Ten Years of Common Sense Blogging

It’s hard to believe Common Cents Mom is ten!

I started this blog ten years ago. I wanted it to be an inspiration and a way for me to share the knowledge I was gaining.  It has been quite a rollercoaster ride and my community has shared it all with me!


So what are some of the highlights:

  • Over 1000 posts written ( that averages to 2 posts a week)
  • Started the first Personal Finance Chat in Canada even before the banks were talking about money online!
  • Wrote a tweet to Oprah that ended up in New York Times
  • Having this blog and one post featured on every news site in Toronto leading to the raising of thousands of dollars for fire victims.
  • Having Common Cents Mom featured on multiple lists as a blog to follow and read. I have been on the top lists more than 20 times.
  • Speaking at multiple Blogging Conferences and the University of Toronto as a Guest Speaker twice.
  • Being one of 4 bloggers invited by VIA Rail to take the Ocean train as part of its 110 birthday.
  • Having met many of my current friends via this blog.
  • Helping  2 apps that were created here in Ontario launch. One now has millions of downloads and the other was wanted by 4 Dragons on Dragons Den.
  • Over 5 billion social media impressions for brands that have partnered with Common Cents Mom
  • Over 200 Twitter Parties or Chats hosted or moderated for brands.

What surprises me every month is that new people visit and become followers and for each and every one of them I am grateful and blessed. I am floored that so many are now friends. I am thankful for conversations and how this community has grown together. I am thankful for the mentors who stepped in and taught me so much about personal finance and blogging. In the area of personal finance, I am thankful for Preet Banerjee who gave me my first paid writing gig. I wrote about my bankruptcy for his blog. I am thankful for Gail Vaz Oxlade who is the original Common Sense personal finance writer. These two I learned much from. In the area of authentic connection, I am thankful for names we who work in the world of Social Media know well.  I am grateful or Liz Strauss and Chris Brogan who along with Scott Stratten taught me much that I use every day. It is all about connecting in ways that matter, ways that help and make you think.

Eight years ago, my life changed when I became unemployed and ended up six days later being employed by Connected Multi-Media. Little did I know, all my paid work since has been in the world of social media. From blogging to a freelancer working alongside some great brands and agencies I have had so many great experiences. Dove Chocolates was my very first partner some 8 years ago and I have worked alongside over 100 brands and companies since.

As I look to the next 10 years, I look forward to Common Cents Mom being a resource for those that want to learn about money in ways that make sense, ways that save you time and money. I promise I will always be looking for ways and tools that will help my readers.

Here is living frugally so we can live well!

THANK YOU all for reading and visiting my blog. I appreciate every click and every moment you spend here.


Join Us at the Inspired to Action Conference this International Women’s Day

Have you ever experienced a moment, met a person, read a quote that propelled you out of a rut or dark space and made you see possibilities that you couldn’t previously conceive?  Ever sat in a room of like-minded women and think yes, I can do this and my idea will work. Inspiration is a very powerful thing. It often leads to action. I have been so blessed in my life that as I thought of launching different projects and ideas inspiration has come just when I have needed it most.  Do you have an idea germinating in your head? Have you ever thought of taking a huge leap and leaving the corporate world to do something that means something to you? This International Women’s Day take the day for yourself. Gather with like-minded women and let’s get inspired together at the Inspired to Action Conference at Joey in downtown Toronto. 

Inspired to Action

Inspiration is the seed that is planted in our hearts and souls and we need it to fuel the fire under our butts when we hesitate to take a chance or make a change.  Ever needed that slight push, that encouraging word? I know I have. When I have needed in inspiration that can lead to action I surround myself with a tribe that will get me there. I go and seek inspiration.

In early February I attended such an event. I was able to not only get inspiration but practical advice. I came away with a network of new friends who can help me along the path.  This is what happens when you take the first step and attend events like Inspired to Action.

This March 8th, I would love for you to join me at Inspired to Action.  You can purchase your ticket and get a 20% discount code to attend, which includes access to the entire event and buffet lunch. Simply use the code HollieVIP.

Want to attend the event with me for free? I am giving away one ticket. Leave a comment on this post. I will pick a winner next Friday at 6 pm EST.  Not only will you attend the event for free but I have a special little something for you as well. Just let me know why you want to attend in the comments.

For more information on the conference be sure to check out these social profiles:

Instagram Handle: https://www.instagram.com/i2aconference/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/I2AConference/

Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1124244907678231/


The Rise of the Micropreneur and Social Selling



Ever thought you can have an impact? help others? wanted to work for yourself and create a business out of it?

If you haven’t started doing something and you feel that way, you are a dreamer. If you have started doing something you just may be a micropreneur, like me. Some use phrases like mompreneur, entrepreneur, and small business owner. Some say they do a side hustle.

Often the microprenuer wants to reach a niche audience. They want to gather a tribe of like-minded fold.  I know when I started Common Cents Mom that was my desire. I wanted to reach moms especially those who were struggling. Sometimes it is hard to figure out budgeting, money, banking and all those skills we were never taught in school. These were and are my peeps. They are those who want to live well on a budget. Another interesting fact 60% of those who work for themselves are men.

One of the things as I noticed is that many of the people I know and love and call friends earn some sort of income besides their primary income. I fall into that category with my blog, with my social media consulting, and now in selling doTERRA. It has become a way of life for many of my friends. Some have created large networks of like-minded folk. There is money to be made by doing so.

Did you know 80% of the women in North America who are millionaires got their start as a micropreneur. Nice statistic right? With a work ethic and a plan, you can do it too.

More and more people are wanting to leave the corporate world to take risks, follow their dreams and live lives they design. I know this is me. I love the company I work for in my 9-5 and I love that I am surrounded by great people every day but my passion lies in the side hustle. Do you feel the same way? I want to live a balanced life and am working hard to get to where I want to be.

We find it easy to share our passions with those around us. We find with work, we find our tribe.  We become social sellers. Conversations come naturally. Blog posts get written out of passion. That passion becomes an income source and a tribe is born. We find develop skills and abilities, we become thought leaders and teachers.

I had an interesting conversation with the head of the Direct Sellers Association of Canda this past weekend as I attended a Wellness Summit for doTERRA that was held here in Toronto. After that conversation, I realized that as a micropruener, a small business owner and one who loves to share what I learn there is room to grow as more and more people want to buy locally, want to support their friends, and earn a living doing so. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of people who selling socially in Canada and around the globe. In  Canada,  the organizations joining the DSA is on the rise, the number of micropreneuers is on the rise.

Where will all this socially selling lead? I am unsure. What I do know from looking at my circle of friends who have become bloggers, influencers, network marketers, graphic artists, consultant, and micropreneurs in their niches, they are living lives they have chosen and worked hard to get there.

Would you ever decide to be your own boss? Look for your tribe? Let me know in the comments.

How Laura Bilotta from Single in the City Renovated her Home Office

“Rip out the wall cabinets and put up vision boards’, Laura Bilotta from Single in the City said when she was asked how she’d like to improve her home office. “Bookshelves are so last century.’

The contractor nodded in agreement. Keith Travers, custom home builder in Oakville also does home renovations, and over the last decade he’s become an expert in home office interior design. “Bookshelves are moving up to the very top of the wall to free up space below for monitors and white boards and just plain old blank walls”

The top ten must-have things Laura insisted be present in her work station are in so many ways fundamental to all work-from-home businesses in the information age,

Laura list for Keith,

1. French Doors
The number one item on Laura’s list for Keith Travels was to amend the wall to support a nice set of French doors (double doors with twelve panel glass windows in the center of each) so she could seal off her business from the rest of her life. The doors would have an additional white curtain on the inside for total privacy. Keith reflected later that this is a mental as well as a physical barrier; the modern work from home professional has to close the door on their work at some point every day, and a physical door helps them mentally compartmentalize their work inside their life.  give themselves some freedom and time with family and friends.

2. WiFi / high-speed internet access
You can’t work from home without WiFi and the modem / router connection MUST be located in the home office. Hours of walking back and forth could occur if this is not the case. If the home does not have an office than this system is likely found behind the television – it must be moved into the office. Laura had this high on the list because she was feeling a lot of pain from her current situation where the router was three rooms away!

3. Clear the desk surfaces – mount the flat screens on the wall dual flat screen with desk space for notepad and keyboard and mouse. There should be enough desk space to open a laptop and several paper notebooks.  A modern work surface   should feel more like a table rather than a desk

4. Get an office wall clock
Unlike the time function on your phone, computer monitor or wrist watch, the wall clock has more presence and ‘authority’ and sets the tone for more regimented behaviour patterns. The office wall clock rules the day. Having the discipline to go to work in the morning and the strength to switch off the job in the evening stems from this iconic temporal reporting device. Also important is a good old fashion paper calendar – always handy to point to point to a specific day and set deadlines that staff understand.

5. Unrestricted swivel chair access
Laura had been working on a exercise ball and would switch that out with a hard backed dining room chair but now she’s had enough of both. She went shopping online for a Herman Miller desk chair that would recline and swivel and move – it had to have wheels. Laura asked Keith to make sure the floor was clear so her wheelie chair could access every nook and cranny of her office space without her having to get up. The unrestricted swivel chair makes the whole office more efficient. It allows a bigger more comfortable work station that can have multiple work surfaces and give the home business owner the ability to scale and or advance several projects simultaneously.

5. Reliable Business Phone
Nortel Avaya T7316E office phone from Standard Telecom To keep her friends and family separate from work Laura has two phone numbers and she’s always wanted a red ‘hot line’ phone for SitC her work. Settling for something more efficient, she ordered an old school Standard Telecom Nortel Avaya T7316E Office Phone that smells like its brand new and comes with a two year warranty. She also got a a headset and ordered caller ID for the display. The phone should be in the center of the desk so she can access and switch callers etc from any point in the room. There are many advantages to having such a device not the least of which is the memory function n the phone and how after a spell it becomes a Rolodex of most valuable business contacts .

6. Clean power supply with ground fault indicator and surge protector.
Laura reckoned she may have to call an electrician to get her office power supply on its own circuit breaker.  In her case this is especially necessary because the corner of the house she selected for her desk had, years ago, come to share its hydro supply with the indoor garage on the other side of the wall. This area happens to be where Laura ‘s life-mate has evolved a tool bench. You can see the conflict. One hungry Black & Decker could trip the line and cause Laura to lose hours of work inside her office on the other side of the wall.

8. Room for a trash can that’s not underfoot
Laura actually asked Keith for a wall mounted trash can solution. She was sick of always having a waste paper basket underfoot and wanted it to be mounted so as not to restrict the flow of the swivel chair when she’s working. The can also has to have a lid, and the best lids are flappers so if the contractor could design a solution it would surely be superior to anything obtained at Costco.

9. A secure spot for a wall safe
Keith Travers from Eastview Homes - custom home builder in OakvilleSomewhere I the office there should be a safe. Its important. There should also be a filing cabinet and if you don’t have one then you definitely need the other.  Something has to lock and if you don’t have a safe you can store valuables in a lock box in the bottom of a filing cabinet. In many ways the filing cabinet is like the trash can – it’s a special dead paper purgatory – the invoice copies, bills and receipts etc must wait in here for five years before being consumed by the incinerator

10. Laura’s three board system – a white board, cork board, vision board
Laura Bilotta from Single in the City plans intense multi faceted events and these occasions come to life on her boards. As indicated at the start of this article one of the main reasons she wanted to get an office upgrade was to make her boards system more efficient. Laura uses three boards – a whiteboard where she draws out the dream, and a blank wall becomes a vision board where she tapes up newspaper and magazine articles etc and in between is a cork board which becomes a production center. Names and address, prices and quantities are pinned to walls so her assistants can more easily coordinate deliveries and pickups.

Laura’s new office is designed to accommodate herself and two other employees but most often its just her. On those days she pushed the other chairs out into her living room so she can skate and swivel around her nest doing all three jobs at once and that’s the mark of a good home office.


How to Earn Money Blogging

How to Earn Money Blogging

Ever wonder if you could make it as a full-time blogger, and earn a pay cheque that supports you and your family? When I started blogging over ten years ago, it was never about making money. It was about sharing with family and friends who were far away. At the time I started blogging was not a big thing. If you want to earn money today blogging, you can easily but let me warn you it does take time and effort.  Are you looking to supplement your current income? Grow your MLM business? Share a passion of yours?

You can do all of those and more. I did.

How can you earn money blogging?

Here is my Story:

When I started CommonCentsMom, I was dirt poor for Canadian standards making less than the poverty level. I was forced to be frugal. I was also facing bankruptcy. I started this blog to tell my story.  I shared with others how you do not have to spend much to have a great life. I have helped Canadians learn more about money and the great things happening around Toronto mostly.

For the first two years of this blog, there was no monetization whatsoever. I simply wanted to help Canadian moms get money smart. The first offer of a review came about a year into my blog. It was for Dove Chocolates. You always remember your first. Just like you remember who paid you first. My first paid gig as a blogger was from a fellow blogger, Prett Banerjee, who asked me to write a series for his blog.

It wasn’t until after I had attended my first blogging conference I saw the real potential in the blogging space. Six years ago I saw my social media sites as an extension of my blog. I started the #CDNmoney chat on Twitter ( it is now the longest-running Canadian Twitter chat, as well as being the first personal finance chat in Canada).

I learned that I needed to have several revenue sources. I learned the more I made it about the content I was offering, the more I could earn. I was helping Canadian moms save and learn more about money. For me, that was not only good for my soul, but it was also good for my pocketbook.

Three years ago while working at a print shop here in Toronto, I was laid off. After applying for about 400 jobs and not getting a single interview, I knew I had to do something online. There was no turning back. At the same time, I had learned enough social media skills via trial and error and being mentored by some of the best in the world, that I created a revenue source as both a blogger and freelancer.

Remember I said to have several revenue sources, freelancing is one of mine.

I also monetized my social media feeds. I grew on Twitter quickly curating and creating great content, and my #CDNmoney chat has become a Tuesday night power hour. Brands started sponsoring chats about three years ago, and I do on average  20-25 sponsored chats per year. Last year the CommonCentsMom brand and the CDNmoney chat brought just over one billion social media impressions to brands who wanted to reach my audience.


What have been my biggest lessons?

Be Persistent 

For me, persistence has paid off. Not earning a living your first 90 days? That’s ok. Stay in the game. Learn and grow along the way.


Take advantage of workshops, lessons, and small groups where you can learn to hone your blogging skills.

Have multiple revenue streams

I learned that from my blog I needed to branch out and create revenue from several sources.

Get a tribe

I learned to look at my fellow bloggers and those in my social circles as friends first. Having that network of friends has helped me flourish.

How Can You Do It?

Content is King

Always remember that content drives traffic. Give your audience what they desire and that is not review post after review post or sponsored content after sponsored content.  Ask your readers questions and answer theirs.

Create an Email List

Have an email list. I did not do this one until several years in and it is one of my biggest regrets when it comes to blogging.

Self Host if You Can

Many bloggers start on sites like Blogger or WordPress.com. Don’t. That is my biggest piece of advice. You want to own your domain and your site. Hosting costs are something you can write off and it gives you a more professional image.

Know Your Streams of Income

You can get blog income and what I call brand income from a variety of sources:

  • Display Advertising. Adsense, being a part of an Ad Network or even have private ads like several of my friends. I use Mode as my Ad Network of choice.
  • Affiliate Programs. Do you know you can earn money for referring people to products and services and other sites.?
  • Amazon Affiliates.
  • Sponsored Posts. Always make sure a post is a great fit for your blog.
  • Creating Products. You can create an e-book, or a tee or even a physical product that goes along with your blog.
  • Monetizing your social feeds: Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest all have ways you can monetize them with your content.

A few of the blogs I follow to learn, this is where I learned the best tips and tricks on my journey:

Let me know have you started your blog? If you have, I would love to visit. Leave me a comment with a link and I will be sure to stop by.