budgeting · Earn Money · Lifestyle

Easy Travel Hacks Anyone Can Use

We’ve all heard about those people that travel the world for free or next to nothing using a ridiculous amount of airline mileage and hotel points. But if you’ve actually looked into it, it can be as complicated as trying to figure out your own taxes or calculating the next digit in pi. Even so, there’s still plenty of ways to travel hack that the common non-mathematician can easily do without having to spend hours reading or watching online tutorials.

Everyone that knows me knows that my favorite thing on the planet (next to cats and wine, of course) is traveling and exploring new places. In fact, I side-hustle and work several extra jobs just so that I can afford to travel (read my previous article about side-hustling here). Even though I haven’t figured out how to completely beat the travel system like those crazy awesome travel hackers, I’ve still managed to earn plenty cash back and even fly to Hawaii twice for free.

My favorite way to get free flights is by signing up for credit cards that offer airline miles. Seattle is Alaska Airlines’ home city, so naturally Alaska Airlines is my airline of choice. I signed up for their credit card several years ago when they were offering 40,000 miles just for enrolling mid-flight. That got my Hawaii trip #1. I regularly use my Alaska Airlines credit card as my debit card (paying it off every month, of course) so that I can earn one mile with every dollar I spend. It’s an easy way to rack up frequent flier miles without doing a damn thing.

I signed up for a credit card with Delta Airlines once when they were offering 50,000 miles after spending a certain amount within x number of months. They also waived the annual fee for the first year, so it didn’t cost me anything. Because I used the credit card for my every day purchases, I easily hit that mark and earned free Hawaii trip #2. Side note, just remember to cancel your credit card after your trip but before your year is up so that you don’t have to pay an annual fee.

Most recently, I’ve been saving to splurge on a big family vacation for my mom, brother and I. (I won’t say where though, because it will be a Christmas surprise for them). Once I had the money saved up, I looked online for cards offering airline miles with purchase, and found the American Airlines AAdvantage card with Citibank which was offering 60,000 miles when you spend $3000 in the first three months. (Again, please keep in mind that I will pay the balance off in full once I receive the statement in the mail.) So while I paid full price for my tickets this time, I’ll be able to take another free trip again in the near future. I’m sorry to say there won’t be a free Hawaii trip #3 though…I’m ready to explore somewhere new!

In addition to earning miles, most airline credit cards offer other perks for travel, simply for participating in the program. For example, many airlines will give cardholders and their travel companions free checked bags, complimentary travel insurance, complementary auto insurance for car rentals, and discounts on food and drinks while on your flight. Make sure you check your card’s website so you don’t miss out on any awesome perks like these!

I also will never book any type of travel online without using Ebates. I just go to the Ebates website, then click on the link to Expedia or hotels.com, my two favorite websites to purchase travel on, then it reroutes me to those websites. The websites look exactly how they would look if I had instead typed in the URLs, but somehow Ebates keeps track of my purchases and gives me a percentage of cash back. For example, I spent around $4000 purchasing this big trip on Expedia yesterday, and Ebates gives me 10% cash back on purchases made at Expedia. Voila! I just earned $400 for booking a vacation. The only downside is that they won’t send me the check until after I’ve completed the travel, but I’m still totally OK with that!

So there you have it! Super easy ways to earn free trips and extra money without doing anything too crazy. Happy travels!

Earn Money

17 Easy Ways to Make Money Without Changing a Thing

I don’t think there’s a single person out there that doesn’t want to make more money. But let’s be real, the thought of slaving away several extra hours per week at a second job is less than appealing to most people. Wouldn’t it be great to earn more money by doing practically nothing? Surprisingly, it’s totally possible! Here are 17 ridiculously easy things you can do to make more money without barely lifting a finger.

  1. Ask For a Raise

When trying to make more money, the easiest place to start is at the job you already work at. So ask for a raise! If you’re as valuable to the company as you know you are, they should be happy to oblige. It costs employers a ridiculous amount of money to hire and train employees, so smart employers will do what they can to keep good employees.

2. Adjust Your Federal Tax Withholding

Most people look forward to a windfall every year courtesy of Uncle Sam himself. Unfortunately, this isn’t the government’s way of being generous and giving you a bonus. This is money that they took out of your paycheck all year to give themselves an interest-free loan. The fewer allowances you claim on your W-4, the more taxes will be withheld. If you claim a higher number on your W-4, you will have a smaller refund but will have more money on your paychecks each month — money that you can put away and earn interest on!

3. Online Surveys

By filling out short surveys online, you can earn gift cards or even cash. You definitely won’t get rich filling out online surveys, but if you’re consistent you can make a little extra spending money. My Survey, Swagbucks, and Global Test Market are my personal favorites.

4. Swagbucks

Swagbucks, as I mentioned in the previous section, is much more than just an online survey website. You can also surf the web, play games, and watch videos to earn money.

5. Install Data Collection Apps

There are companies out there that will pay you just to install an app on your phone. These apps analyze your phone habits: what apps you download, what websites you visit, how much time you spend on certain tasks on your phone. All you do is download the app, let it run in the background, then collect money or gift cards for letting it run. Nielsen Mobile Panel and Smart Panel are two that I have used with success.

6. Download Digit and Acorns

Digit and Acorns are apps that don’t actually make you more money, but they save money for you, making you feel like you’re making more. Digit analyzes your spending and earning habits and skims a little money here and there to deposit into a separate savings account. The idea is that by taking just a few dollars every few days, you never miss the money and you wind up saving money that you didn’t think you could save. Acorns is similar, but it rounds your transactions up to the nearest dollar then deposits the difference into an investment account for you.

7. Take Pictures

Are you always snapping cool pics on your phone? Sell them to stock photo websites!

8. Freelance Writing

Do you enjoy writing? Become a freelance writer and sell your writing!

9. Get Crafty

Remember those Pinterest DIY and craft projects you constantly pin but never get around to? Start getting crafty and sell them on Etsy!

10. Ebates

Ebates is an awesome website that I’ve been using for years. Every time I shop online, I pull up the Ebates website first. From there I find the website I planned on shopping at and click the link to that website. For example, I love online shopping at Nordstrom. Instead of typing in Nordstrom.com, I type in ebates.com, click on the link to Nordstrom, and it pulls up the Norstrom Website. I shop as normal, then Voila! Ebates sends me a check for a percentage of what I spent on my order.

11. Spring Cleaning

Start selling things around your house on Craigslist, Offer Up, or at a local consignment store. Hey, you’ll be doing your spring cleaning anyway. Why not get paid for it?

12. Lose Weight

I kid you not, there are companies that will pay you to lose weight! Now if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is. I recently joined Weight Watchers while they were running a promotion offering to pay me $100 if I lost 10 pounds within 90 days. (I’m happy to announce that my $100 Visa gift card is en route as we speak). Healthy Wage is another company that pays users to lose weight.

13. Start a Housesitting or Dog-Walking Business

You need somewhere to sleep, so why not get paid to sleep over at someone’s house while they’re on vacation? Or if you were already planning on going for a walk or walking your own dog, get paid to take someone else’s dog along!

14. Rent Out Your Spare Room

If you have an extra room in your home, find a roommate and charge them rent each month. Or rent it out on AirBNB for a few days at a time.

15. Switch to a Credit Union or Online Bank

Credit Unions and Online Banks tend to have much higher interest rates on checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and CD’s than your typical big, for profit bank.

16. Claim Your Unclaimed Property

Ever wonder what happens when you move and someone sends a check to you? Check with your state’s unclaimed property department (every state has one) to see if they’re sitting on some of your old checks.

17. Sell or Trade Old Gift Cards

We all have old gift cards we’ve been sitting on but never plan on spending. Like the $25 Coldstone gift card I’ve had for the last 5 years, which I’ve apparently been holding onto in case I ever decide to say a big eff you to my lactose intolerant stomach. Using websites or in-store kiosks you can either sell your gift card for money or trade it for a gift card that you’re much more likely to use.

Earn Money

The Art of the Side Hustle: Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time

I’m a natural-born hustler. I pretty much came out of the womb scheming ways to make extra money, and not a whole lot has changed in the last 29 years. I have a regular full-time job working in the senior living industry, and I make decent money with that. I also work at a coffee stand a few days a month on the weekends (I only fill in when someone needs a day off), and I just recently started working as an usher at Cirque du Soleil while they’re in town for 7 weeks. On top of all that, I had an appointment this morning to sign paperwork for another part-time job that I’ll be working during the month of June. I’ll be staying up all night on my weekends, feeding and hydrating high school seniors during their all-night graduation parties.

My friends and family all think I’m crazy, but the truth is that I really do think of side hustling as my hobby, and I really do enjoy it! More than the enjoyment of experiencing new things and meeting new people though, I enjoy the extra money and the freedom that gives me. I enjoy traveling, and all of this extra money usually goes right into my vacation checking account. I have never paid anything other than cash for a vacation, and that’s something to be proud of. Plus, sunbathing by the pool with a mai tai in hand is much more relaxing without the dark cloud of debt looming overhead.

I realize that working three jobs isn’t plausible or enjoyable for most people, but there’s still plenty of side hustles you can do in your spare time to create a little more cash flow.

Run away and join the circus

OK, I know that sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I mentioned that I’m working as an usher at Cirque du Soleil for 7 weeks while they’re in town. It honestly sucks working from 7pm-11pm three night a week when I have to get up at 6:30 in the morning and work until 6 at night, but it’s only for 7 weeks! Plus, I LOVE Cirque du Soleil! I fell in love with Cirque du Soleil several years ago after watching a show in Vegas. I make it a point to see another show every time I go back. I’m so excited to be able to watch it day after day…and get paid to watch it! If the circus isn’t your thing, find another type of show or event that you love, and figure out a way to get a job working there. Love baseball? Get a job selling beer and hot dogs at the stadium. Love the ballet? Work as an usher at your local ballet venue. If you’re looking for something even shorter-term than that, major cities constantly have trade shows, seminars, and other one or two day events. Find one relating to a topic you enjoy, and get a job working the registration table.

Find a part time job in the evenings or on the weekends

If you’re looking for consistent and stable extra income, you can deliver pizzas after work or mix a few drinks on the weekends. You could drive for Uber or Lyft in your spare time. I used to know a woman that worked at Starbucks every weekday morning from 4am to 8am, then went to her office job. The opportunities are endless

If you’re worried about getting burnt out, try to find something seasonal or per diem. The coffee stand gig I work is per diem, and it works great because I have the flexibility of saying either yes or no when they call. As for seasonal jobs, they’re everywhere if you actually look for them. There are more than enough retail jobs available from Thanksgiving thru Christmas, most will work around your regular work schedule. Work at a costume store during the month of October. Sell elephant ears at the county fair or pick berries at a farm during the Summer. Every season has its own unique seasonal jobs to choose from.

Participate in market research

Many companies want to know why people do what they do or think what they think so that they can figure out how to get you to buy their product or use their service. Some companies have their own employees that conduct this research, and many hire independent market research firms to gain this information for them. Either way, participants can earn a nice chunk of change just for sharing their opinions.

I’ve participated in more market research studies than I can remember. I’ve tested apps, played video games, and given feedback on website designs. I’ve taste-tested lunch meats, almond milk, and cereal. I’ve rated songs from 0-100, listened to morning radio show segments, and talked about my favorite books. I’ve also listened to actual court cases, planned vacations, and did some virtual reality driving. Most studies range from 1-2 hours and pay $50-$200 for that time. Many are offered in the evenings so you don’t have to miss any work, and some will actually feed you dinner or lunch.

Don’t forget about the flip side of market research

What I mean by this is there are plenty of opportunities to be the person administering the market research, so to speak. For example, my mom and brother go to a local movie theater every Friday night and ask movie-goers if they have heard of or plan on seeing any upcoming movies. They get paid $3 for every survey they fill out, plus $10 bonuses for every 10, and they average 40-45 surveys for the night. Product demonstrators could also be classified as market research (although technically it’s advertising). You can work for companies that send you to different stores to give out samples of all types of products, or you can work for a particular store. Costco, Whole Foods, and many pet stores have their own in-house demonstrators. Many wine and beer distributors also employ demonstrators to conduct tastings in different stores.

Do some housesitting or pet sitting

Pet sitting was my go-to side hustle in middle school and high school. I had a neighbor with three cats that worked long hours, and I would stop by every day on my way home from the bus stop to feed the cats and play with them. I think I made something like $20 a week, but that was a lot of money to a 12 year old! When I was older I got into housesitting. I was more excited about getting to live alone for a week or two, since I lived with my parents until I was 24, but I also made $100 a week. Plus, one couple in particular would buy me a huge bottle of Grey Goose and tell me I wasn’t allowed to come back if it wasn’t gone by the time they got home, and I thought that was a nice perk.

Housesitting doesn’t make sense for me anymore, since I live alone and have two cats that need me. But my brother’s girlfriend, who doesn’t have any pets of her own, housesits constantly and charges $40 per day. Not a bad deal for something that could essentially be considered a stay-cation.

Babysitting

I’ll be honest, this was never my favorite job. I’m not someone that’s ever spent much time around kids, so they kind of make me uncomfortable. But if that’s not the case for you, then more power to you. You can go the traditional route and let friends and neighbors know, but they’re more likely to employee a teenager they know. However, there are plenty of websites out there that connect you with parents eager for a night out that want the comfort and security of knowing they’re hiring someone with credentials that have passed an extensive background check.

Side hustling opportunities are endless. For me, the key is finding something that will work around my schedule that I don’t have to commit to for longer than a few weeks (this prevents me from getting too burnt out). I’ve found several side hustles just from word of mouth, talking to friends , coworkers, and even my hair stylist. The majority I find on Craigslist, though. I know there are a lot of people out there that think Craigslist is full of scams and people trying to lure you to their homes so they can chop you up and keep you in their freezer, but I’ve never had any problems (knock on wood). I check the “etc. jobs” and the “gigs” sections every day, and they are absolute gold mines for me. I will offer this Craigslist disclaimer to you, though: If anything just doesn’t sound right or makes you feel even remotely uncomfortable, please listen to your intuition and don’t do it! With that said, happy hustling!