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Written By Colin Graves

When I was a kid, about once a month, my brother and I would walk to get our hair cut after school.  Our hairdresser’s name was Sherri, and together with her business partner, they owned a small salon on the main street.  Next door to the salon was a long standing ice cream shoppe, and next to that was the river which ran through our town.  I don’t believe either building is still standing, but that’s neither here nor there.

I was a pretty outgoing kid, and enjoyed having conversations with adults.  Because of this,  I never minded going for a haircut.  After all, Sherri provided a captive audience!  She was also very friendly, as many hairstylists tend to be.

Anyways, I recall one particular conversation, when she told me that she had had to purchase a new pair of hair scissors.

I don’t remember if I had asked, or if Sherri had volunteered the information, but somehow the topic of the price of the scissors came up.  (Knowing my 10 year old self, chances are I asked about it).

She told me that she had paid somewhere in the neighbourhood of $300, which shocked me.   What!?!  I couldn’t believe it.  Why would anyone drop that kind of money on a pair of scissors?

Keep in mind, I was 10 years old, and this was a long time ago, mid-1980’s. In fact, while we talked she was probably spiking my hair in the likeness of Corey Hart, my music idol at the time. : )  That’s right, Sunglasses At Night,  baby!

I remember being very surprised by the expense.  But then Sherri explained to this curious 10 year old that scissors were the MOST important tool of her trade, essential to her ability to make a living.

Looking back, I’m sure $300 seemed like a lot of money to her as well, but she clearly understood the value of paying a premium in order to perform her job at a higher level.

tools for success

Fast forward 20 years.

I have a brother-in-law who is a cabinet maker.  He has a shop behind his house, where he crafts the finest cabinets in our area.  The quality of his work really is unparalleled, and he takes great care to deliver the highest quality kitchens to his clients.

tools for success

A number of years ago, he purchased a new table saw for his shop.  It was a German made product, and was so large, that he had to cut an opening in the front wall of his shop in order to have it installed.  It was very expensive, somewhere between $15,000-$20,000.  I remember it being around the price of a Honda Civic.

A $15,000 table saw is on a whole other level than a pair of professional hair scissors, but the same principle applies; invest in the tools that you need to be successful.

I thought of these two stories yesterday, while recording a talented young band in the MMM recording studio!  Allow me to explain:


tools for successIf you’ve been hanging out here at Mystery Money Man for awhile, you know that I’ve got a recording studio in my basement.  For a home-based studio, it’s a pretty professional setup, complete with a sound proof, acoustically treated isolation room.  When I built it a few years ago, I was careful to invest money in the areas that I knew would provide the greatest return on my investment:  sound quality.

Now, I should mention that at the time, it was a pretty extravagant purchase.  I had dreamed of having my own studio for years, and built it for my own personal use.  Now that I’ve begun producing music as a side hustle, however, the investment is paying dividends.

Getting back to yesterday, and a very cool moment!  As I was sitting in the control room area, coffee in hand, with the band starting in on the first song, I couldn’t help but smile.

The quality of sound coming through the studio speakers was SO good!  The tone of the acoustic guitar, the warmth of the vocal, and the punchy-ness of the percussion was incredible, even in it’s raw, untreated state. (and no, punchy-ness isn’t an actual word…)

The players were well rehearsed, and the songs were great, which certainly didn’t hurt.  But in that moment I realized;  I had invested in the tools I need to be successful.

It was then that I was reminded of my brother-in-law, and the childhood story about my hairdresser.


I’ve used a couple of extreme examples here.  Not everyone needs a $15,000 table saw in order to make a living, but regardless of your career or side hustle, the same concept applies.


If you’re a blogger and are serious about growing your audience, I encourage you to begin thinking about what tools you need to facilitate that growth.  The great news is that you have a myriad of free tools at your disposal.  Website plug-ins, email and social media automation apps, and free online courses on just about every subject imaginable.

I haven’t even mentioned perhaps the best resource of all: other bloggers!  You can learn so much just by developing relationships with bloggers who have a bit more experience than you.  You’ll also find that most bloggers (like me) are more than willing to help.  You just have to reach out! : )


For this blog, I take advantage of a number of free tools, all of which add value. Here are some of the of the best, in no particular order:

I use the free versions of Sumo and Mail Chimp to collect and store email addresses from new subscribers, and deliver updates and content to my readers.

I also use the free version of the Yoast SEO plug-in, and Google Analytics, to assist with optimizing my site, and better understand my blog traffic.

This next one has quickly become one of my favourites…

I recently started using Evernote to manage my creative process.  It is such an incredible application!  Evernote syncs between my MacBook Pro and iPhone, and allows me to quickly clip links to articles, images, or videos I find on the web, for viewing at a later time.  It organizes all of my writing, and allows me to move between drafts (notes) seamlessly.  It also auto-saves.  My initial impressions are that Evernote absolutely rocks!

I automate my posts on social media using the free version of Buffer, which saves SO much time.  Ten minutes each morning, and I’m good to go for the day.

Most of these plug-ins have ‘paid’ options with additional features, but at this point I’m getting more than enough value from the free version.


I’ll share with you a couple of blogging tools that I pay for.  After all, this post is about investing in the tools you need to be successful.  The word ‘investing’ implies that you are making a contribution, that you have some ‘skin in the game’.  This usually refers to money, but it could also be your time.

I only use a few paid tools for managing the blog, but I consider them vital to my success.

The first is Board Booster, which automates my Pinterest sharing.  It’s only $5-6 per month, and is worth every penny to me.  I invested some serious time into Pinterest up front, but once I understood how it worked, I turned it over to Board Booster, and it took care of everything else.
I spend hardly any time on Pinterest, yet it’s become my top source of social media traffic, thanks in large part to Board Booster!

Another blogging tool I pay for is a Jetpack subscription.  It’s about $4/month.  Jetpack is a super plug-in, which adds a number of important features to my website. The most valuable is probably VaultPress, which backs up my site on a daily basis.  It also provides detailed statistics, and page features like the “Related Posts”,  which you will find directly below this article.

I use Pic Monkey to design and edit all of my images, including my Pinterest images.  It’s a very valuable application for everything image related, and is only a couple dollars/month, although I pay annually.


Whether it’s blogging or any other side hustle or business, you reach various points where you must decide whether to invest in yourself by spending more of your time or money in order to be successful.

Keep in mind, everyones journey is unique, and what works for one person might not be right for the next.


Suffice it to say,  I recently arrived at that place on my journey, which requires a decision about investing for success.

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that one of my main focuses is to increase income by building side hustles that share 2 characteristics:  Scalability and location independence.  This plays a significant role in my family’s long term goals, something that I’ll be sharing more of over the next little while.

It’s why I helped launch the startup,, with a close friend.  It’s also why I started the aforementioned music production side hustle, not to mention a major reason I began blogging in the first place.

Most recently, I’ve decided to launch a digital marketing side hustle.


Before I dive fully into digital marketing, I know that I absolutely HAVE TO supplement my current  knowledge with more formal, rigorous training.

Just this weekend, I started a Digital Marketing/SEO course, which I will complete over the next couple of months.  The course wasn’t cheap, but I know it will be worth it!

I absolutely can’t wait to apply my learnings to my existing side hustles, not to mention take on digital marketing clients as soon as I’m ready.  I’ll be sure to provide updates as I progress through the course!


There are SO many online courses available.  Many of them are free, but depending on the level of knowledge you’re wanting to build, it might make sense to spring for a paid course.

This is a big step for me.  It’s an investment in myself, so that I can add more value to others;  you, my readers, my future clients, and indirectly, my family.

Ok, two more things…first of all, here’s the question I’d like you to consider.  Feel free to share your thoughts/experiences in the comments below or send me an email anytime!

What areas are you striving for success?  It could be anything.  Your health, a side hustle, career, your family, or financial independence.  Whatever it is, give some thought to the tools you’ll need for success.  


Since we’re on the topic of identifying and investing in tools for success…if you have your own blog, or are thinking about it, I need to make you aware of an incredible giveaway happening right now!

Pete McPherson, of Do You Even Blog, a fantastic website/podcast resource for bloggers, is running a contest, with $1600 dollars worth of blogging tools as a top prize.  These tools are geared towards helping you BOOST your BLOG.  Numerous discounts, top online courses, you name it, can be won.  The deadline for entries is November 20th, and the winning entries will be drawn on November 23rd!

All you need to do to enter is join the Do You Even Blog email list, which you can access via this link.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with the DYEB giveaway, aside from entering the contest myself a couple of days ago.  I’m including this plug to support Pete, and because I think the giveaway ties in perfectly with the subject matter of this post.  Also, I’d seriously love to see one of my readers win this thing…even more than me. 

That’s all I got for today!

love, as always,



  1. My husband is a big fan of Evernote. I tried to use it once but I got confused. My brain is so rigid! I also recently started paying for Picmonkey – it is definitely worth it. Doing all my Pinterest stuff manually – I have been so on the fence about Boardbooster. Not sure how many ongoing expenses I am willing to shoulder for this bastard child that is my blog. LOL. Or at least, I a not sure what I am willing to incur while I slowly figure out what I am doing and what I want it to be. But seriously, all good info, MMM… I love the recording studio – do you kids play music? That has got to be a sweet perk for a teenager… What could be better than a snowy school break with a recording studio in your house!

    • I’m a big fan of Pic Monkey. They used to only allow access to ‘the Hub’ on the paid version, which is why I went that route. For me, that’s the most important feature, being able to save work, and continue editing it later on. Board Booster just allows me to be very hands off with Pinterest, which is a good thing, because like most guys, I don’t really get it, ha! 🙂

      Our family life pretty much revolves around music, and it’s always been like that. My wife is incredibly musical, and an amazing singer (far superior to me). We both lead worship in our church. Our son is a drummer, and is very musical. He usually has his drum kit set up in the sound proof room, and can play to his hearts content. And our daughters are always listening to music, singing, or fooling around on the piano. It’s all very life giving. : )

      • It is funny how different the male and female brains are. My husband just yesterday sent me some sort of Evernote invitation – something about a notebook? lol, I have no idea. He was like “did you get my invite?” I said yes, but I don’t really understand it. He said “you should really use Evernote – it’s so helpful. Great for saving recipes…” And I said – but that is what PInterest is for!!! My brain just likes the visual aspect of Pinterest. Reddit is another great example – Reddit is my husband’s guilty pleasure. I try to look at Reddit and I get an epileptic seizure. So many… lines… of words!

        • I love the clipping feature on Evernote. I actually used it to ‘save’ a link to a Raptitude post you had shared on Twitter the other day. When I got home from work, there it was on my laptop in Evernote, ready to check out. Great article btw. Reddit…I’ve only browsed through it a few times, but I can see how it would become addicting.

  2. Brilliant!

    1 – Thanks for the shoutout to DYEB 🙂

    2 – Another recommendation for you: Bear (their domain is weird. Google “bear writing app” or something).

    It’s what I replaced Evernote with 🙂 🙂

    • Hey Pete, thanks for stopping by, and for the recommendation. Haven’t heard of Bear, I’ll definitely check it out! All the best with your giveaway, btw, you’re doing some great stuff over at DYEB!

  3. I use Google Keep as a sort-of substitute for Evernote. I think it’s really important to think about what we get for free and what we pay for fairly frequently. I feel like there is a lot of competition with different apps and online tools, and new ones are coming on the market all the time. Sometimes they’re free and sometimes they’re not but they do more. Great reminder to invest in yourself!

    • Hey Penny! I agree about measuring value vs. paid & free apps. For new bloggers, it can take some time to find the right balance, or the sweet spot as well. I know when I first started, I was adding plug-ins and apps like crazy, but soon realized it was overkill (and the number of plug ins were slowing down my site. I try to run as few as possible now, just the important ones. : )

  4. Hey MMM. Thank you for this very informative post. There are so many blogging tools I never even heard of. I do have Evernote, though. The only problem is that it’s collecting dust. Perhaps it’s time to give it a test drive? Mrs G and I are at a crossroad. Part of us want to take our blog to the next level. Another part fears the added work. Damn this blogging stuff is hard. You gave us a lot to think about, my friend. Cheers.

    • Hey, thanks Mr. G! I played “full time blogger” last week (took a week of vacation, stayed around the house). I have to say I liked the feeling, it’s something I could get used to. It was an inspiring week. I had a bit of a reality check when I returned to a 12 hour day my first day back at work. But while I don’t have the large blocks of time that a F/T blogger might have, I’m that much more motivated to make the most with what I do have.

      I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface with Evernote, but there are some features I love. The ability to quickly clip articles, images, videos from anywhere on the web and have them show up in the same place, ready to digest at a later date.
      And because I do my writing on the same platform, it’s easy to call up reference material, or inspiring thoughts that I’d ‘clipped’ previously.


    • Hey DM! I haven’t, but the thought has crossed my mind. Because we are a busy family of five living in the house, I think it would be a bit too difficult for the time being. That being said, I sometimes think about converting it to a multi use investment property down the road: A mix of studio space, Air BnB, and my personal office. Don’t know if that makes sense or not, time will tell! : )


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