The Mr. Money Mustache Affiliate Policy
I started this blog to help people, and that will always be its primary purpose. So far, over 22 million people have stopped by and we are just getting started.
But I’m perfectly happy to have the site pay its own way* and even generate a healthy profit, as long as the income doesn’t require me to compromise the values behind the blog. Earning some cash has been a fun part of this whole experience for me and it has allowed me to hire others to help with the upkeep, as well as funding a good range of charitable ventures and blog-related events. I’ve always felt that money, earned in a way you feel good about, is a very good thing.
How does a web site like this earn money?
There are currently two sources of income: standard advertising (the little advertising box you see at the bottom of most pages of this site), and affiliate links. The ad box is straightforward – website owners get paid if people click on the ad. I enjoy the feeling of power I get by putting that ad box WAY down at the bottom, out of everybody’s way, because websites with intrusive ads annoy me. The affiliate links are the part worth explaining.
How I handle Affiliates
Whenever I use and like a product these days, I check if the company has an “affiliate program”. That is, do they pay existing customers or publishers to refer new customers to them. Luckily for me in this area of personal finance, some of them do.
Some of my personal favorites that happen to have an affiliate program include Amazon, Republic Wireless, Geico insurance, Personal Capital and Betterment investing, various rewards credit cards, and so on.
Other favorites don’t: Vanguard investing, my CapitalOne 360 bank account, Google Fi phone service, Honda and Toyota automobiles, Craigslist, Bikes, Public libraries, Costco or my favorite local grocery store Lucky’s, and many other rewards credit cards.
If they do have an affiliate program, I’ll make a point of using the right type of link if I happen to mention the product, so the blog can get credit for the new customers.
But the key for my own sense of ethics is that I must never let the presence of an affiliate program affect which products I recommend, or which subjects I choose to write about. In addition, I can only recommend products based on personal research and experience – there is no value in me writing about things I know little about.
Whether or not you believe that sentence in bold really boils down to trust. If you think I can’t handle the potential conflict of interest, you might not get much out of my product and service recommendations, and that’s fine. I hope you will still benefit from the lifestyle advice – and above all, ride a bike.
On the other hand, if you know what financial independence is really about, you’ll know that extra money at this stage is welcome but not worth sacrificing even a shred of personal values. You can even test the theory – pose as a company owner and try to get me to write a paid article about your product. Make me a legitimate sounding offer for an obscene amount of money to buy this blog. You’ll get nowhere, because those things don’t align with my goals for this place.
On the other hand, if you have a great product that helps people save money and/or improve their environmental footprint, I am all ears, whether you have an affiliate program or not.
thanks for reading!
Mr. Money Mustache / March 2016
* which isn’t cheap these days – annual blog expenses are well into the five figures and growing rapidly with the traffic level. It’s a challenge to keep it running without making it grow into a “business”, because I’d really like to remain retired.