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Genealogy Blog: The Blog Budget – How Much Does a Blog Cost?

I’ve talked about making a plan and determining which features I will need for my family history blog. Are you overwhelmed yet? In order to determine what you want in your blog, you should start with a plan and that involves asking the easy and hard questions to determine what you want, as well as what is possible to get.

The hard questions also include the money questions. It’s time to look at how much this is all going to cost and who is going to pay for it.

The idea of having your own blog is exciting for many. You just want to plunge in and start sharing your words with the world. This is why the many free blog hosting services, like , are so popular. It’s a fast and easy way to start blogging now. If you don’t need many of the features I want, then consider going with a free blog to get started with the process.

Your budget with a free blog? Almost zero. The blog costs nothing but time. Genealogy blogs on free sites, however, still include the costs of things like digital cameras, scanners, and specialty computer equipment and software. So skip to the second part of this article to look at those costs.

Heading off onto your own blog, independent of the free but controlled services, that’s a little scarier and a little costlier. So how much does it cost. Well, it depends.

How Much Does a Blog Cost?

Do you know how much a blog really costs? Let’s look at what you need in order to have your own blog.

  1. Email Address
  2. A Domain Name
  3. A Web Host
  4. Blogging Software
  5. Additional Features like Tools, Utilities, and Non-Blog Programs

In order to get started, you have to have a valid email address. This can be free or paid.

Getting your domain name, the registered name and address for your site, and the web hosting services, costs. If you pay for a year or more than one year, often the cost of the domain name registration and annual fee is included, saving you money. If you pay by the month, you will pay more than if you pay by the year, and even less if you pay for two or more years. I highly recommend you sign up for 2-5 or more years with a web host to ensure your genealogy blog or website will last, helping others researching their family find yours.

You might choose a free web host, or your own. It may or may not include blogging software pre-installed and ready to go. Blogging software, like , is free, but others aren’t.

Depending upon the software packages you use, the costs are one-time expenses plus upgrades, so this can be depreciated across more than one year.

Additional features such a genealogy software programs which produce web pages and GEDCOM files and family tree hosting services and programs may also cost. It depends upon what you want to do and how you want to do it. Which is why answering the questions about what features you want on your blog is so critical. The more you know, the more you know how much it will cost.

Based upon my initial questions and answers and research, I’ve decided to host my family history blog on my own domain and site. This reduces the initial costs as I’m already paying for them, and I have room to accommodate this second blog. In the future, if the family history blog needs to move off onto its own site, I will then have to budget for the domain name registration and web hosting services.

To help you figure out how much this would cost, let’s assume that the time has come to get an independent website. Here is my estimated blog budget in US Dollars, broken down by the month and the year. The annual cost will be typically cheaper than the monthly rates. Remember, genealogy blogs are long term sites, not short term:

Item Monthly Cost Annual Cost
Email $0 – 20 $0 – 40
Domain Name Registration N/A $0 – 501
Web Hosting $6.95-24.95 $75 – 250
Blogging Software N/A $0 – 1002
Additional Tools, Utilities, etc. N/A $0 – $300
Totals $6.95 – $44.95 $75 – $740
1. Domain name registration fees are paid annually.
2. Purchased software is paid for once, with only payments for occasional upgrades every 1-3 years.

Basically, a blog or website can cost zero to almost $800.00 a year, depending upon size, length of time, features, and what bells and whistles you put into it. Paying $800 a year is well beyond most people’s budget, but it is possible. Dealing with vague numbers like this makes that possible. The more specific you can be about what you need, the better you can plan your budget more accurately.

From my experience, the direct costs of blog/website-related costs are $200 a year for paid email, domain registration, web hosting, and core tools and software.

The key to keeping your blog’s costs down is taking advantage of free, open source software like . I’ll be talking about other free or low cost genealogy software, programs, and services as this series continues.

The Other Costs of a Genealogy Blog

I mentioned the additional costs associated with a genealogy blog in my list of features required for a genealogy blog, so let’s look at them close up. After all, they are part of your blog budget.

Digital Photography, Images, and Recordings

Old photograph of James and Emma Knapp circa 1913, used with permission of the familyWhether you have a genealogy blog or normal blog, you will want to add photographs. Photographic images are added in several different ways. They can come from digital cameras and quickly uploaded to your computer, adjusted for size and resolution, then uploaded and displayed on your blog. Or they arrive through more traditional sources.

Our family’s history is preserved through still photography on prints, negative film and slides, as well as through tape recordings, videos, 8MM film, and even on old tin type and old daguerreotypes. These need to be carefully preserved and part of that process is to scan them into a digital format. This requires equipment and software.

Determining what kind of scanning and digital equipment and software you need is up to you. There are many articles and magazines to help you decide which one is the best for your particular needs. In general, you can purchase an “all-in-one” printer, scanner, and fax, or buy a dedicated scanner. If you will be doing a lot of scanning, and scanning a variety of films, prints, papers, and books, I recommend you purchase a dedicated scanner and choose a mid to top price range item. These tend to get higher resolution scans and last longer than the more inexpensive all-in-one machines. You may also require a film scanner for negatives and slides and/or a scanner with a paper feeder. The average price range for scanners runs from $150 – $600, depending upon quality and features.

Let me be really clear about the software that comes with most scanners, especially the inexpensive ones: Scanner packaged software sucks.

In general, most graphic and scanning software that comes with a scanner and digital camera is not adequate for genealogy or photography-oriented work or websites. They tend to be cripple-ware or limited, without the features you may need. At a minimum, you will need to change image resolution, adjust image quality, size, crop, rotate, and adjust image exposure. You will need to have the option to save the images as BMP, JPG, and PNG. At the most, you need graphic software that allows you to adjust and repair old images such as healing tears, repairing blotches or stains, and restoring color and contrast for increased visibility.

Digital manipulation of photographs and images for genealogy blogs isn’t about putting a mustache on your grandmother. It isn’t even about restoring the quality for print reproduction. It’s about restoring the image to a quality and format for web pages that is viewable by the blog visitor, and representative of the image when it was new, not aged and faded.

I recommend Adobe Photoshop or (formerly Jasc PaintShop Pro) for a graphics software program. They are the two most popular photo editing programs.Currently, the full versions of Adobe Photoshop costs $299 – $500, though there is a “light” version that is a bit cheaper. Corel’s PaintShop Pro is $79.00.

Memorial Tombstone for John Elwell, Monroe, Washington, photograph by Lorelle VanFossenScanners also scan documents, and with the right software, those documents can be “typed up” for you using transcription style programs called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The scanned images are translated into text by the software program so you don’t have to manually type them up for storage on your computer or displaying on your website. It won’t convert everything, like handwriting or hard to read and see documents, but the new technology is amazing and has a very high accuracy rate. Nuance’s OmniPage Pro (formerly by Scansoft) is one of the most popular, accurate, and versatile OCR programs and ranges from $60 – $400, depending upon the version.

Genealogy software maybe something you already have, however, it might not produce the web pages you need. I’ll go into more depth on these later, but most genealogy software programs range from $50 to $200, depending upon the tools and features included.

To record interviews with family members, I invested in a digital recorder, the modern replacement for a tape recorder. It records digital sound which I can upload onto my computer and turn into an MP3 or Podcast file. This requires digital audio manipulation and editing software. Price ranges for digital recorders and editing software range from $75 to $400.

Digital cameras are required as part of many blogs and especially genealogy blogs. They help in digitally photographing people but also documents, books, buildings, homes, landmarks, signs, tombstones, and other people’s pictures and photo albums when they won’t let you take them home to scan. Digital cameras run from $100 – $1000 depending upon size and features. I recommend one with a built-in flash and exposure programming you can control. I also recommend a tripod, no matter what size digital camera you buy. More on this in another article. You may also want to consider purchasing a digital video recorder, as well as software and hardware to allow you to convert video and old film to digital form, but I’ll let you figure out those costs.

The Printer and the Blog

Ah, did we forget the printer(s)? With all the information going into your computer, some has to come out, and not all of it onto the paperless web. You will need one to two printers. I recommend two. One for color for photographs, and one low-cost black ink laser printer for printing all the paperwork. Printing black inked papers on an ink jet printer is very expensive. I’ve printed more paper in the past 6 months as part of my genealogy research than the past three years. That’s a lot of paper, a lot of ink, and a lot of wear and tear on printers. Think two.

Printers range from $150 – $600 depending upon size, format, capabilities, and resolution. For the color printer, use it only for printing color photographs and get one that will produce good quality images. Again, avoid the all-in-one printer/copier/fax as their quality and durability isn’t good.

To save money, look for used laser printers for your black and white printer. I’m still using my HP 5p printer I bought in 1994. I have another huge HP network printer I bought used that continues to do awesome work, printing out letter, A4, legal, and envelopes without stress and strain. Costing over $4,000 over 10 years ago, I bought it for $60. Go new for color, and used HP laser for black and white to fit within your budget.

So we have the digital input items and the printer “output” items in our budget. Let’s see where we are with these non-blog but blog-associated expenses, taking into consideration the annual cost over three years, an average depreciation time period:

Item Estimated Expense Depreciation over 3 yrs
Scanner $150 – 600 $50 – 200
Graphic Editing Software 79 – 500 26 – 166
OCR Program 60 – 200 20 – 66
Genealogy Software 50 – 200 16 – 66
Digital Recorder and Software 75 – 400 25 – 133
Digital Camera 100 – 1000 33 – 330
Printer(s) 150 – 600 50 – 200
Totals $664 – $3,700 $270 – $1161

And More Money Out The Door for Genealogy Blogs

There are some other costs often overlooked when taking on a genealogy blog or website. These need to be in your budget. These may include:

  • Photocopies of records and family history information.
  • Mailing costs for sending copies of records and family history information.
  • Business or personal business cards and stationery with your blog’s address and your contact information.
  • Professional and quality scans of documents and photographs to digital formats.
  • Notebooks, file cabinets, filing folders, and other paper storage supplies and costs.
  • Long distance phone calls, returned phone calls, and other communication expenses as follow-up on family history information.
  • Time spent responding to emails and blog comments, and researching the new information and connections within the family tree.

How do you account for those expenses in a budget? Guess. For our family history, I guessed that I would spent $50 a year in copies and mailing. I just checked my expenses for the last 8 months and I’m up to $250. Okay, so even planning can’t help but keeping track of this for a couple of years will give you a better budget estimate. This year is high but next year might be lower. If you are just setting all this up for the first time, your costs are going to be higher than if you’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s all about estimating averages and not being caught off-guard.

Who Will Pay?

The answer to the question of “who is going to pay” seems fairly simple: ME.

While I know this is the answer, I still needed to develop a blog budget and make decisions about how long I want to fund this endeavor, and how much I’m willing to pay for what form of bandwidth and storage space, and equipment needed to make this happen.

Think about it. Years ago, I spent over $300 on various cheap tripods for my camera when I was just starting out in the business of photography. After breaking 3 or 4 tripods within a month or less of purchase, I finally stopped and did my research. I looked at all the possibilities and made up my mind to spend some serious money on getting a solid, good tripod. I spent $250 and used it for 10 years without a single break. Then I spent $400 on my next one, and 12 years later, I’m still using it and have no plans to buy another one. Let’s see, $300 in 1 year or $400 in 20 years? Which is a better deal?

Research your purchases and use try-it-before-you-buy-it software to get a real feeling for what you will be spending your money on. Read reviews by users not marketers, and evaluate your decision before you buy, and you will save money in the long run.

Genealogy research isn’t expensive, but it isn’t cheap. Collecting court documents, birth and death certificates, probate and court records, mailing costs, travel, time spent researching, and time spent responding to the many inquiries and investigations all cost money. A lot of paper and paperwork is involved. This all costs, and if someone wants to help share the load, that’s wonderful.

Somewhere along the line, other family members may want to pitch in, and their financial backing would be greatly appreciated. Still, there are other ways to get a blog to bring in income. And such methods begin to complicate things.

If I put ads on my genealogy blog, and it makes money, who gets the money? The obvious answer would be “me”, as this would offset the cost of running the website, right? Not always.

If you are working on your blog alone, then this is true. If you are working on your blog as part of a team, then you need to negotiate with the other members to settle where the money goes and who gets it.

If someone is willing to share the load, then you need to incorporate the costs associated with the responsibilities of maintaining and supporting the genealogy blog, including equipment, mailing and research fees. If not, then you absorb it all yourself but make sure you understand the full costs involved, not just for the site.

And you thought planning your blog budget would be easy. 😉

Genealogy Blog: Building a Blog Series

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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  1. Posted August 5, 2006 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Maybe you could save a little by going for free software (open-source freferably) – I was thinking of the GIMP as a very credible replacement for Paint Shop Pro (I’ve had both – I’m with the GIMP now).

  2. Posted August 6, 2006 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    This your well thought through series of articles on genealogy tends to be a very valuable resource for not so few people.

    If I know you and the matter just a bit, I believe it will also be a long serial writing effort. Not that it will be hard to follow in the future, but doesn’t it merit a new category?

  3. Posted August 6, 2006 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, you know how I feel about categories. ARGHH. I’m debating. Let’s see where this goes. If I get enough and it doesn’t just sit under Blogging Tips, then I might.

    The problem, Petit, is what do I call it? “Genealogy Blog” will make people think it’s my family history blog, right? “Building a Blog”, well, that’s covered thoroughly all over this site. “Starting a Blog from Scratch” is just too long, and also not appropriate.

    So if I were to categorize it, what would I call it?

    As I continue on, I will delve deep into ripping and tearing apart a WordPress Theme, so that goes under WordPress Themes. I will also dig into integrating other technologies, and both have little to do with genealogy as much as they do with blogs in general. See my problem? Suggestions?

  4. Posted August 6, 2006 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it should be a series. Something like “Building a Blog: Blogging Budget” and then call it “Build-a-blog Guide” kinda like a build-a-bear, but not! Now that’s a lot of b’s.

  5. Posted August 6, 2006 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    A lot of b’s or a lot of bs.

    Sorry, you left the door open. I walked through. Hee hee.

    I have a lot of respect for categories and tags, but I treat them very differently and go into angst over them, which is why I wrote Putting Some Thought Into Blog Categories and Tags.

  6. Posted August 13, 2006 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    If you haven’t made your mind yet about genealogy software, I’ll suggest Gramps. It is a free and open source software, written in Python.

    The only downside I can think of is that it works on Linux/UNIX (no Windows/Mac version that I know of). But on the positive side, if you’ll use it, you’ll never regret. It has one of the user-friendliest interfaces that I’ve seen in my life (even better than WordPress). It works with GEDCOM files. It can handle A LOT OF entries. It has a whole bunch of fields and records (even image support and photogalleries). And, most important, it has a webpage generation plugin that can take care of people, events, photo albums, family tree, index, etc.

    Give it a try. 😉

  7. Posted July 15, 2007 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    There are hosts that will host your blog for under $3/mo. WordPress is free. That is not the real expense. The real expense is in time. You will need to learn WordPress and post articles. You will need to Ping and build back links. All of this takes hours and hours if you want to be competitive.

  8. Colin
    Posted February 15, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    What a very good post. A thorough breakdown of the costs involved in blogging is very useful.
    I suppose it all depends what you want from blogging, if it’s just a hobby, free Blogger blogs or blogs will do fine but if you’d like to earn money, a self hosted blog is the way to go as you are in full control and Google loves WordPress at the moment.
    Thanks again for a very useful post,

  9. tribalpages
    Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I appreciate Lorelle VanFossen’s comment.

  10. David
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I do not know why, but I thought that having a blog does not mean much. But it seems that having a blog is really something special. And who wants to have a blog has to do some expenses. Thanks for the info.

  11. Ardham Shiela
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Blogging has definitely gone to a whole new level— and that includes a whole entire level for your wallet! Of course, if you’re serious enough too, you can monetize this “costly” blog and make more than what you put in.

    • Posted March 30, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      I’ve found that monetization for mmonetization’s sake is a cheap way of taking things. I also dread people turning their hobbies into businesses just because they expect the hobby to pay for itself. Can’t a hobby be just that.

      I also think there is good cause to make free choices like and not let yourself be distracted by all the costs associated with creating a genealogy blog, putting all your energy on your family history research and sharing. Sometimes focusing on content will gain you more than stuffing it with ads.

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