason to consider any other platform other than WordPress for blogging).

Your next expense will likely be a WordPress “theme”. Your theme is what determines the layout of your site, from where posts appear to where your picture and social media icons are. They run the gamut from free to thousands of dollars to have one crafted for you by a site designer.

There’s no need to use a lame free WordPress theme when there are MUCH better themes available for a small price tag if you know where to look!

My recommended source for a fantastic theme on a tight budget is Etsy. You can easily get a gorgeous, mobile responsive (meaning it looks great on phones and tablets) theme that will make your site stand out for under $30 on Etsy!

I bought my first theme from Theme Fashion three years ago and I used it up until recently! Check out Theme Fashion’s gorgeous WordPress Themes which are all under $20.

I also LOVE the affordable themes from City House Design on Etsy. If you are curious, I am using the “Tea Cup” theme and think it is great.

After you pay for your theme you will download it to your computer, then upload to WordPress on your domain. You’ll then be able to activate it on your site and start rolling!

Start a Blog on a Budget Step #4: Get Design & Editing Software

After you have your fancy theme on your new site, you’ll want a header image that is the first thing visitors will see. I have always created all of my graphics myself (of course – I’m not paying someone to do this) with the help of two totally free online graphic design programs – Canva and Lunapic.

Here is the header image I created in Canva for my new blog, The Budget Mouse. My hear is 940 x 200 pixels, which is a pretty standard size, but check the header setting in the “Customize” section of your appearance tab to find out if your theme needs a particular size.

Head over to Canva and select “Use Custom Dimensions” at the top to create your header! I like to use a combination of a few different fonts and some other basic design elements, many of which are free in Canva. It took me less than 30 minutes to create this simple logo and header for my site.

The two big limitations to the free version of Canva are the lack of a way to crop a design after I am done creating and no way to make the background transparent. For these, I use Lunapic, another free photo editing program.

At the very bottom of the “Edit” menu in Lunapic you’ll find the Transparent Background tool. I use this all of the time for creating custom designs. You can also easily crop images as Lunapic, or use any photo editor on your computer.

Example of a Pinterest-ready image created in Canva

I also use Canva to create at least one special Pinterest-friendly image for each blog post. I strongly suggest doing this right out of the gate and getting your stuff on Pinterest (you can check out the Pins I create for my content here). Over 60% of my traffic comes from Pinterest and it really helped my blog take off!

And if you don’t have much of your own photography to start, you can get royalty-free stock photos at Pixabay. The first image in this post is from there, actually!

Start A Blog on a Budget Step #5: Get Technical Support



There were times when I was getting my blog going that I needed some technical help. For example, I couldn’t figure out how to add the required FTC disclosure to the top of my posts in a way that looked good. For jobs like this, I suggest hiring some freelance technical support on Fiverr, a community marketplace for freelancer services.

I’ve hired folks on Fiverr to fix small things I didn’t like on my site or help speed up my site. I’ve paid $10-$20 for these tasks and was really pleased with how they turned out! You can search for “WordPress customization” to find folks who can help with making your site look and run the way you want.

Two pieces of advice if you are going to use Fiverr:

  • Back up your site before you give someone access. In the worst case scenario that something goes wrong, you’ll have your site just the way it was. You can use the free plugin Duplicator to backup your site.
  • Create a user profile for the person you hire in WordPress then delete it afterward. Just select “Add new” in the User section of the WordPress dashboard to create one.

Summary

I hope this post gave you some inspiration and practical steps for starting a blog on a shoestring budget! Here’s a breakdown of the cost to get your blog up and running:

  • $94 for 24 months of Lite Hosting with A2
  • $15 to register your domain
  • $19 for a WordPress theme from Etsy

So your total investment for starting a blog that could end up bringing you a full-time income is $128. Split that up over 24 months and it is about $5 per month! Now that’s blogging on a shoestring.

Any questions about getting a blog up and running on the cheap? Leave a comment below or feel free to send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page!

Five steps to start a blog on a shoestring budget from a cheapskate who makes a full-time income blogging. How to blog on a tight budget. #makemoney #savemoney #howtoblog

Destinations in Florida

8 Comments

  • Janice

    Hi Leah, very useful info. I am planning to start my blog but wondering when you made it live how many articles had you posted. What information do you suggest a new blogger should have to post when blog goes live?
    Thanks

    September 12, 2018 at 8:19 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Janice! I think this is different for everyone. I blogged in “secret” for about 6 months before I shared it with anyone, but I was only posting a few times each month and trying to figure out what I wanted to write about. Very few people will find your site before you promote it and start sharing stuff, so it is really up to you!

      September 13, 2018 at 3:52 pm Reply
  • Jamie Parmelee

    Hi Leah! Thanks for your informative and transparent posts about blogging! You’ve inspired me to take the first steps and set up my own blog (gulp) after years of thinking about it. The info in this post and others you’ve written is guiding me every step of the way. Thanks!

    July 15, 2018 at 3:46 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Yay Jamie I am cheering you on! The world needs to hear what you have to say. Getting started is the hardest part, I promise. Get over the initial hump and I know you will LOVE blogging!

      July 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm Reply
  • Roni

    Leah… I have been reading your blog for just a little while now and I’ve been quiet up to now, but no more. lol 🙂 . I want you to know how much I love it and enjoy your posts! This one was particularly interesting to me. I’ve maintained a blog of my own now, mostly for my own personal enjoyment and to share photographs, but I’ve been thinking of starting a new one and learned so much from this post! I wish you’d do an entire ebook on the subject. Will be following your new blog as well. (I actually found you doing a search for our latest WDW trip) . Thanks for putting out such great material. It’s such an inspiration!

    April 28, 2018 at 11:19 am Reply
    • Leah

      Roni, thank YOU for the encouraging words and for reading! Blogging is a better job than I could have ever dreamed up. You should definitely start up that new site and get it going! Thank you for the idea for an eBook and there are already more posts in the works about blogging on a budget! Thanks again, Leah

      April 28, 2018 at 3:19 pm Reply
  • Kala Craig

    I want to involve politics in my blog, will that turn off future investors?
    Also do you have to pay to mention anything commercial?

    April 22, 2018 at 11:31 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Kala! I think that just depends on what kind of future career you want. Your blog is just your own platform and hopefully future investors would respect your opinions! In terms of mentioning anything commercial, you do not have to pay anything. In order to make money with your blog you do need it to be self-hosted, which is what I describe in this post (as opposed to having a free blog with a URL that ends in “.wordpress.com”) Hope that helps.

      April 22, 2018 at 12:24 pm Reply

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