How you gonna keep ’em down on the content farm?

Recently a commenter left this message:

“Donna, is it possible for you to write more thoughtful posts instead? All you are doing is writing simple posts on ways to try to make you money and giveaways.

“That’s nice and all, but the writing quality is really low. There’s not much insight or value added.”

My first response was, “Feel free to skip the stuff that doesn’t work for you.”

OK, that’s a lie. My first, visceral response was, “Feel free to kiss my ass! Even when I’m doing a quick-and-dirty piece the writing quality is higher than you’ll find just about anywhere else on the Internet.”***

My second response? She’s right. And I know it. Not about the low-quality part, but about the fact that I haven’t been doing enough substantive writing lately. That’s because the work-life balance continues to elude me.

Specifically: How do you balance work and life once you’ve gotten a glimpse of what life could be like if it didn’t have so much work in it?

I’ve spent years staggering from deadline to deadline, often working until late at night and always working on weekends. My “flexible” schedule was flexible only in that I could steal a day here and there. But the tasks I put off didn’t disappear – they simply got tacked onto future workdays, which is why I’d be in front of the computer until midnight or 1 a.m. four or five times a week.

I didn’t have balance then and I don’t have it now, and it’s really starting to bug me. Since moving to Alaska last month I’ve gotten that glimpse of what life could be like if I shut off the computer at 6 p.m. I’ve been able to spend a few evenings with friends or family instead of with the Internet.

This has given me a taste for a semi-normal schedule. I find I no longer want to spend my evenings staring at a computer screen. I want to have dinner with a friend, go to a play, hang out with my niece and her boys, and share pretzels and trash talk with my hostess while watching “Mythbusters.”

How you gonna keep them down on the content farm after they’ve had nights off?

Duty calls (as do creditors)

My day job, writing MSN Money’s Frugal Nation site, takes a lot more out of me than I could admit until, well, right now. It’s not the writing that’s tough – it’s the idea generation. Since late February I’ve had to come up with five ideas a week that my boss likes.

I can’t write about my cat (even if I had one), my net worth progress or my rapid debt repayment plan/house fund/early retirement goals. I can’t slap up a “Hey, what’re your plans for the weekend?” post on Fridays or riff endlessly on car repairs/insurance premiums/payroll taxes. Each piece has to have a very specific money-saving point or be an essay about the ways we look at money – and, as noted, each idea must be approved by an editor.

The boss is swell, by the way. I’ve had tremendous luck with editors at MSN Money. But the site is no place for cat blogging, daily deals, product reviews or press releases run as articles (which I’ve seen elsewhere in the PF blogosphere). And since Frugal Nation is a “personality-driven” site (i.e., I’m it), there are no days off.

By the end of the week I’m wiped out, too brain-dead to do much more than housekeeping chores:

  • Clearing out press releases (which do occasionally suggest topics/trends for me to research)
  • Reading news sites and blogs to keep current with what’s going on out there
  • Trying to come up with more post ideas
  • Searching for pertinent video and article links for the next post (five and at least three, respectively)

Sometimes I do write Monday’s piece on Friday. Sometimes I merely outline it. At least half the time I am too burned-out to do either one. By Saturday evening I’m twitching about the Monday post and/or the fact that I have only a couple of topics left before I’m out of ammo again. Then I spend part of Sunday writing for Monday or reading the Internet in search of new topics.

Thus my days off don’t feel like days off, and haven’t for years. But I’ve never missed a deadline, even when I was having an organ removed.

Losing momentum

The time crunch is particularly acute when other deadlines are lurking. Here’s what I’ve done in the past 10 weeks, in addition to the regular daily deadline:

  • Traveled to Denver to present a program at the Financial Blogger Conference.
  • De-cluttered my apartment, then packed what was left into a U-Haul truck.
  • Drove from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Wrote articles for Woman’s Day (three), H&R Block’s blog (two), Wise Bread, the Valpak blog and the Anchorage Daily News (two theater reviews).

For my own site during that time period? Just 18 articles, nine of which were giveaway posts. Sigh.

Understand: I love writing, especially writing that helps others. Getting an e-mail that says “I’m out of debt because of you” or “I’m back in school because of you” is so gratifying. And those extra assignments are valuable in terms of both income and exposure, i.e., the more places I appear the more people I can reach.

This all sounds like quarreling with blessings once more. Yet I can’t keep discounting the physical and mental toll of the additional gigs. Rather than demanding more and more of myself, I should be picking my spots. But once you’re in motion you tend to stay in motion. You’re afraid to slow down, afraid to stop, afraid to lose momentum.

(I did turn down an opportunity this morning: the chance to write a long piece – on a short deadline – for All You magazine. However, I did leave the door open for future work. The editor and I are having lunch next month when I visit my dad for the holidays.)

Try a little irony

I expect that anyone would be overwhelmed under these circumstances, especially if she were a menopausally fatigued, daylight-deprived, about-to-turn-55 woman who’s been on a dead run for decades.

Things would be different if I were in my 20s or 30s, trying to break into journalism or blogging. But I’ve done those things – and therein lies an additional rub. Being in my mid-50s means I’ve experienced a variety of life’s stages and struggles, letting me share knowledge and perspective that were sometimes hard-won and thus really worth sharing.

Yet just when I’m getting a ton of visitors to this site thanks to the work I’m doing elsewhere, I’m too tired or otherwise disinclined to post. As the Cryptkeeper would say: Try a little irony. It’s good for the blood.

I used to be able to just keep going. But now I not only can’t, I don’t want to — I want to hit a movie with my roommate, or go cross-country skiing (assuming I make the time to learn how). I want to read other people’s sites for fun, not because I’m looking for springboard-worthy ideas for MSN Money.

For fun AND profit

Yet I also want to keep this site alive. It’s important to me to have a personal voice out there along with the PF-oriented stuff.

My answer to the comment was to check out “Popular Posts” and/or some of the topics in the tag cloud to find more substantive writing. If you’re a relative newcomer to this site, I hope you’ll do the same.

And if you’ve been kind enough to follow along with me all this time? I hope you’ll keep checking the landing page as I try to balance my desire to write for fun with the necessity of writing to pay the bills.

Don’t expect to see the weekly contests disappear, though. I love giving shit away.

***It’s taken me a long time to be able to say “Yes, I am a good writer.” Better late than really late.

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  1. mrs. short

    Donna, I love the articles. Short, long, substantive, or quick and to the point. They fit my lifestyle, as I, too, don’t want to come home from a 9-hr day where I sit in front of a computer screen just to sit in front of a computer screen. I know that within your pieces, I can rely on just the right amount of knowledge so I can read quickly and digest, while I um… digest. Dinner, that is. Also, while I’m throwing out compliments, I love your honesty. Thanks for sharing your real initial thought when you read the comment. It’s refreshing!

  2. mrs. short

    PS – I also know where to look for your longer articles, if that’s what I’m in the mood for… For what it’s worth, I say “keep up the good work!!”

    • Donna Freedman

      @Mrs. Short: Thank you for both comments. I’ll try to keep my writing as digestible as I can. 😉

  3. Long or short articles, I love your honesty in each article I read. I have learned a lot from all of your various posts and I hope that you soon find your balance. I agree with Mrs. Short “keep up the good work”

  4. Donna, I can completely sympathise. I’m not an ideas person (I’m a do-er, which is why I think I’d be a terrible freelancer) and the part of my job that involves filling a certain number of pages every two months takes up far too much of my headspace given the very small proportion of my work that is makes up.

    Also, as a writer by trade, sometimes you just don’t want to blog for fun, or you run dry of either time or inspiration.

  5. You are the best on every front. I enjoy your writing and I REALLY love your giveaways. I wonder why!

  6. Thanks for this post, Donna. I’ve been feeling a lot of the same lately, and my posts on my personal blog have definitely taken a backseat to other things going on (like the ones that actually pay my bills). I love writing, but for the first time since I started blogging, I don’t have as much time for it as I’d like. And sometimes I want to read a book or play with my dogs or (gasp!) leave the house instead of working 24/7.

    I always hope that my regulars understand what’s going on, and that the ones who don’t will stick around long enough for me to find some energy. And I hope the same for you as well! Both of us (and anyone else doing this online thing for a living) deserve some time off every now and then!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Andrea: Agreed! But you hate to stay away from the dance for too long.
      Here’s to more energy and focus (and fun) for us both in 2013.

      • I’m a regular reader, and I get this! I have never met anyone who feels like they have a good handle on work/life balance. I always cut my favorite blogger friends slack, especially when I’m reading their “personal” site rather than a site they make their whole living from. Some months, you get lots of giveaways (and this is your biggest problem? You should be so lucky!), some months you get travel tales and reviews and the like, some months other things entirely. Ebbs and flows. Carry on and enjoy your new home!

        • Donna Freedman

          @Sarah: Thanks. The ebb and flow is something I’ve certainly noticed on other people’s sites. I just figure they’ve got a lot going on and don’t have time to write. Or maybe that they’ve got nothing going on and thus don’t have anything about which to write.
          Again, this is definitely my personal site. While I do make a small amount of money from S&T, it’s a tiny fraction of my total income. It exists mostly as my playground for words.
          Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  7. I have missed your voice here. I figured you were swamped from moving and life and all. I am swamped myself as we all are – I just keep checking until you have time and energy to write. And I would love to hear some cat stories. One is warming my lap as I type (a cat, not a story).

    • Donna Freedman

      @Lisa: I don’t actually have a cat. But maybe I’ll tell moose stories. My friend and I just inched past two of them eating grass and twigs on opposite sides of the road.

      • You could always get a cat – they’re great lap warmers. But I’m a sucker for any kind of animal story, so I’ll take the moose and like it.

        • I actually would love to hear some stories about a pet moose. I doubt you’ll have Bullwinkle warming your lap while you write, however. That would be even worse than my 75 pound dog thinking he’s a lap dog.

  8. Some of your posts are “deeper” than others, but I enjoy your writing no matter what.

    Just one question. You said you are up late, writing. What time do you start your day. What are you doing earlier in the day? I know I was working for myself. Being a self-starter, I had no problem. If I were sewing at night, I was having fun. If I were up early at 6 am, I just decided to work early and might nap later. If someone called me to go out to lunch, I would quit, bathe and have a two hour break. My life was flexible.

    I am just wondering if you are more productive later at night. I never took college classes that started before 1 pm because I had a 2-hour drive to class. However, I took classes that let out at 10 pm and got me home at midnight. It was all my choice. I knew when my mind worked best in academics.

    Are you making the choice to work late because you work/write better at that time? Or, are you working early and late? I think it is great you are so successful. I don’t mean to be nosy or make suggestions or criticize, but you opened the door. Or, maybe I am just horning in.

    At any rate, I am happy with your posts.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Practical Parsimony: I was working early and late. Recently I’ve been mixing early bedtime/early rising a few nights a week with staying up until 2 a.m. with my hostess. I have been getting more done on the early-rising days, so maybe it’s regular and copious SLEEP that makes a difference. The S.A.D. light doesn’t hurt, either.

      • Getting enough sleep was what I was wondering about. I have always wanted to spend six months in Alaska. I would need the SAD light to just be able to move. My best friend from hs worked in Alaska as a nurse for a year. When she returned home to CA, she committed suicide. In hs neither of us realized we had SAD. I suppose that is why we were such good friends–we “got” each others moods.

        “Regular and copious sleep” describes my needs, especially as I got older. I don’t recover as easily as I once did.

  9. Ro in San Diego

    As much as I enjoy the luck of the draw from your random number generator, I enjoy your writing more hope you don’t mind if I share your adventures by reading them on your site vs. joining you in person at, for example, the Talkeetna Bachelor Auction.

    As a woman of a certain age myself I can relate to a lot of your trials and tribulations.

    I laughed when you got hit on at the European Hostel. I was sad for you when you got mugged in the USA.

    I don’t think you need to explain too much to your loyal followers, Donna. We “get” you.

  10. Holly Samlan

    Now I understand why I am not seeing you on GRS any longer.

    I am a bit (10ish years) older but also at the stage where I am re-inventing myself/life. Not sure where I am going but KNOW I need to do it.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Holly: I planned to write a “Why I’m quitting” post but got so jammed up I didn’t. Then when someone left a comment asking where I was, the new editor replied that I’d bowed out. 🙁
      I still might write that piece, in time, based on what I’ve learned from putting aside a gig that I did like (but that was draining me).
      Keep reinventing! When life changes, change right back at it.

      • Donna, I’m afraid that I was the person who asked. I love your writing also. You have a unique voice and life but still connect to those things that are universal. Thanks for taking the time to write this. And really it doesn’t take much to xcountry ski. It helps incredibly when you live in a cold dark place. Hope to hear about your skiing adventures soon.

    • Ditto!

  11. Though I can understand the sentiment of the commenter you write about in your post, it is up to you how you fill (and if, for that matter) your blog. It is your life and your work-life balance, which I think blog readers (including myself) sometimes seem to forget because we’re so used to reading online whatever we want whenever we want. Especially when you’re also used to commercially driven sites that have staff and offer constant new posts. This is not doable for one person, who writes a personal blog, and we are not in any way entitled to new posts, though some commenters sometimes come across like we do.

    And for the record: I enjoy all the posts you write. Even your giveaways because of the suggestions you give, while I cannot even enter because I live in Europe!

    Long story to just say one thing: It’s your life, your work-life balance and you don’t owe readers anything. We should be grateful that you are willing to write which both entertains and changes our lives. I for certainly am!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Kim: I hope to entertain, and I would love to help people change their lives. Thanks for the encouragement.

  12. Hi Donna. I’ve been a lurker for many years but definitely want to comment on this post. 

    I completely agree the person who wrote to you because 1) you write from the heart, with a lot of wit and common sense and a touch of snark; 2) I would never enter a giveaway (don’t want stuff); and 3) you are one of the best writers out there.  Who doesn’t want to see longer pieces from you?  And I read Frugal Nation but it is not the same as you spouting off about life and your experiences. 

    But as I said before you are a fabulous and entertaining writer (to paraphrase) so I will take what I can get. 

    Hope you find the time to breathe. Would love to read a bit about your life in Alaska. 

    I’m a Jersey girl so maybe on one of your trips to NYC I can buy you a cup of coffee. Figure I at least owe you that for all the giggles you have provided. 

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

    • Donna Freedman

      @Baroness: Thanks for your kind comments. I’ll be in New York City in mid-December; e-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com. Perhaps we can meet up.

  13. Please know that I will read anything that you write, but I was wondering as I read this: did you want any suggestions for future articles, projects? Sometimes when you are in the middle of a mess/problem, you can’t see anything but a box with no way out. Perhaps if some of us generated ideas for future articles, that you would consider, you could give the thought generation process area of your brain a little rest. I know that is a sort of run on, circular thought kind of sentence, but that is how my brain works and I have not had any coffee yet, plus we are doing something totally different for Thanksgiving, so I’m not in my right mind yet.
    And because you don’t have enough to do: what are the dates/issues of those magazine articles you wrote?

    I just turned 58, and I’m thinking along the same thoughtlines you have so clearly stated in your response in “content farm”.

    Whatever you decide, KEEP WRITING!!!!

    HAPPY TURKEY DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nancy: I look for ideas anywhere and everywhere. If you (or others) want to send ideas to me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com, I’d welcome the inspirations. Doesn’t mean I’ll end up writing every single one, but you never know where an idea — or even a few words — will take you.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

      • I’d like it if you’d do an “Ask Donna Freedman”– you have a different perspective than Liz Weston (who I also love). Would your MSN editor accept responses to reader questions once a week?

        • Donna Freedman

          @Nicoleandmaggie: Good question. I did do a short “Ask the Experts” video for MSN, based on questions to the Facebook page. Maybe Facebook would be the place to start. Thanks for the suggestion.

  14. Darlene M

    Donna, I look for your articles where you could find them. Here is something to write about: Reductions in income and how to prepare for them. I am not talking about a layoff or complete job loss, I am talking about preparing for a loss of income, (child support, part-time job, salary reduction etc.) Where you still have a job, but really need to evaluate the “new budget.”

  15. We all look forward to reading your articles because of the quality of your writing regardless of the topic or quantity.As another woman in her 50’s,sometimes extremely exhausted from following my bliss,your
    free spirit is an inspiration.Love your adventure stories and your kickass attitude about life!Bless you.

  16. Nancy Ives

    Gee, I wish the random number generator loved ME…

    I bet you will love cross-country skiing when you try it, and good on you for establishing quality of life priorities.

    I will keep checking in on you, and enjoy the longer, deeper stuff when it comes.

  17. Donna, I read Frugal Nation regularly and I was beginning to wonder how you did it all and had time left to eat. Your writing is so consistently funny and clever. Maybe your critic needs to read both Frugal Nation and Surviving and Thriving. They complement each other well. Two thumbs up from the Jersey Shore!!!

  18. Thanks! Great ‘knowing’ you.

  19. Carol in Philly

    Yes, you are a good writer. And I’ve missed the more substantive posts. (I was particularly looking forward to your wry wit aimed at life in Alaska.) Nonetheless, I understand the time and financial pressures you’re under. You’re also a thoughtful, intelligent woman, and I know you’ll work it out. Take good care.

  20. Oh! Forgot to say..your words are what I need to hear!…Mined east of Circle hot Springs in ’80’s-’92. Straight off the AZ golf course, no prep., no idea, made forever friends (a woman cause there were no others!) And enemies. Just one of my lives. Love your writing. Thanks!

  21. I don’t know why but since I read the first post I’ve ever seen by you I have been hooked on your writing style. I think her critique was a little to harsh. If she doesn’t like it she is free to leave.

  22. Reading over the posts I remember GRS was where I first saw you. And I’ve been following you long since I last visited that site.

  23. I too have noticed a lessening interest in your blog. Is it possible that two PF blogs are one too many? Personally, I hate giveaway columns, but to each their own.

    And to be honest I thought it was most fascinating when you were struggling to get by on $12,000 a year. Of course I don’t wish that on anybody, but you really hit on some interesting stuff back then.

    But don’t apologize for burnout. As a freelance writer start dumping the lower paying stuff, and continue with the better paying.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Anne: It’s not a lessening of interest, but rather the realization that I want to do things besides write. I don’t have a choice whether or not to do the other site, since it’s the way I earn a living. Can’t quit the day job.
      Certainly the “getting by on $1k a month” lifestyle lends itself to many frugal-hack pieces. But after a while you’ve written just about everything there is to writing re surviving on relatively small amounts of money.
      Besides, I’ve been broke and I’ve been not-broke. You can probably guess which is more comfortable and less stressful.
      Incidentally, I don’t live much differently than I did back then. I still shop at thrift stores, use coupons, eat inexpensively, etc. But now I can fund retirement, pay for health insurance, help others and, yeah, go places. (Just paid for a ticket to see my dad for the holidays: $815. Ouch. I’d forgotten how expensive it is to fly from Anchorage.)
      I’ll keep doing the giveaways because they’re just fun (both for the winners and for me). But I’ll work to get more articles up. One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that it doesn’t always have to be about personal finance. It can be about what’s going on in the world, or about running into a bear on a hiking trail.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  24. Donna – These are great excuses why you can’t consistently produce quality content on this site. To be frank, the reason why you aren’t willing is because you aren’t able to make a reasonable amount of money from this site. This is why the giveaways and affiliate posts make up a predominant percentage of your posts. You can write 5 posts a week on Frugal Nation b/c they pay you.

    The great bloggers out there have a much better mix with giveaway and affiliate posts much lower as a percentage of total posts. Try and write not for the money instead if you want to make money. What does it say about you when you aren’t willing to write for the love of writing as a writer?

    This goes back to your post on “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” The obvious answer for your own reason, and that of Abigail’s low income is because you guys don’t have the stamina, and therefore, it’s easier to write snarky posts about poo pooing why other rich people are rich and their supposed negative attitude.

    You can leverage your position at bigger media sites all you want. But without good content here, your site will never grow to the size and quality of other blogs.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Rachel: Money isn’t why I write Surviving and Thriving. In fact, it was at least a year before I even tried to monetize the site. I would make a lot more if I included affiliate/sponsored posts, but that’s something I’m not interested in doing.
      The site is for what you call “the love of writing.” If I earn anything, fine. If I don’t, I don’t. For the first couple of years of its existence I was able to post much more frequently.
      Lately the weekly giveaway has been almost all I’ve been able to post, plus occasional affiliate items as they pop up (these are NOT regular posts). It isn’t just that life got busy, it’s that I’m changing the way I want to live that life. Specifically: I don’t want to work day and night. I want to enjoy life in other ways.
      Incidentally, the reason I write five posts a week at Frugal Nation is that it’s my day job. If I didn’t write five good pieces per week, I wouldn’t be able to keep that job.
      And by the way: It’s “pooh-poohing,” not “poo pooing.”

      • Donna,
        You are hysterical!!!

        Keep writing; whatever you want, whenever you want. I may not always agree with it, but I’m still going to read it and most likely love it.

        Happy New Year!!!

  25. Actually, I enjoy Donna and Abigail’s style of writing very much.
    Donna, my great aunt and uncle used to spend their winters here in Texas and their summers in Haines. I grew up listening to their Alaska stories and want to visit that area some day. They both passed before I could get to visit them in Alaska. Please continue to post your stories. I, for one, would love it!

  26. Oh man, I come back to the internets after a few days and there’s a tonne of wonderful Donna Freedman stuff that’s been posted. Pace yourself! (Use the “schedule future posts” feature when you’re feeling super creative. 🙂 )

    I haven’t read through the other 43 comments, but here’s my initial thoughts.
    1. I cannot get enough Donna Freedman
    2. I deeply miss you over at GRS (I think your departure has been a big loss for the site). But I also understand that you deserve some work-life balance. (What they need to do over there is make you an offer you can’t refuse!)
    3. Yes, totes post whatever you feel like on this site. I love even the non-financy stuff!
    4. Keep enjoying life! Just stop and tell us about how you’re enjoying it from time to time. 🙂
    5. Yes, that was kind of a mean comment that sparked this post, but is it horrible that I’m grateful for it if it means more posting from one of my favorite internets stars?

    • Donna Freedman

      @Nicoleandmaggie: Damn, girl(s), thank you.
      The new editor at Get Rich Slowly left the door open for future guest posts any time I want. She’d asked me to do a “Why I’m quitting” post but I couldn’t get it together quickly enough. Perhaps that’s one I’ll suggest, though, since it’s a PF quality-of-life topic: How once the wolf is gone from the door you have to decide how to live the life that’s best for you.
      I’ll probably be posting from the Talkeetna bacchanal, which takes place next weekend, so stay tuned.
      Thanks for reading, and for your support.

      • I hope you get a raise for future GRS posts! You’re worth it.

        Looking forward to this year’s bacchanalia. 🙂

      • I came here specifically to see how you were doing. I noticed you hadn’t posted in a while on GRS, and I missed your writing. You can capture the essence of a PF lesson without making it sound dull.

        • Donna Freedman

          @Megan: What a nice compliment. Thank you. I hope you’ll come back again.

  27. Reta Davis

    It’s me, yer ‘fren’ Reta. I read all the comments. Since it is Thanksgiving time, a certain officious comment reminded me of one of the things I must thank you for: You introduced me to the expression, “meh”. Now I can happily apply it to your few detractors. I like your writing and your down-to-earth humor. You go, girl. I think you are cat’s meow, which is all the cat you need! And I agree, if you don’t like the post, change the channel.

  28. I’ll read whatever you write–yeah, it’s that good. Just link me to whatever other posts you write and I’ll follow. And if your daughter writes for antother site, tell her to leave a link. Big fan here.

  29. ImJuniperNow

    Donna – Whew! I thought it was just me thinking this.

    I’ve followed you since your first thrift shop video, but lately I was beginning to think of yours as just another “Bargain Babe” email.

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the gifts and contests. But I can get them anywhere on the net. I look to you for more insightful pieces.

    I can also appreciate your not wanting to devote yourself to this 24/7. Obviously, you don’t have to anymore.

    Mind a suggestion? If you don’t feel the need to write everyday, instead of throwing us a booby prize why not just write a serious article when you can? I’d rather have an excellent article once or twice a month than a short note everyday.

    • Disagree! I treasure shorts as well. Do what you want with this blog– you’re the boss of it.

      • ImJuniperNow

        See? Nicole Berry agrees with me.

        I’m the boss? Whoa – don’t tell me that. The power will go right to my head!

        • I was talking to Donna, who is the boss, unlike her other jobs where she has to come up with ideas that also please her editor(s).

          And people in comments above are also happy with whatever Donna gives here so long as the blog isn’t a source of stress for her (thus agreeing with me). Grateful for more, but not wanting to add even more stress to her life in the one writing area that doesn’t have an external boss that she has to please. So short or long, whatever she wants I’m fine with. Especially if it means she doesn’t give it all up.

          • Donna Freedman

            Thanks again, ma’am(s). … And just FYI: Today’s post is based on a reader suggestion. So if you have any topics to request, feel free to e-mail me at SurvivingAndThriving (at) live (dot) com. I can’t promise I’ll write every single one, but it would be great to know what people are interested in reading.

  30. I’ll keep following! I have a hunch you’ll figure out the work-life balance better than most (including me), and I look forward to your pointers about that. Of course I enjoy your more in-depth posts, but I take those as an occasional literary treat, not a daily occurrence. Even the copy you post with the giveaways is well-crafted and tends to give me a chuckle.
    Furthermore, though I haven’t met you in person, I suspect I would really like you. And I want the people I like to have good health, strong family ties, and general happiness. So go do that and drop a line now and then when you can. 🙂

  31. Nicole Berry

    Hi Donna,

    I agree with the above posts–you’re a wonderful blend of snarky, mischevious realism that makes reading a joy. Drop it to one or two articles a week or month and work on that balance.


    Incorporate your adventures into real life opportunties for living frugally.

    Compare your life to when you were living on $12K vs. now or vs. when you were still married. What have been the greatest revelations? How did these transitions impact your relationships?

    You mentioned your debt reduction. Why not discuss the different approaches, what you chose and why it’s worked for you?

    I see the key to your writing as the perspective you have regarding events that impact you. It’s a humorous yet practical approach. To me, it’s what makes your writing so memorable.

    You’re a fantastic writer, Donna, as you’ve seen everyone testify. Take the critic’s words as someone who deeply appreciates your work–it’s flattery, in it’s more offensive form. 😉

    • Something that MutantSuperModel and some relatives of my husband’s are both having trouble with this year:

      What do you do when you can’t give your children the kind of Christmas you want to give them without going into (further) debt?

      • Do you think your kids would trade that “ideal” Christmas you’re looking for for, say, being homeless because you couldn’t pay the rent/mortgage or going to bed hungry or in the dark because you couldn’t afford food and electricity?

        Kids are so much more resilient than their parents give them credit for. If they won’t love you because you couldn’t go into debt to give them a Christmas you think they’ll remember every day of their life, imagine how they will feel later when you announce you’re declaring bankruptcy.

        You’re not alone – My boss was very upset last Christmas because her daughter had to spend Christmas morning on a plane to their Florida vacation home instead of being home beside the tree.

  32. Donna, I’ve been following you since the video where you were picking the rocks out of a pot of dried beans!!!! I love your humor and wit, and wouldn’t want you to change one bit!! Sometimes all we have time to read is one of your shorter pieces. I’m a little older, (get my first SS check in 4 1/2 months, but who’s counting) and have lived on less than $1000/month for the past 18 months since I lost my job. This includes a small mortgage (just bought an 85 yr old house) health insurance (thank God I haven’t needed to use it!) internet, cell phone, utilities, etc, and I buy food with whatever’s left. People are constantly asking me why I just don’t get another job, but I’ve worked full time for the last 44 years, and I JUST DON’T WANT TO!!!!! I LOVE being “retired”, volunteering where I want,pursuing hobbies, or just spending the day doing NOTHING!!!
    Anyhow, congrats on the move and give yourself a much needed break!!!!

  33. I absolutely understand this. Not that I’m blogging all over the ‘sphere to keep me running out of words 😉 but I’m working morning noon and night, and I can’t bring myself to spare the few hours in between for cranking out a post unless I’m truly moved, unless the words actually pour out of me because I can’t help it. I just can’t. I’m too tired.

    So yes, you should live, you should rest and you should take some time for yourself til … well, til you’re ready. Your writing is worth waiting for so take whatever approach you want: keep a light on with light posts between the giveaways or hold off until you’re ready to write. We’ll be around so long as you come back, it’s not worth burning yourself out on your own site!

  34. Great post, Donna. I’m only in my mid-twenties, but thanks to the competitive job market out there, and my desire to do the best I can, I’m already finding that the work-life balance is a hard one to strike. I can only imagine what a fine line it is to walk over a 3-decade+ career.

    Not to add more to your plate, but maybe you can write a post in the coming weeks – when things are quieter – about the ways in which you try/have tried to achieve that balance in your life over the years. I think it will be useful to a lot of us, and I personally, would love to read something like that.

    Thanks! And hope Alaska is treating you well so far!

  35. I am a blogger and understand Donna perfectly.

    What more readers do not understand (or don ´t want to understand) is what we do is a labor of love, and sometimes we can run empty on that.

    Like you Donna, I would love to kick the butt of every reader that starts complaining about the content, like the one that sent me a comments asking me to “write a summary of a 3 minute video I posted because he was quite busy” . I have a master degree in psychology so I realize that those individuals were actually asking for attention (or really free entertaining), so I decided really not to take them so seriously.

    Keep doing what you can and what you want, I love to read what you have to share, either is only two lines of a complete book.

    Saludos desde México.

  36. I think learning to xcountry ski would make a great frugal nation article. Little cost but great joyous exercise. You can tell I love xcountry. Really think it saved me when I was newly divorced mother of a toddler in northern MN far from family. No snow in Kansas this winter so you have to ski for me.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Chris: Thanks for your kind words. And I’ll be out there slip-sliding away if any more snow arrives. (It’s been zero or below for more than a week — not exactly conducive to snowfall.)
      Hope you’ll keep reading me here, too.

  37. Ron Rodriguez

    Donna, I think you should give yourself a break. I love reading your work and you deserve to have a life. As you know time is at a premium and the time spent with loved ones and friends is worth it. I view your writings as “idea” generators for myself to further explore. Your point of view comes from an experience that is unique to you but offers universal appeal. Keep up the good work and enjoy yourself too.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Ron: Thanks. And maybe time spent with loved ones will also give me ideas for posts.

  38. What they said. Only the nice ones, of course.
    Personally, I have been so busy that I haven’t checked in for weeks, nay, months. Sorry for my absence, hope you weren’t too disappointed that I wasn’t reading regularly.
    Seriously, now. I just retired and was thinking about starting a blog, just to keep myself honest. Something I’ve gleaned from this article is that I’d better be a lot more serious about my intent if I’m going to commit to bloging. Thanks for the tangential lesson.

  39. Heh heh heh…here’s the scheme: Base the give-aways on readers coming up with viable ideas for Frugal Nation! Submit an idea the boss will buy and win a tschochke…

    IMHO your writing is amazing. An occasional awesome post is a helluva lot better than no awesome posts. Knowing that sooner or later you will post another interesting and superbly crafted piece is what keeps me coming back here. The “sooner or later” part is operative. No need to hit a home run (or even swing the bat) every day.

    • Donna Freedman

      @Funny About Money: I have to keep reminding myself that you don’t need to hit one out of the park every time — and sometimes, the things I think are so-so really resonate with people.
      Thanks for coming back.


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