Do I Backup My Blog?

Backup580The IT Brain

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a poll on Twitter by The Yachtless asking whether folks backup their blogs.  Inside my brain there was that sound that a Mac makes when it powers on.  I’m an IT guy by trade, so this immediately piqued my interest.  I thought to myself, of course I do backups.  However, is my way the best way?

So, here’s a post about backups in general and some different techniques for WordPress in particular.

First Things First, What is a Backup?

Some of you out there may not have ever been exposed to backups or the need for them.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I have and not always in the good way.  Have you ever had a hard drive fail and lost all your stuff?


Well, no fear.  Backups to the rescue.  A backup is basically a copy of the important data that you want to keep.  We can’t assume that some thing won’t go wrong with the computer where the data currently lives, so we make a copy and keep it safe in another location.

If for some reason your website host ever crashes and loses your data, you now have a recent backup (good hosting companies should too) that you can have restored to the site.  All is well.

Great! Where Do We Keep It?

Before we get into the how’s of performing a backup, I wanted to talk about the choices one has for storing the backup.  Our choice of storage could affect the decision on which backup tool to use.

  • Local Storage – This is probably the simplest choice.  Just download the file directly to your Laptop or PC (even tablets or phones these days) and stick it somewhere that you’ll remember. For most use cases, this will suffice but there’s always the risk that you laptop will crash someday too.
  • Cloud Storage – This includes items like Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox and  Most of these offer a limited amount of storage for free with additional capacity available for a fee.  Depending on the size of your blog and the amount of time that you want to hold onto a backup, you may or may not use more than the free allotment.  I also like the fact that most of these have a desktop agent for your PC that can sync your files locally.  Now you have the backup in more than one place!
  • External Media – This is the old school method.  Once your backup is done, you copy it to some type of external media.  This could include a CD-RW, DVD-RW, thumb drive or, if you really want to geek out, a tape library (it’s DoD approved!).  You could do this once a month or so if you want to be extra careful.

How Do We Make a Backup?

There are a couple of different methods of backup depending on what you want to accomplish.  I’ll go through a few of the ones that I’ve discovered and some that I’ve used.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and there may be more out there.

  • CPanel – Up until recently, I had done all of my backups at the hosting level through CPanel.  I have more than just WordPress running on my hosting platform, so I still do this.   There can be some hoops to jump through to perform a restore based on the level of access that you have on your hosted platform.Here are the instructions from Hostgator:
    1. Log into cPanel.
    2. In the Files section, click on the Backups icon.
    3. Under Full Backup, click Generate/ Download a Full Website Backup.
    4. On the next page, select the Home Directory option from the Backup Destinationdrop-down menu.
    5. For Email Address, select whether or not you wish to receive an email notification once the backup is complete. (You may also change the notification email address in the provided field if you wish.)
    6. Click Generate Backup.
  • – The site offers a fee based plan that will enable site backups as well as additional spam protection.  I have not tried this service so I cannot speak to the effectiveness, but the price seems reasonable if you want to put the burden on a third party.
  • WordPress Plugins – There are many plugins available to help you manage backups.  Your choice might be influenced by the storage method that you choose.  I went with UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration combined with a Dropbox account.  This runs nightly and I have a five day retention period.  At the end of each month, I go in to Dropbox and copy that backup to a monthly backup folder outside of UpdraftPlus’s control.  With Dropbox, I also have the desktop agent which syncs the file to my local PC for extra protection.

Warm Fuzzies

Now that we’ve got all of the backups set up and scheduled, we can head out for a beer!  Hopefully, we’ll never need to make use of the handy backup files but it feels good to know that we have them.

Give me a shout and let me know that you’re covered.



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Spreadsheet 101 – Debt Pay-down Projection

Class in Session

I’ll be the first to admit that there are several aspects of life where I really let my nerd show.  Personal finance has rapidly become one of those and I especially enjoy formulating and applying spreadsheets to the tasks of managing finances.

Here and there I will do a post about a particular spreadsheet that I’ve found useful and describe how I put it together and why.  Also, for those that subscriber to the blog (I promise not to fill up your inbox!), you will get an email with links to template versions of the spreadsheets that I use.

The Original

The first spreadsheet that I did for my personal finance journey was one that I originally call ‘Financial Projection’.  This was a little bit of a misleading title since it was a bit more focused on tracking outstanding debts and projecting the year-end balances on those debts.

I’ve made some enhancements over the past couple of years, but I still use this sheet today.

The Layout

The spreadsheet contains multiple sheets with one sheet representing each year.

Each sheet uses the columns to represent months in the year.  There are fourteen columns for data.  The first data column at the beginning of the sheet shows the previous year-end balances for each debt.  The last columns shows the year-end balances for the current year.

Month Columns

At the top of the sheet there are some rows for meta-data.  The top row shows the month and the row below it contains the number of days in that month.  The only update made here is for February on leap years.

The next two rows show the total outstanding debt at the beginning of the month and the percentage of debt that has been paid down so far this year.

Total Debt Percent

These are sums based on the next set of rows which contain the details for each outstanding debt.

The Debt Section

Each outstanding debt in the spreadsheet consists of five rows.  I used the top row to show the projected balance for the beginning of the month (I have noticed that there are sometimes slight variances between my projected balance and the statement balance but I haven’t spent any time tracking down the difference).

The next row contains the statement balance for that month.  This is a value that I manually enter when I go to pay the bill.

The third row is for the payment amount.  Here is where I manually record the amount of money put toward the debt.

The fourth column contains the daily interest rate for the debt.  Not all loans calculate interest daily, but this is used to give me a rough idea of how much money I’m losing by having the debt each month.

The daily interest rate is used to calculate the amount of interest accrued for the month.  This can be a rather eye-opening figure for some items.

Finally, I subtract the payment amount from the statement balance and add back the accrued interest.  This is the value that gets put in the next month’s projected balance box.

Debt Example

Putting it Together

Once I have all of my debts added to the sheet, I use the statement balance from each debt and add them all together to arrive at the total outstanding debt value at the top of the sheet.

The percentage of reduction sheet is calculated by dividing that month’s total debt by the beginning of the year total debt and then subtracting the result from 1.

Since the calculations are all cascading and update when the row values are changed, I am able to project my year-end total outstanding debt and year-end debt reduction percentage.


I’ve thought about adding some fancy graphs for a more visual look at the data, but I haven’t gotten motivated to do it yet.  Besides, I also have the Personal Capital dashboard for visual reference.

It really helped me to see how much progress I was making and the amount of interest that each debt was costing me.  Hopefully a tool like this will help you too.  If you’d like a copy of the template, subscribe to the blog.



A Bittersweet Week

Happy Valentine’s Day

That is, if you’re into the whole V-Day thing.  We stopped celebrating it several years ago after recognizing it for the marketing event that it truly is.  Besides, with the events of the week, that holiday was the farthest things from our minds.

The Bitter

This past Sunday, my wife had a terrible time sleeping.  Her dog, a Jack Russell that has been with her for 14 years, was up pacing around the bedroom for most of the night.  Mrs. C is a very light sleeper and this kept her up most of the night as well.  By morning, she felt that something wasn’t right and took the dog into the vet.

12716354_10208672590393606_5005754585304639466_oThe dog, we’ll call her K, has had flare ups of pancreatitis in the past and was on a special low-fat diet.  All of the symptoms pointed to another flare up and the diagnostic show an enlarged gall bladder.  The vet was very confident that with a medication and a few days of care that we would be back to normal.

By Wednesday, it was clear that the pain was getting worse instead of better.  The vet tried some additional pain meds but K just didn’t respond.  Based on some additional observation, he concluded that it was most likely cancer.  It was a very difficult decision, but it was time to say goodbye.

The rest of the week has been a very emotional time for my wife as she has gone through an intense grieving process.  This was, in almost every sense, her first child.  They had a very strong bond.

The Sweet

In other news, we had two financial events that I’m very pleased with.  First, I was able to sell my ESPP shares for ~$7900 and a 12.95% profit despite very difficult market conditions.  It would have been a bit higher if I had been able to sell the day they were released, but unfortunately life got in the way and I had to wait an extra day.  That makes for an annualized rate of return of 27.58% on the investment.  I will, of course, have to pay taxes on the ~$900 gain.

We also got the expected bonus for the second half of 2015.  The company calls it a bonus, but it’s been a regular part of my compensation since starting and is only slightly adjusted by the company making or missing its goals.  I do tend to think of it as deferred compensation and not a bonus per se.  After taxes, we got around $10k some of which went to ESPP and some to 401k (Deducted pre-tax).  That left us with an additional $7500 in the checking account this pay period.

Both of those events allowed me to hit a new milestone.  The money from the bonus went to paying off the last balance on the rollover credit card.  That leaves us with a balance of ~$7000 on an unsecured bank loan that was used for debt consolidation in 2014.

CC_Payment While I haven’t quite eliminated all of my pre-2015 consumer debt just yet, I no longer have an outstanding balance on a card!  The only card in use now is the reward card that we use for budgeted purchases and pay down each pay period.  So far, that card has never accrued any interest.

The ESPP money will go towards the unexpected vet bills for the month, the beach trip that we reserved last month, the living room renovation project, and what’s left will go back into investments.

Moving Forward

While the additional expenses were unplanned, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a setback.  My debt reduction projection still show that i’m on track for the year.  Luckily, I had not included all of my variable income in the projection so there was a little wiggle room.

I also know that I haven’t been writing as often as I would like.  Things should settle back down and get into a routine that makes it a little easier to make time for the blog.

I hope everyone is doing well.  Hug your loved ones, even your pets.  A loss sure puts things in perspective.


January 2016 Progress

 In with a Bang

To say that I wasn’t ready for the holiday to end and work to being again would be putting it mildly.  I could feel my body getting tense the day before.  Now we’re back to the races and I get a little busier each week.

Of course, with the transition from holiday back to routine we let a lot of things slide.  Grocery planning only got done one week out of the month.  We also tried to cram in social nights with neighbors and friends to try to hold on to a little bit of the break feeling.

We also settled on a vacation for the year and will be heading to the beach during the kids’ spring break.  The condo has been booked and we’re really looking forward to the trip.

Current Goal Status:
Financial goals:
  • Reduce overall outstanding debt (including mortgage) by 15%.
    1. Debt reduction for the month was 0.54% which puts us on track for a 5.84% overall reduction for the year. This is currently below target, but we’re just getting started!
  • Make contributions to investments (taxable and retirement) of 15% of salary.
    1. We contributed 11.90% of our January income to investment accounts including 401k, 529, ESPP, and Brokerage.  This will increase next month since I increased my ESPP contribution and will also increase 401k in March.
  • Eliminate outstanding credit card debt.
    1. I was happy to note that we did not get charged interest on the January statement for the balance transfer card even though the introductory period ended on Jan. 22.
    2. This balance should be paid off in Feb. by a combination of ESPP proceeds and other deferred compensation that comes on the 15th.
  • Eliminate remaining student loan debt.
    1. The only progress this month was the regular payment leaving a balance of $5700.
  • Make a contribution to an IRA.
    1. No progress here… yet!
  • Generate revenue from a new income stream.
    1. No progress here… yet!
Expense Goals

Ok, so January flat out sucked for meeting these goals.  Here’s the damage:

  • Meet the $800 per month grocery budget
    1. We were over budget by $334.  this is partially due to holiday spending and partially due to only planning weekly meals one week out of the month.  Gotta do better.
  • Reduce dining out to $400 per month (2015 – $600)
    1. We didn’t meet this one either, but we were under the 2015 average by $12.  Woo!  Again, a consequence of poor meal planning.
  • Reduce entertainment/alcohol to $250 per month (2015 – $435)
    1. This one is also over budget by $265.  Hosting social night gets expensive.
Personal Goals:
  • Meditate at least three days a week
    1. I managed three days for the month.  Work ramped up and I’m still not back on track for a good schedule.
  • Take walks at least three days a week
    1. This I’ve managed to do and my step count is up to 60k per week.  My average week in late 2015 was 45k steps.
    2. I’m also getting a ton of stairs going up and down the ladder for the DIY project.
  • Spend at least seven days camping
    1. Nothing this month, but plans in place for June and maybe October.
  • Go kayaking at least one time
    1. Brrr.  Not yet
  • Take one family vacation
    1. We booked a condo in St. Augustine where my wife used to go as a child.  We also got a room for her parents to go along.  This added $2200 to our expenses this month, but I know that cash is coming in to cover it.
DIY Project Update

Just a quick update on the progress for the living room renovation.  In the two weeks that we’ve been working on the ceiling, I’ve managed to make it within a few rows of having one side done!  That includes one false start where I made it about 16 rows up and we realized there was a mistake that made one end not align correctly.


I’m really happy with the way this is coming together.  It looks much better than the stomp textured ceiling.  We’re also going to be replacing the overhead lights and the ceiling fan.  I’m estimating around $300-400 for the new fixtures.

I love power tools!

Get It Together

Ok, now that we’ve gotten over the holidays and have started getting back into the grind, I’m confident that we can do much better in February.  The only thing that my put a little dent in our plan is that I’ve been asked to commute into the office two days a week.  That’s an 18 mile drive which could mean thirty minutes or an hour and a half of driving each way.