9 Unanticipated Ways Being A Fashion Blogger Ruined My Finances

I started blogging in 2015. I’d never positioned my blog as a straight up fashion blog, because it’s so much more than that. But I knew fresh and consistent fashion-related content was how I could most rapidly get people’s attention. In the beginning, I told myself I would go through my closet, and style things I already had, and only buy things from re-sale websites like Poshmark, i.e. things heavily discounted and sometimes pre-owned. Over time, I started going a little overboard with the shopping, especially when the holiday seasons came around and you would see a cute “corporate holiday party dress” on every corner. Then, slowly, whenever I came up with a topic that could use a brand-new outfit, I allowed myself to buy it. Over the first year of creating Cubicle Chic, I blazed through what I had in the bank, and started piling up credit card debt. And it just kept going.

What’s worse was my existing shopping condition. As many metropolitan professional women earning a decent income can relate (and as Cubicle Chic’s top banner may suggest), I have a weakness for luxury goods. There’s always been a tender spot in my heart for name-brand stuff in that I can’t explain. Now, I can’t say that tendency is a thing of the past. What I can say, though, is that I no longer impulse-buy “nice stuff” — designer bags/shoes/things that I don’t have a planned budget/saved-up cash for. Currently, I am somewhat reformed, financially-speaking.

I live with a budget that I now share with my husband, and every month I know exactly how much I’m supposed to spend in each category. I still go over in some categories occasionally, but I do so with control and comfort. This current financial situation is the result of a slow, arduous, and long transformation that took place from early 2015 to the present. During this time, I had moved in with my boyfriend (husband now), got engaged, planned for a wedding, got married, and bought a house. This transformation (thanks to my husband’s help in shaping my financial foundation, but also the real personal finance guru Dave Ramsey), as painful as it was, was the only reason we managed to pay for the wedding in cash and secure a good down payment for the purchase of the house.

So, in my financially uneducated and uninformed days, starting a fashion blog really took a toll. I had no savings to show for my hard work at the end of the year I started my blog (from either my full-time job and my blog). My credit card debt fluctuated between monthly balance of $2,000-$5,000, and there was no sign of it going away. The worse part was that I was on the verge of being broke, and I didn’t even know it.

All of this isn’t to say that having a fashion blog WILL ruin you financially, but it’s not for the ignorant and the uninformed, which I totally was two years ago. Here are nine things about starting and having a fashion blog when I wasn’t ready that pushed my further down the financial drain:

1. Keeping up with new trends

Keeping up with the Joneses is real when every other person on Instagram is the Joneses. That new pair of Adidas sneakers, the new Celine bag, a new one-piece swimsuit, or a beach straw-bag. Instagram fuels our shopping addictions, and you know it. To counter buying things I don’t need/won’t use for my blog, I now have a master editorial calendar. I already know what I’m writing this month, next month, and the following month. If I catch myself wanting to buy something for blog content, I try to see how it’s going to fit into my editorial calendar. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t buy it.

2. Creating an archive of outfits

I feel like as a blogger I need to showcase a suite of outfits that tailor to different events and functions. Like right now, I still feel like I need that power suit to round out my professional wardrobe. I probably will get a power suit at some point when it makes sense for a post I’m writing or an event I’m attending, but not right now. The heart of this problem lies in lack of organization and visibility in the stuff I already have. This Spring, I gave my closet an overhaul, i.e. throwing out stuff I didn’t wear anymore and getting re-acquainted with stuff I had but wasn’t wearing enough. That exercise allowed me to physically understand that I do have an archive of outfits already.

3. Getting brands to notice me

Someone once told me the best way to approach a brand, when it comes to collaboration, is to think about what you are already wearing/using IRL. What brands are you already a fan of? If you’ve bought their stuff, used their stuff, and continue to use them, that’s the brand you are best suited to represent. So, I internalized this, and started telling myself, “It’s okay to buy because I am trying out for myself before I can work with the brand and start recommending their product to people.” This is a very dangerous path, because I can literally justify anything I want to buy this way. Again, I’ve learned now to default to my editorial calendar to see if there’s even a reason to try the product. If it’s not aligned with my editorial calendar, I don’t buy.

4. Attending events

Almost two years into my blogging career, I’ve signed up for an event five times (PoshFest twice, The Collective once, Simply Stylish twice). The tickets cost about $90-$300 for each event. Going to events quickly turns into money suck, because I’d have to get my outfit ready, and for the first few events I was also trying to sort out my business card situation, which cost money, too. This year, I am only attending one event (Simply Stylist in July) and will be very careful about how much I invest in a new outfit for the event. The only other event that I will try to attend in the future is Create and Cultivate. It’s even more expensive (think $350+), and I know will have to save up and pay cash for it.

5. Paying for online classes

If you’re reading online about how to improve your finances, chances are, you’ve considered taking online classes to improve something else. For me, this something else can be business writing, blogging techniques, photography tips and tricks, SEO know-how, and the list goes on. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of online classes and feel like taking more and more classes will be the answer to everything. Nowadays, I try to stick to a certain budget when it comes to online classes ($20 and under), and I try to finish a class before I sign up for new ones. Psychologically speaking, paying for a class feels like progress. But I know until I take my learning and implement it and see impact, there is no progress whatsoever.

6. The blogger discounts

If I had a dime every time a brand/company, instead of agreeing to collaborate with me, decides to give me a personalized, unique, for-me-and-only-me blogger discount. Don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate their generosity, and given number point #3 above, I used to give in more often than I should have. The truth is, if I have no need for it and it doesn’t make sense for my editorial calendar, I shouldn’t buy it — no matter the discount.

7. Paying for advertisement, loop giveaways, or straight up Instagram followers

Aside from being desperate for more traffic as new blogger, as a digital marketing professional, I told myself I needed to experiment with Google Adwords and Facebook ads, just to be able to say that I know how they work. In Christmas of 2015, I started a small Google Adwords campaign to promote the three outfits I created for Holiday Parties. Because of my lack of experience at the time, the campaign cost me $250 before I knew how to stop it. It got me maybe about 1,000 clicks in total, but no one became a recurring reader. I quickly learned my lesson, and never did it again.

There is also loop giveaways that Instagram influencers like to do. If you don’t know what it is, it’s when a group of influencers team up and come up with a few irresistible giveaway prizes (think iPads, Canon Cameras, Mac Laptops, Gucci handbags, etc) and people must follow all the influencers in the loop (sometimes as many as 50 of them) in order to enter.To date, I’ve joined two loop giveaways as an influencer. They were each about $30 for me to participate, and they earned me about 200-300 followers each time. This is really just a more glamorous and legitimate way of “buying followers.” I have not done one since early 2016, because the followers you get from these giveaways drop you like it’s hot (the unfollowing that occurs at the end of the giveaway is hard not to take personally).

8. Fresh content = fresh new purchases

This is a real struggle for any content creator. When you are in a creative rut and can’t think of anything to talk about, buying something you wanted to buy anyway thinking that it will provide fresh ideas and things to a topic to talk about always seems like an easy solution. Again, my counter mechanism is always to default to my editorial calendar so I don’t run out of topics to write about. I also plan about 2-3 months ahead for content, so I have time to reach out to brands and pitch my topics to them.

9. Paying for expensive photography

This is another topic that I can probably write a book about: how to find the right photographer for your blog. Those who are blessed with photographer inclinations/skills/boyfriends/husbands aside, creating visually-pleasing aesthetics for a blog is so, so, so critical. But finding someone who understands your visual, is willing to accommodate to your schedule, and has the right price range, is harder to find than you’d think. I started out paying between $200-$400 for one photography session, which consisted of about 90-120 minutes and 2-3 different outfits. That was definitely more than the industry standard for fashion blog photography. I was very happy with the result, but the cost was unsustainable, and I quickly realized that. Over time, I met and worked with many other photographers so I became more educated about pricing. At the same time, I learned to model better and learned what looked good for photos. To date, I’ve worked with almost 10 photographers. I have finally found my one and only photographer who I work with regularly now. She charges me a very reasonable price, is flexible with our shooting schedule, and provides me just the right creative input to help me improve my overall aesthetic. I wish someone had taught me this before I started, so I wouldn’t have wasted all the money on the unnecessary high price!

Jessica is the writer behind personal style blog Cubicle Chic. In her early twenties, she has contemplated many career paths, such as a novelist, a physician assistant, a research scientist, a court translator (English to Mandarin Chinese), and a clinical research specialist. Eventually, she found her passion in marketing communications for life science companies. She continues to cultivate her interest and skills in many other fields, such as writing, career development, and self-improvement, and hopes to help others do the same.

Image via Unsplash

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  • Summer

    Love content like this! Regardless of genre, it’s so fascinating to me how people navigate the waters of getting a new blog off the ground. I found #5 to be especially relatable as I also feel like I’m “making progress” on something if I’m somehow researching or learning about it. Online classes, books, reading websites, etc, it all feels like a step in the right direction; but eventually one must actually sit down and produce in order for those other efforts to have been worth it.

    This is maybe getting off-subject a bit, but you mentioned your editorial calendar a few times, do you mind elaborating a bit on your strategy there? Do you have a particular app or program you use, or do you just construct a sort of outline in a Word doc or something? Do you find that you stick pretty firmly to your calendar or do you leave wiggle room for spontaneous ideas between planned content?

    • Hi Summer,

      Thank you for your comment! I am so psyched that you enjoyed reading this post. It’s been on my heart a lot lately to bring more transparency to this blogging thing, especially with it being so prevalent now.

      About my editorial calendar, I’m glad you asked. When I started, I was just writing as I pleased, I’d get photo shoots done and then try to think of a post topic and write that way. Needless to say that didn’t work out too well. Then, I stumbled upon this “blog planner”(https://www.amazon.com/EPIC-BLOG-One-Year-Editorial-Planner/dp/0988780070) that I could buy. So I bought it. It gave me a lot of direction in thinking about where I want to take my blog in the long run, what my blog stood for, how I want to monetize in the future, etc.

      I used this planner for about 7-8 months, until I got tired of how it wasn’t fitting my needs perfectly. So I kind of swayed from having a calendar at all. Until last month, I was frustrated at how I couldn’t remember what I had planned for next week or next month, I just started listing everything out on an Excel spreadsheet. Before I realized, I was linking product information, dates, and categories to each post… and it was the best thing I’d ever done for my blog. AND it’s free!!

      So I do try to stick to my calendar, but if things come up (I did a Nordstrom Half Year Sale wishlist that wasn’t planned) I also squeeze things in. Its my own calendar and I’m the only contributor at this point, so it’s not hard at all to be flexible!

  • Raquel

    love the idea of an editorial calendar!

    • I’m gonna write about that next …stay tuned!!

  • Hyatt Lam

    Hi Jessica, I had a look at your instagram, love your style, one suggestion is that you HAVE to go to Paris, if you have been before, go somewhere overseas so that the pictures can be seen after few scrolls. Payback on international travel contents is much greater than outfit only content. Good luck and hope to see your blog grow!

    • Anon

      Lol. I love this as a response to a personal finance article.

  • Winterlight

    When it comes to online classes, check out your local public library. Mine offers free six-week classes via Gale in all sorts of things, including teaching ESL (the class is certified by a legit ESL org), becoming a consultant, how to help your elderly parents, and technical writing. You have two lessons a week and two weeks to complete each lesson in.

    • Library is seriously the most underrated social asset we all have!! Thank you for sharing these classes!