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A New Budget – Hope

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To make it easier for find the history here, I am starting this with links to my original money posts:

The Nuts and Bolts detailed my monthly budget. That’s changed.

Hump Day is Hope Day gave a pretty thorough explanation of my debt as I started this journey at BAD and my plan of action for tackling it. Then I updated my debt numbers as I evaluate a new plan.

I Got a New Job details how I started a part time job in order to increase my income and expedite this pay off journey. Still going strong though I have cut down to 8 hours per week for the summer.

Then, I wrote about how I have decided to change my plan of action after evaluating comments from the BAD community and looking at my near future (next couple of years) and housing situation.

So here we are, summer plans are in full affect and we have already returned from our first of two long road trips planned for this summer.  This week all four kids are involved in FREE activities: vacation Bible school for the little ones and robotics camp for the twins.  Not only are the twins volunteering their time running this robotics camp but it will fulfill their fundraising obligation for their competitive team next fall.

So let’s start with the new budget numbers:

 

Rent 1325
Groceries 600
Utilities – Gas, electric, water & sewage 350
Life Ins 23
Auto & Renter’s Insurance 150
Netflix 8
Verizon 211
Internet 57
Dropbox 10
Car Expenses 300
Kids Activities 100
Kids School 175
Landscaping 120
Kids Spending 240
Total Monthly Budget 3669
Student Loans 0
Car Loan – NV 696
Line of Credit 218
Retail Card 99
Credit Card 150
Joint Account 0
Car Loan – Honda 0
Total Minimum Payment 1163
Total Monthly Output 4832

You’ll notice some changes between my initial budget and this one. I’m just going to point out a couple:

  1. I am no longer paying my ex-husband’s life insurance so that bill got cut in half.  Granted it’s just 20-something dollars, but every little bit helps, right?
  2. The item that once was kid’s allowance is now kid’s spending money.  They must now earn it with work around the house, outside of their family chores so that may flux a bit.
  3. As you’ve seen with my kids’ activities/school, that money is collected from month to month and then spent when needed.

One last note, I have decided to take the BAD community’s advice on our landscaping line item at the end of this summer. With all the travel already planned it just not practical right now.  So this will 1) give me time to research the tools we need and 2) save the money to purchase them.  Any suggestions on lawn equipment would be greatly appreciated…remember I am not mechanical so we really need to start off with something that doesn’t need work to work.  We have about 1/2 acre to maintain every week and a HOA who will make sure it is done every week so I’ve got to get mentally prepared to make that happen.

Note: I’m still working on my debt pay off plan and should have that up next week along with estimated pay off dates.


Goals for the Next Month – Hope

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As I am enjoying my weeks traveling and visiting with my family, I am starting to plan my next month money wise. Per my post earlier today, I have A LOT going on in my head as I try to envision the next few years of our lives both financially and life experience wise.  I am a big proponent of self-fulfilling prophecy, not that I think I’m all powerful, but that in order to accomplish something, envisioning it and planning for it and working toward it are key to success.

With that being said, I know the next month is going to be pretty tight financially as I have to:

  1. Restock my cupboard as we were close to bare when we left and brought much of the remaining with us.
  2. Prepare for additional travel next month (end of July.)
  3. Equip my oldest son with everything he needs for his Navy Sea Cadet boot camp (hopefully he will make enough money to cover this, but I will pick up the tab if he is not able too.)

With this being said, I am VERY motivated to move this debt payoff along, so in addition to my regular contract work and part time job, I am looking for ways to increase my income.  I entertained the idea of going back into the corporate world, but after just a few short weeks back in part time, I KNOW that is not what I’m supposed to do on a full time basis.

So here are things I am considering:

  1. Working more diligently on listing things on Etsy:  I have TONS of craft stuff as a scrapbooker and even before BAD, my year long goal was to use it up, get the scrapbooks updated and convert to digital rather than having all this stuff.  I could easily with some dedicated time create some sellable crafts, but haven’t really spent a lot of time on that as I’m sure really sure what kind of ROI I would get on my time.
  2. Purging through donating: I am getting to the point that I HATE clutter, with a passion. If it’s not used, it should not be here is my philosophy.  As a result I’ve made great headway in cleaning things out of our home through donating.  While this wouldn’t net much money, it could lead to substantial tax write offs and there are definitely intrinsic values to not having so much stuff.
  3. Project work: The one that comes most naturally is to attempt to find more work on an on-going or project basis.  Currently I’m contracted for 35 hours a week + 12 for my part time job so I could definitely take on 10 or so more hours with ease (much of my 35 hours is done in the wee hours of the night.

I would love to hear your ideas on this.  I know I can’t keep up my rate of work and intensity forever, especially with homeschooling the kids; however, this summer’s plan is pretty much set in place and with all I have in place for the kids, I am going to have more “free” time than I’ve ever had and I want to put it to good, productive use.

Note: Our home situation is significantly adding to my growing sense of urgency and with that my research into alternatives, but that will be discussed later this summer when I have a better idea of what my options look like.

 


Selling Stuff

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Since getting serious about debt reduction, I have been meaning to clean out some closets and sell some stuff. I would love to have a garage sale, but my husband is working basically 7 days a week and there’s no way I could pull one off on my own. So I’ve been planning on selling stuff online and just hadn’t gotten to it….yet.

A couple weeks ago I was basically forced into the process. My girls have figured out how to open doors (and the world is over!), and now they will go into their closet and tear into all the boxes of outgrown baby stuff that I’ve been hoarding for the last year. It was just the push I needed to do a little Spring Cleaning. Last weekend I pulled out all the boxes, organized everything, took photos, and started posting in online Facebook baby/garage sale groups.

At the end of the weekend I had sold 6 items and earned an extra $64.

But was it worth the time investment?

I think it can be. But there have to be rules and boundaries in place. Even though I’m only one weekend deep into this side-gig I’ve got going on I think I’ve learned that, as a seller, I need to make everything at my convenience.

What does this mean?

  • I pick the time.
  • I pick the location.
  • Short turnaround only.

Most of my sales were relatively effortless. I post an item, a buyer says “I want this, let’s meet!” We set a time and place, and the transaction occurred seamlessly. But one buyer was an absolute pain! She asked if I had other items for sale (in addition to those posted), so we went back-and-forth a million times discussing additional items, taking and sending additional photos, discussing pricing, etc. etc. etc. It was the entire weekend! I asked at four separate points when she wanted to meet and she kept dragging it out (e.g., “I need to borrow my Mom’s car” or “I love it, but my daughter is being really fussy right now!”). I get it and I don’t want to be heartless, but at some point its just not worth my time anymore. It dragged on and on and we ended up eventually meeting on Tuesday (after literally spending all day Saturday-Tuesday texting back-and-forth) and I made a sale for $7. Not worth all the hassle, effort, and time.

But if I were to enforce these rules (saying:  this time, this place, no holds), then either I would have made the sale or not, but I wouldn’t have wasted 4 days in the process.

I’m taking a little break for a bit and spending time with my family this Memorial Day weekend. I still have more baby-related items I plan to post and try to sale, but when I do so it will be with this set of “rules” in place.

Any tips for selling things online? Do you have any “rules” you set for these transactions?


Work and Travel

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Someone asked a good question in my post earlier this week about travel tips.  What do I do about work? Missed income? when I travel.  This is a key point as to why I travel and will continue to travel so I wanted to make sure it was clear thus this post rather than just my response in the comments…

As you know I am self employed and have been for going on 10 years now.  My income fluctuates but minimally unless I pick up new projects or work, and I have a pretty stable group of clients who I’ve been with for 5+ years.  With that being said, with my line of work, I can work from literally ANYWHERE and typically ANY TIME.  I appreciate this blessing EVERY SINGLE DAY as it’s key to making my lifestyle work.

This works because 1) the type of work I do; 2) the equipment and tools/technology available and 3) the way I have set up my business.

First, I am trained as a software engineer, which just a fancy way of saying I read and write computer speak relatively well.  So much of my work is either developing new code or troubleshooting old code, add to that I test out the products, document the products and teach people how to use the products of this work.  With this work I am able to work when and how I want to as long as I communicate with my clients and meet deadlines.  Without my education and experience, there is no way I could have made this change in my work after my kids were born.   In addition to this work, I am not afraid to get my hands dirty doing other things and in fact, love the variety as I do tend to get bored easily and love to multi-task, so rather than marketing myself as a software engineer, do so as a high tech virtual assistant.  This allows me much more access to work and different clients and I have found that my jobs have grown with my relationships with those clients so it’s the best of both worlds.  (I’ve writting more about what I do on my personal blog here and you can find my business site that has not been updated in forever here in case you are curious or in need of a good VA as I’m always looking for great clients and challenges projects!)

Second, thanks to technology such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, I can connect to any of my clients from anywhere.  My office line is a Skype line so I can use it as VoIP from my computer headset or from my phone when I’m on the road.  And my clients just have one number that will literally reach me anywhere.  When we travelled and will hopefully travel more often in the past, I had a subscription with my cell phone company for on the go internet access, but cut that cost a couple of years ago when we cut down significantly on travel.  I see that changing in the future but for now I rely on free wifi hot spots or staying places with free wifi.  I also have several software programs that I can 1) communicate my work schedule to clients without a lot of back and forth which can get time consuming and confusing and 2)helps me track work time and project deadlines so I can stay on task even if I’m moving around doing it.

Lastly, when I set up my business I knew that my priority was my kids, that was the reason I was leaving the corporate world; so from the very beginning I structured my work around their schedules and lives and needs.  It wasn’t easy and often feels like I am juggling 1/2 dozen balls at any given time (some of them on fire too,) but it’s so worth it and I feel that the benefits have been immeasurable in regards to my relationship with my kids and my ability to homeschool them.  I have been upfront with my clients and while it does sometimes take a while to gain their trust, I have found all of my clients have responded positively to my work arrangement, I don’t pull any punches, set realistic expectations and am very open and responsible with my communication.

I hope this clears up some of the questions regarding my ability to travel without losing any income and using my frugal tips and planning we are really able to not go too far over budget in most cases without some forethought.

*Note: The exception now is my new part time job; however, I told them upfront of my travel plans and have offered to make up hours if needed.  I hesitated to offer but felt I needed too, they have been fine with me not and since I have not added that additional income into my budget, it’s still icing on the cake as far as income goes.


New Google Consumer Surveys on the Site: Feedback Requested

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Google survey advertisements

You may have noticed that there are new ads on the site that we are testing out. These are Google Survey ads that ask you a couple of questions before you can see the content of a post. We are interested in your feedback to these, but I also want to explain why we chose these compared to other forms of advertising for this test.

We used to pay the bloggers here a small amount for their writing. It’s something that both Nate and I feel is important. It was never enough to make it worth blogging just for the money, but when you’re trying to dig yourself out of debt, every little snowflake you can add to your debt snowball helps. We couldn’t offer this to the current bloggers because, due to a number of factors that we can’t easily change, this blog currently makes very little money. We therefore are trying to find a new way to generate even a small amount of money so that we can pay the bloggers a token amount for sharing their stories.

We felt that placing large ads within the content of the posts (what many blogs are doing now) would be more intrusive and likely wouldn’t work well with this blog anyway. Furthermore, unlike other ads, these don’t track you. They are simply survey questions that are being compiled for the benefit of the companies and institutions. They want your opinions on a particular topic, much like any other survey, but much shorter (one or two questions). You then sometimes have the option to answer a few more if you want.

The way we hope it will work is that to support these bloggers and their stories, you will be willing to answer a couple of questions each week. Once you answer, you won’t be offered another survey for a week (we realize that they were showing up more often than this, but that should now be resolved). This way the bloggers here earn a little bit of money, you get to read their stories and there aren’t a ton of ads on the blog. Although I know they are a bit shocking when you first see them, we actually feel these will be the least intrusive way we can do this.

We do realize that some of you won’t want to have anything to do with this even if it is for the blogger’s benefit. That is why we have implemented one idea and are currently planning to implement another. First, we made it so you can read all the posts on the front page without having to participate in answering any questions. Nate is also working on an option you can click where you can opt out without having to answer any of the questions or share with social media. That option should be ready soon.

We would like to hear your suggestions on our goal of paying the bloggers a bit. If you dislike these ads, we would be open to any other suggestions or other ways to generate a bit of money on the blog. Or ways that you feel that we could keep these ads without them being too intrusive that we aren’t already planning to introduce.

For those who were getting ads almost every time you visited, I want to apologize. That was never the intention, but I think those bugs have now been worked out. In the end, we want the blog to be a pleasant experience while helping out the bloggers a bit. Feel free to ask any questions or express any concerns that you have in the comments.


Rewards and Celebrations

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I have some good news to share today! I am about to receive the largest paycheck of my life!!!

I have been working on a writing-related project for a loooooong time (10 months) and finally finished last week. (No, it was not a book). I wasn’t smart setting up my contract and I had agreed to not get paid at all until project completion (in my defense, I thought it would take a fraction of the total time invested). Anyway, 10 months later I’m about to receive a paycheck for several thousand dollars (more than 5, less than 10…but that’s “gross,” so I’ll need to pay taxes), which is by far and away the largest single paycheck I have ever received.

Good news: This means we are going to knock it out of the park this month in terms of our income. Last month was the most we’d ever made (in life), and this month is going to be even better! I tell you this because we’ve just “met” and I really want you to understand how NOT TYPICAL these huge pay months are for us.

But, that aside, I want to celebrate. It feels like a HUGE weight off my shoulders to have this project complete; in the past we would have done something fun – gotten a ‘sitter and gone to dinner.

But we pay babysitters $13/hour (is this normal?? I used to make $5/hr when I babysat but that was 20 years ago), plus a dinner-for-two can be in the range of $50, so we’re talking roughly $80-$100+ if we were to throw a movie into the mix, too.

What do you do to reward yourself when you’ve hit a big milestone? Ours has ALWAYS been going out to eat, but we need something new (read = cheaper!) I want to celebrate a little!


Reevaluation

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Amazon Pay

 

So here’s the thing, I really think that I need to reevaluate my thinking on my Amazon Business.  After posting on the blog about what I was planning to do I got hit with lots of skepticism.  That really got me doubting myself, which doesn’t happen too often.  I was planning on waiting till I got out of debt to consider this venture, but after analyzing all the great data that Amazon has to offer, I realized that if I waited it would be foolish.

When I gave an update on this, I had already made my money back plus $14.  Which doesn’t sound like much, but it proved to me that this was a viable option to make money.  Since that time I have sold six more of this product!  Which grossed me $100.  This is not including the three products that are in the screen shot!  So the total is now up to $140.

I am now realizing the power of Amazon, and I know I have to take this opportunity by its horns.  I know if I had more good selling products, I can move more.  And thus make me more money.  I feel this is the best move for my family, I feel it down to bones.  I have been very active in Amazon FBA groups and am learning tons.  But in order to fully grasp everything, I am going to be buying some books and courses on this.  Now don’t worry this won’t be out of my income but out of my business savings, so I will still be par with my debt.

Hoping you all will support me!

Jim


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