Blogging can be many things, it can be therapeutic, a form of expression, a career, it can also be expensive. Many of us bloggers, start out with a tight budget. We don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of money before we actually make money form on blog/online business.
When I started earning money online, I started with the bare minimum. I was scared of spending money on myself and on my new ideas. I did realize soon enough that to make money I will also have to spend money. BUT I paced myself. I budgeted myself pretty tightly, and once I started getting results, I increased my budget accordingly.
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You have options
The nice thing about the online business and the blogging world is that you have options. Almost everything you will need to set up your blog will come with varying price tags. Cheaper solutions for smaller business/blogs, and more expensive ones for the more established bloggers.
My advice will be as I said before – pace yourself, don’t purchase the expensive solutions out there, start gradually. You can always find great “steals” that will give you fantastic results. Once you see the return than you can move on to the splurge. It’s all a matter of where you are at in your blogging journey. I will say that some things are worth the splurge even if you are a newbie. So after the long intro, here are some of the “Steals” vs. “Splurge” I found in the blogging must have tools.
Blogging Essentials – Platform and hosting
Finding a home for your blog – is the first step. I covered some aspects of this subject before in my Blog like it’s your business post (you may want to give it a read), but it is worth repeating so you know your options. If you are just starting out in the blogging world, you may not want to turn into a business right away. Maybe, if you are not sure you can dedicate the time you need to monetize it. In that case, you can definitely go with the “steal” option at first. This way, you can have a go at it, see if you manage to grow as a blogger and generate traffic. There are a few free blogging options available out there. I have tried the 3 big ones with different blogs and different purposes over the years.
I will not go too much into detail about those as I really do not recommend you go down that road, but if you do please go with
WordPress free plan.
With WordPress, you can start for free and switch into either their business plans and use their hosting services, or go with an outside host, very easily and effortlessly. I always suggest that as the best option because to me it is the most hassle-free. When and if you choose to go self-host (and if you are not sure what that is I refer you again to my previously mentioned post) your host will migrate your blog to their servers and you won’t have to do a thing. One of my favorite things about WordPress is that so many of the wonderful bloggers out there are on it. It makes it so easy to follow and comment on their blogs.
The other two significant free platforms are
Splurge options- WordPress.com Premium Plan
WordPress.com premium plan – prices at 25$ a month. It is significantly more expensive than other services. It does come with a few advantages including the use of all of their premium themes which is super easy to set up and great video chat support. The whole process is quick and simple.
Wordpress does offer a cheaper business plan – BUT – if you sign up for it you will soon realize it is very limiting (you can’t use most of the very much needed plugins with this plan).
Siteground.com – If you are just starting out, go for either their startup (3.95$ per month) plan or their grow big plan (5.95$ per month).
For the first year, the price is very low. You do need to know that it will be raised after a year, but it will still be relatively low. One of their biggest advantages other than the price is that they have fantastic customer service and technical support. You can get your domain name directly through them and they set everything up for you. As I said, start with the cheaper plans and if needed you can always upgrade if you need to.
Bluehost – same things apply to Bluehost. The price range is pretty similar and so is what they offer for each of the plans. Both come highly recommended by users and with good technical support.
Setrahost – I also use their services, they are a relative newcomer in the hosting services market. Their prices are very accommodating, and they promote a no renewal fee approach, which is nice. They also have great customer service, which I truly appreciate.
All of the above-mentioned services charge for the whole year. If you do not want to commit right away you can go with
Lyricalhost – that offers a monthly subscription you can cancel at any time.
Blogging Essentials – Theme and branding & Design
Finding a theme for your blog is the next stage. What you need is a theme that is responsive, WordPress compatible, and easy to customize so it fits your branding.
There are many websites that offer a diverse choice of beautiful themes. The prices fluctuate between really cheap and some can be pricy.
Pipdig -offers beautiful responsive themes, prices are usually around 59$ to 69$.
Creative Market – offers diverse themes, in a wide range of prices (you can find some for as little as 19$).
WordPress Premium themes – A wide selection of themes in varying prices typically ranging between 39$ to 125$. The biggest advantage is with how easy it is to implement it to your blog. You can also change it up whenever you feel like with basically one click.
WordPress free themes – You will need your own images to get a more personalized look, figure out which plugin you want to add, play with color schemes etc. I really loved using these because they are so functional, come in diverse designs and are relatively easy to customize. If you are looking for a more feminine look for your site you may have to work a little harder at getting the look you are after.
A few tips that can help:
Feminine stock images.
The colorpick eye dropper chrome add on, that can copy colors your like on other sites to your own (a fantastic free tool).
You can personize the design with your own logo or header which also come with a splurge or steal options.
Branding Splurge option
You can hire a designer and that will create a specialized logo and header for you.
Or, you can find designers on websites like fiverr.com – where you will find wide ranges of prices. You can buy branding kits from Creative market if you like playing around with designs.
Another possibility is to go with a “steal”.
Branding Steal option
Or in this case FREE option – Canva.com – where you can create your own logo using ready-made templates. Canva, it’s one of the tools I use every day, it is totally free and super easy to use and navigate. You can also Use their templates to create a blog header and when mixed with your own images, you will get a completely personalized unique look for your site.
Blog promotion tools.
A necessary element of growing your blog is promoting it – mainly on social media platforms.
That can easily become one of the most time-consuming aspects of your blogging career. This is why you need schedulers. Now, there are A LOT of different options out there, some of them can be costly (but easy to use and effective). If you have the budget and is committed to creating promotional content for social media, you can consider the following options.
Hootsuite – allows you to schedule posts to all of your accounts and help you curate fresh content to mix with your own. It costs 19$ a month (billed annually). It is for sure a time saver as long as you are committed to maintaining a consistent presence on more the just one social media platform. If you are not sure, you can handle that, this may be a waste of your money.
CoSchedule – one of my favorites, it has some really great features (like their headline analyzer which is free to use) it really is the one stop shop for all your marketing and promoting efforts. It does, however, comes with a price tag – 40$ a month.
There are also schedulers that specialize in specific platforms. which is where the steal part comes in. If you want to save and have the patience to move between a few service providers, then you can schedule a lot fo your content for completely free.
Scheduling for a steal:
Instagram – God bless Planloy because it is my favorite scheduling tool.
My absolute favorite thing about it is that I can use it from the comfort of my laptop – I can type my captions and research Hashtags easily, play with my images on my computer and then upload it easily. I schedule my clients accounts for weeks ahead which is a huge advantage. You can use Planloy for completely FREE if you are managing just one account with one user. They have paid plans starting at 7$ a month.
Twitter – I use two schedulers for that.
Buffer – I use it for twits that are texts only (it shortens links and the description doesn’t show up so I don’t use it for tweets with links in them). You can schedule up to 10 posts each time fro completely free. Now supposedly Buffer works with Facebook and Instagram too, but I don’t like using it for that.
I also use Crowdfire – you can compose and create your own posts and it can automatically share your blog posts. One of its pluses is that you can also curate fresh content that is of interest to you and your readers and keep your feed interesting and dynamic. Here too you can schedule up to 10 posts each time for each of your social accounts AND you can add 5 social accounts for free. I only use it for Twitter.
Facebook – easiest, simplest and cheapest way to schedule is straight from my business page. I also use some of my Instagram posts and share it from there directly to my business page which is connected to my business IG account.
A steal and a splurge:
Pinterest– so EVERYONE at this point knows that the best scheduler to use with Pinterest is tailwind right? It is recommended by Pinterest Powers that be. BUT I pin a lot manually (as part of the Pinterest strategy I use) and I also use the scheduling option that Pinterest has for new pins I create.
If you are new to Pinterest and is not sure about how to use it yet, and if you don’t know which strategy works best for you, I suggest you start with their Free trial, play with it a little, get to know the tailwind system and how it works. Then, you can go for the plus plan and “power it up” when you will have more posts and pins of your own. For me the most important feature is the tribes, so I use the plus programme – 15$ a month and I “powered up” so I can have more tribes and now I pay about 29$ a month. Since Pinterest is a big traffic generator for me in my work, this is an investment that is totally worth it, BUT like I said, start with the free plan. You can schedule up to 100 pins for free if I remeber correctly, and see if you are loving it. There is much to say about tailwind and how it can work for you, but it’s a subject for a whole other post:)
If you got all the way here, I hope you found it useful. If you have other services that you recommend for a steal, would love to hear from you in the comments.