≡ Menu

How to Start a Blog on a Budget

In my net worth updates, I’ve mentioned that my online business has grown over the years and has added a consulting component which keeps me very busy.  One large portion of the consulting business is helping businesses build websites and blogs.  Over the years, I’ve gotten a large number of emails regarding starting a personal finance blog or website, and what exactly is involved – particularly the costs.

It may surprise you, but to start a website is not too expensive at all and ongoing costs are manageable.  The costs tend to creep up a bit once the website starts to get higher traffic, but income from the website is generally proportional to the traffic that it gets.  Note that this post is more about self hosted blogs rather than a blog on a free platform like blogger or wordpress.com.

Besides the costs, the actual setup isn’t all that onerous either.  If you pick the right host (the computer that your blog sits on cyberspace), it can be a matter of a few clicks.

1. Domain Name

The first step in starting a website is to purchase a domain name (ie. milliondollarjourney.com). This step is not trivial because first, you need to come up with the name, and second it needs to be available.  I tend to use GoDaddy.com for my .com domain name registrations. While it is a bit pricey, I find their domain service to be reliable.  I have also used 1and1.com for their low pricing (which includes private registration) and domainsatcost.ca for my Canadian domains.  Expect to pay around $10-$20/year per domain name including private registration.

Before you jump in to buy a domain name, keep reading as some hosting solutions include a domain name in the package.

2. Hosting

Once you purchase a domain name, the next step is to choose a hosting company.  A web host is basically a computer that holds your website files to be displayed when someone goes to your domain name.

There are different types of hosts from shared to dedicated.  Shared hosting simply means that multiple sites will be on the same computer, thus they will all share the same computer resources.  As resources are limited, their ability to handle higher traffic is limited as well.  However, shared resources means lower costs for your site

New Blogs

Out of the hundreds of blogs that I have setup for beginner bloggers, I go with a low cost shared hosting.  The reason being is that new sites generally have lower traffic in which shared hosting can easily handle.  Which host do I typically go with?  For low cost, and easy setup, I go with Bluehost on almost all of my installations.  They have low cost hosting solutions (as low as $3.49/month) which includes a domain name.  They also allow “one click” blog software installation which means you can have a blog ready to go in 5 to 10 minutes – more on this in section 3.

Bigger Blogs

As websites get busier, their resource requirement will increase (as will the costs).  Typically, site start off in a shared environment, then move onto more dedicated resources like through a virtual private server (VPS), or at the high end, a dedicated server.

Shared hosting costs typically range from $5-$20/month, a reliable VPS usually starts at $50/month (MDJ uses SERVINT VPS), and dedicated server pricing is all over the map with pricing anywhere from $90/month to $200/month.

3. Blogging Software – WordPress

WordPress is a popular piece of software that sits on your host (see section 2 above) and runs your website.  Best of all, it is free to use.   I’ve read a statistic that in 2011 over 50 million blogs were using WordPress , and used for about 22% of all new websites.  WordPress makes it extremely easy to post, manage and organize articles for a blog and makes for an intuitive content management system for regular websites.

The biggest downside I can see with WordPress is that it’s so popular that it’s often the target of hacking attacks.  One way to keep the hackers out is to keep all core files and plugins up to date and to ensure that you use a strong username and password.

If you want to go with WordPress, I recommend that you go with a host that supports WordPress one-click install which will get you online in a matter of minutes.  This way, it also guarantees that the host supports WordPress and its software requirements.  As previously mentioned, I’ve setup hundreds of WordPress based sites and almost all of them run on Bluehost –  low cost, reliable, and one-click WordPress installation.

How does this one-click installation work?  Once you purchase your hosting package, you will receive an email with control panel details.  Login to your control panel, and you will see a button there for 1-click WordPress installation.  Simply hit the button, fill in form on the screen (blog name etc), and done!

As a side note, even though I recommend 1and1, GoDaddy and Domainsatcost for domain names, I do not recommend them for WordPress based hosting.  Remember that you can purchase your domain name separately from your host but some hosting packages include a domain name in the pricing.

4. Design

Once WordPress is installed your website is basically ready to go live, but most want to customize the look.  WordPress offers a number of free themes within the admin control panel, and there are also a number of premium themes that can be purchased separately.  For someone starting out, a free theme should be fine.

Once you have your design complete, the website or blog is pretty much ready to go.  For a blog, the next step is to create some content and start building your readership via social media etc.  This will lead to other factors to consider such as monetization and additional features like an email newsletter.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, setting up a blog doesn’t take much technical knowledge or time (providing that you pick the right host).

Bringing all the costs together, it really comes down to two costs, the domain name and the hosting. If it’s a new website or blog, budget around $20/year for a domain name, and around $5-$10/month ($60-$120/yr) for a basic WordPress compatible host. If you go with a host that I recommend which includes a domain name, costs can get as low as $42 USD  a year (providing that you sign up for a 3 year term).

While you can see that the annual costs aren’t too extreme, the real cost is the time commitment required to grow a website (think second job).

Do you own a website?  What are your annual costs?

If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Sebastien Benoit June 17, 2013, 11:14 am

    I don’t have a financial blog, but I do have a photography website that I (partially) designed and maintain. Hosting costs are low (~5/mth) as it’s very low traffic. I use and love Wordpress; it’s truly amazing!

    My webhost is webfaction and I really like them for their technical ability and support (they always help me very quickly) and they do one-click wordpress installs as well. I’d recommend them as well. Currently I’m hosting about 10 other sites for family/friends all under the same account and it doesn’t add to the cost at all (all pretty low traffic sites).

    Cheers!

  • Evan June 17, 2013, 12:15 pm

    FT, sounds like you business is more in setting up websites and blogs? I thought you were just referring to MDJ when you talked about your business.

    I also have a photography website. Both a blog and a website. Website is through wix, costs about $120/yr. The domain is about $10/yr through netfirms. The blog is through myfotojournal (a photographer-specific blog co) and costs $10/mo.

    wix is mostly flash based, so some don’t like it for that, but it is quite easy to customize even for those with no computer knowledge. they do have html5 options now.

  • FT FrugalTrader June 17, 2013, 1:56 pm

    @Evan, my online business is MDJ, the forum (CanadianMoneyForum), and a consulting/web design company that i’m a 50% owner. I’ve recently scaled back my consulting efforts as it was simply taking too much of my time.

    How is your photography business going? Did you upgrade your camera after?

  • Robb June 17, 2013, 3:18 pm

    My website costs about $350 per month for domain, hosting, email services and staff writing – or about $4,200 per year.

    You can bootstrap the business for less than $100 per year though, with a shared hosting plan ($6.95 per month) and a domain name ($10). The extras just come as your business grows.

  • FT FrugalTrader June 17, 2013, 3:19 pm

    @Robb, who do you host your website through? Is it on a VPS?

  • Robb June 17, 2013, 5:51 pm

    @FT – It’s on a VPS and is hosted through Liquid Web.

  • The Passive Income Earner June 17, 2013, 9:54 pm

    Agreed. It can be done for cheap. Just under $100 will get you going and setup. I found that there are a bunch of Word Press plugins and themes worth spending the money on. Those would have a fixed one time cost generally. The next step for me was Aweber (email subscription) which ads a monthly cost and then staff writing if you want to go down that path.

  • GTK June 18, 2013, 11:49 am

    What about a Part 2 on the business aspect? When to consider the move from a hobby to a business, monetization options, holding structure, income considerations/taxes, lessons learned, etc.

    • FT FrugalTrader June 18, 2013, 12:00 pm

      @GTK, good idea. Anyone else have any ideas on what they would like to see in an article like that?

      @The Pasive Incomer Earner, if you want to go the low cost route, there are other newsletter providers out there. But from my experience, Aweber offers a superior product (but pricey).

  • Robert June 18, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I am a newbie thinking of setting up a blogging website. I appreciate your article but for me there is a gap. Why if you prefer Bluehost do you talk about installing Wordpress on it? Are you saying that Wordpress does not offer server space and Bluehost, in spite of the name does not offer actual hosting software?

    • FT FrugalTrader June 18, 2013, 1:38 pm

      Hey Robert, WordPress can be a bit confusing. There is wordpress.com, which is a free blogging platform. While it is free, you have very little control as it’s hosted by the Wordpress company. Then there’s wordpress.org software that gets installed on your own host (ie. bluehost). When you purchase your own hosting account, you install wordpress software on the hosting account. Does this clarify things?

  • Value Indexer June 18, 2013, 1:43 pm

    If you need something more than basic hosting for a wordpress site, I’ve heard a lot of good things about WPEngine. It handles some of the security and performance issues for you so you can save time. I don’t use it because my blogs are very very small :)

  • Robert June 18, 2013, 1:53 pm

    Hi FrugalTrader. Thanks, that helps a bit. I have worked an entire career in IT but never on the web presentation side of it. I did not know WordPress was also a hosting site but that may not matter. I am surprised Bluehost etc allows people to install software on its servers! Sounds like a security nightmare. Also if lots of people use WordPress, it would be installed millions of times – the same software. I uess that isn’t my problem. Can you use WordPress offline on your PC, or do you need to be connected remotely to do all your site design?

    Robert

  • FT FrugalTrader June 18, 2013, 1:57 pm

    @value indexer – I agree that you need to be selective over your wordpress host.

    @robert – many hosts allow wordpress (and many other scripts) due to popularity. Millions of websites use wordpress, not just blogs. There are ways to take the site “offline” while you are doing edits, but it still sits on your host. You can setup your PC to have a local version of wordpress, then upload your edits to the host as well. I would say that most simply edit their files on the host.

  • Robert June 18, 2013, 2:02 pm

    FrugalTrader thanks for your help – you clarified a lot.

  • Evan June 18, 2013, 2:03 pm

    FT;

    Yes, i got a 5D2 a couple years ago, and then a second one right after for backup.
    Since i run the business as myself, all the camera gear shows up as a line item on my net worth as it’s not a small amount and there is a healthy market for used equipment.

  • FT FrugalTrader June 18, 2013, 2:08 pm

    @Robert – any time!

    @Evan – Did you notice a big difference going from a crop sensor to full frame? I just went through some of your shots, and they are amazing! Good pricing too, esp since it includes the full photo cd.

  • Evan June 18, 2013, 3:22 pm

    FT,

    Thanks, the biggest change was to L-series glass. The body sure helps, but the lenses have the biggest impact.

  • FT FrugalTrader June 18, 2013, 3:34 pm

    @Evan, which lenses do you use the most? I’ve heard great things about 24-70mm. I’ve splurged a bit and purchased a used 17-55mm for my T2i, and use it 95% of the time now.

  • Evan June 18, 2013, 3:41 pm

    FT,
    I have the 24-70 (80% of the time), the 70-200 2.8 (5% of the time), and the 85 1.8 (15% of the time).
    The T2i and the 17-55 was the combo I started out with. It worked great, but I didn’t trust the shutter on the T2i to last in a professional environment (mine had well over 100K actuations and I think I was pushing my luck). The 5D2 comes with a warranty on the shutter. I miss the low weight, but I guess it’s all a tradeoff.

  • Simon June 19, 2013, 8:13 am

    Apart from the domain name and hosting which works out to around $200 an year, the greatest cost has to be the time investment in actually growing the website, especially for my blogs. Yes, I can outsource some things, but still it requires time to oversee that. It tends to be rewarding over time though!

  • SavingMentor June 19, 2013, 10:22 am

    In accordance with the name of my site, I’ve managed to keep my operational costs quite low for my site.

    My domain name costs about $12/year through netfirms and my shared hosting via Stablehost on their middle tier plan costs me $22/year (75% recurring discount that never ends). $34/year total cost before other expenses I can choose to spend money on or not is pretty insane. Now I need to hire some of these writers everyone is talking about so I actually have new content instead of (not) writing everything myself.

    Unlike almost all financial bloggers I use Drupal instead of Wordpress as the content management system for my site. It’s very powerful compared to Wordpress but also very challenging to use.

  • shawn cannon June 21, 2013, 4:58 am

    When ever doing something don’t do what is expected always think outside the box.

  • I am privately hosted through Nuts & Bolts Media and I am thrilled with the personal service that Bluehost does not offer.

    Too bad I have some how annoyed the giant Google corporation and have been denied access to AdSense so I still have no ads on my blog.

    I don’t want to make a living on it I would just like to cover the costs.

    Over 5,000 views every month now but I guess that is small potatoes in the blogging world.

  • Elbyron June 21, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Before choosing a domain provider, it’s a good idea to do your shopping for a web host because many of them will include domain hosting for free as part of their hosting package (but make sure it’s free for the duration of your services, not just for the first year). It’s very important to do your research on web hosts, and make sure they have a good uptime history, good customer support, and has the features that you will need for your website (such as supporting Wordpress). Look for ones that have Fantastico, SimpleScripts, Softaculous, or other scripting tools that provide easy 1-click installation of a wide variety of applications. Also look for “cPanel”, as this is a common interface that easy both easy to use and is great for power-users too (goDaddy does not have cPanel, and their interface is somewhat limiting in what you can do). Make sure the hosting plan includes a few mySQL databases, which are needed for Wordpress and other apps.

    If you’re looking for a cheap domain name host, I’ve been with internet.bs for a few years (about $10/year for a .com) and have had no problems with them.

  • Rammy June 23, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Registering domains with 1and1 is not a good idea.

    1. You can register the domain only for one year and only option is auto renew. So you are at their mercy to get the domain renewed before the expiration. What if the payment is not approved by the Credit Card. There is no back up card setup. I personally prefer not to wait until the last day to renew.
    2. Their customer service is terrible. I got many arrogant responses along the line ” you can transfer the domain any time to other providers you prefer
    3. Transferring the domain is very difficult, cancelling the account is a painful process.

    While there are many more reliable providers out there there is no need to put up with these people.

    (namecheap.com, name.com etc…)

Leave a Comment