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Blogging Through the Baby Steps

For Tsh Oxenreider, founder of Simple Mom, blogging is a passion. It’s also a ton of hard work. As basically the first person to merge the worlds of mommy blogs and productivity, she’s got quite the captive audience.

Like the name suggests, Tsh’s posts are approachable, with content that’s easy to read and apply. It’s no surprise, really, that she’s been able to generate a healthy income—although Tsh admits, “I’d be willing to do it for free if I had to!”

Before you roll your eyes thinking she’s just another blogger with an Anthropologie-approved wardrobe and chevron-curtained home, let’s set the record straight. Tsh is a little, well, different. Every dime she’s made blogging is processed through the Baby Steps.

In fact, her favorite emails are the ones where readers thank her for telling them about Dave. And she mentions Dave and money a bunch—on her blog and in her eBook One Bite at a Time.

Read below for tips on how you can apply her story to your life.

Meeting a Need

In 2007 Tsh was diagnosed with depression. Her counselor suggested a modest solution: She needed a hobby. As a wife and mom, working for a nonprofit and living far away from the help of relatives, a hobby probably seemed more like a fairytale than a tangible reality.

A few months later, though, Tsh remembered her counselor’s advice and her husband Kyle’s encouragement to start a blog. She did love to write—and she’d recently spent a good bit of time reading blogs with a sleepy newborn in her arms. Inspired, she began to research.

Takeaway: Everyone needs a hobby—something you enjoy doing and want to become better at.

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Filling a Hole

That’s when she discovered something. You had to visit one blog genre whenever you wanted a heartwarming tale of motherhood or an update on a friend’s baby—usually catalogued by women in painstaking detail. But you had to visit an entirely different genre—geared primarily towards men—if you wanted to read a blog about getting things done.

Nobody was talking to women about the relational and practical sides of life. So, naturally, Tsh stepped in to fill the void, launching Simple Mom in January 2008. She says, “I think the traffic at the beginning was pretty organic. I was scratching an itch.”

Takeaway: If you want to start a business with a big potential for growth, look for areas of unmet needs.

Making Some Money

At the time, she and Kyle had roughly $12,000 left to pay on their student loans. Thinking she might be able to add a few extra bucks to their debt snowball plan, Tsh began looking for ways to earn money from the blog.

Four months in, she received her first payment from an ad. It was only a couple of dollars. Tsh explains that she put in “tons and tons of hard work. I worked really hard for not a lot of money. It wasn’t passive income at all.” As she continued to put out compelling posts, though, the number of readers grew.

Before long, the blog was earning $30 and then $100 a month. Tsh and Kyle agreed to continue living under their current budget and pile up any extra money from Simple Mom for their student loans. By April 2009—just 15 months after the first post—they were completely debt free!

Takeaway: Increase your income, but not your lifestyle, and your debt snowball will only get bigger.

Taking a Trip

The Oxenreiders focused in on Baby Step 3. In just four months, the emergency fund was fully funded, so Tsh and Kyle decided it was time to celebrate. They saved up cash and, in November 2009, went on their first family vacation to—of all places—Paris! Of course, Tsh adds, they were living in nearby Turkey at the time.

They ate breakfast and dinner at the vacation apartment so they could go out in extravagance for lunch. “We have memories of laughing at the bill because it was so huge. But we had the money for it because we budgeted for it.” Splurging here and there—without worry—made the Paris trip an extra special treat.

Takeaway: It’s totally okay—and even a good idea—to have some fun. Just make sure you can pay for it.

Buying a House

One year after their trip, they moved back to the U.S. Faced with the prospect of needing to build up credit in order to a buy a home, Tsh and Kyle were reluctant. The thought of going into debt again—even for a mortgage—was discouraging.

“We looked it square in the eye and said, ‘Manual underwriting is the only way we’re going to be willing to buy a house.’ If we couldn’t find someone to do it, we’d just pay cash,” says Tsh. Again, they saved up every dollar earned on the blog towards their goal. They worked with our real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) program to get all of their questions answered and to find someone who’d help them close the deal.

In April 2012, the Oxenreiders bought their first house. Tsh calls it a “fixer-upper,” and, although the house might not be picture perfect, they hope to pay it off in just three years!

Takeaway: With a little extra work and some serious dedication, you can buy a house without credit!

Keeping It Simple

From the outside looking in, Tsh and Kyle might seem extreme. In reality, they’re making it through the Baby Steps just like anyone else: with focused gazelle intensity and, in true blogger fashion, a little creativity along the way. 

Tsh says, “It’s worked for us so far, making these crazy financial goals and then reaching them before we thought.” A few of her favorite simple ideas for reaching your financial goals are below. 

  1. Make small lifestyle choices. The Oxenreiders don’t do cable. When they watch TV, it’s through Netflix or Hulu. It’s way cheaper, and the kids are none the wiser!
  2. Double recipes and freeze half. Anytime Tsh makes a meal, she freezes a duplicate for later. It keeps the family from eating out—or losing their mind—when life gets busy.
  3. Delegate tasks that drain you. Tsh recently began hiring out administrative tasks on her blog, which frees her up to do the things she loves most. Spending her time wisely means a bigger profit for the blog in the long run!

Now, Tsh and Kyle work with a group that provides relaxation and encouragement for nonprofits around the globe in the form of low-cost guest housing. Their five-year goal is to move back abroad and run one of the homes full time. They truly are living and giving like no one else!

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