Lifestyle

Work Life Balance: When There’s Too Many Plates Spinning

Have you ever been to a circus and watched someone spin plates on a stick? Of course it’s quite impressive, and it certainly took the performer plenty of practice (and many failures too) to get their personal plate to spinning ratio perfect. But even he or she will reach a point where they just cannot add any more plates without all of the others crashing down.

My plates recently came crashing down to the floor.

Thankfully none of them shattered. I did learn, however, that I, the crazy lady that thrives on constant side hustling and very little sleep, do have a tipping point.

Adding the Final Plate

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy side hustling and I constantly have several gigs going on at once. I have my full time job working in the senior living industry, which consumes over 40 hours per week (not including the 2-3 hours I spend commuting each day). I work at an espresso stand several times during the month on my days “off.” I’m doing some freelance writing and also trying to keep this website updated for you. And I also recently completed a 2 month stint working as an usher at the circus in the evenings. I usually have no problem managing my time, and actually feel pretty energized by the amount of work that I do.

Until I decided to cater overnight high school graduation parties. I just spent the last three weeks working all week long, then working from 9pm-6am serving pizza and donuts to newly-graduated high school seniors 3 nights on the weekends. The company I worked for was created out of a mission to keep seniors safe from drinking and driving on what is statistically the deadliest day of the year for teenagers, and I highly value their vision. Unfortunately, these parties were almost deadly for me.

The multiple, consecutive days of sleeping just an hour here or there left me feeling worse than terrible. My concentration was nil. My social life was non existent. I couldn’t get anything done at home. I gained a few pounds when this pushed my Weight Watchers diet out the window. Plus I ended up calling in sick twice at work because I physically felt so ill. And what do I have to show for it? Five hundred measly dollars.

Don’t get me wrong, $500 is absolutely nothing to sneeze at. But everything comes at a cost, and to me, my physical, mental, and emotional well-being is worth way more than $500.

Managing Money

Giving Your Graduation Advice an F

As I recently drove myself to a high school graduation party, I came to a startling realization. I’ve now been out of school just as long as I was in school. It’s pretty miraculous how quick the time has flown by, especially considering how the years in a classroom felt like they dragged on for several lifetimes.

I can still remember what an exciting time high school graduation was. A whirlwind of emotions, hopes, fears, and plenty of unsolicited advice from those who had tossed their caps in jubilation before me. Most people were, of course, trying to be helpful and prepare me for my impeding adulthood, and some of the advice was actually pretty sound. Some tidbits, however, were probably best left unsaid. Especially when it came to some of the financial advice I received.

Student Loans are Good Debt

This is an utter and complete fallacy, in my humble, broke-ass opinion. Don’t get me wrong, having an education is undoubtedly one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. But you’re kidding yourself if you think dragging around five or six figures of debt for the next ten to thirty years is a good problem to have.

I was fortunate enough to pay for my time at a community college out of pocket (but unlucky enough for it to be funded by a drunk driver that almost took my life). I took out student loans to pay for my remaining two years of college, but didn’t really understand them or how they would continue to impact my daily life several years later. Despite paying hundreds of dollars toward them each month for the past three years, I now owe more on them than when I started paying!

Repeat after me… no debt is good debt!!!

Always Carry a Balance on Your Credit Card

Remember a second ago when I made you repeat that mantra? Let’s say it again… No debt is good debt! Carrying a balance on your credit card is debt, plain and simple. Carrying a balance on your credit card is not better for your credit score. Paying your credit cards on time each month (and in full, so you don’t end up paying any interest) is better for your credit score.

There are several components to a credit score. I won’t go over all of them today, but for the sake of my argument there’s two that you need to understand.

35% of your credit score is based upon payment history. In other words, making all of your payments on time on all of your credit accounts (such as credit cards, car payments, and mortgage payments).

30% of your credit score is based on your credit utilization. In other words, out of all available lines of credit you have, how much are you using? For example, let’s say you have two credit cards: one with an available credit limit of $4,000 and the other with an available credit limit of $6,000, for a total of $10,000 available to you. Card A carries a balance of $2,000 while card B carries a balance of $1,000. Because you currently have $3,000 out of $10,000 borrowed, your credit utilization is 30%. 30% and below is considered good, although the lower your credit utilization, the higher your credit score.

If You Can Afford the Payments, You Can Afford It

This commonly-gifted bad advice is a great way to get yourself under the dark, burdensome cloud of debt. Sure you make enough money now to pay your monthly payments, but what if you lost or job or suddenly found yourself unable to work? It’s better to save the money and buy whatever it is you want (a car, TV, Christian Louboutin pumps) outright. You won’t have to worry about defaulting on a loan if you find yourself lacking in the income department. Plus you’ll have extra money every month to put toward saving for a rainy day or other items you like.

You’re Young. You Don’t Need Insurance.

Anything can happen to anyone at any time. I mentioned earlier that I was hit by a drunk driver in a head-on collision, which is how I had the money to pay for my first two years of college. What I didn’t mention is that I was only nineteen years old and suddenly found myself unable to work, with medical bills stacking up for eleven months.

Thankfully I worked for a coffee company with excellent benefits, including short-term disability. For the duration of my medical leave, I was paid 66% of my income, which was enough to pay for my car insurance, car payment, and phone bill. Luckily I lived with my parents and didn’t have to worry about keeping a roof over my head at the time. I now have both short-term and long-term disability policies through an insurance company instead of my employer so that I don’t have to worry about lapses in coverage if I switch jobs or work for a company that doesn’t offer plans.

 

As you walk across that stage and head straight toward your adult life, keep in mind that with your newfound freedom comes plenty of advice on what to do with your new life (and with that huge wad of cash to be found in your cards of congratulations). Just remember that while your relatives and friends mean well, not all advice is good advice.

 

budgeting

Paying Yourself First: What, How, and Why

Don’t forget to pay yourself first. You’ve likely heard this old adage, but have you ever wondered what it actually means? And more importantly, why it’s so important? Paying yourself first essentially means placing money into savings before spending it, and there are two very easy ways to accomplish this.

Direct Deposit

If you have a direct deposit option in regards to your paycheck, take advantage of it and have a portion of your earnings deposited into a savings account while the remainder is deposited into a checking account used for paying bills. You could choose to have a percent of your earnings deposited into savings, or you could choose a set amount.

Along those same lines, having a percentage of your earnings deposited into a 401k retirement account is another great way to pay yourself while saving for your future. Trust me, your RV travel-loving 70 year old self will thank you.

 

Writing Yourself a Check

OK, physically writing a check to yourself is definitely a dated way of paying yourself. You could choose to withdraw cash from an ATM and either deposit it into a separate savings account or stash it under your mattress (which is definitely not advisable). You could also choose to transfer the money to a separate account via computer or smart phone. In order for this method to be successful, you will need to discipline yourself to transfer or withdraw the money as soon as your paycheck hits the bank. Otherwise, you’ll have spent your monthly savings budget on a new Summer wardrobe before you even realize what you’ve done.

 

Why Bother?

Have you ever looked at your bank statement at the end of the month and wondered where all of your money went? That is exactly the reason why paying yourself is vital to financial independence. It is far too tempting to overspend when you have extra money burning a hole in your checking account. It is also far too easy to mindlessly spend that extra money on lattes or margaritas if it isn’t already accounted for.

Paying yourself and not allowing that money to ever sit idle in checking is a surefire way of bulking your savings or getting yourself better prepared for retirement. Figure out which of these two methods works best for you, then start envisioning all those exotic vacations or that dream house you’ll be able to afford!

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!